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ZJ and WJ Grand Cherokees (1993 - 2004) Technical forum for the classic ZJ and WJ Grand Cherokees.

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  #1  
Old February 17th, 2018, 13:18
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Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

I thought it would be a good idea to start a thread documenting my experience of owning a 1998 Grand Cherokee. Maybe I can help some other owners along the way.

We needed to get a vehicle for my wife to drive and I wanted it to be an XJ so I could work on it. XJ’s were few and far between when I started looking. Then I decided to widen my search to include 93-98 Grand Cherokees. They were in my budget and seemed to have a lot in common with the XJ. I wanted a 4.0L and 242 transfer case for ease of parts and reliability and commonality of parts with my current fleet. Transmission and electrical gremlins seemed to be their weaknesses.

We bought it on March 17, 2015 from a guy in Hazel Green, Alabama. It was $2500 and had right at 119,000 miles on the odometer if I remember right.


It was really clean but needed a little work. It had a steering box bolt broken and needed tires but that was all stuff I could easily do. It had a 4.0L, 42RE, NP242, D30/D35 and 3:55 gears. It drove nice, interior was almost like new. With the low miles, I figured the transmission was good for a long time. It had a cracked exhaust manifold.




I was happy with my purchase and felt I’d found a reliable vehicle for our family.
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Last edited by PacificEd; February 17th, 2018 at 14:26.
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Old February 18th, 2018, 19:29
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

The first order of business was fixing the steering box with its broken bolt. It was decided to just swap in an XJ box and pump. I did have to swap the XJ pitman arm out for the ZJ one.

I also got a new set of GT Radial AT3 tires in a P235/75R15 size. The Jeep was found to already have a 1.75" budget boost installed so it had a little lift. The shocks looked pretty old and questionable. They worked so we left them alone.

Verde was on the road pretty quick. Once we started driving her, we noticed some weird things with the gauges and other quirky electrical issues. We drove her for a year with virtually zero issues. We thought all was well.
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Old February 19th, 2018, 20:34
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

Well???

Looks pretty close to mine. I need to get my lift pucks on there too tho. They look pretty lame in stock form.
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Old February 20th, 2018, 08:00
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Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

Quote:
Originally Posted by trippled View Post
Well???

Looks pretty close to mine. I need to get my lift pucks on there too tho. They look pretty lame in stock form.


After a year of great service I thought I was doing good. I had plans to do the OME coils, Bilstein shocks and other improvements to the ZJ.

Then we started this weird vibration that would start at about 53 mph and up.

We looked in the front differential and all looked ok. The axle joints were old and crusty along with the driveshaft u-joints. I replaced the axle joints and rear driveshaft joints. The front driveshaft was removed.

While doing the front joints I noticed the knuckles were really worn from the brake pads.



So I ordered some new Dorman knuckles from Amazon.


I got everything put back together and felt good. But guess what......the vibration was still there. After a lot of research and opinions from mechanic friends, the worst was realized.....the overdrive in the torque converter was failing/bad. So much for a low mileage ZJ having a good transmission.



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Old February 20th, 2018, 14:21
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

So the next trip for Verde was to Craig Jones Transmissions for a diagnosis. Sure enough, the torque converter was bad and wasn't locking up. So the choice was to replace the torque converter or rebuild the entire transmission.

We decided to rebuild it and it was a good thing we did. As it turns out the old converter was dated 2007 so someone had been in there before. They also had left out several bolts that hold the pump halves together. Then he said to look at the clutches. He fanned them out and at least three had no friction material on them. Craig said we made the right call.

Another gremlin reared it's head once Craig was finishing up the install. The Jeep wouldn't start. He went through everything, cleaning grounds, checking fuses and replacing bulbs to try and solve the starting issue. It turned out the PCM died. After a new PCM and CPS were installed, Verde ran like a champ.

She ran good for a few months and then............
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Old June 13th, 2018, 14:02
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

The next winter my wife started complaining about the lack of heat and the fan not blowing. We found that when you wiggled the plug under the glove box, the blower would work as intended. But as you can guess, you can only wiggle plugs for so long before they die completely.

A trip to Express and the first 96-98 Grand I found netted me the replacement plug, or so I thought. I got home and we started digging into Verde and lo and behold, my plug is different. So I go back to Express to see what I can find. I get the proper plug in good condition and head home.

My Father-In-Law and I moved each wire from the old plug into the new one. The issue was with the ground wires so we replaced and soldered those in so this problem wouldn't happen again.

