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1999 Jeep Cherokee XJ - Disposable Hero: Part 2

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 9, 2015
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Building a project vehicle can sometimes feel like working on a giant puzzle. The want to group together corresponding parts and pieces just seems right. It’s rewarding getting those big chunks of the puzzle knocked out as it keeps you focused and energized. Working on our ’99 Jeep Cherokee XJ project brings us back to that puzzle approach.

Last month, we introduced you to our beaten-and-battered Disposable Hero XJ project. This month, we are knocking off some of the easier tasks from the check list. Don’t get us wrong—easy doesn’t always mean quick. A great example of this was our Banks Revolver exhaust manifold upgrade. While it’s a straightforward remove-and-replace job, it will take you the better portion of a day to complete.

With so much to accomplish on our XJ, we’ve enlisted the help of Low Range 4x4 in Wilmington, North Carolina. While we’re working right alongside the Jeep gurus, it’s been extremely helpful having the knowledge team lending a hand and advice. Be sure to check back next month as we break out the welder and begin the fab on our new axles.

The previous owner of the XJ mentioned that he thought the stock exhaust manifold was cracked, and he was right. So, we kicked off our wrench session by removing the stock exhaust manifold. This job isn’t overly difficult; it’s simply time-consuming. A 9⁄16-inch swivel-head socket, along with long extension, will make your life easier when it comes to removing the intake and exhaust flange bolts. The only specialty tool required was one to remove the fuel fitting from the rail. The previous owner of the XJ mentioned that he thought the stock exhaust manifold was cracked, and he was right. So, we kicked off our wrench session by removing the stock exhaust manifold. This job isn’t overly difficult; it’s simply time-consuming. A 9⁄16-inch swivel-head socket, along with long extension, will make your life easier when it comes to removing the intake and exhaust flange bolts. The only specialty tool required was one to remove the fuel fitting from the rail.
Since we had the side of the block exposed, we swapped out the original freeze plugs. Freeze plugs can actually form pinholes over time and leak. With the plugs out, we inspected the water jacket closely for sludge. Surprisingly, our 160,000-mile engine’s water jacket was in great shape. Since we had the side of the block exposed, we swapped out the original freeze plugs. Freeze plugs can actually form pinholes over time and leak. With the plugs out, we inspected the water jacket closely for sludge. Surprisingly, our 160,000-mile engine’s water jacket was in great shape.
We had not one, but two cracks in the stock exhaust manifold. We spotted the first one at the base of the number-four cylinder tube and the second at the collector. Our ’99 XJ was actually a split year for the Cherokee, as Jeep moved away from this style header in late 1999. We had not one, but two cracks in the stock exhaust manifold. We spotted the first one at the base of the number-four cylinder tube and the second at the collector. Our ’99 XJ was actually a split year for the Cherokee, as Jeep moved away from this style header in late 1999.
We had not one, but two cracks in the stock exhaust manifold. We spotted the first one at the base of the number-four cylinder tube and the second at the collector. Our ’99 XJ was actually a split year for the Cherokee, as Jeep moved away from this style header in late 1999. We had not one, but two cracks in the stock exhaust manifold. We spotted the first one at the base of the number-four cylinder tube and the second at the collector. Our ’99 XJ was actually a split year for the Cherokee, as Jeep moved away from this style header in late 1999.
To replace our cracked manifold, we went with a Revolver Exhaust Manifold from Banks Power. The Banks manifold is built from 409–stainless steel mandrel-bent tubing mated to a 1⁄2-inch-thick flange to prevent any warping or cracking. To increase strength, the manifold tubes are welded on the inside and outside of the flange. The manifold is also CARB-certified and fully legal for the street. To replace our cracked manifold, we went with a Revolver Exhaust Manifold from Banks Power. The Banks manifold is built from 409–stainless steel mandrel-bent tubing mated to a 1⁄2-inch-thick flange to prevent any warping or cracking. To increase strength, the manifold tubes are welded on the inside and outside of the flange. The manifold is also CARB-certified and fully legal for the street.
The XJ Cherokee is notorious for running on the warm side on slow-moving trail days. Since the exhaust manifold is mounted directly under the intake manifold, we thought we would add an extra barrier of heat protection with a titanium exhaust wrap kit from Design Engineering Inc. The 2-inch x 50-foot DEI exhaust wrap is designed to withstand up to 1,800 degrees of direct heat, which is more than our 4.0L inline-six engine should ever produce. The XJ Cherokee is notorious for running on the warm side on slow-moving trail days. Since the exhaust manifold is mounted directly under the intake manifold, we thought we would add an extra barrier of heat protection with a titanium exhaust wrap kit from Design Engineering Inc. The 2-inch x 50-foot DEI exhaust wrap is designed to withstand up to 1,800 degrees of direct heat, which is more than our 4.0L inline-six engine should ever produce.
To make the wrap more pliable, we dipped each strand in a small bucket of water before wrapping the material around the tubes. Using the DEI-supplied metal ties, we were able to get a snug fit over the Banks manifold. The wrap only took around 30 minutes to install. To make the wrap more pliable, we dipped each strand in a small bucket of water before wrapping the material around the tubes. Using the DEI-supplied metal ties, we were able to get a snug fit over the Banks manifold. The wrap only took around 30 minutes to install.
Banks provides you with a new gasket for the collector and manifolds. It’s extremely important to take your time and make certain that the dowels are aligned. There are two easy-to-spot dowels at each end of the manifold. Another set of hands will make this part of the job a little easier. Banks provides you with a new gasket for the collector and manifolds. It’s extremely important to take your time and make certain that the dowels are aligned. There are two easy-to-spot dowels at each end of the manifold. Another set of hands will make this part of the job a little easier.
