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Jeep Problems - What Happened?

Far Lined Up Night View
Pete Trasborg
| Brand Manager, Jp
Posted October 16, 2007

Post-Wheeling Problems

KABOOM! Thunk, thunk, thunk. No, we aren't being illiterate, once again, and trying to think in the past. We are talking about the loud explosion followed by Zeus pounding on the muffler, frame, body, and anything else he can. When a driveshaft U-joint gives up the ghost, it's pretty obvious. Unfortunately, not everything that goes wrong after a wheeling trip is quite as obvious as that.

As much as we'd like to think we are the end all, be all of Jeeping, we aren't (but don't tell Cappa). However, we are not the average bear, either, and have whole smorgasbords of things we've had go wrong over the years.

We've included the more common ones, as well as some off-the-wall things that have gone wrong, just for your entertainment. Hopefully, reading this litany of things gone bad gives you some ideas of what to look for the next time you have something go wrong.

Leaks
There will always be something in your Jeep that leaks. All Jeeps mark their territory one way or the other. If they don't, odds are good that it's out of fluids. With that in mind, springing a new leak on the trail and having to drive home doesn't have to be such a big deal.

* The first step is to find out what is leaking. Look at the color of the fluid. Smell it. If you can't identify fluids from their smells, go buy a Kaiser-era CJ or FSJ, you'll learn quick. If that fails, smell the puddle and then smell the various reservoirs for the matching one. When all else fails, crawling under the Jeep and actually looking sometimes works too.

* Once you've found the leak, the next thing to do is see if tightening a bolt or adding chewing gum will fix it. If not, determine the rate of loss; only you can decide what is acceptable. Even buying five gallons of antifreeze for that pinhole leak is cheaper than a tow truck ride back from the middle of nowhere.

Steering-wheel issues
This could possibly be the single biggest complaint: the steering wheel is no longer straight or the Jeep no longer goes straight down the road. It happens to all of us, sometimes after every trip.

* Aside from the obvious checking of the steering linkage and components for being straight and free of play, there are other possibilities for this problem. Be sure to check the adjustment, and make sure everything is still tight.

* Check the track bar(s), suspension links, and mounting points on coil-sprung suspensions.

* Check for brakes binding up or wheel bearings going bad. Use either the spit-on-the-thing method or the blisterful touch-it-to-see-how-hot-it-is method. In extreme cases, simply look for the glowing, red-hot rotor if you are driving at night. If something happens during the day, just smell for the burning pads or shoes.

* Make sure all tires have the same pressure and that there isn't a small leak anywhere.

* Check the sway bar end links to make sure you didn't blow them up on that last gulley you jumped (don't ask how we know).

New Vibration
It wasn't there before, so why the @*&# is it there now? The first thing to do is figure out what kind of vibration it is. The two major types of vibrations are:

1. Varies according to road speed, regardless of what gear, transfer case range, or how many people you've picked up along the way.

* Check items that are constantly spinning, which could be mud in rims, on driveshafts, or caked in brakes.

* Worn U-joint or dented driveshaft.

* Wheel weights whacked off by some lunatic doing crazy stunts with Jeep.

* Spun tire on rim. The sad thing is, unless you've just had the tires mounted, this one is a killer to figure out. The good part is, you should know if you've aired down enough to spin a tire. The bad part is, remembering the next day when airing up and hitting the highway.

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