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Unread 09-26-2013, 10:05 AM   #1
mjbraun
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1996 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Chicago, iL
Posts: 5
1996 Cherokee XJ: fluid identification and leak tracing

Hello all!

For most of it's life, I've been taking "Gunhed" (stock 1996 Cherokee XJ 4.0L) to the same mechanic and doing only the smallest maintenance tasks on my own (living in the city, space to work is hard to come by).

Gunhed had sat unused for a period of months (low speed shaking), and I finally took him in for a tune-up and service about 1.5 months ago and all has been well until last night: returning from a short drive, I noticed white smoke from under the hood. All my gauges seemed fine (no temp problems) and, looking down into the compartment, I could see below and to the right of the engine / near the power steering fluid reservoir an area of the chassis with fluid on it. I'm assuming the fluid was getting sprayed on hot components and smoking, but I can't tell what kind of fluid it is.

Are there recommended procedures to
  1. test the kind of fluid (I suspect power steering)
  2. narrow down or identify the source of the leak?

If it's just a bad hose, I'd like to give it a go replacing it myself (if not, I'll just pony up the $$$).

Thank you for any information or pointers: I've been looking through the technical reading, but most assume that the affected subsystem is already identified.

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Unread 09-26-2013, 12:32 PM   #2
cbenez1
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1991 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Bucks County, PA
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1) Put on a pair of safety glasses and some clothes you don't care about. 2) Open hood and check that all your fluids are up to their proper level. If you find one that is not, there is a good chance that might be your problem. 3) If fluid levels are proper have someone start the engine while you carefully watch for the source of the leak. 4) If nothing is seen have person who started the vehicle turn the wheel back and forth a bit. If its pwr steering it should become quite evident at this point.
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Unread 09-26-2013, 01:02 PM   #3
sAe23
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1995 XJ Cherokee 
 
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Location: Los Angeles / SFV, California
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Is there enough fluid residue to tell what color it is?
Is the steering box or pump wet?
Also look at the brake master cylinder and surrounding area.
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Unread 09-26-2013, 01:43 PM   #4
Paradise XJ
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1990 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Paradise, CA, Northern California
Posts: 2,101
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjbraun View Post
Hello all!

...near the power steering fluid reservoir ...

I'm assuming the fluid was getting sprayed on hot components and smoking, but I can't tell what kind of fluid it is.
Good detective work and your assumption is probably correct. It is likely power steering fluid, have you checked the level in reservoir.

If the leak is passive...just dripping...it's likely the low pressure hose to the P/S. Check the side of the P/S reservoir. This could be as simple as removing the hose from the nipple (carefully, they're fragile) and cutting off an inch or two and reattaching it AT the reservoir.

However, if the leak is squirting, as in, onTO to your block or exhaust manifold (causing the smoke) then you probably have a leak at the high pressure P/S hose. It could be as simple as a new o-ring and as complicated as a new pressure hose or even a new pump.

To find out exactly where it's leaking from, ask a friend to sit in the Jeep, engine running, and turn the wheel back and forth whilst you look at the suspect area. If you have a pressure leak you'll probably find it right away, if it's leaking from the fitting...probably an o-ring. Anywhere else along the hose...the hose. From the pump, or in between the pump and reservoir a new pump may be in order.
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Unread 09-26-2013, 03:49 PM   #5
mjbraun
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1996 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Sep 2013
Location: Chicago, iL
Posts: 5
Quote:
Is there enough fluid residue to tell what color it is?
Because it's on a rough area of the chassis, I couldn't tell the color: it just looked "wet" which is why I wanted to see if there was a passive method to ID the fluid (like with a swab or something). But I'm "over-solving" which I frequently do:

Quote:
3) If fluid levels are proper have someone start the engine while you carefully watch for the source of the leak. 4) If nothing is seen have person who started the vehicle turn the wheel back and forth a bit. If its pwr steering it should become quite evident at this point.
Quote:
To find out exactly where it's leaking from, ask a friend to sit in the Jeep, engine running, and turn the wheel back and forth whilst you look at the suspect area.
Duh : simple, to the point and effective. Left to my own devices, I'd probably go nuts and wind up calling in satellite photography and a mass spectrometer. Thanks for the pointers, and I hope it's not too tricky to repair!
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Unread 09-28-2013, 04:01 PM   #6
mjbraun
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Location: Chicago, iL
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Follow up/addendum. I checked the power steering level and, sure enough, it was very low (below "ADD"). The fluid, dripped onto a clean paper towel, was a light brown/tan, so I gather there isn't material in the line. However, I couldn't manifest or see the leak, probably because the level was so low. The hoses look pretty far gone, so I ordered a new high pressure and return hose assembly (~$15 each, not too bad) along with a suction gun and bottles of fluid. I'm going to add enough fluid to allow me to drive to a space I can work in and then replace the hoses and bleed/flush the line. I have a Haynes guide from long ago that should be able to walk me through the process (still trying to figure out if I need to buy a set of flare wrenches or if I can borrow from someone).

Again, thank you for the help: this forum is giving me a newfound sense of joy in my Jeep and I have additional tools and parts on order to fix other problems (difficult hood release, intermittent wiring short). This could get dangerous!
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