Piston Slap: Hey Mister ZJ…

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap hey mister zj 8230

TTAC commentator photogo2 writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I need someone to tell me I am an idiot.

I am considering buying a ZJ (1993-1998) Jeep Grand Cherokee for a daily driver. I am most interested in a 1993-1995 V8 model, specifically for the combination of the bulletproof 318 ci/5.2 L engine and the 46RH transmission (a transmission I suppose will be slightly less likely to destroy itself than the later 44RE models…). I am a semi-decent hack mechanic who supports a BMW 2002tii (which is my daily driver in nice weather) and an E46 330i nearing its 12th birthday, so the prospect of mechanical repairs isn’t frightening. I’ve found some with reasonable miles for good prices and can live with the gas mileage, especially considering it will average about 5,000 miles per year.

I really like the cargo capacity and the ability to take it slightly off-road. Plus, it would/should be a good support vehicle is the cars ever need a tow. My main concern is just how stupid of a move am I making? Is a Jeep ZJ a terrible choice? Should I be considering something else?



PS- the wife won’t be willing to drive a Panther when her E46 is out of service. She is okay with the smaller Jeep.

Sajeev Answers:

What’s the deal with the B&B’s significant others’ non-love of Panthers? Like my Match.com photo album filled with brown Grand Marquis coupes and Cartier Town Cars doesn’t attract ALL the ladies! There’s nothing wrong with my strategy, obviously.

And while you spent the time reading the above drivel, I used it to Google this helpful thread. And this one. None of it looks especially horrifying. And once again, Google is your friend when it comes to common problems on damn near anything. Except when I tried to figure out which year the Jeep’s 4.0L mill went from phenolic timing gears to metal, a big concern for me. I think all 4.0’s had metal teeth by the 1990s, but this is one for the B&B to verify.

And with all this information, it’s time for perspective. The Jeep is fine provided you’re ready to replace all worn rubber bits (belts, hoses, vac lines, O-rings, bushings) and any signs of obvious neglect that naturally occurs on old machines. I’d rather do extensive basic upkeep on a ZJ than damn near any electrical glitch on an E46.

The ZJ is not a terrible choice for an addition to your rather cool family. But a similar vintage Ford Explorer, Chevy Blazer or Toyota 4Runner is also fine. The Chevy/Ford might be the best considering they do all the same things, but usually sell for less than the (artificial?) premium I see on Toyotas and Jeeps in the used car market.

Then again, if I wanted a daily driver, the ZJ is probably my favorite of the bunch.

Long story short: go ahead and get a fully-depreciated SUV for your family. Care less about the brand, more about the options/condition/service history. Since you were kind enough to consider a Panther, I’d recommend you also consider the truly epic, 1993-only, ZJ Jeep Wagoneer.

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  • Truffle_shuffle_steer Truffle_shuffle_steer on Oct 29, 2012

    Absolutely buy the ZJ. I have one- it was my first car. Drove the absolute crap out of it in college and it survives to this day as a fair weather off-road toy. A few notes: -don't get a 93. The grand wagoneer may be cool but the rear drum breaks are most definitely not (mine is a 93- the brakes are the worst part of the vehicle by far). -Have someone else do the ball joints... just trust me -Do the control arms yourself -Get one with the up country suspension, tow package and skid plates. Mine has these. The skid plates are amazing- they take a somewhat capable vehicle and make it super awesome on the trails. The upcountry suspension has a mild lift and the stance is just so much better- you get a bit of a lift (and some room for bigger tires) without the worry of questionable reliability of aftermarket lifts. -CV joint replacement is super easy -The ZJ is such an amazing vehicle! Get a 5.2- they sound soooooo good with a mild exhaust (also do not attempt yourself unless you can really weld- the exhaust goes up over the wheels). ENJOY!

  • Mikeg216 Mikeg216 on Oct 29, 2012

    Great buy fully depreciated, these things were everywhere when they came out here in the rock salt /snow belt. And they still are, unlike their Japanese counterparts, which have pretty much oxidized into oblivion.

  • Kwik_Shift A nice stretch of fairly remote road that would be great for test driving a car's potential, rally style, is Flinton Road off of Highway 41 in Ontario. Twists/turns/dips/rises. Just hope a deer doesn't jump out at you. Also Highway 60 through Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario. Great scenery with lots of hills.
  • Saeed Hello, I need a series of other accessories from Lincoln. Do you have front window, front and rear lights, etc. from the 1972 and 1976 models
  • Probert Wow - so many digital renders - Ford, Stellantis. - whose next!!! They're really bringing it on....
  • Zerocred So many great drives:Dalton Hwy from Fairbanks to the Arctic Circle.Alaska Marine Highway from Bellingham WA to Skagway AK. it was a multi-day ferry ride so I didn’t actually drive it, but I did take my truck.Icefields Parkway from Jasper AB to Lake Louise AB, CA.I-70 and Hwy 50 from Denver to Sacramento.Hwy 395 on the east side of the Sierras.
  • Aidian Holder I'm not interested in buying anything from a company that deliberately targets all their production in crappy union-busting states. Ford decided to build their EV manufaturing in Tennessee. The company built it there because of an anti-union legal environment. I won't buy another Ford because of that. I've owned four Fords to date -- three of them pickups. I'm shopping for a new one. It won't be a Ford Lightning. If you care about your fellow workers, you won't buy one either.