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Old 10-21-2011, 11:23 AM   #1
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Our first TJ, problems?

Hello! We just bought our first Wrangler after checking out a bunch of different ones. It's a third vehicle, and we are new to Wranglers so we didn't want to spend too much. Besides cruising with the top down, we wanted it for carrying around our Labradors and road tripping 1.5 hours to the ocean to wheel out on the dunes.

In our area (military town) Wranglers are TOP dollar! We looked at several '97 SE 2.5L models with around 100k all priced around $7-8k. None of the sellers, dealer or private, would move much on price, even the one with an obvious leak... I did get one guy, 2nd owner of a decent '97 SE with 105k, down to $6300 but I passed and he sold it the next week. Don't even get me started on Sport models!

Finally found one about 1.5 hours away, it was newer (2001 SE with 94k miles), completely stock, and family owned since brand new. Bare bones- stick, no A/C, no console, no backseat! They were asking $6990 but seemed willing to negotiate since they just had their first baby. Went to check it out and we really liked it, drove really well. The 4x4 lights didnt come on but I knew it was working. Fluids I could check looked OK. It did have rust underneath from being up north in the salt for 4 years but no holes or anything structural. There was grime/blowback but no major leaks, their driveway and garage floor was spotless (no oil stains).

The owner had gotten it from his father in law six years ago and was just driving it back and forth to work. I got the feeling he didn't want to let it go. He didn't know much about the mechanicals. It had a newer $250 battery from Sears with reciept, and work order for brakes- but other than that, only some oil change records. They accepted an offer of $5000 cash, saying that CarMax had offered them in the 4's but he wanted to actually see it go to an individual. I figured at that price, even assuming it might need some repairs- I would come out way ahead.

First thing I did was pick out some fluids (Syncromesh for the tranny and ATF+4 for the diff) and take it to Jiffy Lube. I know I could do this myself but I am so short on time and we wanted to have it ready to go wheeling over the weekend. Jiffy Lube dained and filled the engine oil, both diffs and the tranny fluid for $120 total but said they couldnt get to the t-case because the skid plate was in the way and they didn't have the tool? So I had a small shop beside my office change that fluid for $40 and we were off to the beach, where it was unstoppable!

We've put about 2500 miles on it already and love it so much more than we thought! It drives well and the list of things I have noticed is short. First, a variety of occasional mechanical chattering and rattles at lower RPMs (maybe normal for a Wrangler?) and second, sometimes a burning or coolant-type smell although all fluid levels and gauges check out. Also, sometimes the "check gauges" light will come on at steady 60-70+ mph but all gauges read OK and I know they are working, the voltmeter jumps 14-15 but stays in range.

Anyway, the local giant dealership offered to check it over with a 42-point inspection for $45. I figured it was worth it just to see what may need to be done in the future according to their standards. I was impressed with the service advisor and with watching the mechanic crawl over and under it for over an hour. I did not tell them anything about the vehicle. Here is the list I got back, parts and labor:

Wiper Blades $20
Drive Belt $110
Battery Hold Down $100
Brake Fluid Service $130
Power Steering Fluid Service $130
Tune Up (plugs/wires/cap/rotor) $245
Rear Pinion Seal $170
Transfer Case Seals $350
4x4 Service (t-case/diffs) $320
Canister Lines $145
Fuel Injector Service $135

So, as you can see they are saying it has some leaks. Also, he said some of the fluids I just had changed were very BLACK and needed changing? The real bad news was that the head gasket is "seeping" but not leaking, so will need to keep an eye on that ($800 if/when it goes). He started to say shocks because they are old (duh) and rusty looking, but they aren't leaking and again it drives awesome. He did say I need to brush and paint the bottom or have it lined. Overall he said it is a good Jeep and I should be able to get 200k more miles easy with proper care, as he has a '94 2.5L with 300k!

