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1997 XJ Wiring Issues?

XJ Cherokee

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#1 WMCCALL

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Posted 06 May 2013 - 05:47 AM

I've read a many a time in Jp Magazine and forums that the '97 XJ has wiring issues, but I can never get a specific answer when I ask what they are. Many other XJ owners recommend staying away from the year model, especially the early '97 production. I believe to May or June.

 

I have a '97 XJ that drove out of the factory in May '97 and none of the issues have revealed themselves.

 

Note: I did do a gauge cluster swap from "idiot lights" to dial gauges from the same year model. The oil pressure, fuel level, and RPM's are off from what the computer puts out; but not enough for me to go back to the lights.



#2 Moses Ludel

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Posted 09 May 2013 - 08:52 PM

These can be specific problems or just more common issues. Our '99 XJ Cherokee has a TSB on the instrument cluster wire sets, and I'll be doing a factory repair splice of new connectors to eliminate the tach/speedo/check light bug that occurs when the instrument panel parks in the sunlight. (Never acts up beyond this but when it does, this is annoying although intermittent.)  If you have a specific issue, let me know, I'll check the TSBs and do a bit of research on your behalf.—Moses



#3 XJ4Ever

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 03:47 PM

XJ Cherokees do have a few electrical quirks, as in Moses' example of the tach/speedo/check light bug. Most of them are fixable. Another issue common to most XJs, and others, is the window lock switch failure that prevents the passenger side window from operating from the passenger position. I have two XJs and my father has two as well. All have had the same issue, and I've fixed the issue on all four vehicles.

 

There are other issues but I'd like to share some self-made ones that you may enjoy, perhaps getting a chuckle out of my stupidity. A few years ago, I decided to add an aftermarket sunglass compartment that mounted to the roof between the visors. I didn't have an overhead compartment for such things and, being bored on one occasion, I decided to install this creature. All that was required was for me to screw in two tiny screws into the headliner. Sounds easy right? Nope! As I screwed in the first screw I heard the familiar, but unwanted, sound of the doors locking. OOPS! Luckily I was in the car at the time as my keys were in the ignition. So, in a fantasic display of my technical prowess, I managed to nick a  wire that ran above the headliner. What was a 30 second job became a hour long ordeal when I was forced to remove the trim and pull down the headliner to make the repair.

 

Here's another gem. I had, what seemed to be, a battery going bad in one of the XJs. It quit in the driveway so I decided to put in a new battery. I swapped the battery out, turned on the ignition, and nothing. Hmmm. Rather than running a VOM across the terminals or checking anything else, I returned that battery for a new one. I installed it, turned on the key and nothing. Hmmm again! Well, I discovered the problem. If I had taken my time and had not been in such a hurry, I may have noticed that the positive lead had been burnt in half about two feet from the terminal. One would think that I might have noticed the 'extra play' in the wire as I hooked up the terminal. Not a chance. This would have made entirely too much sense. It was a good thing that I didn't have any fireworks!

 

I hope everyone enjoys my dumbness. I can build a show quality XJ, but keep me away from batteries and screw guns!  :)



#4 Moses Ludel

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Posted 29 May 2013 - 11:11 PM

This is a wonderful posting, XJ4Ever!  The right side power switch is currently defective on our '99 XJ Cherokee Sport 4-door, and this means the right window will not go down, the remote power door lock key fob will not activate the power locks, and the passenger has lost control of all switch functions.  The wiring schematics are different for the two-door models and so are the symptoms for the switch failures.  I need to get after that switch, I've already done the window lift motors and cable assemblies...both driver and passenger front.

 

The comment about factory routing of wires at the headliner may save many from doing the same—who would think!  They need to make wiring schematics three-dimensional.  The battery issue is a regular, as the wiring corrodes badly at the battery terminals and outward as you describe.  Also, acid and debris build up at the battery hold-downs.  You raise a very good point about not only voltage tests but, I would add, tests for resistance and voltage drop.  Load tests by lamp-load method or a voltage drop test over distance would be smart.   

