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Bought a 1991 XJ that has been sitting in the woods for 2 years...


NAXJA Forum User
Hi Group. I am new to the forum. Found this 1991 XJ that I think I stole for $750. Here is what I was told about the XJ:

She had a crate 4.0 installed around 20k miles ago.
Was parked in late 2016 and never touched again.
Key was lost in early 2016 and a locksmith rekeyed ignition. Now when it is cranked the horn will blow most of the time. Horn is currently unplugged.
Inside is very clean but dash is pretty bad cracked. Door panel for lock is coming off. Glove compartment had water in it and water in carpet on passenger front floor. Seemed to be a new leak as owner seemed to know everything about the XJ decay despite not driving it. Also no weird smells or anything. Not sure if it is from window or door seal, or maybe vacuum system in engine bay.
All original paperwork including 2016 registration.

I am going to pick it up on a flatbed hopefully this weekend. Do not want to try and crank and drive it.

Any suggestions on where I should start? If taking it to a local mechanic and ask for all fluids and filters to be drained and replaced, how much would you think this would cost? Obviously I am not just talking about an oil change here. Also, would just alcohol to the gas tank be good enough or should I drop and empty the tank that way?

Any advice and suggestions much appreciated. I looked at the suggested Pacific coast manuals....did not see a 91....would another be very similar?


91 to 94 is going to be very similar. There were some small changes and an airbag added in 95, then a move to OBD2 in 96 then a redesign in 97.

If it was me and i already knew about the water leak id pull the interior and carpet and set that aside to dry. Then start messing with the mechanical stuff to figure out whats going on.

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Front passenger floor is rusting maybe even rotted thru -- pull the carpet as suggested

That $750 XJ is going to quadruple in price if you don't work on it yourself -- Why have a mechanic change the fluids? Buy the tools if you don't have them ask questions here and do it yourself.
I would not take on this project if you're not going to DIY. It would be way to expensive to pay someone shop rates to bring this XJ up to speed. Better off looking for one already on the road and even then be prepared to have it worked on occasionally.
I missed the mechanic part. Yeah that will start to get prohibitively expensive quick. If you got the money and dont mind spending it whatever i guess.

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I would not take on this project if you're not going to DIY. It would be way to expensive to pay someone shop rates to bring this XJ up to speed. Better off looking for one already on the road and even then be prepared to have it worked on occasionally.


If you are going to drive an older vehicle you really do need to be mechanically inclined. I don't think it matters what make/model (with the possible exception of British cars where you absolutely need to be ready to work on them at any random time), as vehicles age there are more details that come up needing service. Paying someone else to do that work adds up fast. And fluid changes are among the simplest of jobs.
Hi all. Thanks for the advice. Not planning on taking to a mechanic, more curious than anything. I change my own fluids on my truck now, but for time sake I was wondering what it would cost. I still may take it to a local trusted guy to inspect after I change all the fluids to see if he sees anything I should address now. I am concerned about electrical components having not moved for a while and being outside. There was a nest of some sort in left front fender.

I have rebuilt a couple older K5s. Never had a jeep. I pick it up Saturday and looking forward to start everything.
Sitting around for a couple of years is really no big deal.

If there was a nest then take the time to look for chewed wires. Evidently insulation is like candy to rodents. If you aren't seeing a bunch of chewed wires you are probably just fine on that front.

Most likely problem will be fuel delivery. If the tank was low or the cap didn't seal well you may have a nicely varnished fuel system to play with. Or you may have a bunch of water in the fuel. Or some rust. But honestly, two years is not much time.

If you want to look for some worst case scenarios go look for Roadkill videos. The '69 Mustang and the old Willy's Jeep come to mind as examples of fun challenges. But those things sat around for decades.
Watch out for bee nests in the crevices (hood, fuel door, etc).
These old jeeps are usually pretty robust, not sure why the parked it, if it was running when they did I’d assume mechanically the engine and transmission would be fine. Wiring on the other hand is more likely to be chewed up and rodents making nests in the engine bay, it can happen from being parked a couple of days.

Fuel tank gives me more concerns. Don’t trust it’s ok. If you’ve got the skill I’d drain and drop the tank to take a good look. On cars that have sat a very long time I’d say replace the tank and lines, but I’m talking decades. I wouldn’t do this here unless it looks bad.

My first steps would be clean it up underneath and in the engine bay.
Engine bay I’d look for signs of nests or chewed wires, critters love to find places near the air box and computer on the drivers side fire wall, fuse box battery area on the passengers side fender wall. And by the intake on the engine.

I’d check the engine turned freely
condition of the engine oil,drain and replace.
See what the radiator looks like and check how the fluid looks. If it low? Corroded? Contaminated?
If it looks average, just to get it running I’d leave it, a flush and replace would be a good idea but after a lot of year messing with a lot of POS cars the KISS rule is usually right.

See what the transmission fluid looks like, unless it looks contaminated I’d leave it be at least until running.

Transfer case should be a sealed unit, be good to check it but until it’s running it could be left alone. If you do check it open the fill plug first, then the drain just encase one of then if stuck. If you open the drai and the fill plug is stuck you’d have no way to refill it.

Now the horn sounding when the car turns over, the horn should sound ignition on or off. Going off only while being cranked over kind of sounds like either a wiring issue, chewed wires in the bay or dash, a screwed up ignition switch and wring in the column (maybe a theft recovery repaired wrong or diy gone bad). Or...
Once on a similar year xj the horn sounded maybe lights flashed too I can’t remember. It was a small repair I needed the battery disconnected for, when I hooked it up it acted like it had an alarm, far I as know this Jeep didn’t have a factor alarm although the vin report Jeep used to have indicated there was a door lock fob we never got with the Jeep and don’t know if it ever had, also this Jeep had never done this before on any repair. Disconnect the battery leaving it off until the computer resets then hooded it back up no issues, everything like normal. No idea why it happened, seems like an alarm but FAIK we don’t have a factory alarm, if this is your issue maybe somebody who understands these early xj factory alarms can talk you through it.

Now if you had a aftermarket alarm, I don’t know where to begin,80-90s alarms were often hack jobs installed by people with no business touching a radio let alone the ignition wiring harness. You can look for signs is prior instillation or current system in place, if there was one I pull it out and try to repair what ever damage they did. If it looks bad or your dash harness/engine harness looks bad from rodents I’d replace both with good used one and avoid the headache.

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Well we made it safely home with the XJ! Good news is literally everything seems to be in working order! Electrical all checking out. Will finish fluids change out tomorrow.

I have several pics but it seems I can not post attachments yet.

It is surprising. I had a friend give me a 1994 ZJ for $400 that had sat in his front yard for probably 6-years. He thought it had a bad engine or tranny and was going to pay to have it hauled off, so my original plan was to part it out . I drove over, stuck a used battery it in. It started on the first try with the 6-year old gas and drove home just fine. The only real problems were moldy carpet that we pulled and pressure washed and a brake sticky caliper. A weekend of cleaning it and maybe $100 of parts. I sold it a few months later for $1500 (to a family that drove almost 100-miles in a snow storm to buy it site unseen, but that's another amusing story).