Jeep Cherokee XJ (1996-2001) are one of the most successful Jeep Cherokee models for desert offroading in Egypt.
Light, powerful, rigid (although unibody) and plenty of aftermarket parts for optimization. In this article, we collect all the how-to avoid and enhance the performance of this car specifically for Sahara offroaders.
Maintenance and operation of XJ
Maintaining a 4x4 is more important than for a sedan city car. In the outdoors and away from the pavement, help is costly and sometimes totally inaccessible. There are several sources to help maintaining your 4x4 apart from normal common knowledge of cars and mechanics.
Jeep Cherokee XJ (assembled in Egypt during 1995-2001) is one of the most common 4x4s in Egypt.
Download the Owners Manual of Cherokee XJ here:
Why Jeep XJ is an iconic 4x4 in Egypt
Jeeps have been assembled and partially manufactured in Egypt for decades (since 19xxs) like other countries outside USA like China. This has created an unusual advantage for the car even after it has been abandoned by the merged entity of Daimler-Chrysler automotive company.
Few of the opinionated but local advantage of the Jeep XJ in Egypt is:
- Millions of its units have been produced led to great availability of the spare parts in USA, Egypt and China. Also the 'copies' of essential parts by third-parties that can replace the other parts decades after the model is not produced any more by MOPAR. However was the reliability perception of XJ, this makes it life extendable beyond many other models.
- In offroading, it's iconic because:
- extreme lightweight (1.6 tons) because of the unibody design leading to great utilization of power measuring its 120 HP/Ton (and engine's 240 N.M/Ton compared to 175 N.M/Ton for JK pentastars)
- one of the best engines produced by Chrysler (i6) with great response (least lag-time when the gas-pedal is pressed) that is quite important for offroading diriving as well as great output torque that's one of the best (but not translated best by the old AISIN transmissions unfortunately)
- not as spartan (rough and tough and naked to essentials) as the Wranglers (CJ thru to JK) which makes sense to some with the AC, safer cabinet, better sound system, etc. This makes sense in Egypt than other countries specially if you wish to keep your SUV as your only car
- Inexpensive price really as one of few still traded old models that has aged more than 20 years in most markets
Known problems and how to handle them through preventive maintenance and modifying
There are known problems in XJ design. Common wisdom here has been collected from as many sources as possible including first-hand experience and explained to maintain --with least cost-- the great performance of XJ or exceed it.
Disclaimer: The following is solely based on personal effort and opinion based on some slight reading, research on Jeep –related forums and advice from other XJ owners. It's edited by several collaborators.
Cherokee XJ engines heating up
When offroading in desert, the terrain requires hi-revving operation often times when the ambient temperature is in excess of 25° C.
Jeep XJs are renowned for their tendency to overheat in desert safaris, this presents a serious problem for XJ owners who use their cars for offroading activities.
Overheating could result in a number of negative, if not disastrous, effects for a typical XJ (Specially years 2000 and 2001 which are known for their tendency to crack cylinder heads i.e: the ones with 0331 inscribed under the valve cover. The ones with TUPPY inscription are good)of which are:
1. Cylinder head damage
2. Engine block damage
3. Transmission box damage
The normal operating temperature for XJ is around the 100°C mark (TBC). However, in the hot summer days, slow city driving, traffic light start/stop driving and most importantly offroading it easily reaches 105°C, which is normal, since the electrical fan kicks in at 107°C and keeps running till the temperature drops to 102°C. This is normal and this is how it is designed. As long as the temperature doesn't goes above 110°C everything is normal. It is important to note that; for the XJ later models (2000-2001), the manufacturer has applied some modification in order to reduce the chance for it overheating.
Collectively, the below mentioned mods would keep the engine temperature of a stock XJ somewhere between 90°C and 102°C (TBC).
The coming few bullet points contain recommendations for keeping a stock XJ engine temperature under control:
FlowKooler Water Pump (Manufacturer part no. 1747 – Source: Offroad Traxx)
Presumably, this water pump will solve low-speed overheating problems by pumping 20% more gallons per minute at 2000 RPM and 100% more gallons per minute at 900 RPM than any other pump. This is especially important when offroading, as usually, the vehicle will operate at low speed and high RPM in order to make its way through the highly-resistive sand
However, some users of the this product have argued that they haven’t witnessed a noticeable drop in temperature after installing it.
Large Transmission Oil Cooler (Manufacturer part no. N/A – Source: Offroad Traxx)
Offroading puts a lot of strain on the transmission, where the car usually runs using both 1st and 2nd gear and ever-so- rarely 3rd gear.
An overheated transmission will have shorter-than-usual life span and if damaged, could put the vehicle at a complete stop.
Installing a larger-than-stock oil cooler will prevent the transmission from overheating.
This modification received positive feedback from most users. However, it might not be the easiest product to install.
Heavy Duty Fan Clutch (Manufacturer part no. HAYDEN 2723 – Source: 4x4 Zone)
Will enable the mechanical fan to run at 70% of engine speed when dis-engaged and 90% when engaged (vs. 60% and 70% for the stock clutch).
This is the most impactful modification for controlling engine temperature, and it is super-easy to install. It will also improve the performance of the vehicle’s A/C.
However, this comes at a cost:
- It is longer in length than the stock clutch and may not fit all XJ year-models; With the engine moving back and forth over dune jumps; the clutch (over extreme jumps) could hit the radiator, puncturing it.
- It is noticeably louder than the stock clutch – IT IS LOUD
- As it draws more power from the engine; it affects its efficiency as well increases the fuel consumption (ever so slightly)
It is important to highlight that this product is specifically made for the YJ but it still fits the XJ
Hood Louvers (Manufacturer part no. N/A – Source: Offroad Traxx)
It is the-next-best modification for cooling down an XJ. Normally, the XJ has no problem in sucking-in air into the radiator, it just can’t dissipate the hot air trapped around the engine very easily, due to the large (physical) size of the engine and the small (physical) size of the engine bay.
That’s where the hood louvers come in; they permit hot air trapped in in the engine bay and pushing upwards towards the hood (hot air being lighter than cold air) to easily escape; thus, cooling down the engine bay and consequently the engine itself.
However, they require drilling and paint touch-up around the drilled areas.
It is important to install them near the outer edge of the hoods rather than inner area (meaning the outer width of the hood and not its length)…because there are less mechanical components under the outer edges, permitting the louvers to suck-out more air from the engine bay
Radiator Coolant vs. Regular Water
Always use radiator coolant and never regular water as the former has a higher boiling point than water and as mentioned before; the normal operating temperature of the XJ is slightly above 100C; accordingly, regular water would consistently evaporate and fail to keep the temperature at bay.
Jet 180°F (82°C)Thermostat (Manufacturer part no. 10170 – Source: Offroad Traxx)
It allows the cooling fluid to flow between the radiator and engine at a lower temperature than the stock 195°F (90.5°C) one. However, it is important to note that; unlike other modifications, which aim to lower the maximum engine temperature, this is the only modification that aims at setting the minimum engine temperature.
The drawback of this mod is that; it might excessively lower the engine temperature at high speeds; thus, lowering its efficiency and consequently its life span.
Some users have completely removed the thermostat; however, this further diminishes the efficiency of the engine and is highly undesirable.
We'll be outlining Local resources in Egypt (specially Cairo) in the future.
Other local modifications (coming up soon)
(coming up soon)