By on July 2, 2012

 

John writes:

What sort of upgrades would you recommend for a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited? I bought it to replace my 300CE, which was the feature of a previous Piston Slap. I am planning on keeping this one for the foreseeable future. The only problems with it right now are broken fog lights, the rear window wiper is frozen, and God-awful gas mileage. Aside from the wiper and the fog lights, is there anything you would recommend?

Sajeev answers:

I need more info.  What do you want to do with this Jeep?  What engine, mileage, etc information should we know about it?

John answers:

Actually, it’s probably going to be my DD for the conceivable future. I don’t have a whole hell of a lot of disposable cash at the moment to buy something better for what I’m going to need it for. I’m going to have a nice 52 mile each way commute to college come September, and despite the high miles (220k) it was well taken care of for most of its life. Also, I can usually fix anything major myself. I am kind of concerned about everything wearing out all at once and putting it out of commission either before I can fix it or before I can afford something else to take me back and forth. Perhaps I should change the question: should I save up as much as I can (which, frankly, would not be a whole hell of a lot. Probably no more than $2,500) and buy something hopefully a little better on gas and hopefully with a little less mileage or just invest everything back into the Jeep and keep it going for probably a couple more years? It is a 1995 ZJ Limited with the 5.2, insanely comfortable leather seats, a lovely slow oil leak from the rear main seal that I have been meaning to fix for quite some time now, a new rattle developing every week, and my complete and utter affection despite its many faults.

Also, I should have mentioned that there is practically no rust, and the only off-roading I do is the occasional light trail work. And here is a picture of the Jeep in question:

Sajeev concludes:

You went from a 300E to a Jeep ZJ. But I must be losing my marbles, as I previously called you “Fabio” but am now speaking to someone named John.  I think Fabio is a good name for that Benz, John is good for the Jeep.  I need to get you in a Grand Marquis, then change your name to Mildred.  Perhaps next time, that.

Almost any time someone with limited financial funds (and a non-European vehicle) such as yourself writes in, I say you need to stick with the problems you currently have.  It could be a lot worse. Do not save your money for another hooptie, this Jeep sounds pretty much okay. Save your money far beyond your college tenure, for when you will have a better job and enough income to actually afford a good, late-model car.

Fix all the little things as needed.  Buy the factory shop manuals and read up on the forums.  Tackle small projects between classes, studying, work, etc.  I know this plan is good, I did this for years with my 1988 Mercury Cougar during my BBA, my 1995 Lincoln Mark VIII during my MBA.  Hey, I’ve seen dumber things!

With any luck, the Jeep will make that time go by very fast. And then you can dump these old cars and get something decent, trouble-free and somewhat entertaining.  Or, when that time comes, get something very cheap and keep your old clunkers just for funzies.  That’s how I roll and I’ve yet to regret it.

Keep the Jeep, but I like “Fabio” better.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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42 Comments on “Piston Slap: Keep the Jeep, Change your Name?...”


  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “I need to get you in a Grand Marquis, then change your name to Mildred. Perhaps next time, that.”

    John, mate, do all of us a favor, keep the Jeep and run it over whatever bloody Panther you find. The TTAC crowd will get you some super swampers (whatever that is) and a 37457574646463″ lift kit for that mission. Youtube links of the carnage are always welcome.

    Next on your list is the turbodiesel manual sportwagen.

  • avatar
    mr_muttonchops

    I like these articles, since I can relate as a college student. It gives me ideas of what to look for in my next car to get me through the next 2.5 years minimum. I think the Jeep is a good choice. Gas mileage aside, this seems like a practical vehicle while also having some fun potential as a Jeep.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      An Outback will give you more practicability, better fuel economy, and will do a bit of trail duty (about as much as any SUV owner ACTUALLY does). But it doesn’t have the torque of a V8.

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        96-99 outback or legacy wagon. More room than the Jeep, vastly better fuel efficiency, and will need far less maintenance and repair over the next few years. The subies are slower and not nearly as good off road, but they’re just built much better and last longer than grand cherokees. A 2.2 will be great, but if it’s a 2.5 make sure someone else has already done the head gasket job, an expensive fix and the biggest problem with the subaru, but most of them still on the road have had it done by now, and it doesn’t impact the market price for some reason. Excellent ones with 150k miles are available for a couple grand, and I think a far safer choice than keeping the jeep, especially as in this case the buyer knows how to spot a well-kept car under the hood or on a lift.

