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Unread 07-10-2014, 10:47 PM   #1
fredrum
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1995 XJ Cherokee 
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: racine, wi
Posts: 19
Finally back in an XJ

Sorry if this is a bit long winded. I just had to tell this story somewhere where people will understand it.


My first vehicle was an XJ. Not a very good one. Quite awful in fact. A 1984 2 door with a 2.5 liter and an automatic transmission. I had a choice between fixing up the rust bucket AMC Eagle SX4 that had been sitting in the yard or the $500 rust bucket Cherokee that was for sale down the street. Seeing as my sister drove an Eagle, the choice was clear: Go for the Jeep! When we got it all torn apart, it was a bit worse that we had imagined.....but after replacing the rocker panels, most of the floor, and the entire drivers side rear quarter panel and giving it a black paint job, I had myself a Jeep. An extremely slow and underpowered Jeep, but a Jeep nonetheless.

I drove it for the entire summer after i graduated high school and on through the fall, and somehow managed to get multiple speeding tickets (I don't know how that was even possible with the 2.5l auto),resulting in my having to go to traffic safety school. One night,while leaving for said traffic safety school, I managed to pull out in front of someone and was t boned right in the drivers side door. Amazingly enough, the jeep still drove and i went on my was and was only a half hour late. I was ok. The Jeep, however, was pretty mangled. There was a three inch gap between the top of the drivers door and the roof of the jeep, and the transmission no longer had reverse. I drove it like that for a few months, well into the Wisconsin winter.

One day i was driving up to Milwaukee and got pulled over for a bad taillight. I fixed it, but i had to drive up there a week later to show that it was repaired, and on the way home I heard a loud "clunk" and my engine died, leaving me enough momentum to coast into a parking space in a blockbuster parking lot (all that much more insulting, being as i worked at a Blockbuster at the time). I called up my dad and we had it towed home, but that was the end of XJ#1. For a few weeks I was stuck driving my sisters old Eagle, until the transmission died and it was time to go car shopping.

After looking all over the place, we managed to find a blue 4 door 1990 cherokee laredo, and i was on to jeep #2. The 4.0 and aw4 was a MAJOR upgrade from the 2.5 (holy ****, it could actually get out of it's own way!), and I drove that jeep for almost three years until the transmission started acting up. I would be driving along and suddenly it would just drop into first gear until i pulled over to the side of the road and sat there for five minutes, then it would work just fine again. Not knowing much about automatics, I assumed it was toast, and began looking around for a replacement.

By that time, nothing else but a cherokee would do. It had proved its worth one night when i had to drive 20 miles to work in a snowstorm and
made it there in one piece through unplowed country roads with at least six inches of snow. I began looking around, and one day i was driving past a dealership when i saw it. A red two door '91 Cherokee Laredo with a 4.0 and a 5 speed manual.......and being from Virginia, it had absolutely ZERO rust. A previous owner had brought it to Wisconsin and traded it in when he couldn't get the 4wd to work (vacuum line). It had 242000 miles on it, but it ran great, and it was only $2,000. Never mind that i had no clue how to drive a stick, i bought it as soon as i could and the rest was history.

That Jeep was by far the best vehicle I've ever owned. I had it for over six years and never had a major problem that i couldn't fix and have it back on the road the next day. It ran great, never got stuck, and hardly ever gave me trouble. Outside of routine maintenance I think I only had to spend $500 on repairs over the entire time that I owned it. On top of everything else, it was a blast to drive with the manual transmission and the 4.0. I don't know if I've ever been as proud as when i watched the odometer roll over 300,000 miles

At one point i had the opportunity to buy another XJ for $400, and i jumped at the chance. It was another 1990 4 door automatic, and it was a rusty mess, but only had 80,000 miles on it. I had it for a winter and mostly let my roommate use it when he didn't have a car. It had a ridiculous amount of aftermarket accessories and lights, and kind of smelled like dog piss on the inside, but it was a great beater. Unfortunately it started on fire one day as my roommate was coming home from work, and as i had no place to store a non running jeep at the time, i pulled any useful parts off and sent it off to the junkyard. So much for XJ #4.

