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Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

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Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/20/2014, 12:55 am

Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to Little Red, my new project. Picked her up this afternoon for a cool $500. She is a chili pepper red 1998 Cherokee, 4.0 auto, Rough Country 4.5" coils up front with Rough Country 4.5" leafs out back (with 2" shackles for about 6.5" total), Chrysler 8.25 out back, transfer case drop, Rough Country (I think) adjustable track bar. It's currently sitting on crappy 31/10.5 no-name mud tires on factory rims with a second set of near perfect 32/11.5 BFG Mud Terrains (one has a hole) on Grand Cherokee Limited rims thrown in. Power everything (and it all works!), remote start, alarm system, FULLY FUNCTIONAL A/C, and a blown sub that I most likely won't use in the back. It also came with a roof visor, roof rack, and 2" spacers for the front (to possibly level it out).





Its one weak spot is the motor which has almost 277k miles on it and a pretty decent lifter knock, but nothing too atrocious. I went to check it out with the intention (and pre-established agreement) of paying $700 for it, but while taking it on a test drive the water pump shit the bed (hence the stream you can see in the photos) so the previous owner said $500 to take it off his hands or it was going to the junkyard. Just from it running in the driveway we knew it was going to need a pump, so knocking $200 would basically cover the cost and installation of a new one. It would have been a sin to send this puppy to the scrapper so we pounced on it.

Two hours later AAA dropped it off at my parents' place (at no charge), we exchanged the cash for the title, and here we are. Originally I thought it had the 35 out back (PO had no idea what it was), but I ran the VIN on Jeep's website and the build sheet says it's an 8.25 which I'm very pleased about. It makes my decision a lot tougher though as to which one of my current projects becomes the "dedicated" wheeler and which one becomes my DD. Right now I'm leaning towards Little Red because of its options, but since the water pump is junk it can't be driven now anyway so Oreo isn't going anywhere yet.

Girlfriend's pissed, mother is pissed there's gonna be more Jeep shit at the house, but as far as I'm concerned it's game on for more Jeep fun.


Last edited by THOOPY3 on 6/24/2014, 10:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Andrew Miller on 6/20/2014, 1:00 am

Sweet deal TJ, thats a nice cherokee!

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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  dongalonga on 6/20/2014, 2:38 am

I'm jealous. I love XJs. I say keep it as a DD unless you want to go all out and get MetalCloaks new suspension.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 6/20/2014, 7:49 am

Nice! That's arguably one of the best years too (97-99). Honestly, as I'm sure you know that engine could very well take you another 100,000 miles without issue.

I imagine you probably don't want to dump a ton of money into it, but I would have to say longarm is the way to go if you ever do upgrade the suspension.

I also have the 4.5" rough country, though also running 2" spacers in front and lift shackles in the back.. after sag.. I measure 4.5" of lift. Trim those flares out though for maximum flex and tire clearance Very Happy. Have you had a chance to throw the 32's on? I haven't tried running without the wheel spacers that came on mine, but I'm prettty sure the 33's would rub at full lock without them.

Looking forward to seeing how this goes!
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/20/2014, 10:54 am

The only thing that worries me about driving it everyday is the slight motor rap, but I think a new set of lifters might actually help to cure that. It does have a crack in the exhaust manifold as well that makes it pretty loud in the engine bay, but I knew that going into it and for what I paid I consider that routine new purchase maintenance. Definitely true that these motors run forever...unfortunately forever is pretty much 300,000 miles as far as any engine goes so she's gonna need some love in that department for sure. And truth be told the only reason I considered it at all is because it is a '98 or '99 with the bigger stronger u-joints and high pinion up front, and the potential for the 8.25 with 29 spline shafts (which ended up panning out). Working A/C didn't hurt its cause either.

Gas mileage does play a part in all this as well (I know, I know), as the YJ is now getting close to 17-19 miles to the gallon with a mostly around town/occasional highway mix. If you ask me that's pretty damn good for a 22 year old under-powered, over-tired four cylinder. I'm willing to bet I'll get close to 20 mpg on the trip down to Rausch as long as traffic isn't miserable. Everything about this is a tough decision for sure. That being said, I really miss my soft top in the summer, so it would be nice to have the XJ to use for my camping trips (I mean look at all that room back there for gear) and the hardcore wheeling, and the YJ to drive around and take on some of the lesser extreme stuff.