      • 0 avatar
        mr_muttonchops

        Agreed on all counts, but could be far worse, depending on how much use this Jeep will get. When I was confident that my newspaper job would last me through college (at least until the new boss suggested otherwise…) I was looking at Cherokees as my combination of college vehicle/ work vehicle, since nothing else with 4 doors offered the hauling “oomph” to lug bags of newspapers without going into big truck/SUV territory (F-series, suburbans, etc…) and I didn’t want a small pickup.

        So while the Jeep may not be as livable as the Outback, depending on lifestyle it offers its advantages… Of course now I’m looking at Legacies or Outbacks so yeah…

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Sometimes, what looks like a leaky rear main seal on a 5.2 is actually a failing oil pan gasket.

  • avatar
    Ubermensch

    The horizontal “shimmy” these Jeeps have in their suspensions always made me sick to my stomach. It felt like the wheels were attached to the body with rubber bands.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    Upgrade to ANYTHING but a Jeep. Anything is a step up. Except GM. Those major problems (Oil leak, mainly) never happen with a Toyota or Honda.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    OP, I’m sorry to say this, but your purchase was just flat out stupid.

    “I’m going to have a nice 52 mile each way commute to college come September”

    so you bought a 5.2l jeep, which is rated at ohhh, ~17mpg on the free way?

    LOL. so daily your going to spend ~20-22 bucks on gas (gas @ 3.50/gallon)

    have fun… being even broker.

    • 0 avatar
      SCR

      Well, I bought it last August. Last August, you see, was far before I knew what I was doing and where I was going, so I bought it with no knowledge of a 50 mile commute in my future.

  • avatar
    Educator(of teachers)Dan

    Having read some of the above posts, John, let me just say with great sincerity… F*** the haters.

    So you’ve got Grand Cherokee with the 5.2 Magnum V8 and fuel economy that’s better suited for a Diplomat with the 318 and Torqueflite… You love the car, that’s enough and can go along way in a man’s relationship with a machine.

    Keep it well tuned and I don’t know what sort of shape your tires are in but when you need to replace them get something NOT labeled “All Terrain” or “Mud Terrain” look for something with slightly more open tread and your fuel economy and the noise in the cabin will improve.

    • 0 avatar
      SCR

      Educator Dan,

      I just bought A/Ts, actually about 4,000 miles/4 months ago back when I still had no idea what I would be doing with it. I appreciate the sentiments though. I never realized that people hated old Jeeps this much.

      • 0 avatar
        ExPatBrit

        We had a 97 from new that was pretty much trouble free, unfortunately someone ran a red light and t-boned it.

        These are great trucks, one of the first uni-body SUVs. When ours was totalled we replaced it with a Toyota Highlander. It had about the same hp and better gas consumption but had no soul and the styling was not great.

      • 0 avatar
        el scotto

        Yeah bud, lots of cheap shots on here from fan boys and the why did you buy this mob. I’m assuming you’re gonna be a freshman in college. Commuting from home will still be cheaper than living in the dorms or paying rent. I understand why you like this beast. You’re rolling in a V-8 powered big SUV with power on hand, cold ac blowing, and the stereo cranked. With the seats flipped down you’ll have almost as much hauling capacity as a small truck. I drive an Escape, it’s not outstanding at anything; but does many things well. You’re allowed to snicker at those driving econoboxes and have the mantra of “gas mileage above all else”.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        It isn’t just haters. It may very well be that people have had previous experiences with Jeep products.

        I currently own a 2012 Grand Cherokee I bought for the wife and I hope that it will be a good one. I hope that it will turn out as good as our 2008 Highlander still is.

        My previous ownership experiences with Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep products really sucked and I found my old Jeeps (Wrangler, Wagoneer, Grand Wagoneer) to be high maintenance vehicles.

        Leaks and mpg weren’t the only problems I had. But if our current 2012 JGC has any warranty issues, we’ll trade it off before the warranty runs out in three years.

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        When you talk Jeeps, you only get black and white. Doesn’t seem like there’s any middle-ground.

        Personally, I think the Grand Cherokees are garbage, but then I’ve never seen one go 220,000 miles. I’ve had one friend whose GC ate a transmission at 130,000–and he would still swear up and down it was a great vehicle. Another buddy of mine had (has) a WJ that ate it’s engine, probably due to what seems to be a common oil starvation problem with the 4.7.

        I’d stay the hell away from them, but I’d never call you stupid for buying one. That’s just uncalled for. Lots of people love their GC’s. I just don’t know why. Hell, my buddy with the first dead GC is a radiologist, don’t think I dare call him stupid. . .

        With 220,000, It’s going to be a tough sell, but you absolutely need a cheaper car for college. That commute is going to kill you in the Jeep. You could park it, keep it for a weekend toy to go bounce off the rocks and trees. As much as I dislike them, those Grand Cherokees are killer offroad, even in stock trim.

