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The Littlest Comanche

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So in an act of hilarious foolishness with almost no planning on any good reason as to why, nearly one week ago to the hour I set out on a mission to collect another MJ. I came home from work, did a full brake job on my ZJ, and around midnight hit the highway for a seven hour drive. It took me just over eight, but there was a nap in there somewhere. Then I ate breakfast, reassembled the exhaust on the ZJ not once but twice, then drove through 100°F heat with no a/c another couple hours, winched the MJ onto the trailer, and hit the highway headed homewards with way more weight than I should've been pulling. But we made it over the continental divide and the ZJ doesn't seem any the worse for it. 

So here it is,


'91 SWB, 2.5L ax5 2wd. Bench seats, no a/c, nothing fancy at all except a silly aftermarket stereo and speakers. Fortunately I still have the old ones out of my other MJ (and door panels!) to replace them. 




ZJ was riding a bit low...


I knew it was extra weight but I went with the trailer instead of the dolly because of the surge brakes, and I definitely put them to the task. 


After having it home almost a week I finally got it registered today (PO has no idea what a vin is or how to copy it into a bill of sale) and drove it to work and back. The brakes are sketchy, the horn doesn't work, and the radiator is tragically corroded.


Also there's zero coolant in the system from what I can tell. It died twice on me on the way back, I'm thinking because of overheating. The gauge cluster was swapped from idiot lights and I don't think the senders got changed, so no coolant temp until the gauge pegs, the truck starts running rough, then shuts down. None of the classic boiling over symptoms when there's no coolant. But the PO did say it was parked because of an overheating problem,

But I've got a new radiator, water pump, tstat, etc sitting at Napa for me to pick up tomorrow, so once that's in we'll go from there. It also looks like the temp and oil pressure senders interchange with the 4.0 so I've got those in the horde somewhere. I'll get that in and go from there.

It's a bit of a hard start, too, and the power steering screeches like a banshee, so I'll give it a full set of ignition parts as well, and probably ignore the power steering beyond checking levels, cause it works great. And I'm gonna have to investigate the brakes, the LSV and linkage are still present, although flipped over-centre, so that's likely part of it. But the failure light is on so that warrants investigation. 


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Yeah, I'm still recovering from the trip, haha. Not so much the length itself but just doing it without adequate sleep. Getting to work at 6:30 this week has been rough for sure. By the time I made it into my bed Saturday morning, it was about the same time I got up on Thursday, and I can't have had more than four hours of broken sleep in the driver's seat, pulled over somewhere safe of course. 

Theres a bit of rust bubbling in the fenders and under the cab corner/rocker areas, but no holes. Although the driver's floor does feel a little soft under the rubber/vynil. I may get it up on the hoist at work next week some time to check it out. I want to swap the tires back over to the stock wheels at some point, and something definitely needs done about the sub-par braking... I'm pretty suspicious about what the lines look like. The parking brake's flopping around uselessly too.

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Well yesterday was interesting. 

Pulling off the lower rad hose revealed there was still some coolant in it. The murkiest, nastiest, siltiest looking coolant ever. Just shy of a quart. After it had completely drained, I started pouring clean water through to flush the block some, this is the last bit of the third gallon that went through. 



The water pump was surprisingly good though. 


But I replaced it anyhow because I had the new one sitting there. It also may have been weeping a bit, but it was really hard to say with all the schmoo coming from the valve cover and thermostat housing. The tstat had been replaced once before, but whoever did it didn't get it quite seated in its home, so the two seal surfaces weren't quite touching. They made up the difference with RTV, which sorta worked, I guess, but not really. I had to dig a bunch of crud out of the groove in the block before I got it to sit nicely.


The new gasket I got from Napa also had a sticker backing and adhesive to hold it in place on the housing for install, so that was cool. I don't think I've seen that before. image.jpeg.25aa94420d4afada7527330743195cf7.jpeg

I do wonder though how many of these are going to leak because someone didn't peel the backing off.

I also found a couple things I wasn't as exited about. Such as where is my air filter?



Why is there rust on my dipstick? And how?



Why did something expect this rubber elbow to make any sort of a seal to a vaccuum line half its size?



I fired it up after changing the oil, which I hadn't been planning on doing until I saw the no-air-filter bs, and if I put my thumb over the end of that vaccuum line, it drops the idle by about 250rpm and smooths it out pretty well too. So I'll be doing something about that. I'm guessing that fixing those PCV lines will stop the accumulation of oil in the airbox as well. Fortunately it was parked in a suburban driveway not done random field, which makes it less likely something crawled into the intake. The oil residue likely made for some deterrent too. 


