Transfer case replacement – Jeep Cherokee

Replacing a Jeep Cherokee Transfer case

Yesterday a friend called saying her transfer case was leaking. I was expecting a seal leak but it turned out that there was a hole in the case itself.

I had also planned to drive it to the shop but with the fluid rapidly exiting the case, I decided to trailer it. When I got there with the trailer, the ramps were frozen to the trailer bed. It took some banging to get them loose.

With her Jeep in the shop, I picked it up and inspected further. There was indeed a hole in the transfer case. It looked like it was punched from the inside. Although, it made no strange noises when I drove it on the trailer.

I began by draining the rest of the fluid. Then I supported the transmission. Next I removed the front and rear drive shafts. An 8MM hex wrench was all that was needed.

I then unbolted the transmission mount using a 13MM socket. Then I dropped the cross member by removing the 15MM bolts and nuts that hold it up. That gave me access to the transmission mount that is held to the transmission by two 18MM bolts. These bolts have thread locking compound on them and are hard to turn all the way out. I inspected the mount which is often broken in high mileage vehicles like this one but it was fine. Next I slipped the exhaust mount off the tab.

Rather than mess with the shift linkage bushing in the cold, I unbolted the shift lever from the transfer case. I selected 2wd and used a 9/16 wrench to remove the nut and washer. I carefully lowered the linkage out of the way.

Next I removed the speedometer drive by unbolting the 13MM retaining bolt and removing the clip. I left the sender attached to the wiring harness. I pulled the harness away from the mounting tab on top of the case. I unplugged the mode light switch and moved the wiring out of the way.

Next I unbolted the six 9/16 nuts that hold the case to the transmission. Five are accessed using a box end wrench. The last one is behind the transfers case shift linkage bracket and has to be accessed using a 9/16 socket and a long extension. The two near the exhaust pipe take some patience to get off unless you remove the exhaust pipe. Since this one was in good shape and welded in place, I left it alone. Lowering the case down helps get access to these two nuts.

With the six nuts off, the transfer case slides easily off the transmission. I then prepared the replacement case to go back in by putting it in 4wd. This allowed me to rotate the front yoke and make the input splines turn to line them up. With the replacement case in place I started a nut to hold in there.

Next I tightened all six nuts. I then reinstalled the shift linkage, wiring harness and speedometer drive. I then reinstalled the front drive shaft as it is easier to access with the cross member out of the way. I filled the transfer case with fluid before putting up the rear drive shaft as it is easier to get the bottle in place with out the drive shaft in the way. The 231 holds a little more than a quart of ATF.

I then put up the exhaust bracket and transmission mount. Again, these bolts are hard to turn due to the thread locking compound on them. I then put up the cross member and bolted it to the body before lowering the weight of the transmission onto the cross member. I then reinstalled the four nuts that hold the transmission mount to the cross member.

Then, I reinstalled the rear drive shaft. I checked for leaks and loose bolts and then lowered the Jeep for a test drive. The replacement transfer case worked fine and shifted to all gears with out adjusting the linkage.

I plan to pull the broken transfer case apart to see what caused the hole. I will post an update when I do that.
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Ball Joint Replacement Jeep Cherokee XJ

This weekend I replaced the driver’s side ball joints in Jenny’s Jeep Cherokee. Ever since our last trip to Harlan, she has had a very loud and very annoying creak in her Jeep when she turned the wheel.

At first I thought it was the track bar because there was some slop at the frame end joint. Also the track bar bracket was loose where it mounts to the body. However with both of these problems corrected, she still had a creak.

It took so me time but we eventually tracked it tot eh ball joints. Most likely the lower joint because that one does not have a grease fitting. To find the squeak, I had her turn the wheel back and forth while I listened underneath. I could tell it was coming from the knuckle. I put my hand on the knuckle and could feel a vibration when it made the noise.

Using the procedure I wrote in the Ball Joint Replacement article, we replaced the drivers side ball joints. I used the hammer more this time and managed not to bend my Harbor Freight Ball Joint press.

With the wheel back on the Jeep is much quieter. There are still some noises but these are more in the normal range for a lifted Jeep XJ with well over 200,000 miles.
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Power Steering Pump – Jeep Cherokee

My power steering pump started growling at Harlan. When I backed my Cherokee out of the barn last week, there was a huge puddle of power steering fluid on the floor. At first I was not sure it was from my Jeep but after cleaning it up and parking the Jeep back inside again there was another puddle of fluid.

While testing the new trails Saturday, I lost all steering assist for a moment and tagged a tree. I decided to put Scuffy away for the day and let Princess play by her self.

I checked the lines and the reservoir for leaks and found none. It must have been leaking through the pump seal.

I have a 94 parts Jeep but the part number for the power steering pump is different for the 88. I looked at the pump and it appeared to have the same mounting bracket. The reservoir is visibly different but the pump itself looked the same. But they have different part numbers.

In the process of removing the pump from the parts donor XJ, I broke off the return nipple. It was very cold and the hose stuck. The brittle plastic snapped before the hose slipped off.

I removed the reservoir from the 94 pump and inspected the connection point. It mounts in a hole sealed with an O ring. The tank is held on by a couple of tapered clips that come off easily with a hammer and punch.

I removed the pump from my 88 Jeep and noticed that the mounting bracket was exactly the same. The pressure hose looked the same. Only the routing of the return hose was different.