However this brings up some questions. First, who is lying about the 4x4 fluids- the dealer or TWO local shops? The dealer has great ratings and if it is them, why didn't they also go for other easy add-ons like transmission or coolant? Or, maybe the other shops either faked it / didn't do the work correctly?

What say you, knowledged and experienced Wrangler owners? Based on the above list what should I do? I don't want to sell it and pick up a different Wrangler because problems you know about are better than the unknown. I still feel like I got a good price on a good running Jeep- and like my adopted abused Lab turned out to be the best dog ever, maybe I can show this Jeep a little love and get a winner!

My father-in-law has a sweet lift but his '66 Nova is on it for a while receiving an upgraded front end... Also my mechanic friend who lost his (awesome) shop in a tornado a few months back and is in the middle of rebuilding, he can get around to looking at it next week. Maybe he'll be able to do whatever I can't do that is needed for much less than the dealer.

Any advice is greatly appreciated! And yes I wave all the time!

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Old 10-21-2011, 11:34 AM   #2
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I only have a few minutes before I leave for work but that list from the dealer is how they make their profit... charging 2-4X what most of those items can be done for on your own or elsewhere. That list is 90% outrageous, but not unusual for a dealer. A few of the items on the list are reasonable (install wiper blades for $20, install serpentine belt for $110 for example) but the rest of them are just outrageous. The Fuel Injector service is one of my pet peeves, such a service just isn't needed with today's gasolines. For example, on that $135 fuel injector service charge, about $100 of that is pure profit for the dealership which is why they push that particular service so often. Fuel injectors don't get clogged with today's gasolines like they used to when I was younger many years ago.

You'll get a lot of answers today, I'll chime back in later.

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Old 10-21-2011, 11:37 AM   #3
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Welcome to the world of jeeps When I was getting the "check gages" light it was because my drive belt was slipping, If yours is being caused by the same problem a new belt set to the correct tension will fix you up. Change it yourself though the dealer wanting $100 for a belt change is crazy.
As for the diff fluid remove the fill plug on the cover and stick your pinky in there. See what color the fluid is. If the jiffy lube did change your fluid then you should be fine for 20k or 30k miles unless you drive through a lot of deep water.
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Old 10-21-2011, 11:40 AM   #4
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Change it yourself though the dealer wanting $100 for a belt change is crazy.
Actually not. Price a new quality serpentine belt from a quality manufacturer like Goodyear or Gates at NAPA plus the 30 minutes it takes to install, start to finish, and that price suddenly becomes realistic. Most of the other item pricing is crazy though.
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Old 10-21-2011, 11:56 AM   #5
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If you don't know the people don't trust them. A long time ago I took the van to jiffy lube and the list was long. Everything they said was bad was changed right before the trip. I just didn't have the time to change the oil and still had 500 miles till it was due. So I would find mechanic give him the list and see whose telling the truth.
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:05 PM   #6
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Wiper Blades $20 - Decent: you can get good blades for a little more than this and it doesn't take that long to install.
Drive Belt $110 - I changed mine recently for less than $30 I believe and only took me 20 minutes. maybe 1/2 tops.
Battery Hold Down $100 - Is it broken or flaking rust, missing? If its just krusty a little baking soda (i believe) and water will clean it up.
Brake Fluid Service $130 - gallon of brake fluid at napa - $20 and an hour to bleed all 4 brakes
Power Steering Fluid Service $130 - little more difficult. take a turkey baster or similar siphon and suck a little fluid out. is it still clear/clean? you probably dont need it.
Tune Up (plugs/wires/cap/rotor) $245 - Less than $100 and an hour of your time would take care off this.
[Rear Pinion Seal $170
Transfer Case Seals $350
4x4 Service (t-case/diffs) $320]- Can't help you
Canister Lines $145 - To what? charcoal canister? fuel vent lines? just keep this in mind if you ever get a small evap leak code
Fuel Injector Service $135 - As Jerry said dont worry about it.