That's as far back together as I got it last night. Nice, simple belt routing, too, with no a/c and no fan getting in the way or biting knuckles. Don't worry, I still have the fan, I just didn't put it back on yet here.

There's a stack of ignition parts waiting at Napa for me, and everything else to put back in. So that's gonna be my Saturday. Seeing no air filter gives me zero hope for any other wear items. But one thing at a time I guess.

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3 minutes ago, gogmorgo said:

The new gasket I got from Napa also had a sticker backing and adhesive to hold it in place on the housing for install, so that was cool. I don't think I've seen that

before. I do wonder though how many of these are going to leak because someone didn't peel the backing off.



That's cool and a great idea. Have not seen that before..


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Welp. I think I've got a bad head gasket... Or worse. :sad:


I got the cooling system plumbed and filled (it took 9L so I'm pretty sure it's full) last night, and then after some hard starts during the burping process it wouldn't fire at all when I tried to go on a test drive. 

So this morning I swapped out plugs, wires, cap, and rotor. Everything looked good except there was what looked like water (but smelled a bit like gas) on plug #2, which was also suspiciously clean. I then got it started (still took a bit) and it's blowing grey smoke. I was hoping it's still just crap burning off from having sat, but it's about a five minute drive to the gas station and it died on me twice (clutch in coming to a stop) on the way there, but started back up again (although the second time I just let the clutch back out in second and floored the gas pedal) and then pulling up into the gas station it died on me and took quite a bit to get going again.

It also pegged the temp gauge at this point (idiot light sender still), because it's blown out most of my coolant. I left the overflow hose off because the bottle's still full of junk and I didn't want to suck it back into the engine, and I don't have a great way to drain it at home. 

#2 plug:


After crawling into the station I filled up with gas, and ~5gal brought the gauge up from just under 3/4 to full, so I guess the functioning gauge is working.

I also overfilled the power steering which seems to have quieted it down a bit but it's tough to say, cause I was more focussed on not stalling or running over idiot joggers who yes I stopped at the stop sign but that doesn't mean you can come pretty well sprinting out from behind a hedge and expect me to see you and stop after I've started moving... Incidentally the horn actually does work if you push it right.

But I'm writing this while sitting parked somewhere that isn't really a parking spot because after a few blocks of stumbling below ~1500 rpm, the temp gauge pegged itself again, the engine started running like absolute trash, then died. I didn't attempt to restart. I'm gonna go grab a coffee or something and come back in a few hours, at least limp it home. But I'm really not optimistic. 

Where she sits:



I'm pretty bummed. 

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Yup. Total milkshake in the oil. 

It was only a block uphill then downhill the rest of the way so I got it to the top, shut it off, and coasted the rest of the way. 


But at least now I know, I guess. There's social functions at my house that I didn't plan or really want to have happen, so I can't really do much about it now. Hopefully it doesn't end up parked for too long, but I don't know if I'll have time to pull it apart for further diagnosis for a while. I'm headed to school in a week so that's sort of a priority. I really was hoping to use the poor little guy as a commuter while I was there, but now :dunno:


This sucks. 


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Yeah. Definitely weighing my options here. I don't think I'll pull the trigger on anything until I've pulled the head to see just how bad things are, though. 

I do however have a complete 4.0/ax15/231 drivetrain sitting in the garage. I just really like the idea of this thing as a 2.5/RWD.


It's not knocking, and makes okay power when it's not trying to die. So I'm kinda optimistic about it. But definitely prepared for more bad news when it comes apart. 

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Well I decided I wanted to know. 

I've got it all the way apart except for the pushrods and head bolts, then decided my mind was in the wrong place to find out how bad it truly is tonight. Also I'm starving so there's that. And it's getting dark. 


I also don't much care for the idea of leaving it outside overnight without the head on it. There's a gasket coming tomorrow, possibly new bolts as well. 

So far it hasn't fought me much at all though. It's like it wants this to happen. I'm still back and forth but I'm optimistic right now. Just not fooling myself about anything. 

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Well I've slapped it back together for the time being. 

I had it about 95% of the way apart but decided to check compression before pulling the head right off. The results were not so good. 





yes, 25 on cylinder #4. This won't surprise you because you've seen the photos. I sure as hell wasn't expecting that. 

The head and block seem to mostly be okay. The only bad looking spot in the gasket was next to the bad spot in piston #4, although it didn't seem like there was much in the way of sealant on the front driver's side head bolt, which apparently goes through oil and coolant passages.

The intake valve on cylinder #1 doesn't seem to be completely closed, which I think is why there's poor compression there. I suspect my test results are also skewed low by the fact I'm using a Sun compression gauge my grandpa gave me, which I'm pretty sure he had when he was an apprentice mechanic back in the 60's, and he told me he bought all his tools used.


