Jeep Creep: Fuel Trouble, Wrangler Lifts, Steering Issues and More

Jan. 15, 2015 By Jim Brightly, KF7SCT

In your Jeep Creep questions, please list your first and last names, your hometown, and your state/province/country, so that we can publish that information here. If you donít provide this information, we may not be able to publish your question and answer. Donít forget to be as complete as possible with the description of your Jeep and its problems, too. Send your Jeep questions to [email protected], Attn: Jeep Creep.

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

Five Jeep recalls from NHTSA this month

14V-631óChrysler is recalling certain model year 2011-2013 Jeep Wrangler vehicles manufactured February 16, 2010, to July 19, 2013. Corrosion in the exterior heated power mirror electrical connector may result in an electrical short. An electrical short increases the risk of a fire. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will move the exterior mirror power feed to a separate connector, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin December 5, 2014. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is P61.

14V-632óChrysler is recalling certain model year 2014 Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Grand Caravan vehicles manufactured March 20, 2014, to April 22, 2014, and 2014 Jeep Wrangler vehicles manufactured March 21, 2014, to April 22, 2014. Due to a software error, the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) may fail to learn the locations of the individual sensors while the vehicle is being driven. As a result, the low tire pressure warning light will illuminate, despite the tire pressures being within specification. Should one of the tires lose air pressure, the driver would not be notified of the change in air pressure. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 138, ďTire Pressure Monitoring Systems.Ē If the TPMS light illuminates because the sensors cannot be located, it could mask an actual low tire pressure condition, possibly resulting in tire failure, increasing the risk of a crash. Chrysler has notified owners, and dealers will reprogram the TPMS module, free of charge. The recall began on October 23, 2014. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is P63.

14V-634óChrysler is recalling certain model year 2011-2014 Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Challenger, and Durango; and 2012-2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles manufactured April 22, 2010, to January 2, 2014, and equipped with a 3.6L engine and a 160-amp alternator. In the affected vehicles, the alternator may suddenly fail. If the alternator fails, the vehicle may stall without warning, increasing the risk of a crash. Chrysler was expected to begin notifying owners of this recall on November 28, 2014. The remedy for this recall campaign is still under development. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is P60.

14V-636óChrysler is recalling certain model year 2014 Dodge Durango, and Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles manufactured October 3, 2013, to April 11, 2014. Due to an issue with the software for the Steering Column Control Module (SCCM), the Electronic Stability Control (ESC) may be disabled. If the ESC is disabled during certain driving situations, the driver may not be able to adequately control the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will update the SCCM software, free of charge. The recall began on November 24, 2014. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is P64.

14V-643óChrysler is recalling certain model year 2014 Dodge Durango vehicles manufactured June 2, 2013, to June 28, 2014, and 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee vehicles manufactured October 30, 2012, to April 30, 2014. Due to a fault within the Occupant Restraint Control (OCR) module, the frontal air bags, seat belt pretensioners, and side air bags may be disabled. The malfunction indicator light (MIL) should illuminate to initially warn drivers of a failure. If the frontal air bags, seat belt pretensioners, and side air bags are disabled, there is an increased risk of injury to the vehicle occupants in the event of a vehicle crash that necessitates use of the passive restraint system. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will replace the ORC module, free of charge. The recall was expected to begin on December 8, 2014. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is P67.

Second Jeep
In the last online column you said that questions were dropping off. My questions have probably been answered a bunch of times but I have not seen the answers! Here it goes.

