Buying a Used Jeep Cherokee XJ 1989 - 2001

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The Jeep Cherokee XJ represents great value for money. Current used prices for Jeep Cherokee are extremely low but dont let this fool you, the Cherokee XJ is a serious bit of kit.

Manufactured by the mighty Chrysler corporation to a design first perfected in the early eighties the Jeep Cherokee XJ has been in continuous prodution for almost 20 years. Although US production has ceased the XJ continues to be manufactured under licence in China.

This says a lot about the success of the design and its growing reputation as reliable dependable and practical vehicle. The XJ was originally developed by AMC (American Motors) but the design was rebadged Jeep as part of the initiative to expand the Jeep franchise into the RV sector and away from the purely rugged utility vehicles it had been associated with - the CJ7 and Cherokee Chief being examples.

So a great design and a high level of comfort is on offer with the XJ but what about its use on (and off) the road?

Well, following on from such direct ancestors as the Willys Jeep its hardly surprising to find that the Cherokee XJ is great off road. The selectable four wheel drive on this model has two forms:

A purely on/off four wheel drive system - Command-trac.

And a more sophisticated selectable gearbox offering part-time/full time FWD and low ratio range Selec-trac.

Command Trac is usually found on the Cherokee sport models and some of the 2.5cc engined models its not great, can get stuck and isnt very flexible.. But the majority of Cherokee XJs feature Selectrac which is fortunate as it is far superior and very useful. Make sure you check before you bid.

The Cherokee XJ has been available since its release with a number of different engine options - 2500cc 4 cyl petrol, 2400cc 4 cyl diesel and the mighty 4000cc 6 cyl petrol engine. All these options are pretty much bullet proof and will give many thousands of miles service. The 4.0l engine has to rank amongst the least stressed engines on the road in normal use and can easily outlast the owner with a little routine maintenance. The 4.0 engine is common to the Cherokee XJ, the Grand Cherokee and the WJ Wrangler. Across the board it offers phenomenal torque, a surprising turn of speed and a fabulously smooth purring exhaust note.

Bodywork is rarely an issue on these vehicles on pre 1997 models the tailgate and bonnet are fibreglass which is a bonus but it is unusual to find a Cherokee XJ with anything other than superficial corrosion. Panels are readily available and many key body sections are bolted into place making even light accident damage not necessarily a reason to discount a bargain priced example.

Interiors are tough and durable -if a little plasticky. Early models featured vinyl seats and rubber mats but as the range matured textile seats, carpets and ultimately leather, deep pile carpet and walnut became a feature. All models seem to stand up to the rigours of time well but some interiors can suffer if dogs and children are regular passengers and leather as always has to be treated with care.

In late 1997 the XJ range was revamped and facelifted with the addition of steel tailgate and bonnet, a revised interior and numerous engine and emission modifications.

There have been a number of special editions of the Cherokee XJ over the years including the Ltd (probably the most common XJ on the roads!!), Orvis, 50th Aniversary,60th Aniversary with very little difference to standard spec other than trim levels and wheels.

So there is a basic run down on the vehicle.

Now to add a bit more meat to the guide here are a few hints and tips on what to look for when selecting a decent used specimen:

1. Mileage (as per the speedo)

Later XJs feature a digital mileometer which is easily hacked by unscrupulous vendors using a cheap wire, a laptop and a sofware package. Treat all unusually low mile examples with suspicion especially if the documents show more than one or two previous owners . I mean- given the fun nature and practical size of the XJ its really unlikely to find one that has not been used at least moderately frequently by one or more of its owners. Even a 2001 model with less than 50k on the clock would raise my suspicions. If you take the insurers average estimated mileage by UK owners of 12k per annum then realistically expect the majority of cars you will find to be showing in the region of  at least 60k miles to considerably more. A cast iron guarantee of authenticity should be sought out on low mileage examples purporting to have been kept by 90 year old lady owners etc etc!

Earlier XJs with an analogue dash are pretty much out of the age when selecting by mileage makes any kind of sense. You'll be judging by overall condition even if the vendor claims it has been little used. Cars over 12 years old really need to be well maintained regardless of mileage as it is deterioration of the materials of construction that presents the greatest threat to the vehicle rather than deterioration due to wear and tear in use.

2. Body and Finish

XJ jeeps are among some of the best preserved examples of vehicles still on the roads from the 90s. The combination of a strong paint finish, excellent pre finish treatment and the slab sided design with good internal drainage means that even Britains horrible road salt has trouble penetrating the surface. But they're not immune...Check carefully around the window seals for signs of blistering and behind the plastic trims and body mouldings where you can. These retain water and can give rust a hold. Its rarely fatal and can be remedied cheaply but its a sign that the vehicle hasnt been regularly cleaned and waxed (XJs love wax!!) and can generally be a precursor to what horrors you will find lurking on the....

...3. Underside and  Running Gear.

Funny how few people think to wash the underside as often as the top... XJs are a very square and un aerodynamic shape belying their origins in the good ole US of  A; a country where until recently  a gallon of petrol (or gasoline as it is known) was cheaper than tap water. The underside comprises a separate box section chassis with few rust trap areas and a very throrough factory applied underseal that seems very resisant to road salt. You would be pretty unlucky to find significant rust patches (of the kind so familiar to Landrover owners) but they can appear on vehicles that have seen a lot of muddy backroads in rural areas and coastal areas. Again keep your chassis clean and it should outlive the drivetrain.

4. Drivetrain
There are two basic engines in the XJ series:
2.5 four cylinder diesel
4.0 straight six petrol


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