 

As we know, the XJ Cherokee is a remarkable utility vehicle.  They run seemingly forever with routine service.  Their quirks are known, as are the fixes, and we learn to live with the nuisances.  All things considered, the XJ Cherokee puts the "Volkswagen Beetle" (air-cooled engine era) myth to rest.  Not only do we have the 4WD option, but the XJ will run to 300-plus thousand miles on the original axles and powertrain!  The Beetle, despite all the hype and nostalgia, seldom saw 80-100,000 miles without a valve job, cylinder and piston replacement, a new clutch or two, suspension parts, replacement of all the control cables and a new exhaust system. 

 

Credit to AMC for this remarkable, bold initiative, a compact SUV, likely the most durable production vehicle in history—especially outside the Rust Belt!  With a unitized body that convinced us all, Dana beam axles front and rear, durable two-speed compact truck transfer cases, excellent transmission choices, plus a bulletproof inline six with seven main bearings and EFI from 1987-on, AMC/Jeep and Chrysler hit the mark! 

 

The TBI 2.5L four, from day one in 1984, left an indelible impression, replaced in 1991 by the more efficient 2.5L Chrysler MPI engine...For those with an '84-'86 V-6 Cherokee or '86 V-6 Comanche pickup, the breakage prone G.M. 2.8L V-6 crankshaft and chronic rear main seal leaks can be eliminated with a G.M. direct replacement 3.4L V-6 RWD crate engine.  Has anyone gone this route?  Anyone tried a 302/5.0L Ford V-8 in an XJ?

 

Thanks for joining the discussion XJ4Ever, your post is a delight, and we look forward to more!

 

Moses



#5 XJ4Ever

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Posted 05 June 2013 - 07:22 PM

It's funny that you should mention in your first paragraph that you've replaced the window lift motor and cable assemblies. The day after I read your reply I was driving down the road and kerplunk, down went the front passenger side window. The cable had broken. I didn't want to use the show car to run for parts because a coat of paint sealant was curing.  Luckily my father was visiting that day and it gave me a chance to to borrow his XJ. This particular unit is a '95 1st generation that can only be described as a cream puff. He really lucked out when he found this baby. It's as near to perfect as any XJ running. I didn't want to give it back to him. :)  Anyway, two hours and $120 later we had the window working again. The window had been operating slowly for awhile which usually has been a good indicator that a cable is about to break. It's been my experience that when you're driving along and a window suddenly comes down hard and fast, it's a broken cable. If the window comes down slowly when it fails, it's usually a broken piece of plastic on the block assembly. Either way you've got some work to do. Another tip for anyone having to fix a window regulator is taking your time when you pop off the door panel. If you don't have the right tool to pop each plastic fastener carefully you can break them. If you don't have a panel tool just grab the panel and carefully  shake it off, rather than simply pulling it off and running the risk of breaking the fasteners.

 

 

Cheers!



#6 Moses Ludel

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 01:06 PM

Good tips, XJ4Ever!  Enjoy your enthusiasm and loyalty to these XJ beasties!  They have their endearing quirks, and the right front cluster switch #56009512AC for our '99 XJ Cherokee 4WD, LHD, four-door is one of them.  Mopar OEM retail is very pricey: $274!  Best OEM/Mopar price online:  $188.60 plus shipping at http://www.factorymo...56009512ac.html.  Likely a scarcity thing, as this narrows down to the combination power windows, door locks and mirrors options, each interacting with this controller switch...Find the other three door switches readily in the aftermarket, not this one yet, still looking, may, for the fun of it, take the OEM switch apart and attempt a restore, will share the outcome.

 

I did the regulators/motors as an assembly, aftermarket on the right side, OEM Mopar at the driver's side, one install made a how-to article for 4WD Sport Utility Magazine some time back.  A heads up on the regulator installs: Be sure to align with the window glass frames properly to provide smooth and square glass movement!  Also, make sure the cable assembly is well out of harm's way when the window goes up and down!  Use sturdy (I like HD NAPA brand) plastic ties as necessary with the aftermarket assemblies, they often do not come with the Mopar OEM type hold down clips. 

 

As you share, the door panel plastic clips are fragile, especially after years of age embrittlement.  Great care will help avoid any issues here.  I have the special pry tool, they're inexpensive from KD and others...Window lifts are a common XJ wear item, so all of us should be prepared to deal with it!

