1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler (TJ) Frequently Asked Questions

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4. Vehicle Care and Maintenance

4.1. Help! I have a problem with my Jeep and you're the only one who can fix it!

Many people find this page because they have a specific problem with their Wrangler, and they want to know if I know how to fix it. I've received a fair amount of people who list their Jeep's symptoms and want me to come up with a diagnosis. Unfortunately, I'm almost never able to help out or to provide a satisfactory answer.

I'm not a mechanic -- I'm a Jeep owner just like anyone else. Despite the amount of information I've gathered to build and maintain this FAQ, I don't have specific mechanical skills or any special ability to diagnose problems. Also, a mechanic working on your vehicle has access to diagnostic tools and the ability to test-drive the vehicle. Also, a qualified mechanic has worked on hundreds or thousands of vehicles and has the benefit of experience to know what causes a problem and how to fix it. I personally don't have those qualifications.

4.2. I have a problem with my Jeep, and I need to know if this is a common problem.

Unfortunately, I don't know of any problem-tracking databases to determine how often a particular problem occurs. I used to have more of a sense of this when I followed the newsgroups rather regularly, but even then, that doesn't reflect an accurate sampling. Magazines like Consumer Reports can come up with rather general lists of where problems occur.

Having said that, here are a few common defects I've read about with any degree of frequency:

I've also seen some of the following listed as Jeep problems, but they're really closer to design issues than actual defects with the vehicle:

If you're looking for more data on common Jeep problems, try one of the following sources:

4.3. Finding more informed sources on where to get your Jeep repaired

If you're still trying to figure out the cause of a problem with your Wrangler, try one of the following options:

4.4. "Check Engine" light

If your "Check Engine" light comes on, this means that the engine management computer has detected a problem related to emissions or engine operation. Usually, this means that something needs to be fixed in order to comply with federal emissions requirements. The standard is named OBD II (On-Board Diagnostics). Many of these trouble codes relate to sensor inputs that have failed or are out of tolerance, and the engine management computer can't do the best job if it isn't getting the right information. It's sort of like trying to print to your printer if someone unplugged the USB cable.

Usually, this means that you should bring the Jeep to a qualified mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem. However, if you want to get some kind of idea what is going on, there is a way you can see the diagnostic codes without having to hook up a scanner. To view the codes, start with the engine turned off. Turn the ignition key to the "ON" (not "IGNITION") position, then turn it off for about a second. Turn it on for a second, then turn it off for a second. The third time you turn it on, you should see a set of trouble codes flashing on the odometer display

getahelmet.com has a page listing the error codes for 1998 and newer vehicles.

4.5. Diagnosing and fixing water leaks

One common complaint about Wranglers is that water leaks into the interior. Finding and fixing these leaks can be a troublesome process, but there are some technical service bulletins that address these issues.

Technical service bulletin 23-09-99 lists a number of areas where water can leak in, and provides some detailed instructions on how to repair the leaks. If you choose to fix the problem yourself, you may end up having to spend some time figuring out exactly where the water leaks in. They describe the following cases:

If you have a water leak around the heater housing, it may be leaking in through the cowl area. Technical service bulletin 24-10-96 describes the procedure to seal the cowl grlle screen to the cowl grille. There are also two technical service bulletins (24-012-01 and 24-21-99) that describe a condition where the air conditioner evaporator drain tube leaks into the HVAC assembly case and into the passenger side of the vehicle. The solution to this problem is to install a lengthened HVAC drain hose. Also, bulletin 23-41-99 details a revised weather strip around the door, which can fix some leak problems.

If you have any of these particular maladies, you can try to fix the problem yourself, or you can get the bulletins from ALLDATA for assistance. Again, ALLDATA bulletins may be available at your local library, or from the ALLDATA web site (for a subscription fee).

4.6. The infamous problem with the gas gauge

In certain earlier models, such as 1997 models, the gas gauge may not go all the way to the "FULL" mark. Worse yet, it may not point to "EMPTY" when the tank is actually empty, but it may read 1/8 to 1/4 full. Technical service bulletins 08-19-97A and 14-03-97 cover this problem, and there was a recall (number 755) to replace the fuel tank sending unit. If you're still having this problem, you may want to check with a dealership to make sure that the recall has been performed. According to some Jeep engineers I met at Camp Jeep in 1997, they said this problem came about because several different groups of people worked on this system.