Meanwhile, the '91 was running strong as ever. Sure, I had to replace an alternator here, a harmonic there, but it never gave me any real trouble, save for a little death wobble here and there. All was good until one day i was on my way to work and glanced away for a second, ran a red light, and slammed right into an explorer. Looking back, that may just have been the worst day of my life. The jeep was done. The last I saw of it was when i went to the tow yard to clean it out.

After that I had to get another vehicle quickly, and a friend's dad had an in with a few dealerships and got me a "deal" on a 2001 ram 1500. I still needed something i could haul stuff around in, and it was cheap. and made this century. Quite possibly the worst mistake i have ever made. Not even a year and the transmission went out. So i figured "well, I can spend $2000 on a different car or I can fix this one and then it will be all good". It wasn't. Between gas and insurance, it cost so much that it was impossible to save any money, and there was always something wrong with it. The last straw was when the rear end started going out. I just couldn't justify spending any more money on that piece of ****.

It took four years, but i finally managed to save up enough to start looking for something else, and what else did I look for but an XJ with a manual transmission. I quickly gave up on dealerships. Around here anything that isn't rusted half to hell is usually $6000 or more. One saturday morning i checked craigslist on a hunch, and found almost exactly what i was looking for. A rust free '96 with a 4.0 and a 5 speed for a reasonable price located about an hour and a half away in Illinois. I called immediately and talked to the guy and was on my way within a half an hour. The guy knew i was coming from an hour and a half away with money to potentially buy it. I was five minutes away and he texted me to tell me that he just sold it. there was nothing i could do but turn around and go home.

Crushed, I spent the next few weeks scouring the internet for anything, but there was nothing good within 600 miles. Finally one day i saw an ad on craigslist for a red '95 2 door with a 5 speed and a 4.0. I called up a friend and had him drive me the hour and a half north to go check it out. It was a bit rustier than i might like, but not beyond salvation, and it ran and drove well enough. $1500 later and I was finally back in an XJ.

Driving home, i got it up to 60-65 on the highway, hit a bump, and as you might expect the death wobble kicked in. It shook so bad the tail pipe fell off. As I watched in my rear view mirror as it bounced down the side of the road I couldn't help but smile.

Yeah, it needs a bit of work. Yeah, its rusty. But it's an XJ. And it's mine.


I plan on doing quite a bit of work to this one. I'm not looking to lift it or do any crazy mods, I just want to make a good daily driver out if it and bring it back to what it once was. The information I've seen on this site appears as though it will be invaluable in that effort. I'm sure you'll all be seeing a bit more of me around here.

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Unread 07-12-2014, 10:19 AM   #2
originalmon
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thank you.

Nice story, thanks for sharing!
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Unread 07-13-2014, 10:40 AM   #3
fredrum
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Yesterday I replaced all of the rear brake lines. Having never made my own before, I think it went rather well. I did manage to break two cheapo auto zone flare tool rentals (are those things designed not to work? or are they just that cheap?), but they were actually cool about it and gave me back my deposit anyway.

Then my muffler fell off.

So it looks like next weekend is going to be replacing the exhaust, oil and coolant changes, and if I'm lucky, time for a trip to the junkyard.

I missed having a Jeep.
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Unread 07-16-2014, 11:37 AM   #4
jeepkid03
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I can relate to your story man. My first vehicle was a 1990 XJ Limited. I loved it but it needed too much work so I got rid of it. I wish I would have kept it, but I didn't have the tools or the space to work on it at the time.

I ended up driving my grandma's 2000 Buick for awhile when she got a new car. It was cheap, but what a POS that was. I'll never own a GM car again. It had 40k miles on it yet it was an electrical nightmare. Finally I got back in an XJ when I bought my previous XJ, a black 2000 in mint condition with 70k miles. I had it a year before it was totaled by another driver in a snowstorm. I started looking for another XJ after weeks of back and forth with the other person's insurance. I soon found out that the worst time to buy an XJ is during the winter in New England. I had 3 of them that were bought between the time I left my house and the time I got there. One was a mint condition 1998 maroon Limited with 60k miles on it.