Itís been a little over 20 years since my 1978 CJ7 with the 304 CID V8 was stolen. I said Iíd never build another one but I finally broke down and got another Jeep last fall. A lot has changed since Ď78! I currently have a very clean 2003 TJ Wrangler, four cylinder, five-speed, soft top, 140K miles, and all stock except for the tires and radio. My girlfriend drives it daily (and loves it). It will need a clutch soon as Iím teaching my teenage daughter how to drive a standard. Do you have any recommendations on a replacement clutch that will bolt on? Am I better off to stay with a stock OEM clutch? Can I go to 33-inch tires with the stock suspension or are the 31.5s I have now as big as I can go stock? This Jeep is really a grocery getter and not a serious off-road rig. I do plan on a flat fender kit and a 4-inch lift if I need it to put bigger tires on. I do not plan on adding lockers and all the very cool rock crawling gear available today. Lastly, when the motor does go, will a six cylinder bolt in with the existing clutch, tranny, motor mounts, etc.? Or are there a bunch of modifications I have to make to put a six cylinder in? Iíd like to add some power when the time comes but not do a total rebuild (college fund comes first). The opinions I have heard is that the lower four-cylinder gearing is desirable so Iím thinking a motor swap may be easier than changing the drivetrain? I do not plan to do a whole lot to this Jeep. Itís in great shape and I want to be able to drive it and enjoy it, not wreck it every weekend (like I used to).
Kerry Rook
Fort Worth, TX.

Youíre about to have a lot of fun building a TJ. Iím just getting started on building a 2005 Rubicon Unlimited and Iím really excited about it. Thirty-two-inch tires are about as large as you can go with a stock height Jeep. I also suggest that a 10-inch Center Force clutch would be ideal for your Jeep rather stick with the stock clutch. I had one in my í74 CJ5 with a 401 V8 that replaced the original 304 V8. It has centrifugal weights so that itís fairly easy to disengage and slip when needed, but higher RPM forces it against the flywheel with no slippage at all. A 4.0L six cylinder would be able to use the same clutch but would require a different bellhousing and motor mounts and a different radiator. I might also suggest you take a peek at Rally Topís website should you ever decide to replace the soft top with a hardtop.

Clogged Fuel Line
I have a 1996 Jeep Cherokee. I use it to drive on a mail route. The Jeep dies all of a sudden after driving for about an hour. It takes a squirt of starting fluid to start back up. Then when I go to shift into gear sometimes it dies again. Sometimes I can drive it for a house or two and then it dies again. It doesnít sputter; it just shuts off all of a sudden. I have had it to a couple of shops and they have no idea what it could be. Have you any ideas?
Russell Wilson
Seattle, WN

Have you had it tuned lately? I think you need to take it out on the freeway for some high RPM traveling; you need to clear it out. With your slow-speed mail deliveries, the engine can get carboned up, so raise the RPM. If itís too late for that to work, have it tuned at a good shop. Have you changed the fuel filter? Checked the gas tank for rust flakes? Since ether helps it start again, it could be in your fuel system as well as fouled spark plugs. When it dies and youíre trying to start it, have you pulled off the incoming fuel line to observe if fuel is being pumped? If so, itís in the EFI system. If no fuel comes out, youíll have to clean out the entire fuel line and tank.

Big Tires
I just got a Ď99 Cherokee SE, whatís the biggest tire I can run with the stock gears for mild wheeling? I came from a 2000 Sierra with 36-inch tires and stock 3.73:1 gears and no problems. As for the lift, Iíll figure that out after you tell me the tire question. If you can, could you suggest what you would do if you were me. I like to ride high, and like the look more than the wheeling. I go through woods, but nothing seriousóalso trying to keep it as cheap as I can. What I want to know is how big of a tire I can run without changing gears. I hear a lot of guys running 31s with 3-inch lift. Does the stress of 31s cause any problems? Iím looking at an OME lift of about 2-3 inches with 30-inch tires. But if I can, Iíd like to put on a 4.5-inch lift with 32s. I have the 4.0L in the Jeep, not sure of the gears, I think like 3.42:1. As far as cheap, Iíd like to stay under $3,000.
Howie Carter
Cheyenne, WY

I think you can go with 32- or 33-inch (285 to 305mm) tires, and for your area Iíd suggest an open lug tread design tires from any of the majors: Goodyear, BFGoodrich, Toyo, Yokohama, etc. With stock gears youíll probably be downshifting more on hills but you wonít strain anything. And if you like the Jeep on the trail, in another year or so youíll probably get deeper gears and a locker (with taller tires, lower gears might even improve your mileage). As far as the lift, I suggest either Rancho with adjustable 9000 shocks or Skyjacker with Softride shocks. Skyjacker shocks are soft initially and then stiffen up as they compress. Rancho 9000 shocks have nine positions of varying stiffness. I ran them at ď7Ē on my JK on the road and ď2Ē or ď3Ē off road to float over the obstacles. You might also consider TNT Customs right there in Cheyenne.

