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Answers to all your Jeep questions

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on March 8, 2016
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Adventure Jeep WJ
I have a couple questions for the experts. I’m currently looking to pick up another Jeep. I have had a ’91 Wrangler and ’88 and ’90 XJ Cherokees. I’m considering a Grand Cherokee. By no means will it be a grocery getter. In your opinion, what would be the best bang for my buck? Is there a best year for a Jeep that will be used for hunting, fishing, and back road drives in the snow, mud, sand, dirt and rocks? Of course, there will always be the occasional trip to Elbe, Evans Creek, and the Naches Trail in the Pacific Northwest. I already have a brand-new Warn winch to go on the Jeep. Should I go with the inline-six or the V-8? I would prefer to have an automatic transmission since the better half has no desire to learn how to drive a manual tranny.
Frank Willson

If your heart is set on a Grand Cherokee, I think you’ll be best served by a ’99-’04 Jeep WJ. It features link-style front and rear suspensions with compliant coil springs and solid axles. The suspension can be modified fairly easily to fit larger tires. These Jeeps were available with both the 4.0L inline-six and the 4.7L V-8. For durability and longevity, I’d go with the 4.0L. If horsepower and towing performance are important to you, the 4.7L will serve you better. However, the 4.7L V-8 is a very complex and expensive engine. Avoid high-mileage 4.7L V-8 WJs that have been poorly maintained. In most cases, engine replacement will not be a cost-effective option. I’ve only heard of one ’99-’04 Grand Cherokee with a manual transmission; it shouldn’t be an issue to find one with an automatic. Pretty much all of them will have automatic transmissions.

The ’91-’01 XJ Cherokee is also a good buy. Personally, I’d look for the ’97-’01 version with the updated and improved unitbody and interior. These Jeeps were also available with the venerable 4.0L inline-six engine.

ZJ Grand Ambition
I will be lifting my ’97 Grand Cherokee. I’m thinking I will use a 3 1/2-inch lift. What will I need aside from the suspension kit? Will I have to change the driveshafts and the gears in my differentials? What size tires would be best for that size lift?
Michael Paavo

The ’93-’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ has many aftermarket lift kits and other components available for it. A 3 1/2-inch lift kit could put you right on the edge of needing a new CV-style rear driveshaft and slip-yoke eliminator kit to ward off driveline vibration. Parts availability for this conversion will depend on the transfer case in your Grand. If you have the full-time NV249, you’ll want to keep an eye on the viscous coupler, especially if your Jeep is pushing beyond 100,000 miles. Once the viscous coupler in the transfer case wears out, you’re likely better off swapping the transfer case for an NV242 or even an NV231. So you may not even bother trying to find a slip yoke eliminator for your NV249. It’s not a common part.

If you plan on installing a basic kit with only longer shocks, coils, and track bar drop brackets, be prepared for some disappointment in the steering and handling department. With this amount of lift you really need to address the steering with a heavy-duty high-angle tie rod assembly like the Currectlync from Currie Enterprises ( along with an adjustable front track bar to center the axle. The less expensive and less desirable option is to use the stock tie rods and front track bar by installing a drop pitman arm combined with a lowered track bar mount. Make sure you check the brake lines. They shouldn’t be overextended at full droop. You’ll likely have to replace them with longer braided stainless lines or reroute the hard lines.

With a 3 1/2-inch lift, you should be able to clear 32-inch tires on your ZJ Grand Cherokee. Of course you can fit even larger tires, but you’ll have to significantly trim the fenders for tire clearance.

The ring-and-pinion ratio you choose for the axles will depend on the engine that’s in your Jeep, tire size you select, driving habits, and the desired performance. In flatter states with fewer steep highway grades, you can get by with the stock axle ratios, especially if your ZJ has a 318ci V-8. In more mountainous terrain, you’ll likely want to step into 4.10 or maybe even 4.56 gears for 32- to 33-inch tires. The axle-ratio change will help with on-road performance and fuel. The cost of the upgrade is often hard to justify when working with smaller ratio changes. In some cases, you make do with the decreased performance that the larger diameter tires cause.

Liberty ’Wheeling
I am new to Jp magazine. Have you ever done an article on beefing up a Jeep Liberty? I recently bought a ’05 Jeep Liberty Renegade and want to make it a little more off-road capable but keep the everyday drivability. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
Darrin Thomas

The ’02-’07 Jeep Liberty is kind of the redheaded stepchild of the Jeep brand. While it does have a few fervent fans, most hardcore off-road enthusiasts scoff at the Liberty’s capability off-road. However, if you really only plan on traversing unimproved dirt roads and basic trails, a stock-ish Liberty can be the perfect adventure Jeep. The first item to address is rocker protection. The stock side steps on most Liberty Jeeps do little to protect the body. Rocky Road Outfitters ( offers sturdy, high-clearance rocker protection for the relatively low-slung ’02-’07 Liberty. Armoring up the underside is also important. Rocky Road Outfitters offers a 3/16-inch-thick steel skidder to cover the unprotected vitals underneath. The skidplate and rocker protection will help you get farther up the trail, while protecting the Jeep from damage so you can make it back, too. Neither modification will significantly degrade the on-road performance of your new-to-you Jeep.