With the exhaust issue handled, we could turn our attention to more off-road centric upgrades. We knew a winch bumper was a must, so we needed a winch. We went with a Smittybilt XRC 9500. The Gen2 series winch is fit with a 3-stage planetary setup, along with a 161.28:1 gear ratio. With the exhaust issue handled, we could turn our attention to more off-road centric upgrades. We knew a winch bumper was a must, so we needed a winch. We went with a Smittybilt XRC 9500. The Gen2 series winch is fit with a 3-stage planetary setup, along with a 161.28:1 gear ratio.
Our winch bumper of choice was the HD series bumper from Or-Fab. The 3⁄16-inch-thick steel front bumper is designed to hold up to a 9,500-pound winch. We didn’t have to clock our XRC 9500, but it is a tight fit to access the engagement lever. Our winch bumper of choice was the HD series bumper from Or-Fab. The 3⁄16-inch-thick steel front bumper is designed to hold up to a 9,500-pound winch. We didn’t have to clock our XRC 9500, but it is a tight fit to access the engagement lever.
The Or-Fab HD bumper has integrated bumper mounts that align with existing holes in the XJ’s Unitbody. You’ll need to drill out some other holes, but the sheetmetal rails won’t put up much of a fight to a sharp drill bit. There is some vertical adjustability to the bumper, which was especially helpful on our slightly tweaked XJ. The Or-Fab HD bumper has integrated bumper mounts that align with existing holes in the XJ’s Unitbody. You’ll need to drill out some other holes, but the sheetmetal rails won’t put up much of a fight to a sharp drill bit. There is some vertical adjustability to the bumper, which was especially helpful on our slightly tweaked XJ.
We had to come up with a place to mount the solenoid box for the winch, and we figured up top was as good of a place as any. We simply modified the original mounting bracket hardware and drilled to mounting holes in the top of the bumper. We had to come up with a place to mount the solenoid box for the winch, and we figured up top was as good of a place as any. We simply modified the original mounting bracket hardware and drilled to mounting holes in the top of the bumper.
We like steel cable for a number of reasons, but the roller fairlead position on this particular bumper is less than ideal. A switch to a synthetic line might be a good move down the line as a hawse fairlead would be less protruding. We like steel cable for a number of reasons, but the roller fairlead position on this particular bumper is less than ideal. A switch to a synthetic line might be a good move down the line as a hawse fairlead would be less protruding.
Since Or-Fab ships the HD series bumper powdercoated and the XJ was previously fit with a
front bumper, we didn’t have much prep. If you are installing this bumper on a stock XJ, you
will need to do a small amount of trimming up front. Overall, we are pleased with the look at
fit of our front end. It should also give us the extra clearance we need for the low-lift, large tire
combo we have in store. Since Or-Fab ships the HD series bumper powdercoated and the XJ was previously fit with a front bumper, we didn’t have much prep. If you are installing this bumper on a stock XJ, you will need to do a small amount of trimming up front. Overall, we are pleased with the look at fit of our front end. It should also give us the extra clearance we need for the low-lift, large tire combo we have in store.
The rear quarters of the Cherokees are tree magnets. This XJ has already seen its share of replacement rear glass, and that was a trend that we did not want to continue. Our solution was new quarter armor panels from Or-Fab. These panels mount by using through bolts, which requires drilling in the sheetmetal. If you are trying to protect your paint, be sure to mask everything with blue tape prior to install. The rear quarters of the Cherokees are tree magnets. This XJ has already seen its share of replacement rear glass, and that was a trend that we did not want to continue. Our solution was new quarter armor panels from Or-Fab. These panels mount by using through bolts, which requires drilling in the sheetmetal. If you are trying to protect your paint, be sure to mask everything with blue tape prior to install.
You’ll need to remove the inner rear panels to access the backside of the quarter panels. Small hands, a magnet, and a box-end wrench will make this process go much smoother. You’ll need to remove the inner rear panels to access the backside of the quarter panels. Small hands, a magnet, and a box-end wrench will make this process go much smoother.
You can get the Or-Fab quarter armor panels with or without the side bar. We took advice from others who have shattered a rear window or two and opted for the panels with the bar. This should keep trees from leaning on the back glass. The taillight protectors are another plus, despite the fact that our taillights are already cracked. You can get the Or-Fab quarter armor panels with or without the side bar. We took advice from others who have shattered a rear window or two and opted for the panels with the bar. This should keep trees from leaning on the back glass. The taillight protectors are another plus, despite the fact that our taillights are already cracked.
The fitment of the 3⁄16-inch steel rear armor was great. It lined up with the body lines perfectly and didn’t take long to install. Just like the Or-Fab front bumper, the quarter armor comes with your choice of a bike black or wrinkle black powdercoat finish. The fitment of the 3⁄16-inch steel rear armor was great. It lined up with the body lines perfectly and didn’t take long to install. Just like the Or-Fab front bumper, the quarter armor comes with your choice of a bike black or wrinkle black powdercoat finish.

Sources

Banks Power
Azusa, CA 91702
866-738-5915
http://www.bankspower.com
Smittybilt
Compton, CA 90220
888-717-5797
www.smittybilt.com
Low Range 4x4
Wilimington, NC 28412
910-392-3204
www.lowrange4x4.com
Design Engineering Inc.
Avon Lake, OH 44012
440-930-7940
www.designengineering.com
OR-Fab
Chino Valley, AZ 86323
928-636-7080
www.orfab.com

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