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1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior Refresh On A Budget

Posted in How To: Body Chassis on September 26, 2014
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There are few feelings better than scoring a screaming deal on a used Jeep. We’ve purchased our fair share of lemons, beaters, and diamonds in the rough over the years. More often than not, these pre-owned 4x4s are in need of a little TLC but all easily salvageable. Case and point is our ’98 Grand Cherokee ZJ.

With only 127,000 miles on the odometer, the ZJ wasn’t in terrible shape, but there were some interior issues. The first day we drove the Jeep home, we heard a rattle coming from the rear door. Once we popped the interior door cover off, the speaker literally fell onto the ground! This created a clearer picture as to why none of the other speakers were working. Tunes are low on our priority list but typically an easy fix.

The seats were another area for concern. Since the Grand is a Limited-trim model, it was outfitted with leather. What was once soft and smooth is now cracked and hardened. The passenger seat, as if by design, had actually split perfectly down the middle. There were also some mystery stains, which is par for the course when buying an SUV from a family with rug-rats.

Initially, we figured we might be able to score some replacement seats from our local pick-and-pull junkyard. After months of searching for a set in decent condition, we threw in the towel. This led us to looking into having the seats recovered—we’re still recovering from sticker shock on that estimate. Luckily, we found a happy medium with Wet Okole premium seat covers.

The last trouble spot was the vehicle information center. That’s the fancy factory digital readout that sits in front of the transmission shifter. It lets you know if a door is open or your windshield wiper fluid is low, among other things. Ours was on the fritz and had been dinging and beeping for reasons unknown. We found an ultra-cheap upgrade for this at our local salvage yard.

We didn’t expect a 16-year-old Jeep to have a perfect interior, but when you are driving it daily, you kind of want a few creature comforts. In this article, we’ll show you our budget-friendly solutions that brought our ZJ up to modern standards.

With the factory vehicle information center (VIC) chiming randomly, we knew we had to come up with a fix. Instead of forking over for a new factory replacement, we went to our local pick-and-pull junkyard and scored this cubby den from a base model ZJ. The den literally bolted in place using existing mounts. We left the VIC harness unplugged and haven’t had a single issue.

We realized early on that freshening up our seats wasn’t going to be a dirt-cheap affair. While there were inexpensive slip-on seat covers readily available, we wanted something more substantial. Our solution came by way of custom-tailored Wet Okole waterproof seat covers. Wet Okole builds each seat specific to your vehicle and to accommodate whatever options you want at the time of order. Each cover has nylon bonding, which sandwiches the 100 percent CR-Grade neoprene material and 1⁄2-inch foam padding.

Since the Grand sees plenty of time near the water (or more accurately, its occupants do), having a completely waterproof seat cover is a huge draw. The fit and finish of the covers is top notch. Each one fit snug and looked like a factory option.

The upper portions of the covers are designed to slide over the seatbacks and headrests. Velcro is used to close any gaps. For the seat bottoms, a series of quick-release straps keep everything in position. After a little time and passenger taxiing, we went back, snugged up the straps, and zipped tied them neatly in place.

We could have bedazzled the covers a bit more as Wet Okole has a slew of color, pattern, and piping options. We did opt for our front seats to have OEM-style storage pockets placed on the back, but otherwise, our all-black standard-series set was clean and simple. One thing to note, you will notice the neoprene smell (reminds us of stepping into a surf shop), but it’s not obnoxious. Having had a set of these before, we knew to get the Wet Okole Seat Cleaner & Odor Remover. It’s helpful to keep the covers looking and smelling fresh.

A stereo is pretty low priority to us, but having some tunes on a long trip is kind of nice. Given the factory amp was missing and there were bundles of speaker wire hanging from under the dash, we opted to get some electronic assistance from our friends at Nu Image Car Audio & Accessories in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dropping the stock head unit out uncovered the source of the rat’s nest of wires we feared we would find.

It turns out that most of the speakers were in place, just not plugged or wired in. After cleaning up some excess wiring, we dropped in this JVC KD-R650 head unit. For less than $100, we now have a quality radio that is equipped with a USB port on the face of the unit.

Our Grand only had the valet key, which meant if we unlocked any door other that the driver’s door first, the alarm would sound. To fix this, we got an aftermarket remote start and keyless entry system from Avital (PN 4103). To get the aftermarket unit to communicate with the factory electronics, we had to purchase an EVS Component Module 455T.

To finish out our interior refresh, we got a set of drop-in liners from Rugged Ridge. The cargo liner has paid for itself pretty quickly, as it’s carried its share of used car parts. Being that we can douse the liners with a little Simple Green and a hose, it doesn’t take much effort to keep them looking like new.


Rugged Ridge
Wet Okole
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Nu Image Car Audio & Accessories

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