Since the donor reservoir was broken anyway, I decided to see if the tanks would swap. I removed the tank from my old pump and saw that it had the same O ring connection. I simply installed my old tank on the donor pump. I even used the bracket from the donor since it was easier to leave it assembled to the pump.

With it all bolted back up, I filled the reservoir with fluid and started it up. There seem to be no leaks. There was a bit of fluid slung off the belt but I hope that was from the old leak. I will give it a full test run later.

I was very happy to have saved $170 that a new pump would have cost. I was also happy not to have to remove and replace the pulley.

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Lowering the Transfer Case on a Jeep Cherokee

Lowering the Transfer Case on a Jeep Cherokee

One common method to deal with drive shaft vibrations on a Lifted Jeep Cherokee is to lower the transfer case one inch to reduce the drive line angles. The pinion is rotated up slightly by using longer shackles or axle shims.

While there are various transfer case lowering kits available in the after market and even one from the Jeep dealer, they all serve the same function: they space the cross member down one inch from the unibody frame rail.

The spacers can be made in a variety of ways. On simple way is to take a piece of 1 inch square tubing or bar stock and drill two holes in it. Another method is to use a stack of washers or a piece of pipe cut one inch long and wrapped around each mounting bolt.

The original mounting bolts must be replaced with longer bolts and the two mounting studs must be removed from the frame. Normally these are replaced with bolts as well.

Bolting a dropped cross member into place can be a challenge. As the transmission engine unit drops it tends to move to the right. Without the studs to align the cross member, it is necessary to hold the cross member in place while starting the bolt into the threaded part of the frame. Because the bolt is now one inch longer, it is easy to cross thread it.

Also, since the cross member hangs down further below the Jeep it is easily impacted by rocks and other obstacles. It is possible to bend the nutsert in the frame making it even more difficult to get the bolts started once the cross member is removed for any reason.

One solution to the bolt problem is to make a longer stud instead of using four long bolts. This will help align the cross member when it is being installed and reduce the change of cross threading. If the nutserts are damaged, you may have to cut into the floor and install a bolt form the top of the frame. Alternately you can weld in a stud from below.

Another problem with the lowered cross member is the angle of the exhaust. The down pipe from the manifold is bolted to the cross member. As the cross member drops, the catalytic converter and the muffler will move down as well if nothing is done to compensate in the exhaust system. The pressure put on the hanger behind the muffler will exceed the strength of the rubber hanger. Also the increased pressure will cause the muffler to crack where the tail pipe exits over time unless the exhaust system is modified.

Having the transfer case sit lower also puts an extra strain on the transfer case shift linkage. If the transmission mount is worn the linkage can slip out of the body mount during off road flexing. When this occurs, the transfer case will not shift from 4wd to 2wd until the linkage is replaced in the bracket.

To eliminate the need to drop the transfer case, a Slip Yoke Eliminator kit is available for the transfer case and when used with a double cardon drive shaft, the transfer case can be used in its original position. See How to install a SYE for more information.

UPDATE: I noticed that the transmission mount for the five speed is about an inch thinner than the one for the automatic. I have not tried it yet but it looks like you could use a manual mount on an automatic to achieve a 1″ drop without lowering the cross member.

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How to replace the track bar on a Jeep Cherokee

How to Change the track bar on a Jeep Cherokee

The track bar locates the front axle side to side on a Jeep Cherokee. The stock bar consists of a rubber bushing at the axle end and a tie rod end at the frame joint. The frame end joint generally wears out first.

To determine if the track bar is bad, hold your hand on the frame end joint while an assistant turns the steering wheel back and forth. Any movement here means the bar is bad.

To replace the bar begin with the vehicle weight still on the axle. Locate the steering so that the 15mm head bolt that fastens the track bar to the axle is accessible. Remove the bolt. There is a special nut with a tab on it behind the axle. Pull it out after the bolt is free.

Now lift the vehicle to a comfortable working height. Remove the cotter key from the mounting bolt. Use a ¾ inch box end wrench to loosen the nut. Do not remove it completely at this time. Run it up even with the top of the bolt.

Use a tie rod end removal tool to press the tapered link out of the frame mount. My favorite is the pesto tie rod puller from JC Whitney    ( Since that tool is no longer available try this one from Amazon) that accesses the joint from the side. Hammer the puller between the bar and the mount. This will likely damage the rubber boot. Put a moderate amount of pressure on the puller by tightening the bolt on the puller.

Then use a hammer to hit the frame bracket. Hit it hard. The idea is to temporarily deform the tapered hole enough to loosen its grip on the pin. When the bar pops loose, the puller will likely fall so watch your toes.

Remove the nut the rest of the way and remove the bar. Clean the tapered hole.

On the new bar, note the location of the cotter pin hole. Be sure it is rotated in a way that will allow you to put in a new pin once it is installed in the cavity.

Slip the tapered pin into the hole. Tighten the nut. Align one of the castle nut opening s with the hole in the pin. Insert a new cotter key and bend it back over the top of the pin.

Lower the Jeep to put weight back on the axle. Fit the axle end of the bar in the bracket and align the hole. The easiest way to align the hole is to have an assistant turn the steering wheel while you line up the bolt with the hole. Alternately you can push or pull the Jeep side to side to line up the holes.

Slip the bolt in and hold the special nut up behind it and carefully start the threads. Run the bolt in but do not tighten it fully. Bounce the Jeep a few times to settle the bushing in place. Then tighten the bolt.

Grease the frame end joint if it is fitted with a grease fitting.


Tie rod removal tool