Scary Steering
I have a 2001 Jeep TJ four-link up front and on the rear. It also has Fox air shocks on each corner. I have problems with my steering and also have the death wobble on acceleration. When I turn my steering wheel, the body goes up and the wheels hardly turn. I think my death wobble and steering are the same issue. I was wondering what would be the best solution to solve my problem. The entire Jeep was built by myself. It has high steering on the Dana 44 and custom steering arms. The shocks are so soft that on acceleration the body raises about 6 inches and pulls on the steering bar. Also when turning wheels in place they turn little because the shocks go up instead. I installed a sway bar and itís much better but no more flex and when I go on the trails I have no steering without sway bars. I think Iím at the point where I need full hydraulic steering, what do you think is the best? No one knows what a crawler is where Iím from. My Pitman arm is a Rough Country with at least a 2-inch drop. I flexed my Jeep on the roof of a Dodge Caravan and at low air pressure in the shocks three wheels stayed on the ground. When I put them 100psi up, I couldnít climb the van because half way up a rear tire was already off of the ground. When I go off-roading I need lots of flex because we go in rivers and many rocks are 4 to 5 feet tall. I have four air inputs for my shocks, could they need to be revalved? I am also wondering how Iím going to put an exhaust system on my TJ. Itís quite tight with the angled uppers. What do you think the best transmission is to go between 4.0L and Dana 300? Something like an SM465 GM with 7:1 first gear?
Andrea Reading
Fargo, ND

First of all, you need to take the Jeep to a shop to have your problems corrected immediately! They should have been corrected at the time of installation. You have what is commonly called ďbump steerĒ and youíll probably need to start with a longer Pitman arm from the steering gearbox. Or the drag linkís elevation has to be changed. This is something that canít really be diagnosed at long range. You need someone to work it out in person. Also, you mentioned that with one rear tire off the ground you couldnít climb. Have you installed lockers, such as ARBs or Detroit? If not, more air pressure in the shocks, lockers and sway bars could cure your problems. Personally, I think a well-built automatic transmission is the way to go, but then Iím more familiar with western wastelands than northern mud.

Hanging Hose
I have a 1990 XJ with an automatic transmission. The other day I went off road at a local beach and got stuck in the sand. I noticed that it wasnít engaging in 4-wheel drive; the back tires kept spinning, digging it deeper. The indicator lights werenít going on either (4L, 4H). Someone pulled me out and when I got home I checked under the vehicle and noticed that a line was disconnected on the front axle. Would this be the vacuum line that engages the Jeep into 4-wheel drive? It is on the passenger side of the axle near the tire. I checked out the lines at lunch today and found two wires going into a plastic piece with one connector sticking out farther than the other. But where it connects to the axle there is only one connecting point. I tried the one sticking out further and nothing happened. I then switched it to the shorter side and it engaged, but the only indicator light that came on was the ďPart TimeĒ light, nothing came on in 4L. Any input on where the longer side connection goes? As you can tell, Iím a newbie, but you explain well. How do you check if itís the solenoid? Do you tap it like a stuck starter? I like that kind of exercise! I didnít reconnect anything yet. I wanted to make sure what I was playing with first. No ticket this time! Iíll clean it out and try reconnecting and see what happens.
Eric Nelson
Jacksonville, FL

Eric, since youíre a self-admitted newbie, you need to buy a good shop manual that includes wiring diagrams and vacuum line diagrams. Your front axle is vacuum-operated by a switch. The pod on the axle has two or three lines on it; one to pull it to disengage, the other to engage. You need to ďexerciseĒ the 4WD around once a month to keep it operating properly. By exercise, I mean you have to activate 4WD just to make sure everythingís moving okay. After you reconnect the hose, put it in 4WD low range on a soft surface and watch the front tires. If they have power, itís okay. If they donít, pull out the unit and watch it while activating the controls. If it doesnít move, it needs to be replaced. If it doesnít begin working again when you reconnect the hose, check the activating unit. It may be stuck. That happened on a Suburban I once owned. Make sure you clean out all of the sand first so nothing gets gummed up. Hope you didnít get a ticket for playing on the beach! If none of this works, I think itís time for you to take it to a Jeep dealership to make sure everything is connected correctly.