I have a friend that works in the service department at a dealership. Hes a good "sales man" and makes comission. By good "sales man" I mean you could have a small oil leak, say a drop or two per day, enough to see it but not really know where it comes from. He could scream bloody murder all day and make you think your engine would seaze driving away from the dealership if you don't get it fixed right away. Then sell you a full gasket replacement for the engine at $1k+...

I always take what the dealership says with a grain of salt, and if its something reasonably simple, that I couldn't find, I'll fix it myself. or if its more complex I know a guy that owns his own garage (a little two bay shop, but they do almost anything), and then worse comes to worse I will leave it for the dealer.
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:09 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Bransford View Post
Actually not. Price a new quality serpentine belt from a quality manufacturer like Goodyear or Gates at NAPA plus the 30 minutes it takes to install, start to finish, and that price suddenly becomes realistic. Most of the other item pricing is crazy though.
tend to agree with solman- bought a belt from adv auto for around $30 a while bacl(old one was ok so just recently put the new one on) but $70 to put on a belt-then i'm in the wrong line of work. can take 10 -30 min depending on the style of idler you have(spring loaded or slider(like me))

as for the rest of the list, most of those things can be checked with your pinky through the fill hole or just plain ole visual inspection. i'd trust a dealer/jiffy joint as far as i could toss em-you bring it in, they'll find problems---somewhere. besides fun, cost is one of the main reasons so many here wrench their jeeps-for me to pay someone $80-100 per hr, it definatly has to be something i can't do or the tools to do it would cost more.
i got luck for the difficult things-childhood friend of mine is a mechinac and if this forumn and/or me and my FSM can't figure it out/fix it, know he can w/o getting screwed in the process.
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:12 PM   #8
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$100 for a battery hold down? id say thats rediculous, had to replace the battery in my jeep this summer, my "hold down" is a little plastic clip mabye 4 inchs long and an inch wide, 2 screws and it fits into a pre made lip on the battery..id deff pass on that one lol dont know enough about the others to give input, when jerry gets off work he'll feel ya in, listen to Jerry he's like a jeep god, knows just about everything on these machines lol congrats on the new jeep though
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:25 PM   #9
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Lots of good feedback. In your Carolina area, there are one or two independent shops with great word-of-mouth reputations to look to for honest repair questions. Maybe a couple of shops for suspension problems, a couple more for tranny issues, a couple more for tires ... you get the picture.

These indy shops are generally too busy to waste their time and yours with made up repair problems and they depend upon customer satisfaction for survival. Not so for dealerships, who hire service-order-writer representatives to get you into their repair shop for everything imaginable. Remember the SOW gets a percentage of the business he sells.

Continued good luck with your new toy.
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:29 PM   #10
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Wiper Blades $20 - Decent: you can get good blades for a little more than this and it doesn't take that long to install.
.

a pair of decent ANCO wipers cost less than 9 bucks from walmart and it takes no more than a minute to install. i replaced mine last month.
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Old 10-21-2011, 12:55 PM   #11
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my opinion----I am not a mechanic though my retired father is. He frequently gives me a hard time for paying for someone else to work on my Jeep. Don't get me wrong changing fluids, lights, blower motor, wiper blades, minor "mods" stereo, heated seats, new speakers, off road lights I do myself.

I recently had a new clutch and flywheel installed. It took the shop about 4-5 hours. For me to do it would involve the better part of a weekend with prep and clean up after. I also had water pump replaced by a shop. My thinking is IF I don't get it right the first time and have to do it twice, 'cause it is not working right or is leaking have I saved any money? I take TWICE what I make per hour and divide it into what the shop is gonna charge, and remember that you may be sitting waiting for it so that time is still gone.

With the exception of the seals--I would do all the work suggested for your Jeep myself--and have. And being that they are seals/may leak after I would find a 4wd shop I could trust.