Since this is a tag-team build with my old man, his one major concern is that it doesn't have a cage. I don't see it the same way because frankly if I was to flop my YJ today I'm pretty sure there's a greater change of me getting hurt in it from either falling through my plastic window (it I even had it on) or something coming through it, or god forbid it rolled completely over and a rock busts through the hard top and smashes my head completely open. You can tell I've thought about this before.

I neglected to mention also that this baby was never wheeled (at least what most of us would consider wheeling), and honestly it shows. The guy I bought it off had had it for the last eight years and it was his baby. At one point he said he drove it to California and back (which helps explain some of the high miles), and for a short time he must have been living out there because it was previously titled there before 2009. He actually had the lift installed because he's an electrician and used it to haul around all his tools. I used to see this thing all the time parked in town and loved it; it always caught my eye.

When I saw the ad on Craig's List I knew exactly where it was and had my old man go down and chat the guy up because he wasn't returning my emails and left no phone number to contact him at. I couldn't get to town before yesterday and didn't want someone to jump on it first. He started at $1600 when he first posted the ad, then was asking $1200, then my father talked to him Wednesday night and they agreed on $700, then the water pump shit the bed and brought her down to $500. Funny how things work out sometimes. The guy who sold it to us was a young guy probably a few years older than me, and it sounds cheesy but he was glad to see her go to people in town and people who'd give it a good home. Smiles all around when it got dropped off at my parents' place.

I probably won't be able to put the 32s on for awhile, as the PO says the one with the hole just won't hold air when it's mounted on the Jeep. He said he hit a highway reflector (I guess there are actually people who hit those things) and had the tire patched from the inside, but no real luck. I guess it has a slow leak when off the Jeep but a pretty bad when when on there. Honestly I think I could get away with just buying one new tire and calling it a day, because when I looked at them (admittedly quickly) they looked like they had plenty of meat on them, I'd say easily in the range of 80+ percent tread. I'll get a better look at them this weekend when I'm at my parents' place working on the drive-able Jeep (it's gonna take some getting used to not just saying the Jeep).

And as you mentioned Jake, the PO said the 32s hit the LCAs around full lock, so spacers, a different set of rims, or the steering stop trick my be in order, even if they go on the YJ. It really depends on which one becomes the mule. The tires on the YJ are only a little over a year old and only have about 10-11,000 miles on them, and they hide it well. As far as the lift goes, it doesn't seem like it's sagged out back at all, and the rake compared to the front is noticeable when you look hard enough so it seems it's so far so good on the Rough Country stuff. The PO also has all the paper work from Rough Country that he says guarantees the parts for life (against breakage), and he's gonna drop that stuff off at my parents' place this weekend. It's not so much that I don't believe him and more that I didn't think Rough Country had that sort of guarantee...considering what poor things I've heard of their stuff.


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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  dongalonga on 6/20/2014, 1:14 pm

Looks like you've already thought this through. Build the XJ and enjoy the YJ while it is still running.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Scarytallman on 6/20/2014, 1:42 pm

Congrats!
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/20/2014, 3:16 pm

Yeah I guess I did show some bias in that last post didn't I?

This weekend begins the process of figuring out what will be done with it. I already had a shop day planned for the YJ to change the bushings so I might as well poke around on the Cherokee while I'm at it. I'm gonna open up the diffs and make sure everything is where and how it should be and put some fresh oil in there for when it does finally get moving.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/23/2014, 1:02 am

So I didn't get a chance to tear into the diffs this weekend like I wanted, but I did get a chance to do a little more research into the engine tick. Since this is our first foray with the 4.0 engine, I'm less familiar with its quirks and common issues. My trollings around the internet have informed me that a common problem on the 4.0s up until the early 2000s is -- surprise, surprise -- a cracked exhaust manifold, which as mentioned this one has.

After reading almost a dozen different threads on the topic, it seems that the crack will often times rear its ugly head in the form of a very loud and noticeable tick...which the engine has. So I took to YouTube to see if I could find any videos of 4.0s exhibiting this noise, and came across quite a few. Many of them were extremely close to the sound of what this one is putting out, but many of them were asking for help diagnosing the issue and didn't seem to have the answer for what the cause of the knock was.

