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Early 2000's GC - reliable?

Old 10-21-2015, 01:45 PM
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Default Early 2000's GC - reliable?

Hi all,

I mainly play in the regular Cherokee tech area, but my sister in law is looking for a new car/suv and picked out a few Grand Cherokee's that she likes. She currently has a 1990 Toyota Celica 1.6L, so really anything is an improvement at this point haha.

Most of the ones I've seen are 2001-04, and pretty much have to be the 4.0L straight 6, auto trans and 4x4. The general mileage on the ones I've seen have been 125-160k, too high?

What are some of the major problems on this platform? I've seen quite a few posts/complaints about trans problems. Anything else I should know about?
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Old 10-21-2015, 02:24 PM
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As you can see from my info to the left, I own a 2000 4.0/ 242 t/case and love it. I bought my clean one-owner with 123K on it and now have 180K on it. The only problem I had with it beside normal replacement items was the 0331 cylinder head, which as you know was a problem from 99-01, even on the XJ's. It cost me $1200 parts & labor to replace it.

The 42re gets a bad rap. If it's maintained and not abused, it's a good transmission. Mine had a T-Tech service (total fluid exchange) at 120K and I just replaced the filter and pan gasket at 180K. The pan was clean and the magnet had just a tiny bit of "hair" on it. Just to be safe, I let it warm up in neutral for a minute or 2 before starting out first thing in the morning. The only trouble I've had with it was starting it up and immediately throwing it into reverse at -15*F. It just sat there and whined. Since then, I warm it up first.

As far as "bells & whistles" are concerned, the dual zone climate control heater and the A/C seem to be the major problems. Mine is the base model Laredo without all that fancy stuff.

I've replaced a lot of bits and pieces, but nothing major beside that damned head!

Last edited by dave1123; 10-21-2015 at 02:27 PM.
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Old 10-21-2015, 03:50 PM
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Those bells and whistles soon turn into headaches and pains in the ****.
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Old 10-21-2015, 07:39 PM
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I have the 2004 Laredo as well. I live in Las Vegas so I have upgraded the cooling system, to a three row radiator. The only problems I have had with mine thus far is some of the sensors have had to be replaced but I think that's pretty much normal with 135,000 miles. I bought it with 18,000 on it, so as you can see if it's maintained it will last a long time. I currently get about 16-18 mpg and that's pretty much city or highway depending how heavy my foot is that day. It has the 4.0 inline 6, with the 242 transfer case and the "select track", mated to the auto trans. I have made some mods to it but not crazy things. 2" lift, iron rock off road short arm kit, super chip, k&n cold air intake, borla cat back exhaust, currently running 31's on american racing 16x8 ledge rims. Going to put 32's on soon. Eventually front & rear bumpers and roof rack, some lights.
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Old 10-22-2015, 12:32 AM
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Just depends if the jeep has been taken care of or has it been used and abused.Taken care of they can run a long time,If its been abused its a ticking time bomb before things go bad.
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Old 10-22-2015, 07:00 AM
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^^ X2
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Old 10-22-2015, 11:20 AM
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I am new to this. I've owned my 2000 WJ for under a year. I did a lot of research before purchasing and it revealed some inherent patterns of weakness. Blower doors on both the single zone and dual zone heaters are more likely, rather than less likely to fail, as is the heater core. I had the heater core problem in mine. I lucked out and the place I bought it from replaced it for me. The transmissions are another area. I see many Jeeps of this era on Craigs List with bad transmissions. You also read that if you take care of them and don't abuse them, they can last. I find that interesting since these vehicles are sold on their toughness and off road ability so to me they should last longer without being babied. That image invites people to take em out and beat em up, so you never know what your getting with a used one.

The other problem I ran into with mine was the Power Control Module. It controls everything and the vehicle won't run without it. Because I had this problem, I was forced to learn about it. It seems the older these vehicles get, the more likely they are to fail. Problem is, they are no longer available new. The fix can be either inexpensive, or expensive depending on where you purchase the replacement. Mine is on it's 3rd, as far as I know. The stock module was replaced with a cheap after market one. That one lasted a year. I have a dealer installed one now that cost upwards of $1300.

A minor irritation I have is the horn goes off randomly when we unlock the doors. I have the control set not to do that, but it does but only, unpredictably. They get really bad gas mileage. I am averaging 13mpg with my combined driving.

I love the way it looks. I love driving it. I am stuck with it because if I tired to sell it now, I would lose more than I have in it. And given my experience with mine and what i know about them I still like it.

I have had other Jeeps. A 85 Cherokee and a 84 and 86 CJ. To sum up my experience with all of them. If you want a turn key, drive it and forget it vehicle, get a Chevy or Ford. My Jeeps have all been what I call "relationship" vehicles. You end up having a relationship with them because they are so needy.

There are of course many pluses. Becoming a member of a forum like this is one. It builds a sense of community with people you are likely never to meet in person, who share a common interest. It makes you feel better about the vehicle you drive because even as technical and complex as they are you learn a great deal about them which fosters independence and self reliance. Its a great feeling to have a knowledge base to turn to when you have a problem that can either help you fix it your self, (always rewarding) or know what's going on if somebody else does.

