Saturday, May 19, 2012

Never Under Estimate Preventive Maintenance

While this Jeep has pretty smooth acceleration, the idle seemed a bit rough and the air cleaner sounded like it was trying to suck too hard.  I intentionally waited on some maintenance until I received my factory service manual.  Up until now, I have just been doing little things here and there as time permitted, but today I really wanted to get under the coil packs and check out those spark plugs.  Spark plugs tell you a lot about your engine's health, and you should never dismiss it.  I wasn't, however, going to remove the plugs from an engine with 132,000 miles without having a new set ready to go in.  Why do all that work for nothing?

Sticking to what I found already, I picked up these Champion plugs from Autozone.  They come pre-gapped at .035" and are ready to install.  Of course, I always put anti-seize on the threads to save myself a headache down the road when these need to come back out.  Champion plugs are decent and will work for this application.  The coil pack is a pain in the butt to remove, so it was worth the effort to get these new ones in before attempting to get the coil pack back onto the engine.

It turns out I may not have a rear main seal leak after all.  I had noticed a bit of oil on the bottom of the bell housing cover, and assumed the worst.  But after seeing this buildup, I can say for sure that the valve cover gasket needs to be replaced.  Will tackle that on another day.  Oh yeah, and the rearmost spark plug had oil sitting on the threads.  Yup, the valve cover gasket is leaking, and right onto the spark plug.  I went ahead and degreased this entire side of the engine before doing anything constructive.

All back together now with a freshly cleaned and charged K&N Air-aid filter.  The filter came with the Jeep, but it was so dirty and had so much crap built up on the pleats that I found it amazing that any air could get through.  Now instead of the intake making a whistling sound when the hood is opened, it is very quiet.  The Jeep idles almost as smooth as my 2007 Saturn Ion, and it doesn't make the exhaust drone in the back anymore.  Yeah, that's another thing I need to find... what is loose back there to make the exhaust vibrate.  Acceleration is immediate, smooth, and even more authoritative than when I first got it.

I still need to tackle other maintenance items, like the belt (it squeaks sometimes on startup), and I need to boost the air conditioning to make it blow colder.  I already cleaned the battery terminals and tightened the cables up on them; I could remove both without tools prior to today.  All in all, these are the things you need to look at when you buy a used rig.  None of these maintenance items was difficult at all, and should be expected when you buy an eleven year old vehicle.  But just because I bought used doesn't mean it needs to drive like it is.

Some other items down the road, as time and money permit, are shocks, tires, and I'm going to put that budget boost on there so I can clear 30 or 31" tires.  Those 29" Hancook tires are great street tires, but they failed immediately when I drove this Jeep into some deep snow.

Until then,


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Glass Restoration and Scratch Removal

After taking the Jeep out to the woods for the first time, it came back pretty dirty, so I broke out the bucket of soapy water and gave it a wash.  It was evident that some of the scratches on the Jeep might come out rather easily, as they didn't appear to be too deep.  A little elbow grease and some Turtle wax ought to do the trick.

This scratch was probably caused be a tree when the previous owner got too close.  There are some small cosmetic dents associated with it, but nothing I can't fix with a hammer, dolly, a little bondo, and some patience.  In the meantime, I'm not too worried about the dent.  But why cause the human eye to focus on it when you can hide it easy enough?

Voila!  That took all of 2 minutes of some good up and down buffing with nothing more than a little turtle wax and a household wash cloth.  Removing scratches is not only important because they ruin a black vehicle's appearance, but scratches invite all kinds of crap to get lodged in them at the microscopic level and eat away at the paint underneath.  The next thing you know, the clear coat bubbles up and peels off.  I've witnessed this over the years with older vehicles and I'm determined not to let it happen to this one.  These little dents and scratches run the entire length of the passenger side.  I'm eventually gonna get to cleaning it up for good, but for today, it was a free fix to buff out the scratches and make the cosmetic issues less of an issue.

Along with the scratches on the paint were the scratches on the glass.  How on earth do you fix that, short of replacing the glass?  It's easier than you think.  All you need is some glass cleaner, 0000 steel wool, a wash cloth, and some elbow grease.

Tools needed

The idea is to keep the glass extremely wetted.  This will also help you remove hard water spots.  I wet the glass and then with some elbow grease, rub the steel wool against the window in a circular motion, but then finish by moving the steel wool in straight pattern for uniformity.  We don't want to risk swirls in the glass.  After you are done buffing, simply wipe dry with a rag.  I finish the job by spraying with water and drying with a chamois cloth because it keep streaks at bay.  Plus, you won't have little pieces of lint on the freshly cleaned glass.  You know you did it right when water streaks off the glass as if you applied Rain-X to it!

The results are hard to deny
I restored the shine in all the windows on this Jeep and got rid of most of the water spots.  I'll have to revisit it with some fresh steel wool at a later date to really work the water spots out, but for today, getting the big scratches out was satisfactory for me.

From 10 feet away, any cosmetic body damage is almost unnoticeable.

The Beginning

This is my 2001 Jeep Cherokee.  Rather than start a vehicle/build thread on any Jeep forum in particular, I'm going to use this medium to post my vehicle progress and to help me keep track of modifications, enhancements, or necessary repairs that are worth sharing with everyone else.

Thus far, I've only owned it for a week.  I don't know too much about it other than the fact that it has a 4.0, automatic transmission, AC, power windows and door locks, factory tinted windows, 16" alloy wheels and most everything works.  With the exception of a couple of small war wounds, it's perfectly straight and has almost no rust on it.  Not bad for an eleven year old Jeep with 131,000 miles on the clock.

So, check back soon and follow this vehicle's progress as I slowly make it what I want it to be.