Is your problem the "extended crank time" explained below? If so, then yes....your mechanic is correct in that you can perform the "poor mans prime" every time before you start it if you want. That will speed up your start time and make for less stress on your starter.
The check valve problem is VERY common and failure of that valve, does NOT mean that the actual fuel pump is failing. The problem is so common that I have the below information in a "cut and paste" document and pull it out whenever there is a thread that involves this.
If you are going to replace it, I always order Bosch fuel pumps as they are very high quality with the lowest return rate. About $300 for this assembly for yours. The OEM Jeep pump should be fine as well. For a 1999, the fuel pump assembly is one unit that contains the pump, regulator, filter, sending unit. As mentioned, gas tank has to be removed to replace this.
The check valve is located on top of the gas tank and is part of the fuel pump assembly on 95.5-2001 vintage 4.0 XJs. When the check valve starts to fail, it reduces fuel pressure to a point where an extended crank is needed to start the engine. It is a very common failure. I experienced it on my 99 at around 75K.
A good (and simple) way to troubleshoot this problem is called “the poor mans prime”
1. Turn key to ON position (do not crank the engine!)
2. The fuel pump will energize and run for a couple of seconds
3. Turn key to OFF position
4. Repeat above a two more times
5. NOW crank the engine over
If the engine starts quickly and cleanly after performing this procedure, you may have the check valve issue. If it starts and runs poorly for a few seconds, it could also be a leaky fuel injector resulting in the bleed down and the stumble upon startup is the engine clearing the excess fuel that has leaked into the cylinder because of the faulty injector.
Also be aware that a bad battery can give you this symptom. Sounds strange but it definitely does happen. Have battery load tested if you have any questions; your XJ does NOT like low available battery voltage. Be sure battery connections and posts are CLEAN.
Some troubleshooting tips for extended crank times:
Hook up fuel pressure gauge on the schrader valve on the fuel rail
Start engine and bring to normal operating temperature.
Observe test gauge. Normal operating pressure should be 49.2 psi (plus or minus 5 psi)
Shut engine off.
Pressure should not fall below 30 psi for five minutes.
If pressure falls below 30 psi, it must be determined if a fuel injector, the check valve within the
fuel pump module, or a fuel tube/line is leaking. An adaptor tool/hose included with the fuel pressure gauge can help you with this. Consult gauge manual for more information on this but here is basically how it works:
*Turn the engine off and immediately clamp the fuel line at the adaptor hose. Watch the pressure gauge and see how long it takes to lose pressure.
*If the pressure remains at 49 psi for an extended period of time then the problem is in the tank - possibly the check valve. If the pressure falls below 49 psi fairly rapidly then the problem is probably a leaky fuel injector.
You can limp a check valve problem along indefinitely if you wish as it doesn't mean the fuel pump itself is going bad. Normally, the check valve is replaced as an entire assembly as you have to drop the gas tank to access the assembly. Fuel pump assembly consists of fuel pump, regulator, check valve, filter. If you do replace the fuel pump assembly, purchase a high quality OEM style unit. Some cheap aftermarket assemblies don’t hold up and fail prematurely. I specifically seek out Bosch fuel pumps as they are the best in the business. Stay away from Airtex, as IMHO, they have a bigtime reliability problem.
99 Cherokee, 4.0 AW4, NP242
Past Jeeps: 49 Willys, 81 Scrambler, 88 Comanche
Without "data", all you have is an opinion!