Wiper blades really should be replaced about every 6 months---do you really need the most expensive ones? The sun heat and what not wear on the material that blades are made of--I replace mine every April and Nov--takes about 5 min.

Jeeps are VERY easy to work on and there is a plethora of information on here. Don't take the first answer as fact-it is easier to misdiagnose from an armchair than in person. Don't think anyone here would do it on purpose--but sometimes things are missed. Check threads, and ask for opinions.

Congrats on your new Jeep--mine started as a second vehicle/toy, now it is my DD just cause I don't want to drive the (older) Buick or Caddy.

Good Luck!
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Old 10-21-2011, 01:02 PM   #12
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Going to a dealer for wiper blades and Serp belt? Are you one of those 1% people the 'occupy' group is protesting about?


...duck...
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Old 10-21-2011, 01:29 PM   #13
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Old 10-21-2011, 01:54 PM   #14
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Congrats on your jeep. Good luck with the feedback from the knowledgeable mechanical people on what to do about your woes. I am not one of the knowledgeable people, but I will stay up to date with your thread b/c I'm sure I will eventually have some of the same questions.
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Old 10-21-2011, 02:04 PM   #15
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Dear Benderofbows,

Quote:
I was impressed with the service advisor and with watching the mechanic crawl over and under it for over an hour
For $45.

So, they lost money there and now they try to get it back 6 times over. My serpentine cost me $20. Replacing the headgasket on a 2.5 takes about 3 hours and $50 in parts. They want $800...Etc.

Get a second opinion from someone you can trust.

Let's go through the whole list again.


Wiper Blades $20 - Decent: you can get good blades for a little more than this and it doesn't take that long to install. like 2 minutes
Drive Belt $110 - I changed mine recently for less than $30 I believe and only took me 20 minutes. maybe 1/2 tops.x2
Battery Hold Down $100 - Is it broken or flaking rust, missing? If its just krusty a little baking soda (i believe) and water will clean it up.x2
Brake Fluid Service $130 - gallon of brake fluid at napa - $20 and an hour to bleed all 4 brakes Maybe your buddy has an easy bleeder, then it's 10/15 minutes
Power Steering Fluid Service $130 - on the 2.5 you can just hold the oiltank upside down. Refill. Start engine, steer from left to right couple of times. Hold tank upside down, refill with fresh ATF, done
Tune Up (plugs/wires/cap/rotor) $245 - Less than $100 and an hour of your time would take care off this.x100
Rear Pinion Seal $170 If you don't have the tools or skills then that's not so bad
Transfer Case Seals $350so, they charge $150 for each driveshaft to take out/fit back?
4x4 Service (t-case/diffs) $320]- expensive oil...
Canister Lines $145 - To what? charcoal canister? fuel vent lines? just keep this in mind if you ever get a small evap leak codex2
Fuel Injector Service $135 - if you want you can add a bottle of injector cleaner to a full tank of fuel. Around $10 at your local fuel station

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Old 10-21-2011, 02:44 PM   #16
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Wow, so many responses already! I want to thank everyone for their input.

Sounds like none of those repairs are very bad at all, so if that list was the worst the dealer can come up with, my Jeep is pretty good after all!

Obviously I will do wiper blades myself LOL!

Drive belt, the $110 didn't sound too bad. I want to be sure the tension is correct so maybe I will let my mechanic quote me on that when he has time from rebuilding his shop.

The battery hold down is apparently completely missing. I will see if I can grab one off of ebay or something.

Brake Fluid service- guys, I just don't have a lot of tools. I've changed oil on my vehicles before, and swapped wheels, etc. but that's about it. Oh and I put a hitch on this Jeep already. I will probably leave the brakes to a professional.

Power Steering fluid, if it is that easy then maybe I will try that one!

Tune up... (warning, newb question here) Do I need a special tool to remove the spark plugs? And does anyone have a good writeup on replacing the distributer, etc.

Rear Pinion seal, no I don't have the tools for that. Might let them do it.