Then I came across this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpOVr0toupY. I'll be goddamned if that isn't the EXACT sound the motor was making before the water pump crapped out; same tick, same location. The poster of that video claims it was a crappy header gasket that once replaced cured the issue. Well I knew it needed the exhaust manifold replaced anyway, and I tell you what, if that ends up curing the problem this thing may turn out to be the steal of the century.

The PO did say that the engine tick showed up around the same time as the crack in the manifold, and I've got my fingers crossed that once it's replaced the tick calms down. If it does, after some considerable thought I think I would make it my new DD. We're still planning on most likely doing the lifters either way, which can't hurt things. I haven't decided if I'll just buy a new replacement manifold or a set of headers, which would fit into my plan of sinking money into it only to improve the engine/drive train performance (aside from brakes or things of that nature).
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Scarytallman on 6/23/2014, 8:59 am

Good luck, keep us posted.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  dongalonga on 6/23/2014, 10:30 am

It would be awesome if that was the only issue!
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/23/2014, 1:54 pm

Forgot to mention one thing about this weekend: it turns out the 32s that came with it aren't in as good of shape as I originally thought. The side lugs still have plenty of meat, but the center lugs are definitely at 50 percent or less and there is some horrible wear patterns going on on them, in addition to the one that supposedly doesn't hold air. If I can get a shop to properly patch the one with the leak then I may make them the off-road only meats, if not the rims are decent.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/24/2014, 10:54 am

Have any of you XJ guys heard of/have experience with shackle relocation kits? The PO mentioned something about it having them, but I assumed he just meant longer shackles, and he didn't seem to know for sure. I was doing a search online to see what the factory shackle size for a Cherokee was (because I have no idea what it is and wanted to measure the ones on there for comparison) and lo and behold shackle relocation kits popped up in my search.

I was considering lowering the rear end down to match the front by removing what I thought were longer shackles and replacing them with factory spec ones, but now I'm not sure what is on there. I see that Rough Country sells a relocation kit, and I know the lift was purchased from them so it's a distinct possibility the kit is on there. Does anyone know what I should be looking for? When I looked at the shackle frame mounts when I bought it it didn't look like there were any new or shiny parts there that would indicate them being aftermarket, but that doesn't mean much. Earliest chance I'll get to measure the shackles is probably this weekend, so it will probably remain a mystery until then.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 6/25/2014, 4:45 pm

I can attest to ticking sounds from the cracked exhaust manifold. Mine did that before it cracked more and got louder. It was only noticeable during acceleration on the highway.. it was kinda weird, put your foot down and it starts making a ticking noise.

I have the APN header that I'm sure you've read about. http://www.amazon.com/ATP-101212-Exhaust-Manifold/dp/B000EQLCU2/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1403728698&sr=8-9&keywords=cherokee+exhaust+manifold This is direct from the mfr. nice if you have prime (also cheaper), I didn't realize it was the same one until after I got mine and look up the info on the box. Also I would say definitely use the copper spray gasket stuff on the first try, not worth the hassle of taking it apart multiple times. I'm about to take mine off for a third time to try the fel-pro gasket... Might be worth just getting a high quality gasket from the start.

Shackle relocation brackets come in two flavors, most common is the lift variety which moved the shackle pivot down an inch or two and gives you a bunch of mounting locations so you can get the right shackle angle. I'm running a no lift shackle relocation box which does the same thing but.. no lift. Check out the first page of my build thread if you want to see what I did with those (granted, not ye standard install). The real trick if you swap shackles to stock length is the angle. IIRC the RC 4.5" lift is notorious for leaving you with a vertical shackle (bad) if you stick with stock.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/26/2014, 9:19 am

Good info, that helps a lot. I think I have a general idea of what I'm looking for as far as the relocation bracket goes now, so we'll see how things look this weekend. I can't for the life of me remember what the shackle angle was; I don't remember it being vertical, but I could be wrong.

As far as the APN header goes, I've heard good things and bad things about it. I can get a replacement manifold from Crown for like $125, or their stainless header kit for $225. I'm probably just going to go with a Fel-Pro gasket from the start.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 6/27/2014, 10:56 am

$125 ain't bad at alll. It was recently suggested to me to run anti-seize on the gasket to improve sealing and make it re-usable. I'm going to give it a shot when I do my manifold with the new fel-pro gasket.

