This will be my 1st 4wd vehicle. I know the general things you look for & listen for when checking out a 2wd vehicle.
Being new to the Jeep world, are there any general guidelines for test driving & checking out a Wrangler (or any other 4x4)? There are so many more components underneath a Wrangler than you'd find on your average vehicle.
I don't mind having to make repairs here and there, but i'd like to not have to totally rebuild the suspension because of not knowing what I was looking at.
(And, you know that it's not always feasible to be able to bring it by your mechanic before buying.)
Agreed with the frame a really common place for a jeep frame to rust out is near the back where the frame starts to curve up to go over the rear axle just after the control arm mount, id take something to lightly tap around the frame and get a feel for how solid it is... Also electronics inside the jeep, jeeps are convertible so more than likely its been caught out in the rain a few times without the top on. Again rust is very present so check under the carpet at the floor pans and jeeps like to rust on the tops of the front fenders... Other than that just the basics check and make sure it runs the gears all work including the four wheel drives excetra excetra...
Look for a Dana 44 rear end, as far as mechanically though, take a flashlight with you while looking it over and look inside the oil fill on the valve cover (remove the valve cover if he'll let you) if you see oil resembling cappuccino then it may have a cracked head, depending on the year the 0331 head is prone to cracking if overheated, I learned from experience all due to a thermostat failing
Be sure to test drive it on all types of road and at a wide range of speeds. I was surprised by death wobble on my three hour trip home with my new jeep. Might have caught it if I had road tested it a little better. Live and learn.
i spent 7 months looking for a TJ, reviewed several hundred ads, went and looked at about 30 TJ's and test drove about 15 of them. 5 or 6 had the Wobble which seems to come on about 50-60 mph. Do not purchase a TJ unless you get it out on the highway at 75 mph to be sure it rides acceptably. if the seller won't let you go 75, I'd walk away.
lift up each piece of carpeting to inspect for floor board rust and check underneath as others have said.
operate the heater/ac system to be sure air comes out of all vent locations.
operate the 4-high and 4-low systems on a dirt road to be sure they function.
look at the vehicle in the daytime only and make sure it isn't covered in dirt and mud, i found some sellers use that to hide cosmetic damage.
most important: be patient. do not fall in love with the first nice TJ you find. once you've looked at a bunch of them you will get a better sense of what a fair price is, but don't go based on the ad, you need to physically look at a good number of them. good luck.
2002 Wrangler Sahara, all stock, 5-speed, Dana 44, duel tan tops, 2nd owner.
2008 Hemi Grand Cherokee Limited 4X4, Quadradrive II, original owner, 22,000 miles.
Find the best local jeep shop with a good reputation and have em go thru it looking for trouble. Your in Houston so it shouldn't be a problem finding a shop. Just my opinion but its what I did and I'm glad I went that route. Good luck.
Why a Dana 44 rear end?
Superior rear end? Better gear ratio?
How will I know that it's a Dana 44?
Is there a identification plate on it?
I also recommend looking for a Dana 44 (D44) rear end. They are much stronger than the Dana 35 rear. I got lucky and my 2001 Sport 4.0 had the optional D44...at the time I had no clue; I didn't realize it until I found the original window sticker in the glove box, lol. As far as how to tell which is which...check out this thread http://www.wranglerforum.com/f5/tj-l...ion-50307.html
scroll down to the 3rd & 4th pics...you'll see a D35 (oval shaped) & D44.
If you can afford it I'd recommend getting a Rubicon. They are very capable off-road machines in stock form. Basically they come stock with several popular aftermarket upgrades so you'll save $$ in the long run (Jeep has done all the modifications for you already!)
2001 Sport 4.0, 5-speed, D30/D44
31x10.5 BFG KM2 on stock 15" Canyon wheels
100w KC lights mounted near side mirrors
55w KC fogs
Custom stereo: Alpine, Infinity mids/highs, Probox (sealed) w/ 2 10's
A grinding 2nd gear, lol