Newbie has conflicting needs to troubleshoot before buying -
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post #1 of 6 Old 05-13-2010, 08:08 PM Thread Starter
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Newbie has conflicting needs to troubleshoot before buying

Hey All,

My only experience with a Cherokee was the '93 I had about 7 yrs ago which I only had the pleasure of owning for just under a year. I've been doing as much research as possible but I am starting from scratch as far as my knowledge goes on the subject. I have very conflicting needs which can't be compromised much.

My "needs":

-It's gonna be my daily driver. I live in NYC (outer boroughs) and though I try to drive as little as possible, it'd still be considered a DD since it'll be my only vehicle- though I won't need to commute daily so I can keep the miles to a minimum.

-I do travel long distances each year, so there will be a racking up of highway mileage. This is basically one trip out west per year, and a few trips out of state but not too far.

-I'm a bit of a backcountry enthusiast of sorts, ha ha. My current car is useless in this situation. I'm a big fan of Southern Utah, and plan many extended backpacking trips when I'm out there. Anyone who knows that area well knows that avoiding tourist parks to find the best spots "off the beaten path" means quite literally just that. The dirt "roads" out there are usually fine for any SUV/pick up... being the biggest battle is an occasional wash that can be built up with rocks if it's too deep to get over as is- but my stupid little car won't stand a chance against the smallest issue. Having a vehicle that can get me fairly deep into no mans land before I head out on foot would shave days off my hike allowing me to spend time in more ideal spots for a longer time.

So, I'm not exactly looking for an off-roading Jeep, all built up and beautiful (it'd be cool, but not for city/highway life) but I would need something that can handle potentially beaten up dirt roads. I'm ok with the idea of skipping the lift option, cause if the wash is that damn big, I'm alright with calling it a day and going the rest on foot for a few reasons.

In my humble attempt to find a compromise to suit both daily city life, and seasonal backcountry endeavors I've come up with Cherokees between '97 and '01, with as little mileage as I can manage to find (hoping for no more than 80k- however I just read that it might be better to get something around 100k cause the breakdowns tend to show up between 80 and 90k, so I'm a bit cautious now). Ideally, I think I want a '99.

My 2 Questions:
Am I on the right track with the newer models? Suggestions?
I'm no mechanic, though I plan to keep up on the little things myself but I don't have the luxury of rebuilding and upgrading the big stuff without outside help ($$). I also can't handle wiring on my own and I've heard that the older ones had some wiring issues. I will have a little extra cash for upgrading if need be but I'd prefer to keep things as simple as least in the beginning. ha

Also, I'm assuming that manual is the way to go for getting over humps in the natural world. Standard would be less annoying for my city time which there will be way more of, but I'm not sure I care. Does anyone think a standard can manage to get me through rough spots on trails? Firsthand experience? I've been in pick ups that could but I'm not sure about a smaller vehicle. Just curious, mainly cause all the ones I've seen for sale so far are standard.

Thanks in advance to anyone who's listening. I'm trying to make the most informed decision possible before I commit to buying. I loved my old one and will do right by another for as long as possible.

Last edited by CrowFeathers; 05-13-2010 at 08:28 PM.
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post #2 of 6 Old 05-13-2010, 08:56 PM
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1990 XJ Cherokee 
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Location: Vashon, WA
Posts: 585
Automatic is definitely the way to go for rockcrawling, and the 4-speed AW4 that came in cherokees is a really sturdy transmission. Generally speaking, they'll last as long as the incredibly reliable 4.0L engine they come with. If you're mainly concerned with trail riding and maybe some big puddles here and there, though, and not so much with crawling, the AX-15 5-speed manual would serve you well, and it's considered even more solid and reliable than the AW4. On-road, either one is going to serve you well, but the 5-speed will tend to get 1-2 more MPG on the highway and 2-3 more in the city...and you'll be able to start the dang thing if your battery dies.

As for what else to look for...
- Since it sounds like you're not a fan of doing electrical stuff, avoid the pre-91 cherokees; their injection system doesn't store codes, and the only way to test most of the sensors is with a multimeter
- Avoid the 2000 and 2001 cherokees because of two things; first, a lot of the ones in that year range had a bad head casting that will crack if the engine is allowed to overheat; second, they had the inferior low-pinion version of the front axle (long story short, it's slightly weaker than the older high-pinion, and more prone to having driveline vibrations when you put a lift on the jeep).
- The only major differences in the 'awesome' 91-99 models are various safety upgrades here and there as you move forward, and there was a change in the cosmetics in '97.
- If you're planning on ever running 33" tires or bigger, try to find one with the Chrysler 8.25" rear axle. If you're not going bigger than 31", you'd probably be fine with the weaker Dana 35. The 8.25" only came in 91 and newer cherokees without ABS, but some 91+ cherokees with regular brakes came with the D35, so you'll have to actually crouch and take a look to know which rear axle it has.
- If you're planning on doing a larger lift (more than about 3-3.5"), you should avoid the NP242 transfer case (the 242 has 'full time' as a position on the 4WD lever, along with Part Time, Neutral, and 4-Lo); it doesn't have as much aftermarket support as the more common NP231, which means either more work or much more money to do a Slip Yoke Eliminator, which is a necessary upgrade for bigger lifts, and a good way to beef up your rear driveline in general.