 

I'm overdue for the instrument cluster wiring TSB fix, bought the inexpensive wire repair "kit" from Mopar some time ago, need time to install it:  Accessing the instrument cluster is no picnic!  We had the Cherokee parked in the sun recently—let me emphasize, sun of the Nevada high desert variety, very intense, add some elevation and more UV.  We generally park in a shaded area.  Drove less than two blocks, and the speedo and tach dropped to "0"; this time the 'Air Bag' light paid a visit, it's all related.  A bit of cool down, and the gauges began working, no problem since, including the Air Bag light—typical...I will share the fix as a how-to, have photos already of the gauges in the dropped position with the engine running...Many '98-'99 owners (and others?) will value this repair fix!

 

Moses 



#7 Rocket Doctor

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 06:12 AM

Moses, I see you pose a question asking about anyone using a 302/5.0 Ford in an XJ. I haven't seen one done, nor heard of one, but I've talked to more than one guy, myself included, who'd sure like to try it! I know that Novak lists a package to install a Chevy LS into the XJ chassis, and I believe that if you can stuff one of those in there, the SBF should fit as well. I'd sure like to see one done, as I know there are a LOT of Bronco II/Ranger drivers out there who are more than satisfied with the conversion.

Oh, BTW, in addition to intense high temps causing the instrument cluster failure, I'm here to report that sub-zero, 'cold soaked' components will give the same result! I've suffered along for about two weeks now using a GPS for speed control, and topping the tank at least two times a week to insure that I've got sufficient fuel to venture into town for grub, or a short ride onto the high desert to bust a song dog.

 

Additionally, my '98 XJ also gave me fits a couple of summers back, when I sat in the car, inserted the key and turned it, and no starter! I cleaned the battery terminals, as well as pulling the positive cable out and cleaning the contacts on the engine and reassembling. Funny thing was, though, that even in this condition, I could get the thing running with the old "GI Jump", or whatever it's called when the vehicle gets a shove and the clutch is engaged with the tranny in gear. I drove 500 miles from Cheyenne, WY, to my home in Idaho without shutting the engine off for fear of it not starting again in the middle of "Resume Speed, Wyoming"...I thought that it was perhaps the result of water infiltration into the passenger compartment after I used my high pressure washer to clean the air intake at the bottom of the windshield, thinking I'd shorted something out below it. Eventually, the problem went away, and it's only done it a time or two since, but nothing like that summer.



#8 Moses Ludel

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 11:15 AM

Yep, the 302 V-8 is the smaller engine, and for a distributor ignition, it's a great choice with the distributor at the front!  Slight in weight, especially H.O. aluminum head versions, with plenty of performance, this is a good swap for a unitized body 4x4.  302s in Ford Broncos have a legendary record... 

 

As for starter circuit issues, there are a variety of possibilities, as you know.  The starter motor itself or the solenoid could have an issue.  The wiring to the solenoid could be faulty or have resistance, or the ignition switch to the starter circuit could be iffy. Even the key switch can be at fault.

 

I would do a quick and useful test here:  Check the continuity through the key switch circuit, from the starter fuse or relay at the power box all the way to the starter solenoid.  I like to use a volt-ohmmeter with ohms resistance on the minute 1/1000ths scale.  With the battery negative cable disconnected, you can run this check with the key in the start position of the key switch. Check for any degree of resistance in this circuit and chase down the resistance point...Also check grounds for ohms resistance, the body to engine in particular. Check for any relay or power box/socket issues, in fact this would be a good place to start.  See what comes up!

 

Moses



#9 belvedere

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 05:41 PM

My XJ is not a '97, so this is simply based on what I've read, but I understand that the issue with the '97 model year is that there were several "transitions" in the wiring during the year.  Therefore, you could have a '97 schematic, but your '97 XJ may not be wired the same.  So, it's not that there is a specific electrical "weakness", but rather that troubleshooting might be more difficult.



#10 Moses Ludel

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Posted 17 January 2014 - 07:47 PM

1996 was even worse...XJ Cherokee made the plunge into OBD-II in a hurry, with a plethora of wiring issues that model year.  It is allegedly a botched effort to quickly meet Federal requirements on a model that needed to launch, as XJ Cherokee sales were high. 

 

By contrast, the Jeep YJ Wrangler simply opted out of a 1996 model year altogether, and the "all new" 1997 Jeep TJ Wrangler launched early with OBD-II built into the initial wiring system...Likely you're very right about the 1997 Jeep XJ Cherokee, as this would have been a transition year.

 

Moses





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