Mostly I just wanted to try out the gauge. Pretty cool it still works. Some day I'll have to compare it to something a little more modern to see how accurate it is. Not that modern is better, just less... Old?


I don't know what I'll do with the MJ yet, poor little guy. Although I do notice that I have a decent running 4-banger in a vehicle I can't currently drive, that looks like it would fit quite nicely in the MJ's engine bay... but that might just be the whiskey talking...


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  • 4 months later...

So there's been a bit of a development.

I'd collected parts to do the one-cylinder rebuild, and started working on it, but didn't have much motivation. I got the ridge reamed but that was about it. I stalled out on dropping the oil pan, I was having trouble getting one of the bolts out between the clutch cover and pan, and with only six hours of daylight I'm wanting to spend it doing other stuff. I'm still working outside because I'm a dumbass and sold the wheels out from y set my parts XJ so can't roll it out of the garage. And outside looks like this:





and every time I shovel it all out, clouds roll in and it dumps more down. 

But the cardboard over the back of the MJ is a feeble attempt to keep the snow off of this:


Two (supposedly) good running 2.5's out of '92 YJs, pretty near all the wires, accessories, etc, on them both. I'll be going over them both, and slapping the water pump and all the gaskets that I got for the other one onto the best one, and dropping it in. Once it quits snowing that is. 

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Yup. I've got the other MJ to build, whenever I get around to it, and I wanted this as a semi-economical commuter/errand runner. One of the bigger obstacles to building my first one lately has simply been the junk that accumulates from not having a truck for dump runs, and other projects (like the one to have a truck for said dump runs :doh:) stacking up ahead of it. Also recently the fact I leave for and come home from work in the dark. It's plenty warm out, I just haven't had daylight where it wasn't snowing for quite some time. Also I've been taking advantage of proximity to a ski hill during many of my daylight hours. So there's that...

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Well I didn't accomplish as much over the weekend as I would've liked. Went to see Sloan and other social activities, which cut into my morning hours some. Whoops. So now I'm doing something I wasn't going to do, working in the dark.


It's about 10°F, and dropping, so not the best weather for dropping in an engine, but not the worst, either. There's a cold front rolling in and snow in the forecast so I want to get the engine bolted in tonight. Everything was going smoothly until I discovered an extra dowel pin in the transmission was stopping the trans from mating nicely, so I came in for a cup of hot chocolate before I broke something I didn't want to. Back out to yank it back out far enough to pull the extra pin now, I guess. 

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Well the engine's home. 10:30 and approaching 0°F means the bolts are only finger tight, cause I'm not feeling like laying on my back in the dark to torque them down. Called it a night. 


It won't be any warmer tomorrow night but hopefully I'll be able to get it completed, if not necessarily running. 

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And it runs. This was last night. I took the evening off today, did nothing. It wasn't bad.

I had to pick up a couple more parts today so I didn't assemble it beyond that last night. I'd rather do it in the daylight tomorrow anyhow. 

I'm pretty sure I've got an exhaust leak, and most of the rattle is the alternator not bolted down. I picked up a can of Seafoam and a change of oil today too, so that'll go through it. Currently it's running on an assortment of oils from the collection of partial bottles in the garage, not ideal, but the oil that was in the engine was too black and too unknown. The cocktail will be perfect with the Seafoam added to the mix. New filter, then another new filter. 

I noticed walking past in the daylight that it spat some serious chunks out the tailpipe, super obvious in the snow. image.jpeg.7aca84523413ab4827260f09793fac1a.jpeg

Looked like sooty flakes of rust. The tailpipe has a rusty spot behind the wheel, so I'm hoping that's all it is, just blowing out loose tailpipe rust. If not, well, some of the chunks were pretty big, like 1/2" square and bigger...


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Yeah I'm pretty sure that's what it is. The PO told me he'd had the exhaust redone about three or four years back I think. It looks professionally done, just a bottom-dollar job with mild steel pipe. Not optimal in this climate. 




I just took it on a grocery run. 12 whole blocks without puking out all the coolant! The $150 YJ engine was running a bit rough at first, but I let it idle until it had melted itself out from under the snow drift on the windshield, and by then it had smoothed out quite a bit. Little bit of chatter to it, but seems to be doing pretty good. There's a small exhaust leak from the manifold-downpipe connection I think, but no big.

The power steering pump works fine but is making a TON of racket (reservoir's full though) and the brakes definitely need attention. That or I have zero traction, one or the other, or both I suppose. We got fresh snow this weekend, enough to pack down nicely on the driving lanes but not quite enough for them to pay the drivers overtime I guess. 



