Jeep Cherokee Thermostat Replacement

On the last few cold mornings, I noticed the heater in my Jeep Cherokee was not putting out heat like I wanted. I also noted that the temperature gauge was not reading as high as normal.

I knew that the thermostat must be opening too soon. The only cure is to swap it out.

I picked up a Stant Supersat at Advance Auto. I used the order online – pick up at the store option to save a couple of bucks.

My Jeep is equipped with a K&N air filter and intake tube so I don’t have an air box in the way any more. I loosened the power steering pump and moved the drive belt out of the way of the thermostat housing. I have done it without loosening the belt but it is much easier with out the belt in the way.

The later model XJs have the belt routed where it is not in the way. However, on an earlier XJ like my 91 the belt interferes with getting the bolts started back in the housing. I previously wrote about changing a thermostat on a 99 XJ.

I popped off the radiator and heater hose. I disconnected the temperature sender wire.

I then removed the two 1/2 inch head bolts and popped the housing off the block. I set up a pan under the Jeep to catch the antifreeze. I also laid out newspaper to soak up the splatters as anti freeze is very slippery on the floor.

I cleaned up the bolts and the housing using the wire wheel on my bench grinder. I then use a scraper and a scotch brite wheel in my drill to clean the block face.

I noticed that the new thermostat did not have a bleed hole in it, so I drilled a small hole in the flange. It is hard to bleed all the air out of a 4.0 if there is no hole in the thermostat. Most of the ones I have bought lately have a hole but this one did not. So, I made one.

Getting the new thermostat to stay in the block while setting the housing is always tricky. I knocked mine out the first time and only noticed it when the antifreeze started to run out as I was filling the system.

I put a dab of Permatex on the flange to get the thermostat to hang in place long enough for me to slip the thermostat housing in place over it. I used additional Permatex to make the gasket stick to the housing. I held the housing in place with one hand while I started the bolts with the other hand. I was able to get it all in correctly on the second try.

I tightened the bolts and left the hoses off until I filled the system. I then reattached the hoses and filled the radiator completely with anti freeze. I then put back the temperature sender wire.

I put the belt back on and started the engine. I checked for leaks and made sure the engine came up to the proper temperature. I let it cool and topped off the radiator with coolant. I enjoyed having a nice warm heater again this morning.

Stant Superstat Super Premium Thermostat, 195 Degrees Fahrenheit - 45209

Stant Superstat Super Premium Thermostat, 195 Degrees Fahrenheit – 45209

Replacing the steering box on a Jeep Cherokee

Replacing the steering box on a Jeep Cherokee

The steering box on a Jeep Cherokee rarely goes bad. Mine has over 345,000 miles on it. However, I recently changed one that had been damaged in an engine fire. These instructions will also help if you want to upgrade to a larger steering box.

Begin by removing the air box and electric fan to gain access. Remove the hydraulic hoses. The fittings at the box are 18mm. It may help to have a crow foot line wrench but I always make do with a stubby 18 mm open end.

Remove the bolt that secures the sector shaft to the box. It may not look like it, but the bolt has to come all the way out to release it from the splines. Use a pry bar if necessary to slip the sector shaft off the splines. Use some penetrating oil on the slip joint in the shaft if it seems like it does not want to compress. If you try to compress it and it sticks, the rubber joint at the top can be damaged.

Disconnect the pitman arm from the tie rod. You will need a tie rod puller to do this job. Be careful not to damage the rubber cup on the tie rod while removing it. Put some tension on the joint with the puller and then use a sharp strike with a hammer to free up the joint. Trying to pull too hard will likely damage the puller and not release the joint. A sharp blow from a hammer on the side of the pitman arm will pop it right out.

The box is held to the unibody by three bolts. These have 5/8 inch heads and are held in by thread locking compound. Use a long handle ratchet to get them out. There is an aluminum spacer between the unibody and the pump. Sometimes the bolts will seize in the aluminum. If the spacer breaks, you can replace it with a stack of washers on each bolt. Also, if using a larger steering box, you may have to space the box further away from the frame rail.

With eh bolts out you can lower the box down behind the sway bar. Be careful because it is heavy.

Removal of the pitman arm is difficult. Use the proper puller and possibly heat to remove it. If possible, get a replacement with the pitman arm already attached.

To reinstall, hold the box in place and start one of the bolts. It may be helpful to have an assistant hold the box from above while you align it and start the bolts from below.

Reconnect the tie rod and install the cotter key. Attach the sector shaft and install the bolt. You map have to use a hammer and lightly tap the end of the shaft in place. Alternately you can use a chisel to spread the coupling apart before attaching it to the steering box.

Reattach the hydraulic hoses. Lift the wheels off the ground and turn the steering from side to side. Make sure there is no binding. Fill the system with fluid and repeat the side to side motion. Start the engine and turn the wheels from lock to lock to purge the air from the system. Make sure the reservoir stays full of fluid while purging. It is common for the fluid to foam while purging.