First-Time Death Wobble
I just experienced my first Jeep death wobble. I have an ’06 Wrangler X. It’s bone stock. I'm getting different opinions on this. Any help would be appreciated.
Larry Mullen

This is probably the most common question I receive. “Death wobble” and unpredictable shaky steering can be caused by many different things, even on a completely stock Jeep. It’s most often caused by a combination of worn or loose steering and suspension components. However, the number one cause is worn or loose track bar ends. Check the track bar ends and hardware very carefully. If you notice chipped paint circles around the mounting hardware, it’s probably loose. If they have been loose for some time, you’ll need to inspect the holes that the bolts pass through. The loose hardware will cause the bolt holes to wallow out. No amount of tightening will keep the track bar in place if this happens. If the holes are wallowed out, you’ll need to either cut off and replace the brackets, or burn in some weld washer reinforcements. JKS ( offers heavy-duty weld-on replacement track-bar brackets for several different Jeep models. Companies such as Low Range Off-Road ( and Ruff Stuff Specialties ( offer many different sizes of weld washers to repair wallowed out track bar and other suspension mounting holes.

The second most common cause is worn drag link and tie rod ends. Again, you’ll need to inspect them closely for any slop. Make sure the pitman arm is properly seated on the splined end of the steering box sector shaft, too.

The fastest and most effective way to check for slop in the steering system and front track bar is to recruit a buddy. With the engine off and the steering column unlocked, have your assistant saw the steering wheel side to side 1/8 to 1/4 turn while you look for unusual movement and loose hardware. Replace, repair, or tighten anything that looks suspect. You may need to check farther downstream too. The steering shaft joints can wear and the mounting can come loose.

In some cases, worn ball joints, wheel bearings, control arm bushings, or loose control arm hardware can be the problem. Once you’ve inspected and repaired anything questionable in the steering and on the track-bar assembly, you can focus your attention in these areas.

Iceland Offroad
I was wondering if you knew where I could purchase an Iceland Offroad fiberglass bumper/fender flares kit for my ’00 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I have seen product images online and on dated forums, but I can’t find the parts anywhere online. I’m feeling frustrated and hoping you can help. Thanks in advance for your time, understanding and assistance.
Aaron Niezgucki

Unfortunately, it looks as though Iceland Offroad ( has frozen over. The company website link no longer works. It’s really too bad. The company had some really innovative, lightweight, and cost-conscious products. One of my favorites was the Go Bezerk fiberglass Grand Cherokee winch bumper. It featured a lightweight fiberglass outer shell that matched the bodylines of the Jeep. A 1/4-inch-thick steel-plate cradle supported the winch and bumper. This system provided great ground clearance and a solid winch mounting point without all the excessive weight of a traditional off-road winch bumper. Of course, if you beat it up in the rocks, the fiberglass could get damaged, but if that’s what you planned to do with your Jeep, you were likely going to opt for a heavy steel bumper. For most other applications, the lighter fiberglass caused less sag on the front suspension. Hopefully someone will take a second look at this kind of product and bring it to market. There certainly was a lot of interest as well as disappointment in the exceedingly long product delivery times from Iceland Offroad.

I took my girls off-road and bent my JK Rubicon Dana 44 front axlehousing. I live in an apartment so I can't straighten the axle myself. I need to find a garage to do it for me. I read the article on straightening a Dana 44 “Get Bent” (Oct. ’14). The company you used for the story said they could straighten mine for approximately $350, which is a way better price than what the local Jeep shop said. If I could afford a new axle, I would buy one. What do I need to search for to find a qualified garage to do the same type of work in my area? Thanks for any advice.
Joshua Lewis
Louisville, KY

Straightening an axlehousing is a tricky process, especially when working with a Dana-style housing with a cast centersection. In most cases, in my opinion, if the axlehousing is bent, it should be thrown in the trash. The casting portion of the housing is designed to have a press fit with the tubes. When the housing bends or it is straightened, it often causes the cast section to deform, stretch or crack, leading to loose-fitting axletubes. The backyard cure is to simply weld the tubes to the cast centersection. It’s not an ideal practice, even when the housing is properly preheated. The cast centersection and steel axletubes flex and twist at different rates. I consider it a temporary repair until a new more robust housing can be assembled.

Adding a lift, larger tires and driving aggressively are sure to bend the front axle housing. There are lots of aftermarket tube sleeves and weld on gussets available to help reinforce the stock housing, but if it’s already bent, none of these products will help your cause. In the end, when you consider your time and the cost of labor to add all these gussets, a replacement heavy-duty bolt-in front axlehousing like the Dynatrac ( ProRock 44 makes a lot more sense. It’s stronger than a gusseted housing and much stronger than a stock housing. The real advantage of the Dynatrac replacement housing is that your JK gears, differential, axleshafts, bearings, knuckles, and brakes bolt right on. The nodular iron Dynatrac cast centersection is thicker in key areas and reinforced with added ribs. The axletubes are larger in diameter and thicker than the stock housing, and the end forgings are massive compared to stock. It’s a much cleaner long-term solution to a bent axlehousing than trying to straighten or reinforce what you have.

Angry Eyes
Where did you get the grill for the JK featured in “Currie Beef” (Dec. ’15)? I really dig the look, even if it’s not seven slots.
Ed Elms
Kaneohe, HI

The grille in question is certainly a polarizing part. Some people really hate it, and some people really like it because it makes their Jeep look so much different than other JKs rolling down the street or trail. It’s the Rugged Ridge ( Spartan Grille. The center portion is removable and several different versions are available, including one that has shark-like teeth painted on it.

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