Buying a 1997 ZJ for Overlanding - JeepForum.com
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post #1 of 48 Old 06-01-2019, 05:02 PM Thread Starter
RepBolt
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Advice for Buying a 1997 ZJ 5.2 V8 for Overlanding

I'm in the market for a 1997 Grand Cherokee ZJ 5.2 V8 Limited. I'm looking to build an overlander and plan on wheeling as well. I've search the forum for old buy threads and they've been useful, but we're somewhat outdated.

I've found a nice 1997 5.2 V8 ZJ that I'll be taking a look at. Is there anything I should keep my eye out for considering my build plans?


Last edited by RepBolt; 06-02-2019 at 11:56 AM.
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post #2 of 48 Old 06-01-2019, 07:21 PM
LittleFootZJ
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4.0 or 5.2?

Check for leaks. Make sure the trans shifts good, fluid doesnít smell burnt. Put the transfer case through its motions. Compression check if possible?
If youíre going to build it for overland I assume youíre lifting it so I wouldnít worry too much about suspension components unless it looks damage or obviously bent axles.

Others can chime in on more specifics.


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post #3 of 48 Old 06-01-2019, 07:46 PM Thread Starter
RepBolt
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Looking for a 5.2 only. Yeah, be putting a lift kit eventually. Is there a way I can eyeball check for any bad sensors? As far as leaks, should I just leave the engine running and check underneath for leaks after 5 mins or so? Which fluids should I check exactly?
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post #4 of 48 Old 06-01-2019, 08:06 PM
LittleFootZJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RepBolt View Post
Looking for a 5.2 only. Yeah, be putting a lift kit eventually. Is there a way I can eyeball check for any bad sensors? As far as leaks, should I just leave the engine running and check underneath for leaks after 5 mins or so? Which fluids should I check exactly?


Unfortunately sensors arenít really able to be checked by looking at them. Bring a code reader and check for codes and pending codes. If the monitors havenít run itís a good sign theyíre hiding something and just cleared the codes or the battery was recently replaced.

As for leaks just crawl under and look at the drivetrain. Rear main seal is a common leak area. With a 2 piece seal you can change it without pulling the motor but still something to consider. Transfer case seals like to leak as well as the trans pan gasket. And check ALL the fluids, as always with a used car, who knows where itís been. Steering box front seal is also pretty common.

If you are going to lift it ďeventuallyĒ then checking suspension bushings and steering linkage may also be a good idea. All of it should be replaced IMO if you plan on any ďoverlandingĒ but if itís in good shape then thatís a plus and you can drive it in OEM form before throwing more money into it.


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post #5 of 48 Old 06-02-2019, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
RepBolt
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This is really helpful. Thanks @LittleFootZJ . I'm assuming these checks apply to high milage cars too. I know the 5.2 can last a long time, but is buying a ZJ with 190k miles too much?
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post #6 of 48 Old 06-02-2019, 11:42 AM
LittleFootZJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RepBolt View Post
This is really helpful. Thanks @LittleFootZJ . I'm assuming these checks apply to high milage cars too. I know the 5.2 can last a long time, but is buying a ZJ with 190k miles too much?


No problem. Iím was keeping in mind that any ZJ you find is going to be rather high mileage. And even if it isnít, itís old. I bought mine 8-9 years ago with about 140K and it only needed balljoints and a rear differential rebuild. Iím 3rd owner and mine came with a giant folder of dated receipts for all work done all the way back to the original window sticker so I got lucky.

In all honesty though mine is now at 190K and I neglected servicing it in the past couple years and it fell apart fast. AC needs replacing, heater core barely works. Burns oil like no oneís business, trans is in need of its second rebuild, differentials are sloppy, and every single seal imaginable leaks. ABS light is on because of some yet undiagnosed electrical gremlin, and I have no headliner because it fell in and I just took it out. Buying a car with high mileage, especially a solid axle SUV, is almost always going to come with some things needing fixing upon purchase so keep a little room in your budget. If youíre lucky you can find one that was well maintained like mine was when I got it but the older they get the harder that is to find.

Donít let my laundry list of problems deter you though. Just throwing in some reality of 20+ year old car ownership. Itís all about who owned it before and how they took care of it.


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post #7 of 48 Old 06-02-2019, 09:09 PM Thread Starter
RepBolt
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The rebuilds is what I'm most worried about. There is a pick and pull with plenty of ZJs around my town, but rebuilds I'm not familiar with doing.

Edit: I'm new to the ZJs. What would be the most expensive repair, maintenance, rebuild for ZJs? I'm thinking if I purchase a cheaper ZJ with high miles and repair it as needed it would be cheaper than buying a overpriced ZJ with lower miles.

Last edited by RepBolt; 06-02-2019 at 10:31 PM.
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post #8 of 48 Old 06-04-2019, 12:37 PM
paulvon
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I get a rebuilt tranny every 75,000 to 100,000 miles for $1,500.

Have almost 290,000 miles on it.

Thank is the only big expense.

Keep up with the oil and diff fluids changes

Mine likes to have water pumps fail in winter every three years.

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2004 WJ 4.7 L - 2 1/2" lift
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post #9 of 48 Old 06-04-2019, 01:40 PM
LittleFootZJ
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RepBolt View Post
I'm thinking if I purchase a cheaper ZJ with high miles and repair it as needed it would be cheaper than buying a overpriced ZJ with lower miles.