I want to say that the HD offroad engineering no lift box is the only of its kind, all the others are lift boxes, however they don't require you to cut out the stock shackle box which is nice. HD offroad engineering makes one, as does rough country and ironman fab, probably some other companies as well.

In my experience with the no lift box you'll need to use the lower holes (read: no longer 'no lift') if you want to run a stock shackle, if you run lift shackles you can get away with the upper holes but it probably adds up to the same height as stock shackles on the lower holes. The iron rock offroad boomerang shackles are nice, RC ones have a bad rep. I'm sure plenty of other companies make them as well.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/27/2014, 4:32 pm

I'll be checking it out tomorrow and will get a better idea of everything then, including shackle angle and determining if there is some sort of relocation bracket there. I'm itching to get working on the thing, it's killing me that the damn water pump is junk, so it'll have to wait until after Rausch before things really start moving on it. Can't wait all summer though, because I want to enjoy my a/c before the weather turns to snow.

After doing some reading up and much thinking on the matter, I'm leaning towards leaving the gears stock at 3.55 to run the 31s. Honestly, I'd rather save the money on re-gearing and sink it into engine/mechanical upgrades and more mods for the YJ. That ~$1500 for a re-gear can be put towards new plugs, wires, cap, rotor, O2 sensors, possibly lifters, and anything else I can think of to help the motor out. Heck I have a near-perfect set of 235/75s sitting in my parents' basement that I could throw on there just for the sake of fuel mileage if I wanted to. Every little bit helps I suppose.

And if the new manifold/header doesn't help with the tick, I think leaving the gears the way they are would actually help out the engine by subsequently lowering the revs and not making it work so hard (at higher speeds). Plus, at almost 300k it probably wouldn't respond well to new shift points anyway. Only bummer is that I do mostly around town driving, so I'd love that pep (that I already miss terribly in the YJ). But again with 300k on the clock I won't be doing any drag racing. I generally live by the 'slow and steady wins the race' motto, unless you're a real douche, and then it's on.

I think when I have the water pump replaced I'm also going to have the timing chain replaced (might as well if the pump's off), the transmission fluid changed (NOT flushed), and a new transmission filter installed at the same time. It can't hurt the way I see it.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 6/29/2014, 9:08 am

So I got a chance to look at the rear suspension more in-depth yesterday, and like I originally thought it has extended shackles in the rear and not a relocation kit. But the shackle angle is pretty much vertical, so things may need to be addressed in that department.

We also started replacing the water pump. I was under the impression it was going to the shop for this, but my old man said let's go for it so we did. Subsequently it will not be getting a new timing chain, at least right now. We were running out of usable light last night so he's going to be finishing that up today while I've got some other errands to run. Fingers crossed we have a second running Jeep by tonight.

Two pieces of bad news though. First, I believe I found the source of the cracked manifold in the form of a totally destroyed driver side motor mount. I didn't notice it when we bought it because it's hidden under that engine pretty good. Passenger side is good but driver side will need to be addressed. Second, the battery was dead after a week and a half of it not running. Obviously this can be taken care of pretty easily, but I was hoping the battery was decent and that doesn't seem to be the case.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  dongalonga on 6/29/2014, 10:19 am

The good news is the money saved on shop fees will pay for a motor mount and battery cheers 
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 6/29/2014, 11:21 am

Ya, not regearing should be fine with 31's. I'm on stock 3.55's and it could be better of course but it's really not bad. I will be regearing my front to 4.10 when I finally get the ford 8.8 in though, and I won't lie, I'm looking forward to the improved gearing.

Look up shifter cable adjustment at some point also, theres a thread on naxja about it. I expect an engine with that many miles is definitely a bit out of adjustment if the po never did anything with it. It's super easy to do, will take you 2 minutes. With the cable out of adjustment the shift points are wrong and that basically equates to it feeling sluggish.

Also if you're considering aftermarket motor mounts I can say Brown Dog may be the best choice but definitely go for the rubber mounts over poly. Reportedly all the standard mounts you can get from parts stores are garbage so you want to either get a true OEM replacement from jeep (omix-ada doesn't count) or one of the aftermarket mounts (brown dog, ironmanfab or MORE, though MORE is more expensive and of lesser quality than Brown Dog).