Too Many Miles?
I have 1990 YJ with an inline six and 200,000 miles on her. I am learning as I go and am currently deployed, but I have leave coming up and I want to spend my time working on my Jeep. Iím hoping that you can give me some advice on the type of 4-inch suspension lift I should go with and if a slip-yoke eliminator is within a noviceís difficulty range. I am also curious about if I should try to switch over to a new fuel injection system. I installed a Weber carburetor (Iím not sure about the specifics) and Iím comfortable with being able to tinker with a carburetor. I am also going to have to replace the exhaust but I donít want to get so caught up in the work that I miss out on the rest of my time. Do you have any suggestions about how I should tackle this project and companies that I can order from in advance so that the parts will be waiting for me when I get home? Iím open to suggestions while keeping in mind that I am not looking to create anything over the top but something that can grow with me.
William Crossley
Fayetteville, AR

God bless you for your sacrifice. Thereís a lot work involved with what youíve asked about. For a supplier, Iíd suggest Summit Racing or 4-Wheel Hardware, either of which can have what you need waiting when you get home and both have websites. Once you go on their websites youíll see there are many, many manufacturers of suspensions; however, Iíd suggest checking the prices and specs on three to begin with. Pro Comp produces fine suspensions at decent prices. Iíve used and installed several Skyjacker suspensions on Jeeps and Suburbans and have never had a failure or problem with any of them. As you can see in a recent article on Off-Road.Com, Iíve recently installed a 4-in. lift from Rancho on my JK, and I must say I really enjoy having the Rancho 9000 shocks. They have nine firmness settings; for the highway I run the rear on ď8Ē and fronts on ď7Ē and for off-road I set all four at either ď1Ē or ď2Ē to allow it to float over the dips and bumps.

I also tried a Weber on my CJ-7 many years ago. It worked fine for two or three trips and then began giving me troubles. I then installed a Howell EFI system (very, very good installation instructions) and was very happy with it. In fact, I modified the Howell EFI system for the Chevy 350 V8 thatís in the Jeep now and love it! It works fine in the rocks, on the trails, even when Iím flying through the dunes.

I have a Ď97 TJ with a four-cylinder 2.5L engine. I recently bought a 1999 Cherokee Sport with a 4.0L engine and automatic transmission. It was rolled in an accident, but everything under the hood is perfect. It even runs and drives good. My question is: how many things like motor mount position, wiring harness, gauges, and any other surprises will I have to be ready for? Any tips or information you can give me will really be appreciated. Are the motor mounts for a 2.5L in the same location as they are for a 4.0L, or do they need to be moved? If Iím really careful and take my time with the wiring harness, will I run into any surprises? Some people have told me I should have sold my Jeep and bought another one with a 4.0L already in it. I havenít started yet; Iím just researching everything now to help me do this right the first time. Iím a little nervous, can you give me some advice?
Saul Salmon
Merced, CA

If you enjoy tinkering rather than wheeling, go for it. The engine swap you are thinking of doing has a lot of gremlins attached to it. Nothing bolts right in, although the swap can be done. Itíll take lots of wiring adjustments, even when using the donor harness and ECM. And youíll have possible speedometer issues, so contact a speedo shop to get some advice on interchanging of the two systems.

I have a request of all the readers out there. Send us your questions. For some reason the questions have fallen off, and I know we havenít answered all your Jeep technical questions. There are no dumb questions; only unasked questions. Send them in and try to stump us.óJim Brightly

As usual, each month, Iím shouting out a huge THANK YOU to Paul Schupp at Rock Lizard 4x4 in Kingman, Arizona, for his invaluable assistance in answering many of the Jeep Creep questions.Send your Jeep questions to [email protected], Attn: Jeep Creep.

December 2014

November 2014

October 2014 Newsletter
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