I've got the stock-size winters for the ZJ kicking around so I'll toss those on. 215/75r15s, on steel Jeep wheels. OEM on the base model ZJ, hilariously tiny on it with the 2" lift, but they'll be great on this little guy, and then I can stick those silly aftermarket wheels on the parts XJ so it's mobile again. It also needs a mirror robbed off the XJ, windshield is tragic like all vehicles in this province. I also need to pick up another 14 psi rad cap. Don't know where the old one went, and the 16psi cap off the parts XJ doesn't seem to seat properly, and doesn't shut off the overflow to let pressure build. The clutch seems ridiculously light, too, to the point I almost suspect something's wrong with it, but I suppose I've only got the ZJ and a handful of class 8 trucks lately to compare to so that may just be me... Anything is light compared to a class 8, haha. 


look at him, sitting there, parked on the street, waiting patiently to take me to work in the morning, like a normal vehicle. It's great to be back behind the wheel of an MJ again.

:comanche: :driving:


And with that, I say this calls for a thread retitle. 

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On January 15, 2019 at 11:33 AM, Lthompson741 said:

Looks like a fun project.  I’m not so sure about working outside with the temps you posted but I suppose wouldn’t be too bad.   Looks like a pretty decent MJ otherwise.


Missed this earlier. It wasn't all that bad, except the parts where I was laying on the ground underneath it weren't great. Grabbing cold tools with oily nitrile gloves was a bit rough too, but not so bad as long as I wiped the cloves every so often on a shop towel. I've done some stuff outdoors at -30°F, and this wasn't bad at all in comparison. Mostly I'm just giving myself grief for having too much junk in my garage to work in. 

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It is!

It made it to work and back no problem. Brakes are sketchy as hell, but they will stop it... ... ... .... eveeeentuaaalllyyyyy....

I took it out on the highway for the first time on the way home from work, got it up to an indicated 110 km/h. Pretty good shimmy but the tires were a little low and probably square from sitting. I still need to order tires for the ZJ and then I can do some wheel shuffling and get the little winters on Jeep wheels on this guy instead of the other MJ, and ditch the silly aftermarket wheels. 

I'm also starting to have second thoughts on the 2wd thing. I may or may not have gotten stuck in my own driveway today :doh:

I forgot to take pictures at work in the daylight. Tomorrow's another new day. 

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Well, time for a slightly more optimistic photo dump than the last. 


Still some bugs to be worked out. You can see the puddle of power steering fluid leaking. Also the wheels bumped up against the curb to stop it from rolling because the parking brake is no good... I can only get away with that so often, and I may need to toss some bricks in just in case. 


I don't really know why my coworker thinks he needs such a giant truck. Sure it's got a back seat, but the bed's the same length, and he can only get one sled on his deck without exceeding his rear axle weight rating anyhow, so what's the point of the bigger truck that can't haul more sleds than the little MJ? I don't get it. 




I gotta say, I'm a bit nervous driving it in traffic without a rear bumper. I haven't bothered finding out whether or not it's a factory delete or just long gone. The license plate light is just a generic Grote one that looks like it was added along the way somewhere. But I'm a bit less concerned about the bumper when I remember that almost every other vehicle on the road will be far better at stopping than this one. 



I'm not entirely convince I'll be able to get that down if necessary. 

I popped the LSV rod off the diff, and put it back the way it should be. No before photo. Braking seems to have improved a little after doing that, but it's still pretty sketchy. Stopping at stop signs and lights isn't a big deal, but a panic stop may be a bit beyond its capabilities. Level in the master cylinder was low, but not tragic, but the brake fluid is blacker as sin. Brake pedal feel improves as I get to the bottom of travel, so I'm thinking a good bleed will sort the brakes... Assuming I can crack the bleeders. Just looking through the callipers, the pads and rotors look acceptable. Not sure about the drums. Something is grinding as I brake, but there's still some good rust on the rotors from sitting that I think/hope is what's making the noise. When I shuffle the wheels around, I'll definitely be popping the drums off. 



Something else I'd like to address is the lack of cupholders. I've seen a couple good solutions for that on here, might have to give one a whirl. With the power steering puking as bad as it does, steering became a bit of a challenge one-handed towards the end of the day. 


And of course the inevitable. 


The evidence someone may have addressed rust in the past and the fact it's still present is a touch unsettling. 






The floor pans are going because of course they are. Both cab corners have spots, the driver's rocker is starting, and the passenger rocker looks to be on its way out. But overall it's a very solid truck for $700, even if I did have to swap out the engine. 


And yes, those chunks of rust on the ground are most definitely the exhaust disintegrating. The cat's heat shield is also going. 


So yes, there are some bugs to work out still. But it's running and driving, and I'm pretty pumped about that. 

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