Transfer Case Seals, same as above. Maybe my mechanic can beat that price?

4x4 service, they said they use synthetic but did not specify further. I remember seeing a diagram somewhere showing the fill holes, I like the idea of removing those bolts and seeing the oil for myself. (SINCE I DID PAY SOMEONE FOR THAT ALREADY, LOL). Should it look like good engine oil (light tan)?

Canister Lines, he mentioned charcoal and said he thought it would throw a CEL soon.

Fuel Injector Service, he said something was really dirty, how easy is that to check? Maybe have mechanic look into that one in a few weeks when he can.
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Old 10-21-2011, 03:24 PM   #17
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I will chime in. Good discussion.

If it were me, I would put all these items on a spreadsheet and add them up.

Then decide what I am capable of doing and what I can't. For example, to me paying for an auto trans service is a no brainer. Pulling plugs is easy.

But, if you are a novice and a klutz you can really dick something up.

Also, I would determine on the spreadsheet what can wait and what cannot. Fixing small fluid leaks may not be worth the effort provided the leak does not become a flood.

I bought a pontoon boat used a few years ago. Got a great price. Then had a marina rebuild the fuel system, new battery, rebuild carbs, and install new water pump. Stuck about 1500 into it but I did not care. It has given us three years of trouble free service and I did not loose a weekend either.

Also, if you are a novice and unsure of yourself, find a friend or a local jeep club member who might be willing to show you how to do some things. That is what I have done over the years.

As a result of relationships like that I have traded work with people, gotten free work, traded parts, and had my car serviced for nothing more than pizza and beer. I used to have a local college student who did all my maintenance on everything. He charged 25 bucks an hour, would come to my house and I would buy parts. He loved the work and was a great deal for me.

you can decide what you are willing to do yourself. I don't change my own oil. I can but I don't. a local shop can do it for what it would cost me. But I do change my plugs. I like to know what they look like.

Belts? My mustang used to chew them with my blower. I would use a friends discount, buy the belt for 20 bucks and take 10 minutes to put it on myself. Every year, new belt.

Took 5 minutes to replace a tensioner once for the 40 dollar part and the shop wanted 150.

Sometimes you just have to choose your battles.
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Old 10-21-2011, 03:43 PM   #18
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As stated above most all of this is simple easy stuff and a lot of what i do for some of our club members (mostly the woman) as the men can do their own most times. But am i the only one that saw that you got ATf+4 for the diff or did i miss read that. They should have 80/90 or similar depending on what axles you got and friction modifier if you have a L/S with 4 cyl probably not L/S. Hell even royal purple synthetic is only 18 bucks a qt and you only need 5. Anyway nothing you are running into so far would scare me away from it. Anytime you get a new to you vehicle it needs something.
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Old 10-21-2011, 04:37 PM   #19
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I will probably leave the brakes to a professional.

Power Steering fluid, if it is that easy then maybe I will try that one!

Tune up... (warning, newb question here) Do I need a special tool to remove the spark plugs? And does anyone have a good writeup on replacing the distributer, etc.

Fuel Injector Service, he said something was really dirty, how easy is that to check? Maybe have mechanic look into that one in a few weeks when he can.
believe it or not...front brakes are DIY. My 15 year old son did the family SUV with no prior experience.
Spark plugs require no special tools to remove, just the right size socket wrench with an extension.
your fuel injectors don't need servicing if your engine idle is smooth.
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Old 10-21-2011, 05:20 PM   #20
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I bought an '01 SE a few weeks ago, and have been checking off many of these myself, with little prior experience.

I changed the plugs and wires in about 5 minutes. I bought the plugs, wires, gapper, and a socket for like $30.

I also don't have a battery tie-down. I have a very short bungee cord holding it for now.

I just ordered a belt off rockauto for like $25, IIRC, it's 2 nuts to loosen the belt, swap belts, and tighten back up.

