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2000 XJ Cherokee cracked head advice

Old 03-04-2019, 10:34 PM
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Question 2000 XJ Cherokee cracked head advice

Hey guys! I am new here and not very experienced when it comes to working on cars or diagnosing issues so I am here looking for some advice on my jeep xj. It is a 2000 sport 4x4 with about 200k miles and it has either a cracked head or a blown head gasket. It has the 0331 molding as well.

Since buying it about 20k miles ago, it has always had a slow coolant leak and seemed to run a little hot, at about 210.

Recently after driving for a few hours on the freeway on a hot day I hit some traffic and when I came to a stop the temp gauge shot up all the way. The car continued to run fine but I quickly pulled over and let it cool down.

The next day when it was cold the coolant level was very low in the radiator so I topped it off (about 1/2 gallon was needed) and drove home, about 150 miles, and no issues except it was running about 220 most of the time.

I took it to a shop where they did a block test with the blue combustion leak fluid and confirmed that either the gasket is blown, the head is cracked, or both.

I do not want to spend the 3k they wanted to replace the head, nor do I want to spend the 5-6k on a new engine. I am open to trying to replace the head myself but I simply cannot afford it at this time.

I checked the oil level and is definitely past the full mark by quite a bit, and the inside of the oil cap has white residue and the oil looks like chocolate milk, so after doing some research I trust that the shop was correct and that I do have either a blown gasket or cracked head.

I cannot afford to fix the car right now, but would like to preserve it as best I can until I have some money to fix it properly. I have another vehicle so I don't mind letting this one sit for a while as long as it is not going to cause further damage to the engine. I plan on draining the milky oil and refilling with new oil so that is not sitting the way it is now.

Are there any other recommendations for things I can/should do if I plan on having the car sit for 6-8 months? Should I drain the cooling system too? If so should I leave it empty or refill that with clean coolant? I don't see signs of oil in the coolant, but there are definitely signs of coolant in the oil.

If the head is cracked, would I be better off with an entire new engine or just swapping out the head and gasket with new ones? I am looking at a new Titan head, but wondering if a brand new head will cause more issues if I put it on an engine with 200k miles. If I do replace the head are there other components that should be replaced as well?

Thanks for the time and any advice everyone!
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Old 03-04-2019, 11:26 PM
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A new head will take care of the top end, but what concernes me most are the crank and cam bearings. Continued driving with coolant in the oil will wipe them out eventually. Youve been driving it for the last 20k miles with unexplained coolant loss + the 0331 head, so i say expect the worst and start saving up.
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Old 03-05-2019, 04:35 AM
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I would drain the coolant and leave it drained. After changing the oil I would run it for a few seconds to burn off any antifreeze in the cylinders and purge the pudding out of the bearings.

You could periodically circulate oil as well by turning the engine over without the spark plugs in.

An oil/antifreeze mix creates organic acids that will pit the bearing surfaces and cause rust and tarnish so you got to get that stuff out of there.

If you had/have good oil pressure and don't hear any racket the block might > should be OK.

Why not start tearing it down now to assess the damage?

Meanwhile start looking for a used replacement head. Given the time frame you might find one cheap and be able to do the job for ~$250 (50 bucks for gasket set and $200 for head).

Use http://www.car-part.com to search there's a ton of them out there.

Make sure it's a TUPY 0331.

Last edited by Dave51; 03-05-2019 at 04:47 AM.
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Old 03-05-2019, 04:55 AM
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Also list your location. There may be a member near you who would be willing to help.
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Old 03-05-2019, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by fb97xj1 View Post
A new head will take care of the top end, but what concernes me most are the crank and cam bearings. Continued driving with coolant in the oil will wipe them out eventually. Youve been driving it for the last 20k miles with unexplained coolant loss + the 0331 head, so i say expect the worst and start saving up.
This. ^^^^^
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Old 03-05-2019, 11:55 AM
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Thank you for the advice I will definitely drain the coolant as well then.

Honestly I am not very mechanically confident, which is why I haven't started any work on it yet. I'm not sure I would be able to asses what the damage is even done when I do have it open because I have never worked on cars before and am not sure would be able to asses it properly.

As for oil pressure, it was definitely a little low at idle, but would increase when I would accelerate. Sometimes when I would start the car when it was really cold out the oil pressure gauge would shoot all the way to the right, and then I would usually just turn the car off and try again and it would go back to normal/slightly low.

I didn't hear any rattle in the engine though, at least nothing I was able to recognize as another symptom. It has always sounded pretty good to me and always about the same since I bought it.
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Old 03-05-2019, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave51 View Post
Also list your location. There may be a member near you who would be willing to help.
Northern California, Humboldt County
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Old 03-05-2019, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave51 View Post
I would drain the coolant and leave it drained. After changing the oil I would run it for a few seconds to burn off any antifreeze in the cylinders and purge the pudding out of the bearings.

You could periodically circulate oil as well by turning the engine over without the spark plugs in.

An oil/antifreeze mix creates organic acids that will pit the bearing surfaces and cause rust and tarnish so you got to get that stuff out of there.

