Jeep Creep: Your Jeep Questions Answered
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No Jeep recalls from NHTSA this month.
My 2000 Cherokee started wobbling on the way back from a trail run last week. I don’t think it was the “death wobble” I’ve heard about but it did shake the steering wheel pretty good. When I got home I had my wife swing the steering wheel back and forth a bunch of times so I could see what was going on. I may have scraped off a balancing weight from one of the front tires, but I’m not sure, although it did look like the steering box was moving slightly back and forth. I tightened its bolts, but I’m worried they might work loose again, and maybe oval out the holes. I’ve got a modest lift and 33-inch tires, if that makes any difference. Do you have any suggestions?
The first thing I would do, Tom, is have both front tires rebalanced (no sense in starting with a variable). Once that is accomplished, if the shaking isn’t completely gone, I suggest add a steering stabilizer. You also mentioned a slight lift without mentioning how high and larger-than-stock tires, so you should think about adding a steering box brace. The Cherokee’s uni-body design—having no steel channel ladder frame—while being more lightweight for improved gas mileage and excellent for 90% of the jobs the Cherokee might be called upon to perform, has a tendency to weaken at the steering gearbox if the Jeep is raised, rolls on bigger tires, and/or is used on the more technical and difficult trails. A local Arizona company, Filthy Addictions Offroad in Bullhead City (928-219-7521; www.filthyaddictionsoffroad.com), has a solution, a Cherokee Steering Box Stiffener and Brace kit. Using a 3/16th-inch plate (which can be bolted and/or welded on—welding is highly recommended), rod, and box clamp, the kit not only braces the steering box, it also strengthens the box’s mounting location. The kit’s a good addition for your Jeep and a good solution for your problem. And, by the way, Filthy Addictions also makes a great set of rock sliders for the XJ’s rocker panels, which protects and strengthens that area as well.
I’ve been driving my ‘06 Wrangler Unlimited now since just before Christmas (it was my present to myself) and I’m concerned about its mileage. It’s got the 4.0L six, four-speed automatic, and 4.10:1 gears. It has a slight lift (I think 2 inches) and 32-inch tires. Not sure what else since I bought it used. I’m getting about 10-12 MPG back and forth to work. I’d like to get 15-18 MPG. What can I do to improve my Jeep’s mileage?
El Paso, TX
Josh, I’ve been asked this several times before. In fact, I was once stopped just east of Cortez, Colorado, while I was towing a TJ Unlimited with a FOR SALE sign on it to Silverton. The man said he wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, the first question out of his mouth was, “What kind of gas mileage does it get?” My answer to him was the same I’m going to tell you, “You don’t buy a Jeep for the mileage. You buy it for what a Jeep can do for you off the road.” Everything you do to a Jeep to make it better for off-roading—taller tires, lower gears, higher lift, etc.—make it less efficient on the road. If you want mileage, buy a Volkswagen diesel. If you want to go off-road, buy a Jeep! However, that doesn’t answer your question, Josh. In order to improve your mileage (assuming, of course, that you don’t want to return it to stock height with stock tires), make sure the Jeep is in tip-top shape; i.e., fresh oil, new spark plugs, etc. Also maintain your tire pressure at about 35 psi (I’ve talked with some Jeep owners who went much higher on the air pressure, but then your ride becomes really harsh and the tires wear the tread center faster) and slow down. A raised Jeep has a higher forward profile, so it pushes a larger “wind wave” down the road at higher speeds than a stock height Jeep. Slowing down allows the Jeep to work less to maintain the speed. If you want to prove this to yourself, pick a set course of freeway of about 50 miles and drive it in both directions and refill the tank after each trip. If you have cruise control, use it to take your right foot out of the equation, and drive the 100-mile round trip at 75 (Arizona speed limit), 65, and 55, and compute your difference in mileage between the three speeds. I did this in a motorhome for another publisher and discovered it was almost 2 mpg improvement between 55 and 75. So you’ll want to slow down the Jeep and slow down the movement of your right foot; accelerate slowly, pass gradually, and slow down early.
