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Old 02-20-2012, 08:46 AM   #1
Tangalor's Avatar
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'87 wrangler queries

New to the forums, new to Jeeps. I'll be here a lot, methinks.

Ok, about three weeks ago I bought an '87 YJ (Great, crossover year, I know...) for 2500 bucks. it was a great deal! It runs, has brand new 32" tires, new starter, new radiator, new alternator, yadda yadda.

There are, however, some drawbacks that I knew about.

One: A leak in the valve cover. I replaced the gasket, still leaks. It's the old plastic valve cover (I think someone torqued it to death, it has a hairline crack at one of the bolts: plus, once I got to the back bolts, there was a tire plug where there should have been a bolt!!!), and I was thinking about getting an aluminum one. Is it worth it? Are there any drawbacks besides price?

Two: There's the wierdest coolant leak I've ever encountered. Sometimes, when I start it, it will drip heavily off of the bottom of the radiator, then after a few minutes it will abruptly stop. Sometimes it starts after I've already started driving and stop when I shut the engine off. Sometimes it will continue to leak for a few minutes after the engine shuts off. And, half the time, it won't do anything at all. Any suggestions?

Three, and what bothers me most: After about 5-10 miles, the oil pressure drops dramatically. It will actually hit 0 sometimes when I'm at idle at a stop light. I was thinking it had something to do with the Valve cover, but the pressure is fine the first 5-10 minutes of driving, then steadily decreases over time. It has stalled on me several times because of this issue. Suggestions?

I'm not a mechanic, but I do dabble, and what I don't know I can look up or ask my mechanic step-father. I'm looking for a few expert opinions about these issues.

Thanks for the help, in advance! I can't wait to get started working on this thing, I'm a Jeep lover already, and didn't even know it!

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Old 02-20-2012, 10:20 AM   #2
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an aluminum one would be better than a cracked and warped plastic one

did you double check all the hose clamps?

how many miles on the motor? you could try a heavier oil as a temp fix

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Old 02-20-2012, 10:23 AM   #3
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Hose clamps are ratcheted down.

The motor has 143,xxx miles. I do believe it is the original engine, but not 100% on that. I could post some pics if that would help.
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:26 AM   #4
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For the coolant leak have you verified where the leak is coming from? Is it from the overflow tank, maybe?

For the oil pressure issue I would replace the sending unit first because it sounds like it's going bad or maybe even just a loose connection. These things work by closing a contact when pressure is sensed and opening it when there isn't. If you have what seems to be an intermittent issue it is likely the sending unit. Good thing to check the oil and make sure it has some in it.

As for the oil leak, I agree with Timberwolf, replace the old one with a new aluminum cover and don't over-tighten!

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. James 3:17 (KJV)

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Old 02-20-2012, 10:47 AM   #5
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Ok, I'll check the sending unit, and probably replace it. Yes, it has oil. I've owned older vehicles and usually check the oil every couple of days, especially when they have a leak.

The coolant is a different issue. I *think* it's coming from the bottom hose, on the back end (the large one), but the clamp is cinched tight. I haven't seen any cracks in the hose or radiator bottom, nor did I detect one at the plastic neck/connection point. The back and top of the radiator are dry when this occurs, so I can only deduct that it's coming from the bottom hose. The two drain plugs are tight, but upon first inspection, I was able to tighten both with my fingers, and thought I had solved the problem; not so much.
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:28 PM   #6
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I put the cast aluminum valve cover on my Jeep about 10 years ago and it hasn't leaked a drop since.

Coolant leaks often occur when things start warming up and expanding. That is when small cracks open up. Could be where the tube comes out of the radiator for the lower hose mount.
87 YJ, 5.2/46RH/NP231, Custom 4 link/ Radius Arms, Ballistic Nitrogen Shocks, 35" Cooper STT
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Old 02-20-2012, 10:35 PM   #7
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You got pro advice with everything, but I suspect your coolant leak is water pump. Matches the M.O. you laid out: after shutoff for a while then stops.
The old fashioned way is to get under, wipe it all down, start it, and wait. It's a PITA, agreed.
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Old 02-20-2012, 11:46 PM   #8
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When the oil pressure goes to zero do the lifters rattle? If not it's the gauge.
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Old 02-21-2012, 03:59 AM   #9
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When the pressure drops to zero the idle is so low it will sometimes stall out. I will check underneath the radiator when i start it today but, as I said, it doesn't always happen.
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Old 03-09-2012, 04:28 AM   #10
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Turned out it was the carb leaking oil into the engine. Rebuilt carb and changed the oil.

The coolant leak on the new radiator (or was it rebuilt?) had to do with a blown seal on the coolant tank, also fixed.

Still going to replace sending unit and valve cover when money and time allow.

Thanks for the help! Much more work needs to be done, but it's runnin smooth now!
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Old 03-09-2012, 05:03 AM   #11
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sounds like your doing ok.. I am in the same boat as you with a 87. Been working on replacing a few things in the motor but just checking for wires that need to lead to something. LOL, thats been half my problem. Good luck

PS.. i found a leak from my radiator off of my motor behind the fan where the thermastat is, might check that with the hood open and check under it. Lil black gasket crap worked out great for me
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Old 10-16-2012, 07:27 PM   #12
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The valve cover still leaks, don't have enough money for an aluminum one, but the leak isn't disastrous, so for now I just regularly check my fluids (as everyone should anyway).

I changed my shocks. The stock shocks were still on it and were maxed and totally worn out. I was riding on pins, for the most part. After installation and equilibrium, I gained another 1/2 inch in the lift, believe it or not. The shocks that were on there were rigged to the extreme.. So much so Im not sure why they bothered trying to keep them at all.

I took it out after the shocks were installed and it was a total success in regards to performance. 100% difference.

My next mod will probably contain actual doors, since I have finally acquired some (in need of lower brackets), and something to help pull/tow (such as a set of hooks, or summat), since I don't have a formal back bumper.

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