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ultraclyde PowerDork
11/6/17 2:46 p.m.

I just picked up a Grand Cherokee this past weekend. It's a 1997 Limited with the 5.2L (318ci) V8 and Quadratrac 4wd. It rolled over 160k miles on the trip home. In general it seems mechanically solid but somewhat neglected. The guy we bought it from seems like a good mechanic that fixed stuff right, but he only cared about the stuff that got him from A to B. He didn't even know if the cruise worked or not (it does.)  Of course they bought the jeep a few months ago for his son, but son decided he'd rather have a civic, so dad took the Jeep back and sold it to me. 

Brace for the photo dump.

The dash is in good shape and most everything works. 

The front seats are (of course) trashed, but they're still comfortable and all the power controls work fine, even the lumbar.

Well...except the seat heaters obviously...

The back seats are pretty good, but Cooper isn't impressed by the many empty cigarette packs. I was told by the son that it was a non-smoking vehicle until dad started driving it a couple months back. It's not that bad as smoker's cars go, and I can fix the smell.

looks like there was an aftermarket amp at some point...

...and Cooper pointed out that the Infinity Gold factory amp was still there, with the jack parts. The sound system sounds surprisingly good other than one rear speaker being fritzy and the tape deck not working.

There was a bunch of general junk in the trunk, including a spare tire on a matching snowflake rim (but that's my travel tool box)

Looks like the truck had a young female driver at some point. I don't think this belongs to the redneck gnome or his son.


Huh. Guess I won't be using that spare...


The front seat area is scrungy too..DEAR GOD IS THAT A FLOSS PIC???!!!

And here we have the mighty 318 in it's natural habitat...

Hmm. looks like valve cover gaskets are on the list...


And the battery is on it's way out....but with those cables who could blame it. So that's the first project.

After throwing away all the loose trash I took the time to fix the stuck rear hatch lock. These like to drop the rod on the latch so the door handle pulls but the door doesn't unlatch. A quick google showed me how to take the trim screws off inside and jam your arm down inside and pull the release. This gives you a bunch of awesome scratches and bruises on your forearm but also pops the door open. Once open you pull the trim off, adjust the rod and zip tie it in place. Fixed for $0.


And of course there's the Yakima bike and ski rack, which is part of the reason I bought it. There are no keys for the  locks on the bike stuff but I have some plans to work around it. Even used, that's $500 in rack. Plus it looks cool.


He was asking $2800 for it, but I talked him down to $2500.  I drove it almost 3 hours home down I-75 at 75-80mph and it ran great and was comfortable the whole way. It's got some maintenance issues but my gut feeling is I would hook my boat to it and drive tot he coast tomorrow if I needed to.

I've started a punch list of stuff to do, but I'll come back and post all that tomorrow. Right now I'm about to leave work early and go pick up the battery for it. Full fluid change and tune up parts are ordered and will happen this weekend.



jfryjfry HalfDork
11/6/17 10:27 p.m.

Fantastic!   Should be fun to bring back its former glory

DrBoost MegaDork
11/7/17 4:08 a.m.

I like the studded spare tire. Should be great this winter!    

What is that blue thing you found that's evidence of a girl owning the Jeep?

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/7/17 4:52 a.m.

In reply to DrBoost :

It's an unopened (thank god) tampon. The purple leopard print wrapper marks it as a brand that was/is marketed toward teens and young adults.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/7/17 4:58 a.m.

I dropped in a new battery last night. Hit the key and...slow, slow start. Sometimes nothing. Sometimes fires right off.

Troubleshooting fail. Starter will be here Thursday.

Also verified that the ball joints are BAD. You can rock the top of the wheels 1/4". And th CV boots are split. We drove it to dinner and the grocery store anyway. Shocks are definitely blown.

The headlight switch is going rapidly. The interior lights go on and off but you can touch the dimmer slider to make them come back. Headlights also sometimes stay on when turned off. Kind of comical actually.

