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September 19, 2019, 07:30:17 AM

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Author Topic: 91 Cherokee XJ Laredo - "Bonnie Blue"  (Read 1989 times)
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SOCL
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« on: July 31, 2019, 06:46:49 PM »

I'm in the process now of creating my first overland rig on a 1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L manual transmission.  Although none of the offroad modifications are yet finished, the Jeep is at the shop waiting for parts to arrive.  At the moment, we are:


After the bumpers are finished, I will be saving up for a lift and change of tires, and I would very much like recommendations or advice.  I am interested in doing as little additional work and adding as little additional cost as possible, and so I have narrowed my options down to two key ideas:

1. 2-inch suspension lift with 30x9.5 all-terrains
2. 3-inch suspension lift with 31x10.5 all-terrains

It occurs to me that I might be able to do the 31's with the 2-inch lift (in order to avoid the extra costs of a new steering stabilizer, rewiring brakes, etc, associated with lifts of 3+ inches), but my understanding is that the tires will rub when the wheel is fully over and that I will need to cut the fenders.  My idea is to wed a 2-inch with a body lift, so third option:

3. 2-inch suspension lift, 2-inch body lift with 31x10.5 all-terrains

Advice or thoughts?  I wonder if that's safe to do, both a suspension and body lift simultaneously.


I am also seeking advice on tire brands. I have heard good things (and I like the price) of General Grabber and Falken Wildpeak for either the 30x9.5 or 31x10.5.  Any advice either way?
Further, I have heard that there are some kind of guard or "wall" that traditionally lines the outside of all-terrain tires, but which recently larger companies have started eliminating in order to cut cost; does that ring a bell or sound familiar to anyone?


To be absolutely clear, this Jeep is intended primarily to act as the workhorse for overland expeditions and will be doing a minimum of rock-crawling and mudding ("off roading"), so my concern with the lift and tires has more to do with traversing difficult stream/river beds and overgrown trails rather than surmounting a rocky mountain side.  Plus, this car will be on the road five times as frequently as it will be on road, so I am also interested in keeping the lift within safer bounds for on-street travel.


---

EDIT: And then I embarrassingly realized that the XJ is unibody and so can not take a body lift  Redfaced
« Last Edit: July 31, 2019, 08:51:00 PM by SOCL »

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
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« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2019, 06:19:28 AM »

Of the options you gave, I would go with the 3" lift and 31's. You might still have to do a little fender trimming, but it should be minimal. keep in mind that you should factor in the gear you plan to carry into the lift height as you could lose some of the height due to the weight of all the gear. Skids are always a good idea to add to the build sheet. even if you don't plan to rock crawl, they are good insurance for those times the trail throws you a curveball. Similar to the idea of adding the snorkel, but more useful for most of the places you'll probably be going.

If it were me, I'd look into 4-4.5" of lift and 33s with some fender trimming. Replace the rear axle if it's a D35 with a D44 and lock it.

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« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2019, 07:08:28 PM »

If it’s a 91 and you intend to overland, I would do a whole lot of preventive maintenance. You don’t want it breaking down on you with old parts barely hanging on.

Also for what you want you can do with smaller tires. Max 31”s to not need more extensive suspension mods. Plus most overland rigs focus on recovery a good bit so you ought to be equipped enough for a an unexpected stuck every now and again. Also ATs instead of MTs.


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SOCL
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« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2019, 07:48:47 PM »

This is very good advice!  I had not considered the weight of the gear she will be hauling, which might eliminate most of a 2-inch lift altogether.  I suppose a 3-inch lift with 31's is a better bet, I was just hoping to avoid all the extra costs that go into lifting. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to save more.

As for the snorkel, its use went from the abstract to stark reality a few weeks back. The flooding in my area is predicted to get worse over the next 10 years, so I want to be able to get out - by snorkel or winch.

Besides a winch and a recovery kit and tow straps, do yall recommend any other heavy-duty recovery equipment/mods?

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
SOCL
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2019, 09:29:59 PM »

After all that talk about lift, I have decided to go with getting four General Grabber 30x9.5's that I will run on the stock suspension. What I have is still strong and shows no signs of sag.  Some research on other Jeep community forums seems to indicate that 30's on a stock XJ should work fine with just a little bit of rubbing on the front fenders - which I can always trim.

What do yall think of the stock steel bumpers the XJ came with?  I'm already going to change the front bumper because I want to have somewhere strong to house the winch, but the rear bumper isn't a given.  Rather than add extra weight to the back of my rig and spend $600-800 for a bumper/tire carrier combo, I decided to keep the stock bumper and add this hitch receiver.  I will then purchase the Detours of Maine Knucklebone Carrier with the spare hitch, that way I can still use the hitch for a trailer and carry the spare tire.