      • 0 avatar
        Athos Nobile

        No Jeep hate here, actually I dig your new rig, but the Panther thing is getting long in the tooth.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        “…those Grand Cherokees are killer offroad, even in stock trim.”

        Amen to that noxioux! Last winter we delivered Meals on Wheels to the elderly in my hamlet with 20-inches of snowfall accumulated and drove places where we could not see the road or were even on a road.

        All in stock form with stock tires in High-Range 4X4 with all four wheels spinning.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Set the alignment at zero degrees. It just takes a tape measure, 2 open end wrenches and a 20 minutes. It definitely saves tires and gas, although maybe more prone to oversteer, ever so slightly, under hard cornering.

  • avatar
    Carlson Fan

    Lets see: I don’t have any money, I’ve got a 104 mile commute to school, and I don’t need to tow anything. I think I’ll buy a 4X4 truck w/V8. Good choice!……LOL

    • 0 avatar
      SCR

      Carlson,

      Let’s see: I don’t know the context of the situation that led to the buying of a vehicle. I think I’ll baselessly comment anonymously and make fun of the owner! …… (how many periods do you actually require for an ellipse? It’s only supposed to be 3, not 16)….. LOL

  • avatar
    Downtown Dan

    If that commute was shorter, I’d make the easy decision and stick with the Jeep– you sound like a mechanically inclined chap, and who doesn’t love big cushy leather seats. 9 times of out 10, I’d recommend keeping your old car– but this might be one scenario in which a new car makes sense.

    Feeding that V8 to the tune of 104 miles a day is going to be murder on your wallet. Assuming you’re in school 9 months out of the year, driving 104 miles a day, that’s 18720 miles. Add another 6000 for driving other than your commute, and you’re at 25,000 miles. At 17 miles per gallon, that’s 1470 gallons– or about $5300 per year, or $441 per month.

    Let’s say you decide to drop some heavy money on a new car. A new Jetta with a 2-point-slow gets double the GC’s mileage on the highway, 34 mpg. So your gas costs are cut by $220. A lease on a new Jetta runs about $210 ($159 a month plus $1999 down payment amortized over 39 months). So it basically pays for itself, and you get to drive a brand new car with no repair headaches (until 70k or so, whadup VW!) Plus, with the $10 you save, you can treat yourself to a nice sandwich twice a month :)

    • 0 avatar
      SCR

      Thankfully I won’t be driving everyday. I’m scheduling my classes to avoid as much, maybe 3 times per week at the most. I’m probably going to keep it for now just because I know what I’m getting myself into with it at this point.

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        No rush if the oil leak is slow and since the miles are so high, you might as well get some use out of those tires you just bought. But as you mention up top, there’s a new rattle every week, and this is an old Grand Cherokee, it was never meant to live this long. I’d drive it for now, not bother tackling the main seal if it isn’t needed, and sell it once I had a couple grand saved up to swap to something more practical– and I mean practical partly in terms of long-term maintenance, but also mileage, because even if you’re only commuting a few days a week, you’re still looking at thousands of dollars a year of fuel you don’t need to be buying.

        But I’d stick with a nineties beater if I were you– you need the lowest possible entry price, and since you know how to turn a wrench then you’re qualified to run a true beater. I did this analysis on about forty candidate car types last year, and ended up with a 96 outback 2.2 with a manual. It’s been frustrating for me as someone used to fixing old beaters, because after I got some new tires and changed the old belts, hoses, and brake pads, it hasn’t needed a single damned thing. 2000 mile road trips, no hiccups. No rattles, handles fine. Slow, but tough and comfortable. Naturally there are other options, this is just the one I went for.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      The insurance on a new “leased” car will be almost certainly much more than $10 a month extra.

      In addition most leases are 12-15,000 miles a year, he’s going to be doing way more miles than that.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Counterpoint – I just turned in a 2.slo automatic Jetta to Hertz after an 8-day rental in Georgia about 4hrs ago. In small-town suburban and 200 mile round trip to Atlanta driving, it got 20(!!)mpg over two tanks of gas. I was appalled. Other than that, I thought it was fine for what they cost. But you aren’t going to save any money on gas with one. If you are going to do that, a used TDI is the way to go.

      I own the next generation of the OP’s car, an ’02 WJ (wintah beatah). Pretty much the same thing though. But mine has the six, so it gets 24mpg highway. They are STUPID cheap and easy to fix. Especially compared to anything Subaru has made recently. So while I join in saying that buying it was not really the best move overall for this kid, it is not a terrible place to be. Drive the wheels off the thing. Find someone to commute with who will chip in for gas – I used to do that in school.