Where'd I put that punch list...

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/7/17 7:36 a.m.

Now let's talk about goods,and bads, and get to that growing punchlist.

The good: I think it really does only have 160k on it, the engine runs strong and smooth, and the trans seems pretty decent if not perfect. Oil looks good, trans fluid is clean and doesn't smell burnt. No noise from the CV axles.  It's got a brand new windshield, new (cheap, street) tires, all 5 matching alloy wheels, new power steering pump and serp belt. All the power windows work, the sunroof works and doesn't leak. The roof rack is awesome. The body is straight and rust free, and you can't tell the clearcoat is peeling because it's white.

The bad: It's been neglected badly. The guy I bought it from seemed like a solid mechanic but was one of those guys who only cares about the very basic function. He actually said "Hell, I can't drive a car without play in the steering. I had a Thunderbird with that rack and pinion, I couldn't keep it in one lane!" So...yeah. He only had the truck a few months, so I've got NO long term history. Was this a mistake to buy? Eh..maybe?


So punchlist:

Initial baseline: This is an attempt to baseline normal maintenance items that should have been taken care of. The goal here is to be comfortable driving the Heep 7 miles to work.

Extra key cut

Battery cable clamps (have them but I hate replacement clamps. I may wait and do cables unless it becomes an issue

Battery (did this yesteray. Didn't fix the slow start issue. guess I should have actually done some diagnosis. Ordered a starter.)

Replace starter (ordered)

Rear door latch (adjusted the rod so it will open now, but you can't lock/unlock with the key outside, and the power locks are intermittent. Need to dig back in.)

Rear window and hatch lifts (ordered)

Fluid change -front and rear diff, tcase, oil, trans 

Trans filter, gasket, band adjust (parts ordered)

Cap, rotor, plugs, wires (parts ordered)


Vital repairs: This is the larger round of stuff that needs done to make it safe for long distances. This will wait until I sell the truck to fund the effort.

Ball joints, CV boots or axles (boots are torn, but axles are $38/side and boots are $10. If I've got the hubs off it seems like a good time to do axles)

ABS light is on (I'm betting on bad sensor or bad connection. Brakes feel good but having working ABS is a critical thing to me when towing.)

Shocks (lord they're bad. What do you guys like on these trucks?)

Replace or polish headlights. replacements are cheap, but polish is free. we'll see. Fog lights are busted, probably replace with cheap LED aftermarkets.

Tie rods? Boots are torn so even if they're fine now they won't be long. Probably a steering stabilizer while I'm in there

Trans mount - blown, you get mad vibration in the cab sometimes. 

Headlight switch - this thing is full of loose connections. the interior lights go on/off with bumps or when you touch the dimmer slide. Headlights also like to stay on when you turn them off unless you wiggle the switch. This may be a feature, not a bug, gotta read the manual.

Parking brake - non existant. would be great to have but probably not critical as most of the boat ramps I use aren't real steep.

An spare tire that holds air.


Comfort items:

Auto Door locks - at least 2 bad actuators, maybe 3.

Bluetooth radio- factory radio sounds good but has lost one rear speaker and the tape deck doesn't work. I really liked the bluetooth digital media deck I have in the F250. May also require rewiring the factory amp and/or speaker wiring

Driver door panel. - was flopping loose. Fixed that already

Replacement keyfobs - I got ONE key,and no remotes. remotes are a something I miss driving the F250

Lowtop seat covers - seat covers that fit better than trash bags would be great. In a perfect world these will be Wet Okole or similar

Fix rear seat folding - done

Fix bike rack - to be functional I need keys to the locks on the fork skewers. Temporarily I can take those out and use generic front trap skewers, but hopefully a lock smith can make me keys for the Yakima ones. From what I can find on their site these racks are obsolete, so no parts.

Some good AT tires.  I think for now I'll keep it stock height while I fix the rest of the stuff, but having 4WD is no fun without some bitey tires. It's running 235/70r16s now, sources say a 245/70r16 will fit on stock without rubbing. When this happens is totally dependent on how much I spend on actually fixing other stuff.

