1997 XJ's Engine Turned Off While Sitting in Traffic - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 9 Old 12-06-2012, 10:40 AM Thread Starter
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1997 XJ's Engine Turned Off While Sitting in Traffic

Hello all,

I have an issue with my 1997 XJ 6-Cylinder 4.0L Cherokee Sport: I was stuck in traffic two days ago, hardly moving (probably hadn't hit the gas pedal in 15 minutes), when the vehicle suddenly turned off roughly 45 minutes after leaving work. The lights, radio, and windshield wipers (yes, it was a fun evening) stayed on, but the engine was off.

I tried turning the car back on (from park and neutral), it tried to turn over, but nothing. After trying a few more times (hitting the gas at the same time), I popped the hood and saw nothing amiss. For lack of any other ideas, I disconnected the battery for about 30 seconds, and reconnected it. Still, it wouldn't start.

Resigned, I called a tow truck. It was taking forever (30 minutes later), so I tried to start it again. It didn't quite catch, but sounded like there was promise. So I tried again and she started (and there was much rejoicing!).

I had Auto Zone run a starting system test and they said everything passed. I've seen their tests "pass" equipment before, even when the equipment is bad (my old starter, in particular), so my confidence is not high.

It's been fine ever since.

A little more background: The alternator has never been replaced, nor has the fuel filter (damn them for putting it in the gas tank!). The starter and battery are less than a year old.

Any idea what caused my problem? Thanks in advance!

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post #2 of 9 Old 12-06-2012, 11:38 AM
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How's your cooling system (radiator, cap, hoses, thermostat, water pump, fan clutch, electric fan)? If the cooling system of an XJ isn't kept in perfect working condition, XJ's can easily overheat especially when just sitting in traffic.
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post #3 of 9 Old 12-06-2012, 12:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by mschi772 View Post
How's your cooling system (radiator, cap, hoses, thermostat, water pump, fan clutch, electric fan)? If the cooling system of an XJ isn't kept in perfect working condition, XJ's can easily overheat especially when just sitting in traffic.
A number of those items are getting old (age/mileage on those parts):

radiator - 5 years/45K
cap - ??? I probably replaced it with the radiator.
hoses - 3 years/30K
thermostat - I don't have it in my log, but I think it could be 6 years old.
water pump - 6 years/70K
fan clutch - 6 years/70K, but I'm not really sure. I replaced most of my A/C systems, and may have done this at the 6yr/70K mark.
electric fan - ??? I have no clue.

I didn't think to look at my temperature gauge when it happened, that would have been an excellent clue.

I'll check the hoses later, and see my manual for the recommended years/mileage for those parts (I don't have that memorized).

I appreciate the suggestion!

In the event it's not the cooling system, does anyone else have some ideas? Thanks!
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post #4 of 9 Old 12-06-2012, 08:45 PM
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Thermal failure of some sort would be a logical assumption. High heat and long term exposure to heat has a harmful effect on electronics and engine sensors.

Are all your tune-up parts fresh ? Are all the battery/alternator/starter wires and wire connections clean of grease/rust, corrosion free, and firmly connected ?

Have the battery and alternator Load Tested in a test machine. Handheld tester are inaccurate and will often pass marginal batteries/alternators.

The most common cause of random stalling is the Crankshaft Position Sensor. O2 sensors can also cause bucking and stalling.

CPS/CKP failure is very common. The CPS/CKP can stop working with no warning or symptoms and the engine will not run or the engine may randomly stall for no apparent reason. Crank Position Sensors can have intermittent “thermal failure”. This means that the CPS/CKP fails when engine gets hot, but works again when it cools back down.

If you buy a new CPS, get a genuine Jeep CPS, or the premium one from NAPA. Cheap crappy “Lifetime Warranty” parts are often out of specification or even failed right out of the box. They usually also have a shorter service life than better quality parts. Buy good quality repair parts and genuine Jeep sensors for best results.

Begin with basic trouble shooting of the start and charge systems. Remove, clean, and firmly reconnect all the wires and cables to the battery, starter, and alternator. Look for corroded or damaged cables and replace as needed. Do the same for the grounding wires from the battery and engine to the Cherokee's frame/body. Jeeps do not tolerate low voltage or poor grounds and the ECM/ECU will behave oddly until you remedy this.


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post #5 of 9 Old 12-07-2012, 12:21 AM
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1991 XJ Cherokee 
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Sounds like the time my fuel pump was failing on me. Check your fuel pressure, although keep it mind it might be an intermittent problem. Next time it happens, try this: give it a good kick in the gas tank.
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post #6 of 9 Old 12-07-2012, 04:23 PM
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Sounds like the same thing I experienced a couple times when my '96 overheated.

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post #7 of 9 Old 02-20-2013, 12:46 AM Thread Starter
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I still haven't duplicated the issue, but I did flush the anti-freeze, replace the thermostat and thermostat sensor, hoses, and water pump (the latter because it appeared to be leaking).

During that project, I cleaned the engine compartment. Some water apparently found its way into the throttle position sensor and killed it, resulting in my Jeep getting high RPMs when reaching 20 MPH, but never changing to the next gear.

Upon replacing the TPS, gear changing was back to normal. However, in my research to solve that issue, I ran across some people that had issues with their car spontaneously turning off (like my original post). I am hopeful that the TPS was already dying and my engine clean finished the job. ...Like I said, the issue didn't reoccur between the original incident and the time I washed my engine, so I don't know with any degree of certainty.
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post #8 of 9 Old 02-20-2013, 12:48 AM Thread Starter
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Also, I replaced the spark plugs, wires, rotor, and distributor cap. It was about time for them too. With so many changes, I may not know what was the fix... if it is indeed fixed (crossing my fingers).
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post #9 of 9 Old 08-16-2013, 12:29 PM Thread Starter
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Unfortunately, the above work did not resolve my stalling issue. -- long post, sorry!

It stalled again on Tuesday (rush hour, lots of frozen groceries in the back, 97 degrees outside - yay!), and had the same symtpoms: stuck in traffic, radio stays on, engine shuts off, no check engine light. I pushed it to the side of the road, even had a good Sumaritan try to give it a jump, but it wouldn't start. Roughly 30 minutes later, I could start it again.

When I got home I checked the engine codes (turn key to start, then off, then to start five times). I received 12, 11, and 55 as the codes. I've always received the 12 and 55, but the 11 was new. It told me there was a possible issue with the cramshaft position sensor and/or the crankshaft position sensor according to the Service Manual.

For the record, I couldn't check the codes the previous time my car stalled because I had disconnected the battery in an attempt to get it going again. So I don't know if the 11 code would have showed up then.

I went to O'Reilly to get the two sensors and was talking to a Firestone employee who also owns a 97 Jeep. He agreed that the issue I had could have been caused by either of the two sensors. He mentioned a third culprit which, unfortunately, eludes me at the moment.

FYI: I had a heck of a time finding the camshaft position sensor. No one seemed to have it, and O'Reilly was only able to sell me the entire distributor. Not wanting to do an entire distributor job (lack of time and tools), I continued to search for just the sensor (with my backup plan to pull it out of the full distributor assembly). Pep Boys had the part, but refer to it as a Distributor Pick Up (made by BWD).

The parts have been replaced, and I don't get an 11 in the engine codes. However, I don't know if the 11 only shows after the car has stalled, or if it would show up at other times.

The car seems to start a little slower when it's been off for a while, and this started after replacing the camshaft position sensor. I hope it just needs to be worn in a bit, or that I didn't damage something else trying to start the car when it stalled, or working on it afterward.

I now cross my fingers again that the issue is resolved.
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