Someone's Got a Loose Screw
Q In regards to "Random Beeps from LJ Rubicon" ("Techline," Sept. '09): I had a somewhat similar problem in my then-fairly-new 1990 Wrangler Sahara. The problem was a loose grounding screw located on the sheetmetal behind the left headlight which I had loosened to install a ground line for an accessory. Tightening the screw securely resolved the problem, which has not recurred during the past 17 years.
Baltimore 4 Wheelers
A You're right-thanks for the reminder, and to every one else that wrote in. Poor and improper grounds can cause strange things to happen. Everyone who has fought with trailer wiring can testify to this. I have no idea why I didn't mention this as a possible solution. When troubleshooting electrical problems, the first place I always go to is the ground connection. I even got a phone call from fellow writer Jimmy Nylund, asking me where my brain was when I answered that letter. He pointed out that the problem developed after the installation of an ARB bumper. That should have been a big clue. ARB does an excellent job of powdercoating their products, which most likely acted like insulation, preventing it from making a good ground contact with the vehicle's frame. A ground wire between the frame and the bumper most likely would solve the problem.
Then again, maybe the wattage draw from the additional lights in the system is acting like a gremlin.
ZJ Transfer-Case Options
Q I have a 1993 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 5.2L V-8 and full-time four-wheel drive. I would like a part-time transfer case. Is there a Jeep transfer case that I can swap in?
Red Hook, NY
Yep, there are lots of transfer cases you can use. On our "Project Ain't it Grand-er" ZJ, we swapped in a modified NVG231 'case that had the planetaries (six instead of three) and the wider drive chain from an NVG241 transfer case to gain us a extra bit of strength. We had to use a shift rod and control arm from an XJ Cherokee to get the linkage to work properly. It's a direct bolt-in, other than the fact that Grands used three different lengths of input shaft and two different spline counts. We were able to give the build number to our supplier (All-Trans of Portland, Oregon), and they were able to determine what we needed without having to pull out the transfer case beforehand.
The only problem we have is that the "low-range" light comes on when in both high-range and low-range four-wheel drive. The people at Rockland Standard (www.rsgear.com) tell me that they have the right switch and wiring to correct this, but it is not something that bothers me. The NVG231 is the same length as the transfer case that's presently in your Grand, so no driveshaft changes are needed.
Cracked Manifolds On '90s F-Series
Q I have a '96 Ford F-350 Crew Cab 4x4 long bed with the 460 V-8. I had a small fire and need to replace the plugs, wires, and ignition. The engine is stock except for the K & N air filter and three inch exhaust pipe. I also keep cracking the driver-side manifold. I need to know what kind of performance parts to buy to get my truck running again. My goal is to have the engine breathing and running efficiently.
A It's not all that uncommon for the exhaust manifolds to crack on the '88-97 Ford 460s. A company called 1A Auto (www.1aauto.com) has a newly designed manifold that is said to solve the problem. You didn't say where the exhaust manifold is cracked, but I would also look over the exhaust system quite closely to see if the header pipe that connects the manifold to the muffler is misaligned and putting a strain on the manifold.
Another good idea is to make sure you're tightening the bolts properly. A loose bolt can cause warping, which will eventually lead to cracking. The later-style manifolds, after '95, have the bolt mounting holes elongated to allow the manifold to grow a bit without causing the cracking, plus they're a bit different in design. Perhaps one of our Ford enthusiast readers can answer this question in greater detail.
However, if you're after better performance as you indicated, by all means go with a set of tubular headers. Forget about the shorties, as they really aren't much better than the stock manifolds, performance-wise. L&L Products (www.landlproducts.com) has a really nice set, and while they're a bit on the expensive side, they do offer a lifetime warrantee against rust-out. They are nickel-plated, have thick flanges, and are made of 14-gauge material. Yes, I would guess that they are a pain to install.
As to any other performance parts, well, one could say that the sky is the limit as there are a lot of performance parts for that engine. Speed costs money, so how fast do you want to go?
While you're replacing the spark plug wires, I would suggest that you purchase one of the better performance brands. I have always had excellent results with MSD products (www.msdignition.com) along with their technical service. You have to replace most of the ignition system, then consider using not only their spark plug wires but also their coil, harness, and ignition box.