First Jeep! 87 Wagoneer, Lots of questions. Help? Advice? Recommend a good mechanic? -
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Unread 05-05-2012, 10:16 AM   #1
Registered User
1987 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 4
First Jeep! 87 Wagoneer, Lots of questions. Help? Advice? Recommend a good mechanic?

Hi everyone, I just registered to post about my new (to me) 87 Grand Wagoneer. I've been doing a lot of reading since I bought it, about a month ago, but I've gotten the urge to learn more. I am not a car guy at all. When I first looked under the hood, I could maybe identify 4 - 5 of the components. I can barely do scheduled maintenance. I can check the oil, add oil, check/change air filter and.. well yeah not much more than that. I have removed/clearned the carb on my lawnmower! haha

I think the hardest thing I've experienced while doing all this research is just trying to identify things around the engine. So many times I'll read about a specific part, and they'll show a picture, but it's showing like 1/4th of the engine! I've been searching and searching for a night top down shot of the engine bay with labels and diagrams, etc. It seems to not exist anywhere! If anyone can refer me to something like that, it would be appreciated! I might actually attempt it if I can eventually figure out where everything is.
OK, I'm going to get to my car now!

(I always have problems with the referrer on links in the forum, so I'll include the full URL as well)

The Jeep!
Blogpost with all the pictures, Warning they're all on one page. Click on one to see full size
87 Grand Wagoneer
~152k miles
AMC 360 v8

Asking price $2500, Paid: $1900

Problems I was informed of before purchase:
  1. Previous leak in driver side vent window. Self-repair with sticking weather stripping down in the groove and closing the window. Can't be opened
  2. E-Brake indicator light does not work. It will light up when you're starting the car, but it doesn't stay lit up if the brake is set.
  3. Tailgate window cannot be operated by the key control, it will work with the switch beside the steering wheel. Apparently it's still all complete and works fine, but it's not hooked up.
  4. Stiff power locks, sometimes you can power lock them all, but trying to unlock them is hit or miss (usually miss). Either due to stiffness or it's just too weak to push them up
  5. Passenger door lock mechanism, I'm not sure what it's called, but you can't unlock the door with the key from the outside.
  6. Difficult to unlock driver side door with key, it feels very loose. You can sometimes see a spring where you put the key. If you wiggle it the right way, it will usually work, but takes some effort to turn
  7. Burns some oil, though not too bad. It was a bit low when I bought it(~1month ago), ended up putting a quart in and it's still just a bit under full.
  8. Weak brakes, not really sure if this is a problem or just how they are
  9. Passender side back door does not open from the inside.
  10. Cracked glass in passenger side mirror. Have a full replacement sitting in the back, though.

Problems I soon discovered
  1. Driver side vent window *still* leaks. I adjusted his previous fix and it seems to have done the job, though I still can't open it.
  2. Significant leak In the top driver side corner (around windshield). I noticed that the chrome trim above the windshield is missing, the left, right, buttom and corner pieces are all there). Whatever glue/putty/etc stuff that was under it has been rotting way, so othat's probably what is causing the leak.
  3. Pretty rough sounding idling. Not all the time, just occasionally. I haven't narrowed down any causes. Sounds like it's almost low on gas, even though it's not.
  4. Very shaky, bumpy, noisy, etc. Not sure if that's a problem or just characteristic of a 20+ year old vehicle
  5. No chrime/lights when driverside door opens. I think passenger side as well. Back doors do trigger it. They also cause the radio to get power
  6. Occasionally power window failure. Sometimes they will just stop working. Typically opening/closing the driver side door a few tmes will get them working again.
  7. Sometimes the radio will come back on after I've shut all the doors. Sometimes it will come on when I open the driver side door, despite no lights or chime.
  8. Fuel gage innaccurate. It never goes higher than 3/4 or lower than 1/4. Tends to move around a bit while driving, but not necessarily by stopping on an incline(like you might expect). Also tends to stay at the same reading for a while then drop suddenly
  9. The heat/cool slider is extremely stiff. Thought I would break it when trying to move it.
  10. When selecting heat, the air does not come out of the same vents that the A/C does. It feels like it blows underneath into the floor boards instead. Not sure if that is the design or an actual problem
  11. Arm rest missing on back driver side door. I do have the armrest and maybe all the screws and stuff with it.
  12. Overall, lots of scratches, paint missing, dents, rust, etc on the body. Not extremely bad in any particular place.
  13. Saw a bit of rust underneath. Can't really tell what's normal and what's bad, though. Have a few pictures showing it.

Whew, I think that's everything. I mentioned that I really don't know much about cars in general, so it might seem like a bad idea that I try working on *any* of those issues on my own.

A bad experience with our usual mechanic made me decide that I need to learn as much as possible. I took it in for a general check and mentioned specifically the fuel gauge. There was no indication that the guy even opened a door on the car! He said the gauge was working fine, it's just not accurate probably due to the fuel sender. If I needed it to be more accurate, he'd have to remove the gas tank to check the fuel sender and possibly replace it and that would be very expensive.

Since then I've learned that it's easy to get to the fuel sender(even for me) and even not that hard to replace it. So yeah, he must not have done his homework there.

So any feedback about the car? Things I can check? Anything look like a huge priority to start with? Notice anything I may have missed from the pictures? Anyone want to go through and label everything for me?

I really like the car a lot and would eventually like to get all of these things resolved. I'd also like to do as much of it myself as possible. This is a great forum! Thanks in advance!

anthonypdawson is offline   Reply With Quote
Unread 05-05-2012, 12:32 PM   #2
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1976 J-Series Truck 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Whetstone, Az
Posts: 1,130
nothing seems too bad.