4.7. Soft top and window care

Your windows should stay in decent shape if you wipe them off with a soft, wet or moist cloth. Don't use a dry cloth - you'll scratch the surface with the dust. Also, try to avoid rolling up or storing the windows when they're dusty for this same reason.

If you get scratches in the plastic windows, some people suggest using Lemon Pledge to clean them and to fix the scratches. I've had very good luck with Meguiar's products, including their Clear Plastic Polish, Mirror Glaze Clear Plastic Cleaner, and Mirror Glaze Clear Plastic Detailer.

4.8. Towing capacity

A popular discussion in rec.autos.makers.jeep+willys goes along the lines of, "My Wrangler has the same engine as a Cherokee, so how come it can't tow as much as a Cherokee?" The question is also phrased sometimes as, "I have a trailer and a boat that weigh 2500 pounds, but the owner's manual says I can only tow 2000 pounds. Am I safe doing this?"

Jerry Bransford gave the following answer to this topic:

Jim Moore wrote:
Greetings. (After the looong thread about tow hitches, I'm almost afraid to ask this, but I have looked in the FAQ and there's nothing there.) According to the Consumer World/Edmund web site, the towing capacity for the 97 Wrangler is (only) 2000lbs. That seems WAY low to me; I take it that's an accurate figure, though? I want to pull a small (19') sailboat (Hunter 19!) with a combined boat/trailer/motor/equipment weight of around 2500lb. Am I out of luck as far as a TJ is concerned? I'm not concerned about the short wheelbase aspect of towing, as I use a 90 Bronco II now without a lot of whipping around, but I don't want to screw anything up on a new Jeep. My wife's ZJ (I6, auto) pulls the combination with aplomb (it's not every day I get to work that word into a sentence). I'll be using it for short distances (<15mi) only. Any suggestions? Please don't say "Buy an F-150" or similar. It's hard for me to grasp that even a small pickup like the Ranger has a much higher tow rating than the Wrangler.
Here's some very factual information on this, I'm 'up' on towing probably as much as anyone around these newsgroups.

It's true the TJ's rated capacity is only 2,000 lbs. The low 2000 lb rating has nothing to do with the TJ's power, strength, brakes, or anything else related to that. If the towing capacity were only based on those parameters, it would be rated near 5000 lbs since the Cherokee with the exact same engine and tranny/brakes is rated for 5000 lbs.

The 2000 lb limitation is strictly due to the TJ's short wheelbase. Anything heavier will 'take command' of the TJ/trailer combination when you're going down a twisty road and the first time you have to hit your brakes hard on a curve, you're in deep doo-doo. The short wheelbase can't resist the 'moment' (force) of the trailer trying to push the TJ's rear-end one way or the other and suddenly you've jack-knifed and in BIG trouble.

I've been towing for close to 30 years and towing with short-wheelbased vehicles should only be done if you abide by the towing limitations that were figured out by the engineers. By the way, I see Wranglers and VWs towing heavy loads, but that doesn't make the driver smart to do so!


4.9. Removing the doors

If you want to remove the doors (for the complete open-air look, or to avoid damage off-road), here's how to do it:

1. Remove the nut at the bottom of the hinge. You may want to wrap some tape around it to avoid damaging the paint. I think this is a metric size, but I don't remember which one.

2. Pull the retaining strap off its hook inside the vehicle.

3. Open the door, then pull the door straight up. It should come off, unless it's stuck in place. In this case, lubricant or WD-40 will help.

After you have removed the doors, the overhead light and/or door open buzzer might be on. To disable this, look in the fuse box (located behind the glove compartment) for a fuse labeled "DOOR JAM DEFEAT". Pull this fuse, and you won't have this problem.

Note that some states require a rear-view mirror to be mounted on the driver's side and possibly the passenger side. There are some mail-order catalogs that sell mirror kits or adapters that you can mount to the windshield pillars.