Anddd lastly, budget yourself some serious time for replacing the tranny filter, it's a total bitch, just did mine this past week. Some people think it's not worth replacing, and after the suckfest of replacing mine I'm not sure I would bother. I can say I will certainly not be dropping the pan again if I don't need to. Be careful torquing the pan nuts too as you can strip the threads. The neccesary torque is deceptive with the gasket compression, hard to feel when to stop.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Tonellin on 6/30/2014, 9:27 am

hobhayward wrote:Also if you're considering aftermarket motor mounts I can say Brown Dog may be the best choice but definitely go for the rubber mounts over poly. Reportedly all the standard mounts you can get from parts stores are garbage so you want to either get a true OEM replacement from jeep (omix-ada doesn't count) or one of the aftermarket mounts (brown dog, ironmanfab or MORE, though MORE is more expensive and of lesser quality than Brown Dog).

x100000 on the rubber vs. poly. I found a smokin deal on brand new in the box Brown Dog poly mounts so I figured it was worth it. NOPE. The constant vibration is like a bad back massager that you can't turn off when the jeep is idling.


Awesome XJ by the way - I've bee scouring craigslist for a cheap little XJ for a while now I've always loved these things

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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 6/30/2014, 9:36 am

Yea, and to boot it's almost guaranteed to be worse on a uni-body than a tub on frame. Which reminds me, I need to email Tim at browndog about swapping my mounts out for the rubber version.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  THOOPY3 on 7/7/2014, 10:58 pm

So the pump is in (actually has been for about a week now) and it's running under its own power...when the battery isn't dead. I took the battery to AutoZone today and had them give it a full charge to hopefully prevent it from crapping out again. It also tested out good (not the most reliable thing) but that's a plus. It definitely needs new battery terminals so that could be part of the issue. I also unhooked the power to the amp in the off-chance that it is what has been draining the battery. Unknown to me, my YJ had the wiring for one still hooked up when we first got it on the road way back when, and one night my buddy stepped on the ground (which was under the back seat) and the Jeep went berzerk, so lesson learned on that front. I won't be able to get the wires fully removed though until the new terminals go in; the wiring is that sketchy.

On a similar note, I'm trying to figure out if the alternator is on its way out. The most obvious sign is that the battery keeps dying, but the thing also hasn't been running long enough to charge the battery so that could be a wash. I'm also getting a decent squeal when I run the A/C, and the voltage will drop off a bit. Over the weekend when we ran the thing and turned the A/C on the volt meter dive-bombed down to 9 and the "Check Gauges" light would come on unless you gave it some gas, and the belt was SCREAMING. That didn't quite happen this time around, only dropped to around 12, but the belt still screams until you shut the A/C off. The voltage stays right at 14 while it sits there and idles.

I've read that it could be that the belt just may not be tight enough, which is possible because the tensioner on the power steering pump was supposedly tight as a bastard according to my old man. It seems that the squealing belt is a common thing on XJs, but there's no way I'm gonna drive around with the thing like that. Probably gonna tighten up the belt in the next few days and see if that helps things. The A/C compressor is supposedly new as of last summer, so I don't think that's what's doing it, but who knows. Not really looking to spend $170 on an alternator, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

Also gave the interior a good cleaning and removed some of the limo-level window tint that was on the back windows. It was way too dark for my liking (because it was tint on top of pre-existing tint) and it was nicked up and peeling and generally looked like shit. She's slowly coming along.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Jake on 7/7/2014, 11:33 pm

I was going to say based on your description check the belt tension, if its loose (which it sounds like it is) that could easily be failing to spin the alternator properly. Not sure what it's like on other vehicles, but super easy to adjust. Loosen one bolt, adjust it with the other, tighten it back down.
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

Post  Scarytallman on 7/8/2014, 9:22 am

i have to say the belt set up on the 4.0L engine is ridiculous. It could be the tensioner bolt below the air box or you could need to tighten the bolts on the power steering pump. Who ever set that system up up needs a slap.
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Scarytallman
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Re: Little Red (T.J.'s XJ)

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