Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota's Fail Flames for Cherokee LSX-FTW?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap fanning the dakota s fail flames for cherokee lsx ftw

TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes:

Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained…

I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 high output, AW4 trans. It has been a pleasure to own, as I’m a jeep guy at heart, and i have lots of money into well done suspension and offroad modifications, far too much to list. To be frank, I’m in love with the thing. But about two months ago, it started rattling at idle. I chalked it up to something in the engine bay or possibly flywheel bolts. It always ran and drove perfect.

All of a sudden, one day after leaving work it was slipping hard into gear, and a mile down the road I lost all gears. (Automatic “bulletproof” AW4). I checked all linkages, changed the fluid and filter, tried it in 4 wheel high and low, but nothing. It can run all day and the transmission wont get hot so I think the pump went out. So I bought a 1987 dodge dakota, carbureted 3.9 v6, AT 2wd for 700 bucks to drive while I hopefully swap a transmission in my jeep.

My problem now is, with a full tune up, all new filters, this Dakota idles extremely rough, it shakes and wants to die. It wants to stall going up hills. Other than that, the truck runs great and is a good beater. I don’t know what to do to fix this dodge to be more reliable, and if I should do the swap in my jeep or if I’m possibly looking at another problem with that. My goal would be to have my jeep as toy, and the truck as backup vehicle. I don’t know if maybe I’m thinking this out wrong and I should sell both and get something more reliable/ better shape, or focus on fixing one and selling the other. The truck is a beater and will only last a few more years, and will be a nightmare in winter being 2wd and carbureted. I guess I’m looking for some good professional advice here. Thank you for any input!

Sajeev answers:

You are in the same place I was before buying a new truck…except you’re working on a Mark VIII that you do not own.

I reckon you need a newer, more reliable, less shitty vehicle and have the Jeep as a weekend project/toy. Because no man can live on project cars (or trucks) alone! Unless you are chronically single and dependent free, work from home, have a time value of money equal to zero, etc.

But I find that hard to believe: everyone has commitments requiring a reliable vehicle. So get a cheap-ish, fuel-efficient car that gives you plenty of monthly income (i.e. easy on insurance/gas) left over for your project. Get a FWD, compact-ish (depending on your physical size), mainstream Japanese, American or South Korean sedan for maximum cheapness. You might be a hard-core Mopar guy, so get a Neon. They are fun. And you can probably fix most problems in a single weekend, for cheap.

Why so thrifty? I think it’s time for a professionally rebuilt and/or upgraded trans for the Jeep. Or better, swap to a GM transmission. Or even better…wait for it… LSX-FTW SON!!!

The Neon, with the right tires will also be decent in the snow and most people hate them to the point that depreciation is right up your alley. Tidy up and sell the Dakota. Get a boring sedan so you can continue as a normal human on the weekdays, and a bad-ass Jeeper on the weekend.

That’s how you win at life.

[Image: Shutterstock user Scharfsinn]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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4 of 33 comments
  • Ajla Ajla on Dec 03, 2014

    "Unless you are chronically single and dependent free, work from home, have a time value of money equal to zero, etc." You rang?

  • Hybridkiller Hybridkiller on Dec 07, 2014

    You couldn't pay me to own/drive anything with a carburetor any more - I'm old enough to have owned more than my share, and computer-controlled fuel injection is way more efficient, reliable, eliminates the need for regular adjustment and rebuilds, and doesn't eat exhaust valves. But if you like spending time under the hood, by all means, enjoy your carburetors.

    • See 1 previous
    • Hybridkiller Hybridkiller on Dec 07, 2014

      @CJinSD The biggest problem with carburetors is their inability to adjust fuel mixture to compensate for varying load, rpm, air temp, etc. The best you can hope for is that you're only running a little too rich or a little too lean much of the time.

  • Probert Sorry to disappoint: https://robbreport.com/motors/cars/tesla-model-y-worlds-best-selling-vehicle-1234848318/and any list. of articles with a 1 second google search. It's a tough world out there - but you can do it!!!!!!
  • ToolGuy "We're marking the anniversary of the time Robert Farago started the GM death watch and called for the company to die."• No, we aren't. Robert Farago wrote that in April 2005. It was reposted in 2009 on the eve of the actual bankruptcy filing.The byline dates are sometimes strange/off with the site revisions (and the 'this is a repost' note got lost), but the date string in the link is correct (...2005/04...). Posting about GM bankruptcy in 2005 was a slightly more difficult call than doing it in 2009.-- The Truth About Calendars
  • Kat Laneaux Agree with Michael500, we wasted all that money just to bail out GM and they are developing these cars in China and other countries. What the heck. I understand the cheap labor but that is just another foothold the government has on their citizens and they already treat them like crap. That is pretty disgusting to go forward to put other peoples health and mental stability on a crazy crazed, control freak, leader, who is in bed with Russia. Thought about getting a buick but that just shot that one out of the park. All of this for the greed. They get what they lay in bed with. Disgusting.
  • Michael500 Good thing Obama used $50 billion of taxpayer money to bail them out and give unions a big stake. GM is headed to BK again with their Hail Mary hope of EVs. Hopefully a Republican in office will let them go BK the next time, and it's coming. The US economy is not related/dependent on GM and their Chinese made Buicks.
  • MaintenanceCosts "Rural areas hardly noticed COVID at all."I very much doubt that is true in places like the Navajo Nation or the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, some of which lost 2% or more of their population to COVID.No city had a death rate in the same order of magnitude.Low-density living is a very modern invention. Before cars, people, even in agricultural areas, needed to live densely to survive.