Here she is when I bought her:


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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
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« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2019, 07:48:37 AM »

If it’s a 91 and you intend to overland, I would do a whole lot of preventive maintenance. You don’t want it breaking down on you with old parts barely hanging on.

Also for what you want you can do with smaller tires. Max 31”s to not need more extensive suspension mods. Plus most overland rigs focus on recovery a good bit so you ought to be equipped enough for a an unexpected stuck every now and again. Also ATs instead of MTs.



x2 on this one.  Find some 30-31" tires, add some rock rails and a transfer case skid (they made OEM versions of these that are easy to find and easy to install), and go.  Apart from all filters, I would replace or clean as much of your ignition system as you can--from plugs back to coil.  The crank position sensor is also a failure point on these, and you'll want to replace that fun one at home in your driveway as opposed to out on a trail somewhere.  They're cheap.

Otherwise, congrats.  This thing is 100% rad and looks phenomenal.

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SOCL
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« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2019, 04:15:27 PM »

The Cherokee just recently went through a complete once-over by my mechanic following the aforementioned flooding incident a few weeks back.  The mechanic said everything is good to go.  I would put more effort into doing more of this on a DIY basis, but I live in Del Ray and can't exactly do automotive work on the side of the street, so I'm entirely reliant on my mechanic.  Hopefully nothing gives way on the trail in a few weeks.  If yall know of any reliable and budget-friendly garages where you can go work on your own vehicle in the area, please let me know!

I've got rock rails on the priority list and will add the transfer case skid plate. Do yall recommend plating the gas tank, too?

Also, do yall think I'll regret not going with the 2-inch lift?  I figure that whatever the Jeep can't surmount now, an extra 2 inches (well, 1.5 with the new tires) of clearance are unlikely to make any real difference.  And if it does, the winch should be plenty - or is this just amateur talk?

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
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« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2019, 09:05:39 PM »

Unless you know the springs have been replaced recently, it would make sense to do a 2" lift that included complete spring replacement and not a BB/AAL setup.  I realize that's more $$, but is a 2" BB on top of a sagged out 30yr old spring really a 2" lift? If you are dead set on your tire size, I think the 2" lift seems like a reasonable idea. You will likely only regret it if you decide to upsize tires later and have rebuy another lift setup (been there, done that).

All that said, you 100% wont regret some skids when you are building like you are. As mentioned Rock Rails, Tcase skid, and Gas Tank skid should be on the short list.  Does it have any stock skids?

BTW, jeep looks great. Good find. How is the interior?


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SOCL
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« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2019, 07:14:38 PM »

I will take a little more time to think on the lift and tires. I was hoping to be able to just do the tires for now. I measured out the spacing around the current tires (29's) and there does appear to be enough room for 30's, including the width back to the LCA.  But it sounds like yall recommend against doing it in that order?

I don't believe the Cherokee came with any skids, but I've been wrong about what this Jeep has before. Next time I have it back from the mechanic, I'll look it over again.  The only factory armor that I'm aware of are the panels on the lower part of the doors.

The interior was beautiful until (1) I spilled a large coffee in the passenger seat lol and (2) my dog rides in the back and sheds SO MUCH. But besides that, the interior is immaculate!  I have some minor issues, like the A/C being dead (the chiller needs replacing), the radio being full of static, and the dome light being dead - but these are honestly not big deals to me.

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
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« Reply #9 on: August 08, 2019, 07:18:45 AM »

...The only factory armor that I'm aware of are the panels on the lower part of the doors.

If you're truly building something that you wish to take off-road, on rugged trails and such, which might be narrow and have rocks along the sides - that is not armor.  They are simply paint protectors stuck on with double-stick tape.  You should probably be looking for rock sliders.  I've had an '88 and a '94.

I guess the first question to yourself is what type of overlanding do you intend to do?  Mild dirt roads, some rocky trails, go across the country?  Then, take some more time to surf the web for images you like and try to find out what they used to build them.  I see a lot of Cherokees out there (locally and on the web) that remove the wheel flares and either leave them off or replace them with more robust or larger ones.  Sometimes trimming the wheel wells too for more articulation.