I finally found my current XJ only 15 minutes from my house and bought it on the spot. I've loved it ever since and had a big grin on my face when I finally drove it home.

You should post pics of yours and check out my build thread. My XJ is my daily driver, and I have built it with that in mind. I wanted to make it the most reliable and comfortable daily driver I could. Mods like lighting upgrades, cooling system upgrades, etc.

I'd check out the Dynomax Super-Turbo cat-back exhaust. It is cheap, well built, and sounds great. It has stock volume with a slightly deeper tone. It was very easy to install as well.
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Unread 07-18-2014, 06:06 AM   #5
mschi772
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If you ever need any help or a second opinion on something, I'd be more than happy to help in any way I can. I live just south of Regency Mall, and if you haven't had a chance to thoroughly flush your brake lines yet, I have a power brake bleeder that makes bleeding and flushing brake fluid SO easy that you could come use.

I also recommend the Dynomax cat-back. I had it on my 96 and will be installing one on my 97. If you need a new cat, I highly recommend http://performance-curve.com/catalyticconverters.aspx Before you dismiss the idea of replacing your cat because they're expensive, look at Performance Curve's prices and consider the fact that the scrap value of your old cat is worth at least half the cost if not more.

I'm going to be trying to sell my 96, so it'll have to stay running and more or less complete, but depending on what you'd be going to a junkyard for, MAYBE my 96 could donate something to the cause.
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Unread 07-18-2014, 06:47 PM   #6
fredrum
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Well, here it is. Not the prettiest thing in the world at the moment, but i may make something of it yet. Those running boards have got to go. I might just leave them until i get around to fixing the custom iron oxide vent holes in the rocker panels though.....

Eventually, when i need new tires I'm going to look for some new rims, but as the tires are almost new, that's a bit farther down on my list.

When first I got it home, I started poking around under the hood. Realizing that I hadn't checked it out yet, I popped off the air cleaner cover to look at the filter and found a mouse nest under it. Needless to say, that was the first thing i replaced.




I already made one trip to the junkyard and managed to find an armrest, the interior panel that was missing from under the drivers side dash, and the mounting hardware for a full size spare instead of a donut, as well as a rim for the spare.
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Unread 07-18-2014, 07:08 PM   #7
fredrum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mschi772 View Post
If you ever need any help or a second opinion on something, I'd be more than happy to help in any way I can. I live just south of Regency Mall, and if you haven't had a chance to thoroughly flush your brake lines yet, I have a power brake bleeder that makes bleeding and flushing brake fluid SO easy that you could come use.

I also recommend the Dynomax cat-back. I had it on my 96 and will be installing one on my 97. If you need a new cat, I highly recommend http://performance-curve.com/catalyticconverters.aspx Before you dismiss the idea of replacing your cat because they're expensive, look at Performance Curve's prices and consider the fact that the scrap value of your old cat is worth at least half the cost if not more.

I'm going to be trying to sell my 96, so it'll have to stay running and more or less complete, but depending on what you'd be going to a junkyard for, MAYBE my 96 could donate something to the cause.
I already flushed the lines, otherwise I'd totally take you up on that. I'm not all that far away from you, I'm in west Racine.

As far as the exhaust is concerned, Ive pretty much decided to go with the Dynomax. Everyone around here seems to love it, and seeing as i have to replace it anyway, I might as well upgrade.

As far as parts go, I'm looking for the plastic bezel for the shifter boot from a 5 speed and a (preferably red) liftgate. Shouldn't be all that hard to find the liftgate considering how many 84-96s there are in the junkyards around here, and if i have to get the bezel online, it's not the end of the world. Thanks for the offer though, and good luck with selling the '96. If there are any parts you need from the junkyard to get it back on the road let me know. Ill keep an eye out while I'm there.
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Unread 07-18-2014, 08:30 PM   #8
mschi772
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Well, the 96 shouldn't need a ton to get it truly street legal, but its header panel, pass fender, and front bumper are all FUBAR. I won't ask you to retrieve any of that big kind of stuff, but thanks for offering; I never have time to brave the scrap yards.
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Unread 07-19-2014, 04:53 PM   #9
fredrum
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Well, I found my liftgate. It took me damn near all day, I had to stop at four different yards before i found it.