That just about covers it...

Oh, as for mileage, I'd say anything under 200k would probably be fine, if it's been well taken care of. The 4.0L is known for going 300k miles or more if it's well maintained.
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post #3 of 6 Old 05-14-2010, 12:13 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the abundance of useful info!

Yeah, I know I'd get better mileage with a 5 speed which would definitely compensate for the annoyance of city traffic and whatnot. The one and only reason why I currently have a little car is the mileage. Unfortunately I quickly realized that all the other stuff I gave up simply meant too much to me.
Still, a few mpg add up these days so whatever I can save I'll go for.
I'm surprised I haven't come across more manuals, but I haven't been looking for very long.

In regards to the demands of my backcountry escapades and whether it's a better choice....from what you said, it does seem like a manual would suit me. I'm not taking the thing through anything real serious, since I'd be doing all that on foot. The vehicle's just meant to get me to a decent starting spot, not for recreational purposes. Mostly just rough dirt road/trail.

This brings up my thoughts on lifting the thing. Most of my driving will be either city or highway, so I can't see lifting the thing to any significant degree. However....I wonder if it'll pay to lift it up just a little bit?

Is it worth all that for an inch or two if I don't get one that's already done?
Mind you, I don't have the means to do it myself.

What I've seen on the trails I need to navigate...sometimes the washes get kinda nasty. It's desert country. I'm looking at potential gaps up to 2ft deep at worst- that can be filled a bit with rocks. (anything bigger than that and I'm parking a distance away and hiking in. ) Can I get away with that without lifting the thing? I assume so. The biggest obstacle- washes that get worse before you cross back over them. ha ha...but then again, that's the desert and ya deal in one way or another.
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post #4 of 6 Old 05-14-2010, 04:31 AM
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You should be fine with out a lift. Just get some good tires, my suggestion would be Good Year Duratracs, or Cooper STTs, or Mickey Thompson MTZs, these are the hybrid AT/MT and will work great on the road, as well as in any mud you may encounter, BFG ATs don't work well at all in the mud, but are great for everything else.I second getting a 97-99, the D35 rear will work fine up to 33s. Another option you may not have considered is looking at a WJ 99-04 Grand Cherokee, if you can't find a Cherokee with decent mileage. The WJs are more than capable off road as well. Don't get a newer than 04 though.


2003 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon
4.0L, 42RLE, Dual Tops, Full Doors, JKS Front Disconnects, Cragar Soft 8 Black Wheels, 33x12.5x15 Goodyear Duratracs, .75" Front Coil Spacers, Bushwacker 6" Flat Fender Flares, Skid Row Steering Box Skid, LubeLockers, Rubicon Locker Mod, OBA, Cobra 19 Ultra III CB, 3' Firestik, Rough Country 2.2 Steering Stabilizer, RC 1.25" BL, RC 1" MML, RC Grab Handles, Fog Lamp Bent Pin Mod, 4" Apline S Series Speakers, Kenwood Excelon 6.5" Speakers, 6.5" JL Audio 6W3V3 Subwoofer (in center console) w/MTX Thunder 202 amp, IPF H4 Headlight Housing, Sliverstar H4 bulbs.

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"Buying a jeep and not taking it off road, is like buying a dragster and never taking it to the track"
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post #5 of 6 Old 05-14-2010, 09:03 AM
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1990 XJ Cherokee 
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I agree about the lift. If you're just going to be running rough dirt roads, you'll probably be fine if you have some good tires. If you find yourself getting stuck a lot, then a lift might be a good idea.

Also, it would be good to get a set of rocker guards. They run about $250-300, and protect the bottoms of your doors and your rocker panels, as well as giving you something sturdy to pull the jeep out from in a pinch.
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post #6 of 6 Old 05-14-2010, 04:19 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again. I agree, I think good tires will do well enough. I'll look into rocker guards as well when the time comes.
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buying a jeep , cherokee , daily driver , newbie , off road

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