If you are planning to go to more remote places, you really need to study what stock components are prone to failure.  Upgrade or replace them with new before you get out there, or you will be stuck on the side of the trail trying to figure out what happened and how to fix it.  Look at springs, shocks, and ALL of the steering and suspension parts.  Skids do just what the name implies, they let you skid (slide) over something, hopefully without damaging anything.  The more you have, the better off you will be.  Search for used stuff and you can save a lot of money.  Skids and armor of course add weight - you'll want that 2" lift (or more) after you are loaded down with all of your gear.

I'm not sure of what year range it is, but inspect the frame where the steering gear is bolted to the frame.  Lots of them when used heavily cracked the welds loose at the frame for the tubes that mounting bolts go thru.  They make an upgraded part for this if I recall - it will need to be welded on.  I can't remember if the steering gear hangs down to the bottom bumper line like the TJs do or not.  If it does, definitely get a skid for it or you risk cracking the the steering gear when it hits a rock.

Have your windows tinted to hide your stuff too.
« Last Edit: August 08, 2019, 07:21:17 AM by RFH_98TJ »

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« Reply #10 on: August 08, 2019, 07:33:39 AM »

Oh yeah, that grill guard that covers the headlights on you front bumper link are technically illegal in VA and you may fail inspection with them on there.  Looks like they can be unbolted for inspection though.

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98 TJ 4.0 Sport 5-speed - 4" lift on 33s, 4.56 on D30 with Lock Right and Ford 8.8 LS, more stuff to come

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SOCL
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« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2019, 07:38:19 PM »

Oh yeah, that grill guard that covers the headlights on you front bumper link are technically illegal in VA and you may fail inspection with them on there.  Looks like they can be unbolted for inspection though.
Fortunately the vehicle is going to be registered as an antique since I do not use it for regular commuting, only for this hobby - so I won't have to worry about inspection, though I am very grateful for letting me know because I was entirely unaware of that fact.

Quote from: RFH_98TJ
I'm not sure of what year range it is
1991

I will have it up on a lift on Monday - I'll take a look underneath and report back what I see.

I keep forgetting about the gear load and how that will affect the sag of the suspension down onto the tires. I just ordered the Grabber 30's - let me see how it looks and handles with the tires on, but I've got the 2-inch lift on "speed dial" lol


What's the opinion on limb risers? I found this video on how to make some at home. I want to attach them from the roof rack to the grill guards. Do yall find these useful?

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
SOCL
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« Reply #12 on: August 11, 2019, 08:34:31 AM »

I'm looking at Tomken skid plates for the gas tank, oil pan, and transmission (here on their website) for the undercarriage. I also looked into frame stiffeners (based on this article), but without access to a welder, this starts treading into the overly-high price upgrades.

I did some research on rockers, sliders, and guards, and I think that the dual protection provided by JcrOffroad (here) looks like the best option.  I need to do some price checking to see if it makes more sense to purchase the rockers and guards separately, or if the bundle is better priced.


For my "full-size" spare 29 that I'll be mounting to the rear tire carrier, I assume that I would need a fifth rim.  My mechanic says no, but I think he's imaging it being used just to limp to shop.  Ultimately I plan to replace the 29 with a Grabber 30 like the ones I ordered, so I imagine that at that point I would definitely need the rim; no?

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
SOCL
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« Reply #13 on: August 11, 2019, 10:58:41 AM »

I got the Cherokee back today and I just got back from checking the underside.  There is indeed no factory skids underneath except for the crossbeam that I think is standard on all XJs.

The gas tank has a plastic piece of skid over it that will be replaced.


I took some photos that I wanted to check with the community on.

These first two are taken directly the rear bumper on the driver's side (bumper is on the extreme right of the picture).  I'm not sure what this rusted out panel-thing is, but it appears to only be rusted out on this side of the vehicle.  It exposes some lines whose use I am ignorant.  Any idea what this is and what to replace it with?




These are the leaf springs and their axle mounts - both have a lot of rust. I definitely need to replace these before they give way.



Finally, the passenger side bracket holding the bumper on is almost completely rusted out and will need to be replaced, too.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2019, 11:37:10 AM by SOCL »

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1991 Jeep Cherokee XJ Laredo 4.0L AMC I6 5-speed manual - "βonnie βlue"

-Saúl
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« Reply #14 on: August 11, 2019, 07:37:24 PM »

As the owner of 4 Cherokees, I would suggest that you pull the carpet  in the rear seat floor boards and cargo area and look for rust.
Those rear spring mount bolts will probably not be able to be removed and the shock bolts will probably snap when you have to replace the shocks for the lift.Hopefuly there is an 8 1/4 rear axle, if not the D35 should be replaced for piece of mind.
NAXJA would be your go to place for advice.

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