The first yard i stopped at was one that I had always gone to with my dad when I was a kid. AL's in Franklin, WI, if anyone cares. Quite possibly one of my favorite junkyards, and i hadn't been there in almost ten years. It wasn't quite as good as it used to be, but still a big yard with a lot of stuff in it. There weren't as many XJs as i had hoped, but they had a few. The first Jeep i saw was a Wrangler, or at least what was left of it.

I finally found a few XJs, and I saw this one, but when i got close, i saw that the liftgate was gone....

I walked around the whole yard just to see what was there. I love walking around junk yards. You never know what you're going to find. Not finding any more XJs, other than a pretty sad looking 99, i went to leave the yard, and lo and behold, propped up against the fence next to the exit gate was the liftgate from the red XJ i saw earlier.

It looked good at first glance, and i went into the office and asked about it. The guy behind the counter said it was for sale and that he would need to see it before he would give me a price. I went and grabbed it and he looked at it and tried to tell me that it was worth $250 because it wasn't rusted out at the bottom and most of them are. I just tried not to laugh. After explaining that it was fiberglass and therefore not prone to rusting out and that the other junk yard said i could have one for $80, he went down to $100. I almost bought it, but decided to inspect it a bit more first, and saw a big crack near the license plate area that i had missed when i first looked at it. I passed.

My next destination was the LKQ by the airport. As i was driving there I passed another junk yard that was close by and decided to stop. I went in to the office and asked if they had one and the guy behind the counter looks it up on the computer and says they have one in they yard and it was $200. he showed me a picture of the Jeep and it looked almost perfect, so I said I at least wanted to see it. Apparently, seeing it first costs five dollars so someone can escort you back into the yard. I wasn't about to pay $200, but I at least wanted to take a look. If it was absolutely perfect, maybe I would consider it. I plopped down the five bucks and waited for twenty minutes until some guy took me out into the yard and drove me out to look at the Jeep. It was in the far corner of the yard on top of an Explorer and i could tell instantly that there was no way i would pay $200. Again, I passed. This place seemed like one of those places that was not going to be negotiable in the least, and they wouldn't just let you out into the yard to take a look. Needless to say, I wont be going back there any time soon.

I jumped back in my truck and headed down the street to the LKQ. Online, It said that they had several Cherokees, so I was expecting to at least find something. All I found was a bunch of unhelpful employees who don't understand the difference between a Cherokee and a Grand Cherokee (what the hell is so grand about those things anyway?). I paid the two dollar entrance fee and went out into the yard, and found nothing but Grand Cherokees. There was one red XJ in a fenced off area, but I couldn't get one word out of the employees as to what the story was on it and if/when it would be available. Frustrated, I hopped back into the truck and headed home. There were a few other junkyards i was going to hit up, but I wanted to do some research first.

When I was almost home, I started hearing the worst screechy grinding sound in the world, accompanied by the delightful odor of burning gear oil. The failing rear end in my truck finally decided it was time to give out. I managed to make it home at least, and after sitting next to it for twenty minutes making sure it stopped smoking before i went anywhere, I hopped in the Jeep and went out for round two. Good thing I bought the Jeep when I did.....

Next, I decided to stop and check out a junkyard that I had driven past a million times but for some reason or another had never stopped at. It was by far the least organized place I had stopped at so far, and easily had the worst inventory. I headed into the ramshackle building that passed as an office and asked the guy behind the counter if they had anything out in the yard, and to my surprise, he said that they had a red one out in the yard and i could go out and look at it if i wanted. I went and checked it out, and sure enough, it was exactly what i was looking for. I think the NOFX sticker in the window was what sold me.

I went back into the office a bit scared of what he was going to ask for it. Seeing some of the prices they wanted for the cars sitting out front, I was expecting the worst. Nope, $75. Sold. Another $20 got me the overhead console, the mounting hardware, and most of the wiring harness for it. Maybe someday when I get around to doing my headliner I might try to pop that sucker in there, but if not, no big deal. I'm just happy i finally got my liftgate.

