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Old 02-10-2013, 03:21 PM   #1
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Default Used XJ Buyer's Guide Checklist (Stuff to look for...)

Disclaimer - Please read this before biitching and complaining about this checklist:
Anyone interested in helping compile an exhaustive buyer's checklist for future Jeep XJ newcomers? The most common answer is the 0331 head issue and rust. But, there's more to check than just that, and lots of beginner's don't know where to start. If the list is too obvious for you, clearly, you're not the intended audience. It's for a beginner who is not an XJ veteran. For the others, it gives you a better idea of the budget you'll need, assuming you know how to do basic math. Buy the wrong XJ, and you may easily be looking at lots of repairs to get it driving right. There are plenty of people who can't afford to drastically underestimate the amount of work the XJ might need. It can also help to negotiate a better price when you uncover the repairs needed. If an XJ has a few things wrong, does it mean not to buy the XJ? Of course not! One should expect to make some repairs to any used car he buys. EVERY USED XJ WILL HAVE ISSUES. But, it's educational to know what they are, and to have a summary on common XJ issues, and helps build a more accurate sense of what it will take to get his XJ back to ship-shape. I've only had an XJ for a short time, but here is my contribution to a person who is new to buying an XJ.


What can you add to the inspection checklist?
  • Body
  • Check for rust. Anything beyond minimal rocker panel rust may be a dealbreaker for you. Floor pans, etc.
  • Check the front and rear unibody points around the bumpers front and rear.
    A PO might tell you its never been wrecked, but if you look closely you can find out if the unibody components are where they should be.
    If these are out of whack, you might have either alignment issues, or door closing/hatch closing issues.
  • Inspect exhaust. Listen for holes in exhaust
  • Check the tires for dry rot and low tread.
  • Check the steel wheels for surface rust.
  • Check saggy Rear Liftgate Struts. ($30 to replace)
  • Driver’s door check pin and bracket (door popping)
  • Do all doors seal properly? Aligned?
  • Check front suspension (Trackbar, control arms, Front Lower Steering Stabilizer, FrontSway Bar Bushings and End Links)
  • Check rear suspension (Are leaf springs flat? )
  • Inspect hubs and u-joints for play. (if you can jack it up)

    Engine
  • Test hood release cable
  • Check battery and cables for corrosion.
  • Oil leak: Check for valve cover gasket leak
  • Oil leak: Check for oil filter adapter gasket leak.
  • Oil leak: Check for Rear Main Seal leak.
  • Check for cracked exhaust manifold.
  • Check if coolant is green. Brown means no sale.
  • Inspect serpentine belt.
  • Check the oil level. Check for signs of coolant.
  • Check freeze plugs for leaks.
  • Visually inspect various brackets (AC, alternator, water pump) for small cracks.
  • Start engine with radiator cap off, and make sure no bubbles in coolant.
  • Is the engine cold? Try to start cold, to identify cold start issues that may go away once warmed up.
  • After warmed up, check the condition and smell of the tranny fluid. Brown or burnt I would consider something else.

    Interior
  • Test ALL windows, lock, switches, heater controls, etc.
    (They break. Test ALL of them. Test each passenger door lock and window switch.)
  • Check Rattling 4WD shifter
  • Test both seat's adjustment bar. Do they properly slide in their tracks?
  • Test front wiper and washer
  • Test rear wiper and washer
  • Test horn (means broken clockspring)
  • Test ALL headlights, blinkers, interior bulbs.
  • Verify fuel gauge works
  • Check for ant dashboard engine lights. Airbag light.
  • Test radio, and test each speaker. The speaker wires crack.
  • Test A/C. Cold?
  • Test heater for heat (clogged heater core, bad thermostat)
  • Test heater vents on ALL settings! (busted vacuum line)
  • Test fan on all speeds: busted setting 1-3 indicates blower motor resistor pack
  • Test NSS (Neutral Safety Switch) by starting it a few times after wiggling shifter.
    Should start every time. (When NSS breaks, it won't start in park, only Neutral)
  • Pull the covers on the rear insides of the cargo area and look for water to collect, which indicates the rear window seals leaking
  • Lift the rear seat bottom and see if the jack and jack parts are there, and their condition.
    If they are rusted, I would be weary as the vehicle might have been in a flood, or there are some rust holes you might not see directly.
  • If you can pull the corners of the front carpet up and see if the floor has any rusting. Could be a sign of being in a flood, or carpet not drying out (leaking heater core?)