T-case swap? I did another hot test on the way to work this morning. At full lock turning circles in a parking lot, I get a very small tire squeak from the outside tire about once every full revolution. This is the same both left and right. No moaning, no popping, no jerking. I don't know if this is operating as intended, or if it's early signs of the NV249 starting to go. I'll keep an eye on this but if there's room in the budget and I stumble on a NP231 or NP242HD I may decide to be proactive.



Feel free to throw out advice or thoughts on any or all of these. I'm new to this whole 4x4 thing.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/8/17 7:23 a.m.

I found a neighborhood under construction on the way home last night so I gave the Heep its first off-road test. Nothing hard, just some tractor trails through the woods. It was great, 4WD seems to work fine. I have a better understanding of it as a vehicle too, I think. The suspension that feels a little wobbly on the road is right at home in bumpy stuff. Maybe the shocks aren't quite as blown out as I though... just bad, not horribly bad.



Parts should start arriving today. Pretty fired up about that.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/8/17 6:58 p.m.

Started getting parts in, fixed the hatch and window lifts. Threw the bike in for the first time for tomorrow's ride. It fits but just barely. There's a little less room than the Explorer we had, but it's workable.


Dirtydog Reader
11/8/17 7:41 p.m.

Had success with Rough Country, but the shocks were for a lifted XJ.   Ride was comfortable, handling was good,considering it was a 4 inch lift.  I'd dare say regular hight shocks would be good also.   For the light switch, and interior parts a U-pull it would be helpful.   ZJ seats should be around in decent shape.  Check out CL for rubber, or a used tire dealer.  16's shouldn't be that hard to find cheap.  CL up here in NY has ZJ's on the low end $ wise frequently.  Suspension parts, your call, parts store or EBay.  Make sure your track bar is in good shape, and steering stabilizer is a good thing.  Check HF for a on sale hitch carrier for the bikes.  You can use it for extra carrying capacity too, it works.



Vigo UltimaDork
11/8/17 9:44 p.m.

That's a good looking example nowadays. You definitely got the right color because like you said, any other color would 'show' its poor condition pretty clearly. I haven't seen a good looking 1g GC in a long time down here. 

I think now's the time to try to enjoy one of these at the price you paid (or less, maybe). They're behind the XJs which are shooting up in value (i think one just went on BAT for 14k and it didn't seem that great) but they will stop being cheap as they become more and more rare. 

ronholm Dork
11/8/17 11:10 p.m.

You only need one set of springs to lift those a couple inches iirc..

if I am not mistaken the fronts got to the back and you order a new set of fronts..   or something along those lines.


Grand Cherokees changed the car culture of the USA...    IMO they are the kickstart for the modern SUV craze.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/9/17 6:57 a.m.

One issue I had with installing the gas struts - WTH is up with using Torx head screws?!! I mean, I've got standard torx drivers for the recessed style, but I had to go buy a set of torx SOCKETS. So it took $42 worth of tools to install $17 worth of struts. Gotta love this hobby, LOL. At least I have them now.


The other victory yesterday was fixing the Yakima roof rack. This consisted of fInding a locksmith that was able to repair one of the locks on the front skewers and cut keys for them. With no keys you can't clamp down the skewers so the rack was useless. For $35 I got the lock fixed, 2 keys for the rack, and 2 more keys for the truck. Score!


Although I have the roof rack and a hitch rack, I like being able to throw the bike inside the truck and lock it up out of the weather when I'm going riding after work. Mainly because the bike is worth 50% more than the truck!


This one only looks like it's in good shape from a distance, but that's good enough. I'm not super fond of the white in general, but it does disguise a lot of issues and it keeps the truck cooler in the summer, so I'll take it.