No luck on the shifter boot bezel though. I must have seen 15-20 XJ's in the junkyards around here over the last few weeks, and not a single one had a manual transmission. I'm just going to buy one on ebay. Less than $10 after shipping.

Last edited by fredrum; 07-19-2014 at 05:08 PM..
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Unread 07-22-2014, 09:17 AM   #10
jeepkid03
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I'm jealous you have junkyards. Around here we have "recycling yards". They never have anything, and if they do, they won't let you see it until they charge you to take it off the vehicle. Total B.S.
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Unread 07-24-2014, 10:35 PM   #11
fredrum
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And now installed:

The red is sightly different, but at least it has a handle and can be opened/closed without sticking your fingers in a jagged hole.

The Jeep is now officially the daily driver. I finally managed to use up the first full tank of fresh gas and calculated my mpg: 18.9.
I think that may be a bit high, but given that I'm not used to this gas gauge yet, or how far I can go on a tank, I think I'll reserve my enthusiasm for the moment. It still seems amazing to me to get anything above 12. I might be one of the only people out there who bought an XJ because of the gas mileage.

Now if i could just get rid of the stupid Dodge......
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Unread 07-25-2014, 04:41 AM   #12
mschi772
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredrum View Post
And now installed:

The red is sightly different, but at least it has a handle and can be opened/closed without sticking your fingers in a jagged hole.

The Jeep is now officially the daily driver. I finally managed to use up the first full tank of fresh gas and calculated my mpg: 18.9.
I think that may be a bit high, but given that I'm not used to this gas gauge yet, or how far I can go on a tank, I think I'll reserve my enthusiasm for the moment. It still seems amazing to me to get anything above 12. I might be one of the only people out there who bought an XJ because of the gas mileage.

Now if i could just get rid of the stupid Dodge......
18 with a manual? That's pretty typical. With the right care and mods, you can do even better--as high as mid 20's on the highway.
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Unread 07-25-2014, 10:03 AM   #13
fredrum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mschi772 View Post
18 with a manual? That's pretty typical. With the right care and mods, you can do even better--as high as mid 20's on the highway.
That's what I've heard, I just wasn't expecting it to be that good in it's present condition. I am planning on replacing the plugs, wires, cap, rotor, and possibly coil or O2 sensor, as well as giving everything a good cleaning. Looking at the state of my engine bay, most of that is probably overdue.
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Unread 07-25-2014, 12:51 PM   #14
AustinTexasXJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fredrum View Post

It took four years, but i finally managed to save up enough to start looking for something else, and what else did I look for but an XJ with a manual transmission. I quickly gave up on dealerships. Around here anything that isn't rusted half to hell is usually $6000 or more. One saturday morning i checked craigslist on a hunch, and found almost exactly what i was looking for. A rust free '96 with a 4.0 and a 5 speed for a reasonable price located about an hour and a half away in Illinois. I called immediately and talked to the guy and was on my way within a half an hour. The guy knew i was coming from an hour and a half away with money to potentially buy it. I was five minutes away and he texted me to tell me that he just sold it. there was nothing i could do but turn around and go home.


Yeah, it needs a bit of work. Yeah, its rusty. But it's an XJ. And it's mine.



amazing story man! looks like we have a common soft spot for XJ's.


I was actually infuriated when I read that you were driving over an hour to go look at someone car and they sell it right out from under you. thats so wrong.

but your last statement makes it all the better. you got an XJ and that XJ is yours. cant wait to see this thing get restored back to your liking.
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Unread 07-25-2014, 03:01 PM   #15
fredrum
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AustinTexasXJ View Post
I was actually infuriated when I read that you were driving over an hour to go look at someone car and they sell it right out from under you. thats so wrong.
I was fuming about it for at least a week. It still makes me mad when I think about it. I think what gets me the most is that he didn't offer up any type of apology or acknowledgement of how far out of my way I went on what was essentially a wild goose chase.
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