If the pump sounds like it still has air as indicated by a growling sound when turning the wheel, turn to one of the stops and hold the wheel there for a second while the pressure relief opens. You will hear the valve open when you hold it against the stop. Repeat a couple of times to purge all the air.

Test drive the Jeep to make sure the steering is centered and has the proper feel. Adjust as needed.

Iron Gap Road Videos

When we got to the bottom of the hill on Iron Gap Road, we were faced with a creek crossing. Dropping down into the creek was challenging due to the spring that wet the rocks about half way down and by the off camber nature of the drop.

Jeep Cherokee Harlan KY day 3

XJlist Spring Fling Harlan, Ky day 3

Saturday morning brought more rain as I added power steering fluid to Jenny’s Jeep and bled the air out of the system. Through the breaks in the drizzle, we had scrambled eggs made on Frosty’s grill.

Getting a slow start from camp we decided to make a leisurely run along the east ridge of the park to see the vista the group had found the night before. We headed up the other end of trail 15 out of Middle Fork. This trail starts of with a steep twisty climb before it follows the ridge out to the helicopter pad.

Just at the top of the hill, a place we spent way too much time at on our first trip to Harlan, there is now a very deep mud puddle.

Mud Puddle

Just as we were lining up to go through he puddle, Evan called on the radio that his Jeep was leaking transmission fluid and was not moving well. I pulled out a hospital cloth for him to lay on and he found that his control arm had hit the transmission lines and crimped both and punctured one of them.

Jeep Cherokee repair

It took a while, but we eventually gathered enough hose, clamps and tools for him to cut and splice the two damaged lines. We headed out again after he was repaired.

From there we made our way on to the Helicopter pad. We continued on the trail past the pad and drove up to the vista the guys had found the evening before. The view form there is spectacular! We enjoyed lunch there and posed the Jeeps for a group photo.

Jeep Cherokee off road

Jeep cherokeee
Jeep Cherokee

Next we made out way to Mason Jar. We decided to follow the new signs instead of the map thinking that they may have made a short cut to the entrance of Mason Jar that was not mapped. However, we were disappointed to find that the signs led us to the exit of Mason Jar. And Mason Jar is a one way trail!

Janice and several others decided to walk the short trail while some of us drove around to the entrance. At the entrance we saw a buggy on huge tires having a terrible time getting up the first obstacles. He would just sit there and use his big engine to dig out dirt at the bottom of the rocks. As we met the walkers, they told us of two wranglers that were broken down further up the trail.

Neal, Frosty and Josh elected to go ahead and run the trail while the rest of us decided to explore elsewhere. We loaded up every one into the back seats and cargo areas of our Jeeps and made the trip back to the exit of Mason Jar to pick up their Jeeps.

Neal's XJ Mason Jar

Form there, we went to Lions Den so that those who missed Thursday adventure could at least get a feel for what it was like. We watched a Wrangler on one ton axles crawl through but not without great difficulty.

From there we headed back to Middle fork to play on the hills there. We had just started up Running Board when the others caught up with us. Scott P made a run but ended up backing down.

We decided to head back to lower rock garden to play around more. After some time there we headed back to camp to enjoy the now famous steaks and potato boats around the camp fire.

Videos of this trip can be found on Youtube:

Rail Bed
Mud Puddle 1
Mud Puddle 2
Scott in the Lower Rock Garden
Josh on Killin Time 1
Josh on Killin Time 2
Haywire on Profanity

Jeep Cherokee in the Lion’s Den

XJ List Spring Fling in Harlan

The Yahoo Groups XJlist once again had their Spring Fling meeting in Harlan, KY. I found it interesting that there was never any real discussion this time about where to go, Harlan was the instant unanimous choice.

Black Mountain in Harlan offers great camping, miles of trails and generally a perfect setting for a gathering of friends. But this time, Harlan offered one other enticement – Lion’s Den!

After seeing Lion’s Den for the first time last year, Josh started modifying his XJ to be ready for the challenge. On May 20, 2010 he got his chance.

My trip began early that morning heading north on I 75. The trip was going uneventful until just before the Lafollette exit. I began to feel a vibration I suspected was from the trailer. At first it was only at high speed but as I drive through Lafollette, it got worse. I pulled into the Wal-Mart parking lot to check it out. I quickly noticed that there was a large chunk of rubber missing from one of the tires. This was the tire I had chosen to as a spare from an earlier tire failure.

I quickly jacked up the trailer and swapped on the spare only to find it was a little low on air. I pulled out the battery compressor that my parents gave me for Christmas and aired it up. 30 minutes later I was back o the road to Harlan.

I stopped at the Campground office to pay for camping and get a permit and a new map. Then I headed up the steep rugged road to the campground. This road has always been a challenge, but the recent heavy rains had it rutted out more than before. I put the Suburban in 4 low and pressed on. I could here my ramps bouncing, but I knew that if I lost momentum, there would be a scary trip backwards to deal with, so I just kept pressing on and up. Just as I was entering the campground, I met Neal on his way down. I was glad he noticed me and made room so I did not have to back off.