One thing I've noticed is that the thing runs hot. Not like the gauge is high or it's over heating, everything runs solid, only hit 210 (center) on the gauge after 2+ hours on the interstate. But the engine seems to put out a LOT of heat - more than I'm used to even on a V8 in a small chassis. Like, I could feel a heat wave here and there when I had the windows down at slow speeds, and after driving across town the front grill was very hot to the touch. Now, I know engines get hot, but this one seems to radiate more heat than I'm used to. Anyone have similar experience?

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/9/17 7:12 a.m.

Here's one I found I'm using for inspiration currently.  Not going to copy this exactly by any means, but it's got the purposeful but not overblown look i want.


I particularly like the stance and tires. I'm seriously considering D-hole steel rims similar to these soft 8s, but painted or powdercoated gold with black centers and lugs. And maybe leave the lip black.  

I'm more interested in getting the mechanicals right first, but If I have some play money left over wheels and tires are first on the list.  I'll probably wait on the lift (leaning toward an OME HD spring lift, about 2") but I do have to replace shocks, and at that point a lift might not add a lot of cost.... Just have to see what else I run into.

artur1808 New Reader
11/9/17 8:52 a.m.

OME is a great choice, I've only ever heard positive reviews of their products/kits. 


2" is fairly safe in terms of not needing to deal with slip yokes and crazy control arm angles. Should be plenty of lift to fit a mildly oversize tire and still enjoy driving it.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/13/17 7:17 a.m.

I got my first real work day on the ZJ this weekend I changed the trans fluid and filter, adjusted the front and rear bands on the trans, increased the line pressure a couple PSI, changed the oil and did plugs/cap/rotor/wires.

I made a bigger mess of draining the trans than I think I ever have before. I took all the bolts out but 3, planning on slowly loosening the final ones to tilt the pan and pour it out with some control. As soon as I broke the last one loose the seal broke and it started raining fluid out of every bolt hole like a lawn sprinkler. I caught some of it. After it had slowed to a steady drip  tried to gracefully remove one bolt and tilt the pan. Pan drops, tidal surge of fluid that completely misses the catch pan. Dammit. Used an entire roll of blue towels but my face is well moisturized and my beard shifts great this morning.

Adjusting the front band is a nightmare on this trans. In case anyone is wondering, you actually need an inch-lb torque wrench and a 5/16 pipe plug socket and some 3/4" wrench bent into a z shape that doesn't exist. Or you can try every socket you own and then give up and weld a 5/16 wrench onto a 3/8" socket and give it your best shot.

After all the adjustments, the trans still seems to hold 1st a little too long and the 1/2 shift is still harsh at low speeds. Is this a sign that the trans is slipping and on the way out?

It's really obvious the engine in this thing was designed in the 60s. Like any old muscle car, the valve covers leak, nothing is laid out well, and it still has a distributer cap.  And who the hell mounts an oil filter on a 45* angle directly over the starter and the exhaust? There's no way to change it that doesn't coat everything in oil, including the mechanic and the floor. 

On the other hand it runs much smoother than it did. The thing actually startled me the fist time I slapped the go pedal down after the tune up. It's properly quick for what it is.

The only worrisome thing i found while crawling around under it is that I thing the rear main seal is leaking. It's possible it's just oil running down from the valve covers, but I don't think so. That's going to be a PITA to change.

Dirtydog Reader
11/13/17 9:36 a.m.

Glad you're getting there.  It seems anything with a transfer case can be a trial at times.  As for suspension, I meant Rancho shocks and lift kit, not Rough Country.  You gotta love custom tool fabrication.  Nothing better than a job in a job.

AngryCorvair UltimaDork
11/13/17 9:39 a.m.

All the electrical issues you described sound like dirty or loose power or ground connections.  Everyone checks and cleans the battery terminals, but what's happening at the other ends of the battery cables?

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/15/17 7:39 a.m.

