Jump to content

My first project car: A 1988 Comanche.

Recommended Posts

Had always wanted a car to tinker on that had (somewhat) easily available parts. Always really liked XJs, but I already have an SUV, and needed something to haul bigger things. Saw a Comanche one day and knew I had to have one. Spent the better part of a year looking for one, and then I found what I was looking for. Wanted one that was relatively rust free, and a decent color. Knew I wanted the short bed, and the 4.0 6L that I've heard so many great things about.


I'd assume I'd have to get whatever I found repainted, and undercoated, but lo and behold, I found an 88 Pioneer in NC that had all of those things, and more, with only 136k on the odometer. Now, it's not all daisies, it's far from perfect, but what Jeep is? She starts and runs just fine, and that was the main concern with me. Everything else I'm fairly confident that I can solve with a few beers, this place, and a haynes manual. 


It needs a lot of work, and I'll probably be wearing out the modifications and repairs sub forums for help along the way. I'm not a total car nerd, but I can turn a wrench and solder, so how bad could it be? :helpme:


I really love this truck, and plan on slowly but surely getting it back to totally pristine. Every time I look at it, I see another thing that needs doing, but here's the list as it sits now, in no particular order. Some tasks are larger than others. If you have advice or recommendations, I'm all ears. I've already bookmarked a few walk throughs on here, but I'll take all the help I can get! 


I plan on adding to this thread as I go, as well. 



- Chase power steering leak

- Very light transfer case leak

- Change oil over to full synthetic

- fix sagging rear end. Almost seems like the front got a lift kit with new shocks, and the back got maybe just an AAL. It's a minor sag, but enough to stand out when I look at it. 

- Was looking at a Zone offroad or rusty's offroad 4.5" kit, just to start from scratch, suspension wise. 

- fix horrendous steering. Driving straight has the wheel at about 10 oclock. Gave it a quick wiggle test and it seems like the track bar and drag link are both totally shot. 

- might change rear breaks to discs. The drums look fairly shot. 

- sort wiring. Everything under the hood is a bit of a mess

- clean engine bay. For being in decent shape, everything is fairly dusty.

- add a winch to brush bar

- replace back glass (this one is already proving to be a doozy)

- replace windshield wiper motor (I've only got one speed right now, and it's the high setting. And it isn't very high)

- replace wheels and tires

- lube hood latch

- lube tailgate handle

- center tailgate

- replace/restore sagging headliner and sun visors

- replace/restore bench seat upholstery

- clean up/repaint rusted seat brackets

- replace license lamps and lamp plates

- replace rear fender flares for non 4 door XJ versions

- replace interior door handle trim (chrome is cracked)

- replace driver side exterior handle (black is cracked)

- install A pillar screws and screw covers (missing)

- install cabin lights (missing)

- replace missing lower dash screws

- replace rusted battery hold down

- replace cracked driver's side window trim

- restore underhood retractable light

- replace radio/speakers

- fix dash gear shift indicator being off center

- fix hood prop holder

- remove rust under rear bumper

-replace grab handle




- replaced transfer case sensor switch to resolve the Part Time 4WD light always being on. 

- fuel gauge registers backwards. Assume the PO put the wrong sending unit in before MPS made theirs. Have one of those in bound. 

- cleaned up inside of fuel tank door


I have photos of almost all of the to-do list, just to remind myself. If you'd like to see images of anything, or have any of the trickier parts like the rear window/license lamp plate/lights, please don't hesitate to reach out! The same goes for if you see anything that needs fixing urgently. Yall definitely know more about these beauties than I do. 


I look forward to following this up, as time permits. 








Link to comment
Share on other sites

As promised, here are some shots of the transfer case sensor switch. You can see how worn out the old one was. 27mm, but I just used my trusty Knipex pliers wrench because my 27mm socket had gone missing. Didn't give me any trouble once I broke through the undercoating/grease that was on the old one. 


You can also see some of the leaking I'm experiencing on the transfer case. Nothing major, and definitely isn't an output seal problem. But we'll cross that bridge on a later date with more photos. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Fuel pump got sorted today. Was curious had bad the fumes would be, I'll just say I'm glad I had a respirator handy....


Old pump and sending unit worked fine, but the fuel gauge was backwards. So, I waited until the gauge read full and then cracked open the pump. First time tackling something like this and it wasn't so bad. Using the new MTS unit. Dropped right in. My only critique would be how close the send/return tubes are on the MTS. My fuel lines are thicker, and fitting two lines AND two hose clamps provided to be a tight fit, but doable. 


Also, had no clue how useful hose pliers were until this.


Tried to take shots along the way! But let this serve as a reminder that if I can do it, anyone can do it. Apologies for the lighting. Working with what I can! 









Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, after trying to fill er up today, realized I had a leak in my gasket. Pumped slowly just in case, glad I did. I was able to pull the pump and reseat everything without spilling any fuel, so that's a plus. 


Drove back, tinkered with the new gasket some more, and got it right. Turned out I had missed one of the three tangs on the lock ring. Didn't even have to pull any lines to get it set right. Drove back to the pump, and it's holding fuel fine, now. There's gotta be a better way to hold a new gasket in place that I'm just unaware of....


