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Unread 08-20-2011, 04:26 AM   #1
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: salem, or
Posts: 3
98 cherokee hard start/unstable idle/stumbling

i just purchased a 98 xj with 135k. i'm a pretty knowledgeable mechanic and have been doing research to try and sort out what is causing the combination of running issues and have gotten no were and don't want to just throw parts at it. any given start up hot or cold it takes a good 10 seconds of cranking before it will fire up, once started it runs up to a high idle around 1500 for a few then starts to stumble as it drops to a standard idle around 750 or so. after warming up it starts to come up on idle and becomes erratic. if i rev it a few time it comes back down to 750 then starts climbing back up. i was thinking a manifold leak but with limited time i was going to pull it in today and get started. having never owned a jeep before maybe some of you can point me in the right direction to a sensor acting up or something along those lines maybe.
thanks derek

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Unread 08-20-2011, 05:50 AM   #2
It's the crank sensor!
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1999 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Central Minnesota, MN
Posts: 8,667
1. Fresh tuneup hardware. Champion copper plugs gapped to .035, new plug wires, cap, rotor.

2. Clean the throttle body and idle air control. Both get carboned up over time and miles and this is one of the first procedures I'd perform on a "new-to-you" XJ. More on that below.

3. Invest in a bottle of good fuel system cleaner added to a full tank of gas. BG44k is my first choice, followed by Techron or Seafoam.

3. Grounds. Freshen them. More on that below.

I'd start there and see where you are at after that............Good luck and enjoy your new XJ!

Grounds can be the root cause of many electrical gremlins. Refreshing grounds is NEVER a bad idea, and the investment of your time in this procedure is always well worth it!

You can't tell much of anything by looking at ground connections!! You must remove, scrape, clean until shiny the cable/wire ends and whatever they bolt to. Be sure to remove all paint from any ground connections.

Start with the one on the back corner of the head, and where it attaches to the firewall, as it deteriorates over time and is an area that makes it susceptible to damage. Best to replace that woven cable with a #4 or #2 gauge cable. You can attach the one end to the intake manifold if you would like.

Next go over to the engine dipstick tube stud. Remove the nut and clean the wire ends and scrape the block until shiny at the stud. Reattach tightly.

If you are so inclined, add at least a #6 cable from the negative terminal of your battery to one of the bolts on your radiator support.


The Idle Air Control (IAC) is mounted on the back of the throttle body. The valve controls the idle speed of the engine by controlling the amount of air flowing through the air control passage. It consists of a stepper motor that moves a pintle shaped plunger in and out of the air control passage. When the valve plunger is moved in, the air control passage flows more air which raises the idle speed. When the valve plunger is moved out, the air control passage flows less air which lowers the idle speed. Over time and miles, the IAC can get carboned up which can have an adverse affect on idle quality. Cleaning the IAC may restore proper function and is an easy procedure to perform and good preventive maintenance so it is never a bad idea.


Remove the air filter cover, associated hoses and the rubber boot that goes from the air filter cover to the throttle body. Remove the IAC with a torx driver (2 bolts; one can be kind of hard to get to)

“Gently” wiggle out the IAC from the throttle body. Gasket on the IAC can be re-used if it is not damaged

Clean the IAC with a spray can of throttle body cleaner; inexpensive and available at any place that sells auto parts. Throttle body cleaner is recommended rather than carburetor cleaner as it is less harsh, safe for throttle body coatings and is best for this task. Use cleaner, a rag and a toothbrush and or Q-Tips. Be gentle; don’t twist or pull on the pintle that protrudes from the IAC as it is fragile and you could damage it.

Thoroughly spray clean and flush where the IAC seats in the throttle body with the same spray cleaner

It is also a good idea to clean the entire throttle body itself, the butterfly valve inside of the throttle body and all associated linkage as long as you have things disassembled

Reinstall IAC and check idle quality
99 Cherokee, 4.0 AW4, NP242
Past Jeeps: 49 Willys, 81 Scrambler, 88 Comanche
Without "data", all you have is an opinion!
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Unread 08-21-2011, 04:50 AM   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: salem, or
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performed a tune up and cleaned iacv. fires right up runs better, but not perfect yet still has a random once in a while varying idle say 700 to 1100 bounce. going to pull off the throttlebody this weekend and do a thorough cleaning on it. all sensors were good, just has alot of carbon buildup.
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Unread 08-23-2011, 08:39 AM   #4
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1996 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Aug 2011
Location: fayetteville, NC
Posts: 1
I'm having a similar problem with my 96 XJ, the only differnce is that the problem starts when it gets to about half a tank of gas and gets worst from there, to the point of sputtering and stalling out completely. recommend the same fixes or is this a different problem?
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Unread 08-25-2011, 11:39 PM   #5
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2001 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: western, Nebraska
Posts: 17
X2 on what Walker said..

I had similar rough and variable idle and stumbling problems... i cleaned IAC but no effect - I cleaned the throttle body even though it was unusually clean already. I ended up getting a new IAC and a new MAP sensor and used contact cleaner on all associated electrical connections and added dialectric grease to them... and that solved most of my idle problems. At least it doesn't stumble and die now or even come close... Also, New spark plugs helped greatly as well.

I also tried to install a new TPS (Throttle Position Sensor) but it made everything go ape**** - idle jacked up to 2000 rpm and jeep wouldn't shift till it hit at least 3,800rpm... so I put the old one back on - but I installed the new TPS a few days BEFORE the new MAP and IAC arrived.. so now I will try installing the new TPS again since the new IAC and MAP greatly improved the idle.

EDIT: I also re-flashed computer after each new install.

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