Now the blower worked.

Everything was great until..................
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Old June 25th, 2018, 08:21
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

..........one day the side plastic radiator tank decided the split. While I was in there, I was determined to replace the radiator, hoses, water pump, front plastic core support (it was cracked and JB Welded back together), headlights and marker lights (also messed up and JB Welded in), and replace a clutch on the A/C compressor that began smoking one day.

I got everything put together and it was pretty straight-forward as everything just had to be removed and then replaced. It took some time but it went pretty well.

Then one day my wife calls telling me that the transmission wont pull. There was a fluid trail for 300 yards going up a hill when it quit going. She parked it and called a tow truck.

It turns out I used the wrong lower fitting when I connected the transmission line to the radiator. Once back at the house I changed out the fitting and bought some more flexible transmission line and all looked pretty good. I called Craig Jones (transmission man) to tell him what happened. He said that chances are the transmission wasn't hurt as when the line popped it pumped the fluid out quick and then parking it didn't allow for any real heat buildup.

Put it back on the road and it seemed to be running fine. The transmission was doing great and shifting as it should.

But then............
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Old June 25th, 2018, 08:31
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

...........my wife started complaining about the A/C not working like it should. It was determined that the clutch on the compressor was having issues. I noticed the rubber was melting out of the center and allowing it to slip.

So I grabbed a used clutch off what looked like a new compressor and swapped it in and it worked for a bit but eventually bit the dust. I did that again and it got us through the summer.

Next summer it promptly crapped out so I took it to Maury Farmers Co-op in Columbia who has a great A/C guy. Bruce got me all fixed up and now we have ice cold A/C in Verde going on her second summer.

Everything was peachy.............
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Old June 25th, 2018, 08:48
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

Dang wives and their AC.......

I've always been a fan of 2/55 AC
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Old June 25th, 2018, 16:30
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

Yes! I’m used to riding with the windows down in my XJ’s and Ranger but the wife and kids melt.
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Old July 3rd, 2018, 12:07
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Re: Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

This past winter we went to go to my parents for Christmas that evening and something didn't seem right. The back passenger corner spring was totally compressed. At the time it was very, very cold. The shocks have been questionable since the day I purchased the ZJ as they looked pretty old but they were not original OEM style units.

The best I could figure is the shock had been leaking some oil and the piston might have taken in some water and then frozen up. The spring never did "uncompress" until the next day when the sun came up and the temps increased to above freezing.

This was my excuse to get some shocks so I used Kolak to order four brand new Bilstein 5100 shocks for Verde. We ordered them based on a future upgrade of removeing the old 1.75" coil spacers and going with Some OME 2.5" coils down the road.

Everything went together pretty easily but when working on the drivers rear coner we noticed that the 1.75" coil spacer had split. Luckily I had an extra one as they are the same as the XJ spacers. We swapped in a new (used) one and got it done.

While on the lift we noticed hairline cracks in the front rotors. I had a set of new rotors and ceramic pads on the shelf so I swapped them out. I also preformed an oil change and tire rotation while it was on the lift.

It was a busy day but I was able to get a lot of stuff done with the help of Larry.
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Old July 3rd, 2018, 12:32
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Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

Here are some pictures of the coil dealio.




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Last edited by PacificEd; July 3rd, 2018 at 14:59.
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Old July 3rd, 2018, 14:50
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Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

And then my wife starts complaining about how cold it was in the ZJ this past winter. So the blower blows but there is nothing but cold air. Larry and I decide to back-flush the heater core. Sure enough, all kinds of muddy, chunky junk comes out. We the ran CLR through it and let it soak. More rusty water junk comes out. We ran it a long time until the water was as clear as we could get it.

I'm guessing at some point, someone used A LOT of radiator stop leak in this Jeep. It's like it keeps breaking loose and roaming throughout the system.
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Last edited by PacificEd; July 3rd, 2018 at 14:56.
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Old July 3rd, 2018, 14:53
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Here is another view of the spring and the way the Jeep sat.

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Last edited by PacificEd; July 3rd, 2018 at 14:58.
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Old July 7th, 2018, 21:02
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Project: Verde 1998 ZJ

So about a year ago I installed s new radiator. We noticed the Jeep was losing some coolant from the passenger side tank. Aluminum/plastic radiators are the dumbest design ever!

Here we are doing the job again.




All done. Runs nice and cool, idling with the A/C running. Hasnít broken 210* yet.
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