I’ve owned my ‘04 TJ for about five years now. It’s been lifted 6 inches, 4.10 gears, lockers, and has 35-inch tires. The 4.0L engine and automatic transmission are stock and it’s never overheated before. However, I was in a parade last weekend and the engine started overheating at the slow speed of the parade. When I revved the engine the temperature would come down but then go back up while I was driving slowly. I recently changed the radiator cap but the coolant is supposed to be “lifetime” coolant. Since the trails around where I live require a lot of low-range crawling, what should I do to correct this overheating?
Duke, I’d say the first thing you need to do is change your coolant! Lifetime coolant may work in cars that never leave the city or highway pavement—I couldn’t say one way or the other—but lifetime coolant won’t work in vehicles that actually work for a living. The coolant should be changed every two years or it may begin to cause problems within the system it’s meant to protect. For a Jeep, a gallon of any name-brand coolant will do the trick and then top off with clean water. Since you’ve already changed out your radiator cap you won’t need to change that, but you might want to install a new thermostat. Also change your fan belt and then tape your old fan belt to one of your grille support rods that are attached to the grille and firewall. Remember, your fan belt won’t break in your driveway; it’ll break in the most awkward location you can think of. And if your fan belt breaks, you’re dead on the trail if you don’t have a replacement.
I have an ‘06 Grand Cherokee Laredo with the V6. Can you tell me why when I either hit a bump or go around a corner I lose throttle response? Would this be some kind of fault with the throttle position sensor or with the traction control system? Also, how can I check the fluid level on the tranny, seeing how they did not come with dipsticks?
The transmission could be low on fluid, which means this might be transmission cavitation. The tranny would be slipping, making you think you’re losing power. There is a cap on the filler tube and it takes a special, very expensive tool to check the fluid. You need to either take it to a dealership for service or acquire the tool and a manual to tell you how to use it. You’ll need to order the tool from Jeep.
My 1986 Jeep Cherokee 2.5L has a problem with power to the fuel pump. I have good power at the harness right before the pump. I replaced the pump but still nothing. I tested the wire that is on the sending unit inside the intake. It has power when it is not on the pump, but as soon as I put it on the pump I lose power. Please help.
Start at the battery cables and clean both terminals. Check the pump fuse and connections, pump relay and for a broken wire. On some XJ models there is also a unit that drops the voltage for the fuel pump from 12VDC to 9VDC. During the starting sequence, the fuel pump receives a full 12 volts for more go juice to the engine. As soon it starts—and the key returns to the run position—the fuel pump voltage drops to 9 volts. This keeps the fuel pump from maintaining high fuel pressure on the fuel-injection system while the engine is running. If your XJ is equipped with such a device—look on driver’s side fender just behind the headlight—check for voltage on both sides. It could have failed.
My wife is getting all upset with me about the desert pinstriping (brush scratches) on our 2010 Wrangler Unlimited. Most of the trails we travel seem to be ATV or CJ/TJ width, which means the wider JK gets most of the brush scratches. I keep it pretty well waxed but the pinstriping still gets all over the paint. Is there anything short of a new paintjob that’ll work to make my wife happy?
Gila Bend, AZ
I’ve just found a new product that makes touching up your vehicle’s scratches, dings and chips quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. AutomotiveTouchUp’s aerosol spray paints, which are guaranteed to be fresh and perfectly matched to each vehicle for a professional body-shop quality look. AutomotiveTouchUp custom formulates its paints to match any vehicle’s original factory color—per order. That means paints are immediately shipped to customers freshly formulated. The 12-ounce aerosol cans also have an exclusive ergonomic Pro-Grade Spray Tip that provides great control for application. It features a pressure-sensitive head that produces an even, finely atomized spray fan, mimicking a professional spray-gun pattern with less dripping and spattering. Or, for an even more comfortable grip, AutomotiveTouchUp offers a Can Gun1 Spray Can Tool, which transforms an aerosol spray can into a spray gun. The Can Gun1 can be used for longer periods without finger fatigue (or blisters). It is operated by lightly pulling the spray trigger, rather than pressing and holding a spray gun button. Check out AutomotiveTouchUp’s online tool for more information www.AutomotiveTouchup.com/paint-code.htm, or call them at 888/710.5192. Alex, this should make your wife more happy.
As usual, each month, I’m 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.
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