Search and Seizure
Weak link: Front driveshaft
Models affected: All
What happens: TJs came from the factory with a non-greasable front CV joint in the front driveshaft. Over time, these joints can dry out and eventually seize. When they seize, they can cause damage to the transfer case. "We've actually seen them split the transfer case in half when the CV seizes up," says Dan McKeag at Burnsville Off Road.
Strong fix: Needlessly wasting a transfer case is not cool, and it's rather expensive, so the best plan is to have a new driveshaft made that includes a greasable CV joint. Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts or Driveshaft Superstore can hook you up.
Contact: Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts, 877/497-4238, www.4xshaft.com or Driveshaftsuperstore.com, 800/845-6326, www.driveshaftsuperstore.com
Weak link: Double shifter boot
Models affected: '97-'99 w/manual transmission
What happens: Here's another one we've experienced. These TJs use a lower and upper shifter boot and the combined resistance makes moving the transmission shift lever difficult, especially in cold weather. Most often, the problem is found when shifting from First to Second and Third to Fourth gears. Burnsville Off Road says they've seen transmission synchros damaged because the transmissions are used with gears not fully engaged due to the resistance. Sometimes the stiff shifting is misdiagnosed as a faulty AX-15 transmission.
Strong fix: The top shifter boot can be removed, which decreases resistance and alleviates the problem, but it's not aesthetically pleasing. A better method to free up the shifter is to make a small 1/8-inch cut in the lower boot near the shift lever.
Weak link: Front sway bar end links
Models affected: All
What happens: The sway bar end links are a ball-and-socket type that quickly wear out, allowing the ball to bang against the socket. If you've been driving around wondering why there's a cacophony of rattling emanating from under the front of your rig, this could be the problem. We've had experience with this, too. Ours began to rattle with only 12,000 miles on the odometer.
Strong fix: Don't bother replacing them with stock end links, because they'll wear out as well. It's far better to install a set of aftermarket quick disconnect end links. Not only will they hold up better, you'll have the ability to quickly disconnect the front sway bar to allow for more suspension travel. There are many quick disconnects available in the aftermarket. Rough Country offers some that feature a 90-degree spherical ball joint for a full range of motion. They are designed to be simply folded up securely when on the trail and they fit TJs with up to 3 inches of lift.
Contact: Rough Country Suspension, 800/222-7023, www.roughcountry.com
Leaky Exhaust Manifold
Weak link: Exhaust manifold
Models affected: '97-'06 TJ w/4.0L engine, '97-'02 w/2.5L engine
What happens: If your exhaust manifold hasn't cracked yet, it will. You can count on it as much as you can count on tax time.
Strong fix: Swap on an aftermarket exhaust manifold assembly. We've installed the Borla unit; the header is constructed of T-304 stainless and includes a new gasket and all associated hardware. The folks over at Banks make a cool TorqueTube system for both the 4.0L and the 2.5L and each is a well-built, easy-to-install system that comes with everything needed to perform the swap.
Contact: Banks Power, 800/601-8072, www.bankspower.com; Borla Performance Industries, 877/462-6752, www.borla.com
About This Series
"Weak Links, Strong Fixes" is a series that identifies common problems of popular four-wheel-drive vehicles and offers solutions as to how to fix 'em. Past installments have included various Chevy, Ford, Dodge, Jeep, and Toyota vehicles.