Loose flex plate bolts

Stopping a common Rattle

One of the common problems with Jeep Cherokees withe AW4 automatic transmission is that the flex plate bolts back out after a while.

The flex plate is bolted to the torque converter with four relatively small bolts.  With age and time they get loose.

The noise is often diagnosed as a rod knock or something more severe and the Jeep gets sold cheap or scrapped.  If all the bolts fall out the Jeep will have no drive in all gears and be misdiagnosed as a transmission failure.

Inspecting the bolts is a relatively easy task.  They are hidden behind a small metal plate at the bottom of the transmission bellhousing.

This little plate is very well secured to the transmission. It had two large bolts with 18mm heads and two smaller bolts with 13mm heads.

Flex plate inspection plate

If your Jeep is like most, this area will be covered in mud and oil from a leaking rear main seal.  So it may take some digging to find the two small bolts.

One big issue with this task is that the bolt on the left side of the transmission will not come out unless you also remove the exhaust pipe.  However for just an inspection and tightening, you can get by without totally removing this bolt.  Just loosen the nut so the bolt can be moved back against the pipe.

Flex plate inspection plate

With the other bolts out you can pull the plate back enough to see the flex plate bolts and get a 15mm box end wrench on them to snug them up as necessary.  If you want to work in a torque wrench or put on some locktight, you will have to remove the exhaust pipe.

Once the bolts are tight, you can turn the transmission with the wrench on the bolt. There is just enough room to bring one bolt to the bottom and be able to access the next one at the top of the opening.  There are four so keep count and you will know when they are all checked.

Inspect the flex plate for damage while you are there. If the bolts have been loose for a while the holse my be elongated or the plate cracked.  If this is the case, you will have to remove the transmission to replace the flex plate.

Georgia Traverse Trail

Running a portion of the Georgia Traverse

Tom and I decided to try out the Georgia Traverse Trail that runs across the northern part of Georgia. It is documented on the web site GeorgiaOverland.com.

For our first excursion, we chose the section that is between our homes.  There are two alternate paths around the Cohutta Wilderness area – since the road through was closed years ago.  We decided to run both and make a loop.

We met in Eton and began the adventure in Crandle.  I had taken a few minutes to study the map at home and had planned to use my phone to navigate. However, I found it very hard to view the maps on mobile.

So we promptly got lost on the first turn.  After ending up at the Cohutta Spring resort, We made a second go and found 630 to Conasauga lake.

We made our way up the mountain and took the north fork toward Murry Lake.  We never did see the lake however.  Not sure where we missed it.

We took a right on old Hwy 2 and up into Tennessee at the Jacks River Bridge.  This was familiar territory to us form having worked and raced in the Cherokee Trails Rally. 

We paused at the little waterfall alongside the road that is an old railroad grade.

We then made the sharp right up Big Frog loop.  We followed the loop all the way to Peavine road.

Then we took Peavive across the ridge following the south side of the Ocoee River.  We debated returning to pavement at Ocoee#3 powerhouse but decided to continue and make the gravel loop.

Just past Tumbling Creek Campground we turned right to head south. This was new territory for me.  The area by the creek was very popular with every pull off occupied by people playing in the water.

Just after got back to the wilderness area, we encountered our first and only obstacle of the day. A tree across the road.

After some debate, I decided to hop across with Tom spotting.  I made it fine. So I watch and took some pictures as Tom came across in his Amigo.

After we were across we made it easily down to the other side of Hwy 2.  We continued south on  and west. We had to share the road with a large group of horses at one point. At least we came up on them in a place with good visibility and a wide shoulder for them to gather and let us by.

We ended up deviating from the route slightly at the southernmost point.  We followed a sign to 411 that put us on CCC camp road rather than following Cow Pen rd.  

That worked out fine however since we got to see Bryce Falls.

We posed the Trucks for some photos before heading our separate ways.

Faux strarter probelm

No start but not a starter problem

Our 99 XJ Cherokee was stranded in the middle of the driveway when I can home yesterday.  Turning the key made the solenoid click but did not engage the starter motor.

The battery voltage was fine so I assumed the starter had failed.  I tried the normal hammer tapping method but still got no start.

I had to pull the starter in the driveway. With it off, I took it to the shop to test. It tested fine. I was puzzled so I reinstalled it on the Jeep.

Still the solenoid would click but not starter motor activity.

I then checked the voltage at the wires and they both had 12 V.

I then wiggled the cables at the battery and tried again. This time it started up fine.  Somehow the crimp of the wire that leads from the battery to the starter had corroded and would show voltage but not transfer any current to run the motor.

I used vise grips to recrimp the connector and the Jeep started up just fine.  Hopefully, it will continue to remain connected.

Grading the Driveway

Since I daily drive a Jeep Cherokee XJ, I often don’t notice the condition of the driveway. I live at the end of a dead end road and I have a long gravel driveway.   Instructions to my house include, “when you get to the end of the paved road – keep going”

When I drive one of my sports cars however,  the ruts and bumps in the droveway become very apparent.  The Porsche and the RX7 do a fairly good job at grading the center of the drive but it is hard on the air dams.

Grass in center of the driveway

So occasionally I have to get out my antique tractor and attach the grader blade.  Like today that usually involves working on the tractor first.  Today I had to remove and clean the carburettor before it would start.

I began by setting the blade at an angle and cutting the gravel that gets pushed to the sides of the road back to the middle. This creates a big hump in the middle of the road.  So I have to be prepared to finish once I get to this state.

I learned this method growing up on gravel roads in rural Mississippi.  I would watch as the county road graders came by once a month or so and smoothed the roads.

Back drag

After the gravel had been pulled back to the middle, I flipped the blade around backwards to do a back drag.  Allowing the curved part of the blade to ride on the pile of gravel smooths it out nicely.

Finished Drive

Now I am ready to take the Porsche for a test drive once I reinstall the brake cooling ducts.

RX7 exhaust flange gasket

Replacing the exhaust flange gasket on RX7

Our newly acquired RX7 track car has had a small exhaust leak under the car. I suspected this was contributing to the huge backfire I got every time I went into turn 1 at Atlanta Motorsports Park. (Update: this turned out to not be the case.)

The car has what looks like a Racing Beat header and two into one pipe adapter.

I began by soaking the very rust bolts in PB Blaster. I also did the work with the pipe just a little warm form driving the car into the shop.

What fell out surprised me.

These actually did a pretty good job of sealing. But I dug around in the spares we got with the car and found the proper gasket.

RX7 Exhaust gasket

I replaced all the nuts and bolts with new stuff from ACE hardware. The car is just a bit quieter now without the leak under the floor.

RX7 exhaust