Jeep Help: Jeep Creep Answers Your Off-Road Questions

Oct. 03, 2016 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.

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Two Jeep recalls from NHTSA this month
16V-529: Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee and 2015 Chrysler 200, Jeep Renegade, RAM ProMaster, and 2016 Fiat 500X vehicles equipped with nine-speed automatic transmissions. The transmission sensor clusters may have insufficient crimps in the transmission wire harness, and as a result, the transmission may unexpectedly shift to neutral. On August 29, 2016, Chrysler added the 2016 Fiat 500X vehicles to this recall. If the vehicle unexpectedly shifts to neutral, there is an increased risk of a crash. Chrysler will notify owners, dealers will update the transmission software to prevent the transmission from shifting into neutral due to a faulty crimp, free of charge. The remedy is currently unavailable. Interim notices were mailed to owners on August 24, 2016. Owners will receive a second notice when the remedy becomes available in September 2016. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is S55.

16V-545: Chrysler is recalling certain model year 2015-2016 Jeep Renegade vehicles manufactured August 25, 2014, to June 25, 2016, equipped with a factory-installed optional trailer hitch package. The trailer hitch assembly may have been attached with only a single fastener per side, not three per side as required. Without the proper amount of fasteners, the trailer hitch assembly may separate from the vehicle, and any towed vehicle may no longer be properly connected, increasing the risk of a crash. Chrysler will notify owners, and dealers will install two additional fasteners per side, free of charge. The manufacturer has not yet provided a notification schedule. Owners may contact Chrysler customer service at 800-853-1403. Chryslerís number for this recall is S62.

Transmissions: Auto vs. Stick
I drove a Hummer in the Army and Iíve been missing it lately so Iím looking at Jeeps. I donít want the size of a Hummer, but I really like the four-door Wranglers because of the size and towing capacityóIím also looking at small tent trailers because weíre a family of fisher-folk too. Even though Iíve decided on the four-door, I need some advice. First, is the Rubicon option package worth the extra money? Which gear option should I chose if I buy a new one? Hardtop or soft top? And, lastly, should I pick an automatic or a manual transmission?
Mike Sellars
Scottsdale, AZ

First of all, Mike, if youíre going to be towing, choose the lowest gear ratio you can. Itíll ease towing and accommodate larger tires if and when you decide you need them. In Arizonaóespecially in the Phoenix areaóit makes more sense to go with a hardtop. Itís cooler in the summer, more secure when parked, and warmer in the winter, and you can always pick up a soft top later on if you decide to go lidless once in a while. In my opinion, itís always better to go with the Rubicon option in a Wrangler. Almost the entire drivetrain is stronger and more reliable, you get electronic sway bar disconnect (in the JK modelsó2007 to current), you get 4:1 low range for better creeping and crawling, you get locking differentials, and you should get back most of the extra cost should you ever sell. Again, in my opinionóand this discussion has occupied many hours around the campfire all over the countryóan automatic is far superior to a manual when off road (in fact I drove my first stick since before the turn of the millennia last week). Look at the above photo: when youíre trying to crawl over rocks like this, with an automatic all you have to do is gently apply a bit more throttle until the Jeep climbs up and over. With a stick, youíve got to keep your right foot on the brake and throttle, slip the clutch with your left foot, and try to ease over the rock without stalling the engine or breaking something. Modern automatics will also hold you back on the steep downhills without stalling the engine. Thereís only one down side to an auto, it can fail unexpectedly, but thatís never happened to me.

Air Horns
Hey, Jeep Creep, Jeep horns suck! I donít think theyíve been improved in Jeepís 75-year history. They were weak in the slow speeds of the 1940s and they are still weak today. Way too weak for our noisy cities or speedy freeways! I was almost hit twice today coming back from a run and the drivers never heard my horn because their stereos were cranked up. What can I do to improve mine?
Don Prince
Calabasas, CA

Youíre right and I agree with you completely, Don. Iíve never been satisfied with a stock Jeep horn, even in the í68 Waggoneer or in the í74 J20 we owned, and Wrangler horns are even worse. The solution to your dilemma, however, is fairly simpleóelectric air horns. Air horn kits are available from your local auto parts stores, 4-Wheel Parts, and Quadratec. Prices run the gamut between around $25 to over $1,000, depending upon on how many horns there are and sound. The more expensive kits will scare the pants off your club members because they sound more like a train horn than a car horn. Youíll be able to choose a kit that matches your wallet and fits your Jeep.