I have NO free time. Work + night school. I get a few hours a week to work on the Jeep, but I am chipping away. I also never drive it, so I can take my time, but I think you can slowly do this all (most) yourself.
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Old 10-21-2011, 07:33 PM   #21
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My advice is that since this is your third car, you should attempt to perform at least some of these service items yourself. It is very possible that you should change your fluids again, if they were never changed before. I am not sure what the rear pinion seal is, but it sounds like the type of thing I would definately pay someone else to do. All the other work could potentially done by a novice in a garage or driveway, given enough time. If you do not think you would enjoy it, you could make an argument for paying someone else, but it sounds like the jeep could be your new hobby, so why not give it a shot?
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Old 10-21-2011, 08:06 PM   #22
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tend to agree with solman- bought a belt from adv auto for around $30 a while back...
Yeah you guys are right, I was thinking about the serpentine belt I bought years ago for my wife's Mercedes that was $70. The two most recent serpentine belts I bought, both recently actually, were only about $30 apiece... I didn't really notice their price because they were part of a larger purchase.
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Old 10-21-2011, 11:27 PM   #23
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giving this some thought, would suggest finding a FSM (factory service manual) for your yr of jeep. these are usually avaible on ebay but take your time and shop around as prices are all over the place. forget chilton/haynes, as they are next to useless. between this forum and the manual you should be able to figure out the problem and the manual will pretty much tell you what needs to be done and how. read it over and you should be able to decide if you want to attempt it or not. i just replaced my wheel cyl's and it turned out to be alot easier than i thought it would be. i haven't done my own work in 15+ yrs and getting back into it with the jeep(find it fun/rewarding to do it myself-the saveings helps too)
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Old 10-22-2011, 10:02 AM   #24
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giving this some thought, would suggest finding a FSM (factory service manual) for your yr of jeep.
Fully agree. It was my best Jeep purchase.
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Old 10-22-2011, 10:48 AM   #25
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For what it's worth, I downloaded a free Service Manual for my TJ that seems to work for me. Can't vouch for the following website or for the validity of the manual ... but if you're interested I hope this helps:

Firstload is your Usenet Access!
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Old 10-22-2011, 11:09 AM   #26
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Welcome to the Jeep community tools and knowledge will be your best freind in your life as a Jeeper, and neither will ever be a waste of time or money, for myself Im happiest out working on my Jeep, its relaxing, theraputic, and your always proud of a job that last week you didnt think you could do, enjoy more than just driving your Jeep.


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Originally Posted by benderofbows View Post
why didn't they also go for other easy add-ons like transmission or coolant?
They didnt because they want you to say to yourself "If they were trying to pad the work order they would have said you need this and this and this", remember that this is what they do, and like a casino, they have a huge building and a monsterous overhead and selling a few cars everyday isnt paying that overhead, you are in that shop, and you can bet that any "estimate" is just that, usualy low by about 12%.

Do yourself a favor and take the time to learn as you go, as you see there is always someone here to help you out, and most people are pretty willing and you always get a reply quickly, and there are a number of other forums out there that are very "new Jeep owner" friendly, this is one, Jeepz.com, Jeepsunlimited.com and the non-hardcore forum on Pirate 4x4 are a few good places to get excellent indepth knowledge very quickly from people who tinker everyday with their Jeeps and have for a long time.

Jeep ownership can be the most rewarding path youve ever taken, enjoy the preperation, the journey and the destination and pretty soon you will truly understand the "Jeep thing" and the saying "Only in a Jeep".

Enjoy
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Old 10-22-2011, 04:09 PM   #27
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To address your question about keeping or selling the Jeep, I would keep it. Even you had to pay the $$ the dealer is quoting (which you don't) you still got a pretty good deal and anything else you buy could be in the same or worse condition. Like someone mentioned, since this a 3rd vehicle I would do it all my self. Even if you have to take it off the road for a week to get it all done the knowledge you gain will be more valuable to you down the road.

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