1. you can replace entire vent window assembly. Find one in a j/y that has good rubber on it. To take out either of the door windows, you have to take out both of them (roll up and the vent)
2.take the rest of the chrome off the windshield, caulk the crap out of the window gasket (or replace it if you like to spend money) Get the missing chrome pieces from the j/y and install them.
3. could be anything. timing, vacuum leaks, carb, fuel filter
4. shouldn't be the smoothest ride, but shouldn't rattle the fillings out of your teeth. check tire pressure and condition, check suspension and steering components (ujoints - if the wiggle they're bad; check for broken springs, shocks, etc; have someone turn your steering wgheel back and forth over and over while you watch front end components and look for anything loose. there should be NO play in your steering components)
5. check your switches in the door frame. int lights have power all the time, and closing the door frame switch connects the ground.
as for the radio, make sure radio has good ground. could be pulling ground through light circuit
6. check for loose connections inside the door at the motor. also look at where wires go from door to truck. and make sure fuse is good and tight
7. check ground at radio. run dedicated radio ground if need be
8. fill up a gas can, go for a ride, run out of gas, note where 'empty' on your truck actually is. don't go below your new 'empty' mark
9. ran through a cable (like a bike cable) disconnect both ends of cable, add some lube, slide it back and forth to distribute oil inside cabel. reattach
10. correct.
11. put it back on
12. it's a jeep, right?
13. investigate and remove. depending on amount, there are many options. grinding and painting, filling pinholes with quiksteel, cutting out and welding in new pans, por-15 rust converting primer?

I would definetly get the engine took care of first. who cares what it looks like when you're on the side of the road, right? You'd be amazed how quick it gets fixed if you spend an hour or two a day on it.
Beauty is in the eye of the jeepowner.
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Unread 05-05-2012, 12:47 PM   #3
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1987 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 4
Thanks for the reply! I agree these are mostly small problems, but I'm probably not knowledgable enough to find problems in e engine. I'll end up taking it to another mechanic to get it checked over really well, but I haven't had any trouble other than what's listed above. The previous owner kept really good logs of everything that was done. New hoses, belts, rebuilt carb, all fluids changed regularly, etc.

After fixing the more irritating problems I'd really like to try improving the mileage. This is my daily driver and i puta minimum of 30 miles a day for work and back alone. I did some rough estimation to figure out about 7-8 mpg. That figure let's me replace my fuel gauge though!

Fill the tank, record miles
(Miles + (20*7)) * 0.1). Write the number on a post it
Stick post it over fuel gauge
Fill up when the odometer matches the number

Anyone want to give opinions about othe problem list up top? If anyone is willing and has time I could take better pics under the hood to maybe start a collaborative map of components
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Unread 05-08-2012, 12:12 AM   #4
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Join Date: Oct 2011
Location: riverside, ca
Posts: 37
the general consensus in the fsj community is that you need to be able to work on your truck yourself, or be fairly wealthy to be able to pay a mechanic to work for you.
that being said, you can sign up at and read through the archives to get up to speed with your waggy. plus, there is a lot more specific traffic there.
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Unread 05-08-2012, 04:52 AM   #5
"Positive.....I think"
RockRollin's Avatar
1990 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Grand Haven Mi, USA
Posts: 1,083
Try amazon for a haynes manual there not the best, but it will give You basic reference as to what is what. Take apart what ever You want, but make sure to take loats of pics and record your steps at disassembly. Ther are alot of helpful folks on this forum as well as ifsja forums. Also welcome and enjoy alot of my pleasure with my GW is massaging it into reliability
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Unread 05-10-2012, 02:24 AM   #6
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2000 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Maryland
Posts: 1,159
by the way the late model wags have an access port under the rear seat for the fuel sending unit. Just replaced mine. You can get alot of parts from BJ's offroad.
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Unread 05-10-2012, 05:14 PM   #7
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1987 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 4
Originally Posted by austinaubinoe View Post
by the way the late model wags have an access port under the rear seat for the fuel sending unit. Just replaced mine. You can get alot of parts from BJ's offroad.
I actually did know that. The fact that the mechanic didn't and said he had to remove the tank to check it is why I lost faith in him!

I found one at teamgrandwagoner, I think it's called, which apparently has many improvements over the stock that I was planning on buying if mine is bad.
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Unread 05-10-2012, 05:15 PM   #8
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1987 FSJ Wagoneer 
Join Date: May 2012
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 4
And just recently I've noticed what looks like oil coming from the tailpipe. Hoping it's just the valve cover gasket. Now if I could just find it under the hood to check.
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Unread 05-11-2012, 01:31 AM   #9
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1999 XJ Cherokee 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: san antonio, tx
Posts: 86
Originally Posted by anthonypdawson View Post
And just recently I've noticed what looks like oil coming from the tailpipe. Hoping it's just the valve cover gasket. Now if I could just find it under the hood to check.

It would be normal for condensation to come out of your exhaust especially if its been sitting.. The things you need to worry about are

below are just guideline not end all know all
  1. Smoke at start up (most likely bad umbrella seals on valves)
  2. Blue smoke when running ( oil consumtion bad rings)
  3. heavy White smoke when running (bad head gasket/cracked head)
  4. Black smoke when running (too rich)

I would always check your oil and make sure you have decent oil pressure. The factory manual says its normal to have 13psi at 600 RPM. keep in mind a mechanical gauge will be more accurate as compared to an electrical which will be less accurate. You also want 10 PSI for every 1000 rpm ideally

FSJ's , CJ's you usually need to know a mechanic or be one yourself lol...

another good website for Big Cherokee knowledge is

they might not know about lifts and lockers but they know electrical and engine stuff. A few of them converted theirs to diesel.. I also recommend buying this get the real deal info better then chiltons and etc..
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