      • 0 avatar
        facelvega

        Yeah, I wouldn’t recommend any later subarus, they lost much of the tractor-like simplicity of the 90s models. An I6 Grand Cherokee would definitely make this a different and more appealing proposition.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Jeez, I really don’t get all the hate. I guess everybody’s p*ssy on a Monday morning.

    Back when I was in school (30 years ago), I was in a similar situation. I had a 15 mile commute to classes, but ended up with an excellent (paid intern to job) opportunity 25 miles in the OPPOSITE direction. My then-current DD had recently been totaled in an accident, and the best car I could find (before the internship became available) was a beautiful 1972 Olds 442. Just going to classes alone the fuel mileage was tolerable, but when I started the internship, the 10-12 MPG wasn’t going to cut it.

    I sold the Olds and bought a Pinto (this was 1982, remember…) for $1000 cash. It was ugly, but it got me everywhere I wanted to go. At least I was seeing my (now) wife steadily, so I didn’t really need to impress anyone else…

    I’m with the “cheaper to keep’er” crowd. It sounds like it might be a pretty decent ride other than the issues relayed here. The good thing is, you can sock away some money not having car and higher insurance payments. The Jeep should do just about anything would want to do (except get 40 MPG!), and that counts for a lot for a young guy. Save your nickels and when you get that post-college job, you can really throw down on something nice.

    Good luck!

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Doggone, Geo, I was sure you’d recommend a Cavalier – a “Cockroach of the Road”©! Our daughter loved her 1997, after all.

      Hey, at least I’m in a good mood!

      ©Geozinger

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        Hey Zackman!

        If he were truly looking to replace the Jeep for sure, I’d recommend (maybe) a J-body, but I’ve (we’ve all) been in his position before. Conserve the cash now, even though the fuel economy is horrible, for something much nicer later.

        Maybe a new Impy? Lol!

      • 0 avatar
        noxioux

        I thought I was the only human on earth who loved his J-body. I had a 91 Sunbird and it was a great little car. It was, in fact, my college ride, come to think of it. . .

  • avatar
    wstarvingteacher

    When someone lays out a situation he leaves himself open to being criticized by others. The best cure for that is probably a moderator with a fast finger on a “delete” button.

    John, I was stuck with 100 miles per day commute to work with a 77 Impala with 350/350. Loved the car but the 13mpg finally got to me and I went with an older Datsun 4 cylinder truck. It was quirky but it got me where I needed to go. (I think) you should stay with the jeep as long as you can. If you are down to three days per week that helps. There are worse things than being a student. I was bankrupt and divorced. Those two are connected.

    When you finally have to take action there will be something available. Don’t worry much about what it is. Just worry about tenacity. That’s what will pull you through.

    Btw, flip a bit mental bird to the haters. I just did. Since I don’t care to listen to the verbal diarrhea that comment will cause, I am unsubscribing to the comments.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      “I was stuck with 100 miles per day commute to work with a 77 Impala with 350/350. Loved the car but the 13mpg finally got to me…”

      My 2004 nets me on average 32 mpg. 3.4L. 100 miles R/T, as well!

      Still stinks though…

  • avatar
    Firestorm 500

    John, you’ve got a great looking Grand. Keep it and love it for sure. Those that tell you otherwise can just go jump in the lake.

    It’s a Jeep thing. There’s no way they will ever understand.

    They can go back to reading their Subaru brochures on the toilet.

  • avatar
    replica

    Already own it outright? Keep on driving it! Those recommending getting a car payment/lease instead are insane. That’s the worst advice in the universe.

    Do some cheap maintenance, then hit up a used record store for the finest tapes from the era and rock out in the Jeep.

  • avatar

    Heres one for the subie and jeep people. No hate for either one. The guy bought a ZJ despite what people think these are cochroachs can’t kill them. When I worked in insurance these were one of the few american cars I regularly wrote estimates on with well over 200k. A few owners even commented that they wanted to get rid of them but nothing major ever broke. The only real weak point on these were the auto transmission in certain years and certain options (i believe the part time vs full time 4wd had something to do with it.) I’ve owned a jeep XJ and not sure where the road rage over driving dynamics comes from I found jeep xj’s and zj’s to have the best road handling and ride of any vehicle with front and rear solid axles. In fact I currently drive a subaru outback 3.0 h6 and tell you the truth it’s a toss up whether I would rather drive that or the jeep an my daily 60 mile commute (they even get about the same mpg)


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