    Driving
  • Does tranny clunk into gear? (Is this a dealbreaker?)
  • Test reverse
  • Make sure it idles smoothly.
  • Test if 4WD works.
  • Test brakes.
  • Test alignment (let go of wheel and see if it drives straight)
  • Test cruise control (means broken clockspring ...or broken vacuum ball under front bumper)
  • Get to highway speed and test for death wobble. (30-40mph)
  • Sharp turns. Any clunks or pops from the suspension?

Ask for a list of all work that has been done. If there are no service records, this may be a red flag to you.
Once you buy it: First replace all fluids.

What did I miss?

Last edited by BimmerJeeper; 03-26-2014 at 07:38 PM.
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Old 02-10-2013, 03:39 PM   #2
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you realize that even the newest XJs are more than 12 years old now right?

i guess if this list more of a haggling guide it would work.

but if you're going to buy an XJ, chances are you're going to have to man up and buy something with issues and fix them. i doubt that there are more than a handful of XJs on the road today that meet every standard on this list.


bringing it back to topic, you also want to make sure that the rear wiper and sprayer works. i've used mine a lot just in the few months that i've owned mine.

PS: service records really don't go a long way for me either. this isn't a high maintenance german sports car. if it's in your budget and you know what needs to be fixed then you're good to go. a tech at a dealership won't catch everything either.

Last edited by mitchlikesbikes; 02-10-2013 at 03:41 PM.
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Old 02-10-2013, 06:06 PM   #3
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Mitch, I added testing wipers to the list. Thank you.

What else did I miss?
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:13 AM   #4
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A list like this would have come in handy for me, being a beginner. My XJ suffers from rocker rust, and little did I know it had a neglected coolant system as well. I ended up laboriously changing all the engine freeze plugs that are located under the intake and exhaust manifolds. CHECK THOSE. They aren't too common to leak, but are a you-know-what to replace.

Also, check and make sure the heat works. If the heat doesn't work and the coolant system has neglected, you can bet your heater core needs replaced. Very difficult job.

As for the A/C....I have yet to ever know of a single XJ where the A/C actually worked. I wouldn't plan on it unless you want to fix it / pay for it to be fixed.

Check the fuel gauge, especially on 97+ models. The sending units on the fuel pumps notoriously go bad.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:26 AM   #5
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I hate Guides! Makes people ask dumb prices, and then you can't sell your stuff cause you want the price listed in the guide.

It is about what it is worth to you, and MARKET DEMAND. It is the same thing with full XJs. There can be a few thousand dollar difference depending on where you are. Around here in DC...everything is expensive.

On the same front I got a JK bumper for free because no one wanted it (it is a huge JK market here). In lower income areas...probably woulda had to pay $50-$100.

I paid $80 for my Canyon XJ Rims which included mounting, balancing, and nitrogen fill (I think) and installed! I gave away my stock rims (including caps).

Seasonally things change too. Who cares about an AC compressor in say November, versus March. Couldn't sell my snow tires (from my Subaru) all summer for as low as $150. Come late fall....$250 and sold em!
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:08 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormitecture View Post
I hate Guides! Makes people ask dumb prices, and then you can't sell your stuff cause you want the price listed in the guide.

It is about what it is worth to you, and MARKET DEMAND. It is the same thing with full XJs. There can be a few thousand dollar difference depending on where you are. Around here in DC...everything is expensive.

On the same front I got a JK bumper for free because no one wanted it (it is a huge JK market here). In lower income areas...probably woulda had to pay $50-$100.

I paid $80 for my Canyon XJ Rims which included mounting, balancing, and nitrogen fill (I think) and installed! I gave away my stock rims (including caps).

