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Jeep Problems - What Happened?

Posted in How To on October 16, 2007 Comment (0)
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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.

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.

2. Only appears with some specific action, such as accelerating, decelerating, under power in Fifth gear, around turns to the left, with engine speed but not road speed, and so on. The hard thing is figuring out what the noise is associated with.

* Turn the A/C on and off.

* Stand outside the Jeep and have a friend drive it past you.

* Open the hood and listen to the noises in there.

* Don't lie on a skateboard on your back, tie yourself under the Jeep, and have a friend drive it.

* Don't hang off the front of the Jeep while your friend drives it.

* Don't put it in four-wheel drive Low and try to walk next to it, this doesn't work well.

Loss of power
Most of the losses of power we've run across fall into one of three categories:

1. Sucked water into the engine and lost compression on one or more cylinders. Might not have been enough to stall it, but it can happen.

2. Got dirt somewhere it shouldn't be, such as the air filter or fuel system. Check the air filter first, and then go for the fuel filter. If the fuel filter is dirty, odds are really good the tank needs to be dropped and cleaned.

3. Water in the distributor cap or anywhere in the ignition system. Spray it with some WD-40 and move along.

Just for fun
Much like telling tales at the campfire, we thought it would be fun and informative to share some of our symptoms and causes we've had over the years.

Symptom: Front rotors glowing red when getting off the highway.Cause: Brake-line bracket broke and the stainless lines were touching the headers. The faster we went, the more the brake fluid expanded, due to the heat.

Symptom: Clunking noise from rear of Jeep whenever driving over a bump on the highway.Cause: Frame broken clean through because of rust.

Symptom: Massive vibrations any time we let up on the gas over 30 mph or so.Cause: One broken engine mount and busted transmission mount. When we letoff the gas, the engine and transmission would cock in the frame, giving the rear driveshaft too much angle and causing interference on the yokes. The driveshaft was too short anyway, and the angle was questionable to begin with.

Symptom: Jeep stalls when hitting the gas, but only when cold.Cause: In-tank electric fuel pump wire shorting out on gas tank skid. To this day, we've still got no solution why it wouldn't do it when it was hot.

Random Rattles
These might be the hardest thing in Jeepdom to diagnose: the intermittent rattle, whine or moan. Since these are so rough to diagnose and vary so greatly from one rattle to the next whine, we'll just give a few tips.

* Listen to it when it shows up, and try to isolate the direction it comes from.

* Once a general direction is figured out, try to guess if it's suspension related or drivetrain related. Go over some small bumps, hit the gas and jump off the gas, swerve, or get your fat friends to jump around in the Jeep.

* Common things to look for are bent or broken shock mounts, loose suspension bolts, worn bushings, broken motor or transmission mounts, rust-busted exhaust hangers, and small animals under the backseat.

* Keep at it. The small, random rattling of today can become the seized-up rearend of tomorrow. Unfortunately, the only way to find it and fix it is to make it happen.


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