English XJ Cherokee, Tangled Weber, & More!
I turn sixteen next month and really want a Jeep. I've been having trouble deciding which one, though. I really like the XJ, but at this point they're mostly below $10,000, and my dad wants to spend like $10,000 to $15,000 on my car to make sure it's reliable. I can probably convince him to buy me an XJ, though, if I can prove to him that it is reliable. The other problem is that I started a pressure-washing company and I need room to carry my equipment from one job to another. So a Wrangler is out of the question. I also really like working on cars. I plan to upgrade my Jeep so I would like one that was somewhat easy to work on. Since this is going to have to be a daily driver, as far as upgrades go, what would you suggest? Most of my friends drive F-150s and Tacomas, and I want something that could out-perform and outlast their "trucks." What do you suggest?
You dad wants to spend more money on your first car than you do and you own your own business? That's an unusual set of circumstances.
I doubt there is another Jeep model on the planet as reliable as a 4.0L-equipped XJ. It just is. I'd start searching for a '97-newer Sport model with the 4.0L and either the AW4 four-speed auto or a '00-newer with a five-speed NV3550 manual. Both transmissions are very durable and reliable.
The thing with the XJ is that it was such a long production run (since '84) Jeep had time to work most of the bugs out of the vehicle. There are very few inherent problems with the late-model XJs. I'd look for a low-mileage one that has had routine maintenance performed. You should be able to nab one for well under $10K. Then you can take the overage and put it towards ensuring the following common areas of concern are addressed:
Cracked exhaust manifold: Most of them crack, but a good aftermarket stainless header like a Banks Torque Tube is smog-legal, won't increase the noise level, and will up your power.
Worn front axle unit bearings: They're inexpensive and easy to replace for most shops. They're really not a problem area, but if you're looking at an XJ that's already lifted with big tires it's worth checking it out
A/C recharge: True of any 5-10 year old vehicle. If it's not already converted, change the system over from R12 Freon to R134A refrigerant.
General leaks and drips: Early 4.0L engines up to '91 usually required a rear main seal replacement at 100K miles, but the late-model Jeeps have a redesigned seal that lasts much longer. Still, there's the potential for small leaks around the valve cover, rear main seal, harmonic balancer, etc. Seals are easy to come by, and in most cases, easy to replace. Most commonly it could be the rear main seal, gasket at oil filter housing, possibly the T-case to transmission seal, or sometimes the front axle seals.
Otherwise these vehicles routinely hit more than 200K miles with little-to-no major work required. The '97-up have passenger- and driver-side airbags, lots of creature comforts, good upholstery that lasts without showing a lot of wear, and deliver good power and mileage. Expect about 19-22mph on the freeway from a 4.0L with stock tires and suspension.
Good luck in your quest.
I purchased a '70 CJ-5 before I went to Iraq. It needs new seats, but the only replacement seats I am finding through Quadratec and other vendors are for '76-up Jeeps. Fabricating mounts is not a problem, but will the seats fit? I know they stretched the wheelbase in '73, but did they change the length of the tub? Thanks for your time and the great magazine.
I mounted a set of Bestop low-back buckets in my '71 CJ-6. The driver-side bolted right up. You'll have to weld some strap steel onto the stock passenger seat frame, but it's really easy and will allow you to keep the flip-forward function to get to the tool box. Aside from the seat bolt pattern difference, most guys don't have much trouble fitting larger aftermarket seats in these early Jeeps. If you're much taller than six feet, you may want to notch the front of the rear wheel tub on the driver-side to allow the seat to be mounted further back for more legroom. It's a fairly common practice and is covered on the website earlycj5.com.