If you had/have good oil pressure and don't hear any racket the block might > should be OK.

Why not start tearing it down now to assess the damage?

Meanwhile start looking for a used replacement head. Given the time frame you might find one cheap and be able to do the job for ~$250 (50 bucks for gasket set and $200 for head).

Use http://www.car-part.com to search there's a ton of them out there.

Make sure it's a TUPY 0331.

Thank you for the advice I will definitely drain the coolant as well then.

Honestly I am not very mechanically confident, which is why I haven't started any work on it yet. I'm not sure I would be able to asses what the damage is even done when I do have it open because I have never worked on cars before and am not sure would be able to asses it properly.

As for oil pressure, it was definitely a little low at idle, but would increase when I would accelerate. Sometimes when I would start the car when it was really cold out the oil pressure gauge would shoot all the way to the right, and then I would usually just turn the car off and try again and it would go back to normal/slightly low.

I didn't hear any rattle in the engine though, at least nothing I was able to recognize as another symptom. It has always sounded pretty good to me and always about the same since I bought it.
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Old 03-05-2019, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by fb97xj1 View Post
A new head will take care of the top end, but what concernes me most are the crank and cam bearings. Continued driving with coolant in the oil will wipe them out eventually. Youve been driving it for the last 20k miles with unexplained coolant loss + the 0331 head, so i say expect the worst and start saving up.
If the crank and cam bearings are shot would it be better to just get a new engine altogether? How would I diagnose their integrity when I remove the head? I have never even seen any of those parts before so I wouldn't know what to look for.

I really do love this car. It is completely stock and someday I would love to turn it into an full on off road rig, and like I said I have another vehicle so even if it would take a couple years to save up for that kind of work if that is really the best option to keep it going for a long time I might consider it..

Otherwise if a new head, gasket, crank and bearings are a better/cheaper option I would consider that too.
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Old 03-05-2019, 03:22 PM
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Lots of miles/time with an antifreeze leak, high temperature for extended driving, high oil level and low oil pressure are all unfortunate signs. I would expect significant damage and almost certainly a cracked head. Cam shaft, main bearings, etc. is a lot of work requiring some experience with that type of thing and likely something you will not want to tackle. It may not be money well spent to have someone else start it as there is still the risk of significant cylinder wall wear due to oil dilution and 200k miles. Searching for a known good engine that can be swapped into your Jeep is one of the better options. A lower mile engine that was running when the vehicle was damaged in an accident would be a great find. You have time so begin a search.

It would be great if you can store the Jeep where it is not exposed to weather and critters. Put mouse traps around. I don’t think it matters much if it is stored with or without antifreeze. Antifreeze is a corrosion inhibitor and will help preserve the radiator and heater core. If it was me I would store it with antifreeze but not just water.
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Old 03-05-2019, 03:55 PM
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As far as your oil pressure goes, it's normal for 4.0 to be between 15 and 20 psi at idle.
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Old 03-05-2019, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Uriah_P View Post
How would I diagnose their integrity when I remove the head? .
One way to get a fairly scientific assessment of the mechanical health of an engine is to do an oil analysis. Your shop has already done a combustion gas test that strongly indicates head related issues (positive points for them as this is fast and inexpensive). The cost of oil analysis is around $30. Obtaining the sample it is quick to perform and requires no special skills or tools. An oil analysis will give an idea of how much water and antifreeze are in the oil and most importantly the wear metals present. Your sample will be compared by the lab to averages for this type of engine. If the metals found in the oil are many times higher than averages it helps confirm significant engine damage. The types of metal found is used to point to likely sources - cast iron from the block, lead from bearings, and aluminum from piston skirts. The lab report should break this out for your oil sample. If you take an oil sample follow the labs recommendations. If you see lots of metal flakes or glitter looking stuff in the oil you might just stop there as that is a bad sign of heavy wear/damage.

I have been very happy with Blackstone Labs. If they think your engine is in serious trouble they will tell you that in plain language along with their reasoning. You don’t have to be a materials scientist to decode the results. : www.blackstone-labs.com

Last edited by third coast; 03-05-2019 at 04:53 PM.
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Old 03-05-2019, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by third coast View Post
I donít think it matters much if it is stored with or without antifreeze.
It may depending on what is blown, cracked, etc. It could end up leaking into the crankcase and the effort to get it cleaned up would be for naught (assuming we're still trying to make an effort to save this engine).

If we're writing this thing off then don't waste money on oil and antifreeze.

That said, there is nothing KNOWN here other than you need a head gasket. The head could be OK or maybe it got changed out to a TUPY already. If we're going to make an assumption, IMO the assumption to make is the crank and cam bearings are OK until proven otherwise. I mean, we're talking a difference of $250 to $6000 here.

I need a signature... wait one.
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Old 03-05-2019, 05:24 PM
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How's this look?
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Old 03-05-2019, 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Uriah_P View Post
... I am not very mechanically confident, which is why I haven't started any work on it yet....
No prob. Take a look at the job. I love these guys!

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