Maybe this is to much information. I am looking for another one. This time I am wanting a single owned vehicle with maintenance records.
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Old 10-22-2015, 02:33 PM
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Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance!

I shopped for my 97 GC for a while. The main thing to me was a car that was maintained, and I found it. A couple who did oil, trans, X-fer, diff cases oil changes regular. Repaired things as needed. Had documentation for it all. Almost 200,000 miles and It runs smooth and like a champ. The Transmission is strong and stout. Radiator flushed regularly and such.
City driven San Diego commuter, when I was checking it out to buy, the seller was afraid to have me put it in 4wd, as he'd never used it!

And I'm continuing the Mx. Before next summer up here in the desert, water pump, rad., thermostat and all will be changed out.(I had some temp issues with it last summer, what'd I expect bringing a San Diego car from maybe 80F highs to 112F highs LOL).

Anyways, my 2c, patients shopping and provable maintenance.
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Old 10-22-2015, 06:16 PM
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Okay, good point! The 42re is not the most reliable transmission to withstand the torture of off-road usage. The AW4 in the Cherokees is a much better trans for that. However, because of the electronics involved, a swap to it is not an easy thing to do.

The whole point of building the Grand Cherokee was to appeal to the market of people who wanted the capability of a jeep with a little more comfort on the road. Take the Wrangler for instance. They didn't sell in great numbers until they made an automatic transmission available. The bottom line is the number of units sold.

The PCM (Powertrain Control Module) is a computer that must control spark timing and fuel mixture settings under all kinds of weather and temperature situations as well as other functions. Today, it controls just about everything in a vehicle that needs monitoring and adjustment while driving. That small box under the hood has as much power as your desktop PC at home.

Most dealership technicians don't know much about vehicles that are more than 10 years old and the parts departments don't stock for more than 5. Oh..there are good techs that are familiar with the older ones, but they are few. The Parts Manager at my local dealership is a Moparhead from WAY back, and knows what he's talking about. He's also willing to help.

What I've learned from him is interesting about the 42re. You've probably heard about the broken snap-ring problem in the OD unit? HE says that's caused most often by using the shifter to change direction instead of braking first. I've been very careful about that since he told me that. There is a 600 lb spring behind that clutch.

To sum it all up, the XJ is an off-road vehicle that's good on the street. The ZJ is a street car with off-road capabilities. JMHO, but I think that sums it up.
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Old 10-23-2015, 03:14 AM
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Off road depends your pockets,If you want a cheap off roader its hard to beat a xj,More of a light off roader the grands can be fun with a lift and bigger tires.Some even build hard core rigs out of the grands but they spend a lot doing it.Around me i see a ton of xjs lifted i have only see 2 grands so far lifted the rest are just suvs on the road.
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Old 10-23-2015, 08:38 AM
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I think the big factor here is the Cherokees in good condition are getting hard to find, especially ones that haven't been modified and beat. There are a lot more Grands (ZJs) to be had, but even they are getting hard to find. The WJ's are good, but mods for them can get expensive.
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Old 10-23-2015, 11:19 AM
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Thanks for all the input guys!

Pretty much what I figured, I would need to find one in pretty good shape already with good maintenance records. Since this would be for my sister in law, she would be doing a grand total of ZERO off roading haha. But she wants an SUV, so it either has to be FWD or have 4wd capability, I don't trust her to have anything RWD.

Not sure why, but I didn't realize the XJ uses the AW4 trans and the WJ uses the 42RE. I assumed since they were both 4.0's they used the same trans with a different transfer case. But I get it now! The screen on my AW4 at 202k miles was perfectly clean, with barely anything on the magnets.

The PCM going bad sounds annoying, those usually aren't cheap fixes. None of this really scares me, but she won't be as forgiving as I will when things break. And more importantly, I'll be the one doing all the work if things do break

On craigslist I've seen a few cheap ones with either head problems or trans problems. Haven't had any luck yet finding a well-cared for one.
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Old 10-23-2015, 01:54 PM
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You don't say much about the vehicle. If you have good maintenance records from the existing owner. I'd say that's a plus.
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Old 10-23-2015, 04:27 PM
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Of course I am biased, but the jeep 4WD systems are the best for snow and mud. Most other All Wheel Drive systems are so-so or very expensive (Mercedes). Some are front wheel priority, meaning the rear only comes in sometimes.

The cylinder head is easy to change as long as it was caught before coolant destroyed the bearings. I bought the "Clearwater" head for $455 complete with valves and shipping. My friendly mechanic only charged me $800 to install it. Luckily mine only cracked into the exhaust port and not in the valve cover area. The increased cylinder pressure of the new valves has it using a little oil between changes now, but hey, it's got 180K on it!

You can expect to spend between $1200 and $3000 on a transmission, depending on if you do it yourself or have it done by somebody.
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