Your tech questions answered
I am the proud new owner of a ’99 Jeep Wrangler. The guy I purchased the Jeep from said that he thought the fuel pump was going out, because it was hard to start. Currently, I have to cycle the key two or three times before it will run. I called my local Jeep dealership and they wanted over $400 for the factory-replacement fuel pump assembly. I can hear the pump come on, so I don’t think the pump is bad. Do you have any suggestions?
I encountered a similar problem on my ’97 Wrangler. Typically, if it takes a few turns of the key before the engine will fire, the culprit is either a leaky injector, or more likely, the fuel pressure regulator has gone bad. The regulator is what prevents fuel from draining back into the tank from the feed line. On my Wrangler, the regulator was at the top of the tank. After dropping the tank, I pulled the entire pump assembly and replaced the pressure regulator, along with the filter and pump. I was equally shocked at how expensive the factory fuel pump assembly was from the dealer. I ended up purchasing the individual replacement parts I needed from my local parts house for about a quarter of the price.
I am a 17-year-old senior in high school. I have been reading Four Wheeler online and in print ever since I got my license. I’m looking for a recommendation for a used American-made 4x4 that has a manual transmission and isn’t overly expensive. It has to have air bags, be able to pass smog, and not need a ton of work since it will be my daily driver and wheeler.
It sounds like a well-kept pre-owned late-model Ford Ranger would fit what you are looking for nicely. In a perfect world, you could find a low-mileage ’97 Ranger that’s paired with the 4.0L, V-6 engine. Considering that a truck built in 1997 is now 15 years old, finding one in primo condition could prove to be challenging. If you are financing the pickup, a newer model will be easier to get a loan for. A Ranger built within the past seven years would probably be your best bet. I chose the Ranger over the S-10/Colorado simply because the enthusiast following and aftermarket support is greater for the Ford. Websites such as www.therangerstation.com and www.ranger-forums.com are both fine places to get additional Ranger info and possibly find a good buy in the classified sections.
Buy, Build, Wheel
I’m thinking about buying a Jeep Wrangler and have some questions. New or used? If used, what to look for? Is the Rubicon worth the extra cash? Is a Nissan Frontier even close to the off-road performance of a Wrangler?
If you intend for the Jeep to be your daily driver and have the funds to start with a fresh platform, new is a great way to go. These days, you can even purchase the Jeep already modified with aftermarket bumpers, suspension, tires, and wheels directly from the dealer. Purchasing the Jeep new with dealer-installed goodies is a newer trend, and especially desirable among guys who daily drive their Jeeps and want the assurance of a factory warranty. If you plan on wrenching on the Jeep yourself, and don’t think a warranty claim would be worth the trouble, then used is a more affordable way to go for sure.
The 3.6L engine in the ’12-current Wranglers offers a 83hp and 23 lb-ft of torque advantage over the ’07-’11 3.8L engine, so they are more favored. The later-model Wranglers also received interior refinements which may be a plus or minus to you, depending on how fancy you want your Jeep to be. Full-doors with an automatic transmission are two items I would opt for, but those are more of a personal preference than a warning against half-doors and a manual transmission. A soft top will save weight and be easier to remove, but a hardtop will provide more security for your items and reduce in-cab noise. If you see yourself hitting the trail more than the pavement, do your best to keep the Jeep light.
As for the Rubicon, it goes back to whether or not you intend to heavily modify the Jeep. Having selectable lockers, Dana 44 axles, mud-terrains, a 4:1 T-case ratio, and an electronic-disconnect sway bar will make your Jeep outperform nearly any other stock 4x4 off-road. The Rubicon axles are excellent for up to 35-inch-tall tires, so if that’s as far as you think you’ll go with the Jeep, the investment and off-road performance advantages will be well worth opting for the ’Con. Something to keep in mind as well, the Rubicon is very much a rockcrawler package.
The 4:1 low range is great for low-speed wheeling, but the standard 2.72:1 ratio actually provides a more versatile low-range gear for running in places where wheel speed is important (mud, snow, sand). A base Wrangler Sport has a MSRP of $22,395, whereas the Rubicon has a base MSRP of $30,695. You can have a lot of nice aftermarket parts for $8,300.
In regards to the Nissan Frontier, it is a great truck. But, the Frontier isn’t really comparable to the Wrangler in a traditional sense. The Nissan can out-haul and carry more gear than the Wrangler, but off-road, the Wrangler is in a class all its own. If you want something that is easily modifiable, works great off-road, and has an immense aftermarket support, it’s hard to beat the Wrangler.