Work will be on hold for the next couple weeks due to prior commitments. One of those commitments is running the roads this weekend as SAG support for an overnight mountain bike camping ride. I'll be taking the Jeep and towing a trailer for excess gear and bike recovery for anyone that needs to abandon the ride. In preparation my buddy Ray ( aka The Cycling Sasquatch, who's putting on the ride) went out to Oaky Woods WMA and marked a few turns. 


The roads are all clay and gravel and are plenty do able with a 2wd truck, but the Jeep handles them in comfort with no drama at all. On one steep hill I put it in 4Lo and drove all over the  sides of the road and up into the treeline just to see if it would go. It never missed a beat, even on Dextero brand street tires. Oh sure, the ball joints were clacking like bolts in a tin can and the rear hatch rattles like crazy, but it just goes!

I think I'm gonna like this little beastie.


As for electrical, yeah, I suspect poor grounds for the starter issue....but it's been starting fine so I haven't taken the time to track them all down yet....

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/15/17 7:54 a.m.

Just for the curious, here's a link to the Facebook event for the ride. It's basically an entry-level bikepacking ride. You can ride either 100 or 65 mile routes, camp overnight and ride back. If you have all the gear and bags you can transport your own stuff on the bike, but if you just want to tryout bike camping we'll haul your stuff for you in the van. The route is about 50/50 dirt roads and rural paved roads with a lunch stop at a Mennonite store that has been  in operation since the early 1900s. We've got over 100 people preregistered.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/16/17 6:40 a.m.

I got the "opportunity" to address the starter issue last night.  After moving the Jeep to top off the tire pressure it wouldn't start. No clicky, no nothing. Just as an experiment I crawled under and tapped the starter with a hammer. Fired instantly. Shut it off - no start.

Tap starter with hammer - instant start. 

Shut off. No restart.

Repeat about 5x with exact same result.

So I put it up on ramps and let it cool while I made dinner. After dinner it took less than an hour to throw the new starter on. The new one is a little noisy but it spins with a fury that is hard to believe. The truck body torques a little when you hit the switch, and the engine lights right off.

So....we'll call that solved for now. That's been the quickest thing I've fixed on it. Hell, the rear door lift cylinders took longer.

GCrites80s New Reader
11/16/17 10:00 a.m.

Mopar starters are supposed to be noisy!

The_Jed PowerDork
11/16/17 11:16 a.m.

I think pre-'96 F150 coil springs will give you 2" or so of lift and a bit of an increase in rate, if you're after that.



ultraclyde PowerDork
11/16/17 11:30 a.m.

In reply to The_Jed :

Interesting. Is that in front or rear? I know some of the budget kits give you new front springs and you move the old fronts to the rear for about 2". 


In reply to GCrites80s :

I guess it's right then!


I just ordered ball joints, axles, and axle seals for the front. Not sure when I'll get to do the work but at least I have the parts coming.

The_Jed PowerDork
11/16/17 11:42 a.m.

In reply to ultraclyde :



Front though, if the front and rear interchange, they may fit both.


Some guys put them on the front of their XJs and get 3"-4" of lift and probably double the rate. Most guys prefer the V8 ZJ front coils since they're a bit softer and give slightly less lift.

ultraclyde PowerDork
11/20/17 3:17 p.m.

As I mentioned elsewhere, Grover bought the F250 today so I just dumped a bunch of money on parts for the Jeep. I've basically ordered all the hard parts to get everything fixed that I know about at the moment.

  • Complete tie rods
  • steering stabilizer (Moog Super Trail)
  • valve cover gaskets
  • transmission mount
  • trailer wiring plug in harness
  • 2" Old Man Emu lift springs
  • Bilstein 5100 matched shocks
  • Mopar spring isolaters
  • European spec glass headlights
  • PIAA H4 bulbs
  • a direct wiring harness to straight feed the lights from the battery
  • correct Mopar fluid for the xfer case

And I already received the ball joints, front axles, and front axle seals.

Still to come are wheels/tires once the suspension is rebuilt, an upgrade on the stereo system, and possibly a set of wet okole seat covers.


E36 M3, I need a cigarette.

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