Id rather go with the overpriced one with low miles. But donít mistake low miles for well maintained. It could have low mileage but never maintained and it will leave you stranded a lot sooner than the 200K ZJ that was meticulously maintained.


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post #10 of 48 Old 06-04-2019, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
RepBolt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LittleFootZJ View Post
Id rather go with the overpriced one with low miles. But donít mistake low miles for well maintained. It could have low mileage but never maintained and it will leave you stranded a lot sooner than the 200K ZJ that was meticulously maintained.


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Yeah, this high mileage (190k) ZJ that I'm interested in looks to be in well maintained, but I know it's been taken on snow trips. No big deal, but doesn't feel like "the one" yet for me.

The search for a "perfect" one continues.
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post #11 of 48 Old 06-05-2019, 07:46 AM
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I'd get a 4.0 with 231 TC. Bulletproof and cheap. You'll not find a perfect one. ZJs are over 20 years old and expect a money pit. The perfect ones are being held on to, not sold.
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post #12 of 48 Old 06-05-2019, 01:55 PM
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Garage
Im doing a light overland build with mine. I say light as Im not going to install any permanent fixtures or accessories in the vehicle. I still have to drive it every day so Im opting to be more flexible on my build. I pulled all the carpet and I plan to line the interior and use L track to anchor down accessories and gear. Im also in the process of designing a better roof rail system modeling off of what Rocky Road designed for the upgraded WK rails.

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The 4.0 is dumb old tractor motor, itís too stupid to know itís supposed to die.
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post #13 of 48 Old 06-05-2019, 04:18 PM
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Haven't really had any big expenses yet with mine; at least as far as major components go. The biggest cost so far has been all the suspension, which cost me around $2300 or so; but everything is also brand new and upgraded from stock, so you could easily bring that number down if you were so inclined.

Mine has 242k on it and was decently maintained by a one owner family, but I've still needed to fix the rear main and oil pan leak, my front main seal and water pump also need some attention, but they're not leaking too badly. Every aspect of this car has needed some attention, but none of it has been too bad or too costly as it comes to maintenance; even my transmission is in good shape and I've recently serviced it, so hopefully it'll last.

The only thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is the Transfer Case. Watch out for the 249, as it's likely to have a failed viscous coupler at the age of these vehicles now. Mine definitely has some issues, but really hasn't been that much of a problem for me and new 242's are relatively easily sourced from a Junkyard and not too expensive to rebuild. My own rebuild hasn't actually seen too much attention lately, as I've been relatively happy with my 249 and decided to push the project down the list a little bit.

The best part of owning a ZJ so far has been all the people here on this forum; most of these guys have had these vehicles for ages and know each and every nook and cranny and are always ready and willing to offer advice and help when you need it. I couldn't have done even half the stuff I have on my ZJ without them as a resource.
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post #14 of 48 Old 06-05-2019, 04:46 PM
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^^The quadra-trac (249) transfer case is definitely one of the more common problems with that viscous coupler...I can say however, that my 96 ZJ did 232k before the viscous coupler gave up and that was with a lot of hard offroad miles on it, but it went everywhere I pointed it, and places it shouldn't have gone especially without any sort of limited slip or lockers I was amazed at how well it performed, and that was with Wildcountry XTX tires, no mud terrain tires on it. Loved that Jeep, and currently have a 98 ZJ with the selec-trac and rear limited slip both of which work great, just took a little getting used to with the limited slip as I'd never had a vehicle with limited slip before.

Normal checks of fluids, for leaks, hesitation while driving, shifting issues (although some say the 42RE transmissions are a bit picky) I didn't have any issues with the transmission in my 96 ZJ, and no problems with my 98 ZJ either but both were/are maintained properly with auxiliary tranny coolers. Rear main seal seems quite a common leak and my 98 ZJ has that but very slight. I have the 4L I6 pretty easy to work on and maintain. Not saying the 5.2L V8 wasn't a good engine, they do use a bit more fuel and with a lift, larger tires, etc. it'll get worse fuel economy of course but a great engine though, as was the 5.9L V8's (only available in 98 ZJ's).
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post #15 of 48 Old 06-05-2019, 08:50 PM Thread Starter
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Just found "the one". Happened quicker than I thought, but I was pleased with the condition and price. It needs some TLC and repairs, but it's a 97 and I expect it to have some challenges. I don't mind working on the ZJ either.

Here's what I got:
1997 JGC Limited 5.2
166k miles
A/C and ABS not working
Rear hatch shocks not working

Paid $1,600 for it. Thoughts?

The A/C blows, but it's just not cold. I hope it's just a recharge and not anything too serious. The heater works. As for the ABS, I'm not too sure and need to figure that out. Rear hatch shocks isn't a big deal.

I wish this thread was written out: "I Bought a ZJ! Now What?" (https://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f13/.../#post30375801)

I plan on getting the car maintenance and repaired as needed. Didn't notice any leaks prior to buying it, but I'll need to thoroughly check them further and check the condition of the 249 transfer case. Also, want to repair anything that might cause the "death wobble".

What do you guys recommend I do first? What'd you do when you first bought your ZJ? I'm stoked for this build, but want to start with making sure she runs healthy.

Last edited by RepBolt; 06-05-2019 at 09:59 PM.
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