As I got ready to unload, I noticed that one of my ramps had not made the trip and I hoped it was on the trial up the mountain. I don’t need ramps to unload anyway so I dropped Scuffy off and headed down to look for it. Also, I also noticed that the map I just bought was not in the handful of stuff I left the office with.

I drove slowly down the road looking for my ramp and I was beginning to get worried when I saw it poking out the back of Evan’s Jeep. Thankfully Kevin had noticed it and picked it up on his way down to get a permit. I got my map and we all headed back up to camp. Evan helped me set up my tent while we waited for Scott P to arrive.

With the gang there for the day we headed out to the trails. Knowing that rain was predicted for later in the weekend, I suggested that we head straight to Lion’s Den. There was no argument so we studied the map and found the quickest way there.

Trail 45 that leads from camp to the top of the mountain makes for a good warm up. It is steep, narrow, rocky, muddy and has huge drop offs along with very tight switchbacks. We then made a run along the ridge on trial 15. The infamous stair steps on trail 15 now have a by pass. Good thing too as they have really been eroded out.

At the intersection of 15 and 12 some of us continued on the part of the trail that was blocked last time. Adam and I noticed trial 12 above us and a muddy climb connecting the two so he gave it a go. Adam made it up so I decided to give it a run. I was very pleasantly surprised at the traction I got from my Maxxis Buckshots and I made it up the hill easily.

Once we were all up, we headed on to Lion’s Den. We did pause briefly to play on a hill climb that I think is called Grace Trail. Part of us headed over the mountain peak by the radio tower while others went around on the lower trail. We all met back up at Lion’s Den.

As we were walking the trail to see just what Josh was up against, we heard the whine of Frost’s turbo on his Toyota. He was headed into the mouth of the Lion’s Den. Just getting into the entrance was a challenge due to the mud and huge rocks. As Frosty let his rig cool, Josh made his way into the entrance. But now he had to dodge a suitcase size rock that Frosty moved on his way up.

XJ Entering the Lion's Den
Josh enters the Lions Den in his Jeep Cherokee

The most prominent feature of Lion’s Den is a huge boulder that over hangs the trail where the vehicle has to make a four to six foot drop. The drop is less near the boulder but due to the overhang you scrape your roof. The drop is less away from the boulder but if you slip off the outside of the rock there is a long drop off the mountain into the trees.

Jeep XJ drops in to the Lion's Den
Jeep XJ drops in to the Lion's Den

Frosty and Josh made the scary drop both relatively uneventfully. Although I am sure it was much scarier from the driver seats. And knowing that this is the point of no return adds to drama.

Jeep Cherokee in the Lion's Den
Josh moves along through the Lion's Den

The next obstacle in Lion’s Den is a narrow squeeze. There is a ten foot tall boulder beside a tree with only about four feet between them. Even the narrow Toyota and the XJ will not fit. To pass through you have to place a tire either on the tree or on the rock. Or maybe a bit of both.

Toyota squeezed
Frosty makes it past the squeeze

Toyota Truck moves through the Lion's den
Frosty moves to the next obsatce in Lion's Den

Frosty made several tries using just his wheel power but eventually he decided to pull a winch cable. We strapped him to the peak of a rock in front of him with also gave an up pulling vector to the cable. With the assistance of the winch, Frosty made it through the squeeze but not without some damage to his custom doors.

Rock overhanging XJ
Josh's chop made clearing this rock a bit easier.

Josh learned form Frosty’s passage and lineup up a bit differently for the squeeze. Josh made good use of his new exo cage but still managed to hang his spare tire on an overhanging boulder. We had to remove it from the carrier for him to pass through.

Between a rock and a hard tree
Between a rock and a hard tree

Just past the squeeze you have to make a hard left turn. Again there is an overhanging rock and depending on how you land after the squeeze, you may be tucked will under it. Both Frosty and Josh used their winches to assist in making the turn. Josh’s stinger proved to be a slight hindrance here but it held up well to the abuse from the rocks.

XJ Jeep Cherokee squeezed
Josh works his way through the squeeze

Jeep XJ Cherokee narrow
Josh picks his way along the narrow ledge

Jeep cherokee XJ lions den rock
Josh lines up for the exit rock

The exit of Lion’s Den is a huge rock that is too tall and narrow to be driven over. Frosty and Josh tried different lines but both resorted to a winch cable to get them over when they both ended up on their cross members with all four tires in the air.

Toyota exits Lions Den
Toyota exits Lions Den
Jeep XJ exits Lions Den
Josh exits Lions Den

There was much rejoicing as we celebrated the victory of the Lion Tamers. All the engineering and fabrication time were made worth while by the successful passage through the Lion’s Den.

Lion's Den Harlan, Ky
Lion's Den Harlan, Ky