Seasonally things change too. Who cares about an AC compressor in say November, versus March. Couldn't sell my snow tires (from my Subaru) all summer for as low as $150. Come late fall....$250 and sold em!
Can mods please delete this post above?
It has absolutely nothing to do with the main topic.
Thank you.
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Old 02-11-2013, 05:10 AM   #7
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Pockets, the list already includes testing the heater and A/C.

I will add freeze plugs and fuel gauge.
Is it easier to see the leaky freeze plugs from above or below?

Thank you.

Last edited by BimmerJeeper; 02-11-2013 at 05:12 AM.
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:13 AM   #8
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- Test fan on all speeds: busted setting 1-3 indicates blower motor resistor pack
- HVAC on defrost/windshield and non-functioning cruise indicates vacuum leak
- Test NSS by starting it a few times after wiggling shifter. Should start every time
- Leaking heater control valve
- Misc signs of an oil leak (eg RMS)

You don't have the vac ball listed as a cruise issue

I somewhat agree with what stormitecture wrote in that guides without context or perspective can be misleading. Obviously this is not a price list but things to watch out for or haggle over. Like you mentioned, any used XJ will need something fixed. Maybe instead of sort tag for each item on how much it will take to fix it, considering knowledge, cost, and effort. Or changing the ordering to fall into categories along the same line. If the list is directed at novices this is what they'll really be after. (the bottom line lol)
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Old 02-11-2013, 11:38 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BimmerJeeper View Post
Pockets, the list already includes testing the heater and A/C.

I will add freeze plugs and fuel gauge.
Is it easier to see the leaky freeze plugs from above or below?

Thank you.
Right, I just felt that there should be clarification on the heater controls...you state that the controls should be tested but nothing about the heat itself. Let the engine get up to temperature and be sure heat comes out of there real good.

Anywho, on the freeze plugs it's about half and half, You can see the front two from the front of the engine but others you have to crawl underneath. The two on the back of the head and block can't be seen too easily. A mirror helps with checking them all out.
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Old 02-11-2013, 12:59 PM   #10
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you should definitely test to make sure there isn't a blanket stuck in the rear hatch or anything that would need the Jeep to be jacked up, because that isn't safe.
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Old 02-11-2013, 07:17 PM   #11
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Salad, solid contribution. Thanks. I added them to the master list.
Can you explain the following? Where is it, what you're looking for, etc.

1) HVAC on defrost/windshield and non-functioning cruise indicates vacuum leak
2) Leaking heater control valve
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:11 PM   #12
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Very comprehensive list. If you find an xj for sale that meets this vBulletin list let me know! Everyrime I look at one I throw it in 4 wd an give some wider turns on pavement. Gives u an idea if the ujs are good at the wheel. Also bearings
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Old 02-11-2013, 08:27 PM   #13
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The HVAC mode doors and the cruise control's throttle cable solenoid get their vacuum from this central reservoir: http://i200.photobucket.com/albums/a...e/DSCN3658.jpg

Their individual vacuum lines both run there, but a failure of both of them would indicate a crack in the ball (behind the bumper, not hard to see how that might happen) or the vacuum line to the ball from the intake manifold is broken or disconnected. Symptoms would be vent only blows on defrost, and cruise control looks like it's turned on but doesn't maintain speed.

Heater control valve was pre-'97 and controlled flow of coolant through the heater core. Post '97 models don't have this troublesome plastic piece and rely solely on the blend door. They're prone to cracking and leaking coolant. http://www.cherokeeforum.com/attachm...ter_core_4.jpg A common fix is to just bypass them with full-length hoses or just splice the existing together with some pipes.
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Old 02-11-2013, 09:49 PM   #14
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Check Air filter- shows neglect.
At same time this is a good spot for blow-by. If oil is on the filter then there is most likely ring wear.
Look at motor mounts and brackets. Bolts can sheer off especially on passenger side.

Check diff fluids. rear rubber plug front 3/8 ratchet. just check for metal shavings/mud/water.
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Old 02-11-2013, 11:41 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BatmanXJ View Post
At same time this is a good spot for blow-by. If oil is on the filter then there is most likely ring wear.
Nooot really. It's a good indication if you've just cleaned out your CCV, but if the rear CCV orifice is clogged then you'll have mess all over the air filter with otherwise normal rings.
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