My club members want me to buy a two-way radio for my Jeep. Some of them suggest a CB; some keep telling me a ham radio would be better. Can you explain the differences to me?
Patrick Spencer
Ventura, CA

Basically, Patrick, the two major differences are power and number of users. Citizen band radios (CB) are limited by the FCC to a 5-watt output, which in turn limits the radioís range. A CB doesnít need a license so there are millions of users, which can fill up the 40 channels rather quickly. However, most Jeep clubs use CB radios to enhance the family experience while on trail rides and in caravans to four-wheeling areas. Theyíre easy to use and easy to install. Iíve been using CB since the Ď60s when they only had 23 channels and vacuum tubes. I still have one mounted in my LJ; however, I also have a handheld ham radio and an FCC license (KF7SCT). Ham radios (FCC license is required to use them) can have output power up to 50 watts or more, there are so many channels I donít want to give a number here, and repeaters can assist you to contact radios literally anywhere in the world. Repeaters are self-contained antennas with powerful transceiversóusually maintained by local radio clubsóthat ďbounceĒ your transmission onto other repeaters. These repeaters are placed in high spots all over towns and cities so that an individual radioís range is literally unlimited. As with CB radios, ham radios can be handheld, vehicle mounted (12VDC), and in-house base stations (120VAC). Iím currently evaluating a pair of Rugged Radios RH-5R kits (shown here), so Iíll be able to tell you more about them in the near future. For now I tell you the RH-5R can operate on both VHF and UHF bands, and comes pre-programmed with over 40 popular channels including Best In The Desert, Baja Pits, Weatherman, BFG Relay, Rescue, Checkers, GMRS channels, and several other organizations. If youíre into racing, this radio is for you, and it also has up to 128 programmable channels.

I own a 2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ 2WD and want to replace the suspension bushings. Does the 4WD XJ use the same bushing as the 2WD? Iím looking at a bushing kit for the 4WD and wondering if it will fit my 2WD.
Clark Pearlman
El Paso, TX

Clark, I really donít think so; however, stop by the closest auto parts store or a Jeep dealer and ask them to look up the part numbers to both bushings. Thatíll tell you.

Broken Bolts

I have a Ď99 Cherokee. We were installing a 2-inch budget lift yesterday and were removing the rear shocks. But since the Jeep is nearly 20 years old, we snapped off three out of four upper mounting bolts. And, of course, we sprayed Kroil on all the bolts and let it set in before we carefully attempted the removal. We ended up using an air hammer and popped out the rusted nuts that were welded in place, leaving a hole for us to use. We then inserted a 1¼-inch, 10mm, grade 8 bolt, and fastened it in place with lock washers; thereby creating new mounting studs. Voila! We got our shocks mounted and are driving the Jeep today.
Mac Martinson
Des Moines, IN

Good job! Iím publishing your letter so other folks can see what Jeep ingenuity can do.

No 4WD

I have a Ď91 Cherokee Sport, 170,000 miles, Command Track, four-speed automatic transmission, and a 4.0-liter engine. The problem is that the four-wheel drive will not engage. The handle will move into 4-high but the front differential does not seem to engage. Where should I start looking?
David Hill
Seattle, WN

Dave, some Ď91 Cherokees had an axle interlock in front. Itís a vacuum-actuated unit. It has failed. The vacuum line has become disconnected or is leaking, or the inside handle has become disconnected.

Cherokee Chevy
I have a 1987 Cherokee Chief and Iím wondering what type of engine mods can I do to it. I want to drop in a Chevy 350 V8, if that is possible. If yes, then is it wise?
JC Smith
San Jose, CA

Basically, you can put any engine you wish in the Cherokee; however, you need to check with your local DMV office to ascertain what the current California law is concerning engine transplants on street-legal vehicles (unless you want to green sticker it and trailer it to your play areas). The last time I checked, DMV required it be the same year or newer engine, specified for an SUV, and must include all smog equipment, including the computer and all sensors, and youíll probably need to see an umpire. For the necessary modification equipment, visit

Surging Automatic

I have a 1987 Jeep XJ two-door. I have the Renix fuel injection with my 4.0 engine. I removed the Peugeot transmission and replaced it with a 700R4. Many dollars later the transmission was installed but does not appear to shift properly. We had to find a custom fix for the crank position sensor, which the person who sold me the transmission failed to mention, as there is a distinct difference between the kits made for the Mopar and Renix fuel injection systems. That aside, the transmission seems to shift inconsistently. It often shifts hard but does not accelerate well, or under heavy acceleration, the engine revs but the transmission starts to surge. Do you have any advice or recommendations?
Jon Jay
Reston, VA

Iím thinking your fuel injection computer is not compatible with the 700R4. It will have to be reprogrammed. A good transmission shop should be able to do that and that should correct the shift problem and the acceleration problem. It may also need a shifting reprogram kit in the valve body or itís not getting the proper signals from the EFI to operate correctly.

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. 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. Newsletter
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