That being said, decided to tackle the retractable hood light. The one I had was bound up inside. Other people have redone them, but there's a disturbing lack of photo evidence around, so I snapped some. 


Took a 5/64th drill bit to the rivets and popped them all off. Opened the case and the cable was just shoved back in the housing, causing a rat's nest of wire. One I had that straightened out, I was delighted to see that the clock spring mechanism was working fine once the kink was gone. 


Still gotta get some replacement hardware to seal it back up, as well as figuring out how/why this mercury switch works. But everything seems intact, save for the old lens housing. PO seemed to hold it in place with electrical tape, and removing the old adhesive was a chore, but a little elbow grease and rubbing alcohol solved that problem. 


Gonna grab a new bulb and do some googling on this mercury switch and see what happens! 








Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not much done today except for counting some empty screw holes that need filled and getting the types of bulbs nailed down. 


Retractable hood light is a 90

Courtesy lights are a c5w

License plate lamps are 194


For whatever reason the inner fuel cap door was total filthy, like abnormally greasy. Rest of the truck is fairly clean, so I'm not sure what happened. Took some wet wipes to it, and cleaned it up. Not perfect, but the best I wanted to do in 10 minutes or so. Here's a before and after: 





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Tinkered around with it the euramtecs cabin lights today and was able to find the wiring diagram in another thread. 


My results were hit and miss. Was able to get the light on, but it was very dim. I assume that had to do with the very small gauge wire I was using, as well as the poor connection. 


Definitely not the final solution, just wanted to see if I could get them on without a trip to the hardware store. I was! The light was very dim, and I was able to get it to work as intended, but only with 2 cables attached. If I attached 3, I'd get power but it was a constant on no matter which mode was selected. 


Also worth mentioning that the small red male spade connectors meant for 22-16ga wire will not fit inside the factory female connector. The factory females fit just fine on 2 of the euramtec posts, but the third for 12V is larger. As you can see in the photo, the yellow spades meant for 12-10AWG fits fine on the larger post. 


I'm sure it's just my lack of electrical engineering that leading to the dimness. But I thought it was worth sharing! May just have to bite the bullet and snip the factory wires. Wouldn't be the end of the world, but I was hoping not to. 





Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 hours ago, Pete M said:

do you have a multimeter?  what is coming out of the 3 wires?


I do! Didn't think to check. I'll check for voltage on all 3 with the key on, and engine running. Eagle also thought I should try the bulb the other way around, as well. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 5/2/2022 at 11:39 PM, Pete M said:

do you have a multimeter?  what is coming out of the 3 wires?

Red is hot with ~5ish volts with the key in the on position. Other two are 0s with the key in the on position. Didn't try them with the car running because I ran out of time. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Pete M said:

5? :thinking:  5 is not 12.


That's what I thought. Thought it might be that smaller jump cable, but I tried the factory original, and was getting a similar reading. That being said, the leads I had on my multimeter are short, so I didn't have the best options for grounds. I'll retry it. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bit the bullet and bought a new power steering pump, as my leak is coming from the reservoir itself. Bought a new pulley and belt while I was at it, too, because they were cheap. Sadly, no parts store in town has a pulley puller available to rent. They either don't carry them or already have them out. So that'll have to wait a few more days. 


Redid the vacuum lines, but not many photos to show of that. I was more fighting getting my hands into narrow spaces. 


Filters are next. Just trying to find more of the oil I want to use. Pennzoil Ultra Platinum 10w30 in a 5 quart jug is almost unobtainium. Kind of wild! 


And the cabin courtesy light saga continues. If I could get rid of the play in the steering wheel, fix my gear shift indicator, find a suitable piece of back glass, and fix these cabin lights. This thing would be a dream! :grinyes:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Today was a doozy. Tried to replace the power steering pump, just to resolve that leak. It's leaking from the bottom of the reservoir. Pulled the busted one out and bought a brand spanking new, not remanufactured pump from Rock auto. PN 2033776 from Ultra Power. 


Had to run all over town to find a loaner pulley puller from a parts store. Found one, and only realized that the new pump isn't threaded for the hardware for the belt tension bracket on the old jeep pumps. Big swing and a miss. I could have threaded it myself, but then I'd have to ream out holes, and buy new hardware. Not worth the headache. 


On top of that, also broke one of the rusted out screws holding the pump on. So I've gotta figure out a good way to get that out. Thankfully, I have access to both sides, but add that to the adventure. Any recommendations there would be appreciated! 


Just ordered a reman pump from rock auto, so we'll see if that's any better. 


Photos of it all below! 








Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'd try to drill that broken bolt and use an easy-out to get it out.  I had an issue with mine rounding off the threads--ended up tapping it to a larger size.


For the PS pump, you can just use 3 longer bolts that go all the way through.  You don't necessarily need to have a PS pump with threads and 6 smaller bolts.  This will also make it a lot easier to adjust the belt tightness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Fear not! This project hasn't died, just haven't had much time to work on it. Just bought a new place, and in the midst of moving, and contractors has left little time to work on the Manche, sadly. 


