The Unsolicited Explorer that my wife adopted a few months ago came equipped with the small 1.25" hitch receiver and four-pin wiring connector. Seeing that the small receiver size and smaller connector limit compatibility with a lot of towing accessories and the fact that the bumper bar carrying the receiver had gotten plenty rusty, I decided to replace the bumper with a larger Class III part. Fortunately, Ford equipped some Explorers and Mountaineers with the larger hitch receiver at the factory, so in theory this would be a simple R&R operation.
I visited the local pick-a-part to find a driver-side window switch module a couple of weeks prior to my trip to Puerto Rico, and found a 2003 Mountaineer with the correct interior color and with all of the door hardware intact. As i I started to work on removing the window switch module, I noticed a brake controller hanging from under the dashboard, so I quickly went around to look at the back, and not only did it have the larger Class III bumper bar and still looked in good condition, someone had already removed the bumper cover beforehand. Bonus! After $12 ad a few smacks with an improvised sledgehammer (a front driveshaft I found on the ground), I had a new hitch receiver and seven-pin trailer connector with the correct wiring harness.
Last night I prepped the surface and gave it a few coats of rattle can primer followed by a few coats of flat black paint. SYKE! I just coated it with rust reformer wherever I saw surface rust. This is the Unsolicited Explorer, after all. The results still look much better than the pulled part.
Removal of the bumper cover is stupid easy: after removing the tail lights, remove four small bolts, nine plastic push pins, lift and pull back. Removal of the bumper is equally easy, with the breaker bar making short work of the six 18mm bolts that attach it to the frame. A 1/2-inch socket wrench and a driveshaft-turned-sledgehammer will work as well.
Installation of the new bumper is the reverse. Since the Explorer already has the necessary wiring installed, I didn’t have to dick around with wires, just plug in and go.
Top hole! Now I just need to find a pigtail harness to connect the brake controller to the factory wiring and it'll be complete. But first I need to replace the leake weepy thermostat housing; driving around with jugs of antifreeze is untenable in the long run.