When your cooling system starts to go, you're usually lucky enough to get a few warning signs before it completely craps out. Overheating is typically the first sign and could be caused by many different things. Although the cooling system in our '97 Jeep Cherokee hadn't been too finicky, we could see from the corroded steel fittings and lines on the plastic radiator side tanks, the multiple missing sections of cooling fins in the radiator core, and the quickly spiking thermostat gauge in the dash cluster soon after engine start-up, that it was just about on its last leg. The final blow came on a typical drive home from the office when more than half of the radiator's fluid bubbled over. Thankfully, we were able to limp the rig home and even drove it for another 150 miles after topping off the radiator with some hose water, but the time had finally come to replace and upgrade our cooling system's major components.
Among the the new cooling parts we'll install in this article are an aluminum-core McCulloch Fab radiator, a FlowKooler water pump, a Turbo City high-flow thermostat housing and 180-degree F thermostat, and new hoses and serpentine belt from Summit Racing.
In order to complete the installation of the new cooling components on our Cherokee, we sought assistance from Don-A-Vee Chrysler Jeep in Placentia, California. The Don-A-Vee team was well equipped for such an installation and even had the right parts on hand to replace some of the miscellaneous water pipes and hose sections that we'd neglected to order beforehand. Don-A-Vee technician Gary Grinkivich attacked the job with his usual fervor and had it completed in about a day's time. This type of job can be completed at home too, but you will need to make sure you dispose of the old coolant and used components properly.
With parts in place, we noticed an obvious power improvement, chiefly due to the fact that our cooling system was performing as intended. The temp gauge settles in under 180 degrees F during most driving situations, and even fuel economy normalized, putting up numbers much closer to the original advertised fuel-economy figures than the engine had previously offered. Check out the photos and captions for the play-by-play, and take steps to improve your vehicle's cooling system. You'd be a lot cooler if you did.