That being said, bought a reman power steering pump that actually has the threaded holes for the rear mounting screws. Ended up replacing that, as well as that bracket that holds the pump in place. I tried to ez out that broken bolt, but didn't pull it from the bay beforehand. Ending up getting off center and ruining it a bit. Thankfully, just a $30 fee for a new bracket from the pull apart. And I still think I can salvage this one. But that one is on me. Lesson learned. Part of the reason I chose this truck is because of parts availability, and this is a perfect example of it. A growing pain. 


Also replaced the serpentine belt while I had the pump off, just because. Still tinkering with tension, but no squeaks, at least. 


While I had the air box off, I pulled the top of the throttle body off to clean it. Butterfly was actually pretty clean, but there was some odd white residue that wouldn't come off with throttle cleaner. The gasket could also use replacing, but I couldn't seem to find that part on rock auto. Also seems one of the three screw holes for air intake on top of the throttle body has stripped. PO just used a bolt and nut through the hole. Seems to be working, for now. If you have an idea of what that white build up is, lemme know. 


Was going to remove the throttle body and super clean it, but it seemed like it's more than just popping off a few sensor connectors, so I left it in place and gave it a quick scrub with a nylon brush. I was getting very intermittent high RPMs on start ups, and it seems to have gone away. 


Got myself a new Wix air filter to throw in when I took the filter box off. My box seems to be bowed out on the sides, causes the filter to sag. Not sure what causes that, but it still closes up fine, so I'll keep on jeeping. 


I know it ain't the prettiest, but she's mine, and I'm learning! 












Link to comment
Share on other sites

Smaller fix today, replaced the gas cap. Old O ring was toast, bought one with a tether on sale. Figured if I don't like the tether, I could just nip it off. No clue where it's supposed to attach, but it screws on fine, so I can't complain. 


Also might need to grab a little rubber bumper for the door. Not sure what the OEM replacement is, or if I should just find a cheap adhesive one for cabinets in the mean time. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

FEAR NOT! This project has not died, it is alive. Just bought a place, so this has been on the back burner of late. But during my last little cruise, I encountered some nasty death wobble. 


Started with tie rod ends. Next drive, definitely noticed my alignment was off, but the slop in the steering wheel is substantially better. Driving back, hit a bump, death wobble. Decide to throw ball joints and wheel hubs at it next. Disassembly was easy enough! 


the auto zone loaner: https://www.autozone.com/loan-a-tools/loaner-ball-joint-press-adapter/p/great-neck-ball-and-u-joint-press-set/557231_0_0 doesn't have the removal piece you need for ball joints. Had to take it back. Finding the bigger 23 piece kit available at Advanced auto was a challenge in itself. https://shop.advanceautoparts.com/p/powerbuilt-tools-kit-46-ball-joint-u-joint-service-set-23-piece-648617/9150043-P


I finally tracked it down, but it was in rough shape. And to top it off, was missing the small removal piece to press out the upper ball joints. Argh. Ended up having to snag this on Amazon to press out two ball joints. https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07DJ5JTW7?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2ov_dt_b_product_details


New ball joints went in relatively easily, actually. I'm not sure how wild I am about the new Moog design without a dust boot, as it leaves a bit of a gap, but I got em for stupid cheap, so I can't complain. The PO replaced one ball joint and it had an UNREAL amount of up and down play to it. I understand top joints do, but this was about an inch of play, and I could shake it up and down. Probably not in spec. The other 3 were definitely factory original from 88, so didn't hurt to replace them.                         


But then wheel hubs were a separate issue. Front driver side came out as god intended. But the front passenger side is a different beast. A couple beers, a couple more hammers, and countless swear words, and the hub finally busted free. Only one small issue, the axle came with it. I'm a simple man, and this is my first project, so I don't have a bunch of cool air tools. 


After trying a combination of pullers https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c/evertough/rental-tools-evertough-axle-puller/ren1/67030, https://www.oreillyauto.com/detail/c/evertough/rental-tools-evertough-front-wheel-drive-hub-puller/ren1/67032, bigger hammers, and penetrating fluid, I started to call shops around the area seeing who had neater tools than me. Found one. We tried air hammers (multiple), heat, a 20 ton press, and even bigger hammers. Wheel hub and axle didn't even blink at us. 


So, my truck is still on jack stands while I try to figure out the vast world of Dana Spicer parts and compatibilities. Hoping I can just source an outer axle and throw a new hub on it and use the old, inner axle as is with a u joint swap. But I'm seeing all kinds of different lengths and teeth count. 


All in all, it's actually quite a fun learning experience. This is a great first car to work on, parts are readily available, cheap, and there's great resources like this place to lean on. 


And now for the photo dump. 
















Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also worth mentioning that I also threw in a https://www.ksuspensionfab.com/store/p77/XJ%2FMJ_Ultimate_Power__%2F-_Cable_Upgrade.html#/ and fresh battery in an effort to chase some of my longer crank times I get on the truck. 


Sadly, neither did anything to fix it. And in doing so, I realized the PO definitely did some rewiring of electricals that aren't up to code. It would seem my truck is missing it's entire relay box.... :brickwall:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...