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How to choose parts and what to prioritize?! New to my XJ & wrenching.


NAXJA Forum User
Central TX
Originally posted in Daily Driver before I realized this was the better spot.

TLDR- new to all of this. This XJ will surely outlive me at this point when I am done restoring it so... Where do I start? Is there a thread or 5 that someone can point me to about how to know what parts are reliable and basic maintenance process/order of operations on the XJ in general? I can search all the terms (and have) but the words "thermostat" or "radiator" for instance come up a lot. It is a lot to wade through.

What is worth good $$$ and what is ok to go cheaper on - my main concern is simply what part can I trust? Quality over price is my general go to for OEM or slightly better than OEM parts.

Full version- I am super new to wrenching and a new to me XJ, a 1999 SE spec with 4x4, 4.0, all the skid plates, fully manual/basic interior, no mods/all stock, 39,xxx miles. Built 10/98 and I have the build sheet. Definitely many more hours than miles because it was a university campus vehicle in Texas that some guy probably sat in a lot with the AC on. It has a dirty but solid interior aside from the wrecked headliner, paint is pretty damn good, and crucially NO RUST. None. I have not pulled the carpets yet so there could be some hiding in a floor pan but it was parked under cover for its whole life, too.

I HAD MECHANIC - replace head gasket (+ fresh oil change) and serviced rear diff (full synth) to get it into workable order before I dive in.

I COMPLETED - fan shroud, big 7 wires and headlight harness upgrade.

My XJ runs pretty good, fires up reliably (with a squeak when its its cold every 3rd or 4th start), but has intermittent rough idle and gets REALLY bad mpg for how stock it is on 215/15 tires. Overheating on a hot day in stop and go with AC on happened once now ... so general maintenance should help these a lot. The intent is a mostly stock weekend camping and trail head reaching kind of vehicle, so I never intend to go hard into wheeling or mudding. I have since come to realize since I bought it that these are hard to find in the overall great and unmodified condition mine is in.

How do you tell what OEM or slightly upgraded OEM parts are the go-to for any given item? Even with tons of searching forums it just seems like too much to sort through with so little experience!

So I go to look at parts, there are a million options for everything (pros and cons, right?) but the hard part is these options come with people's opinions, they vary from "NeVeR uSe ThAt PaRt!!11!!!:flamemad:" to "I used it and it is great:cheers:", to many items just not having reviews or being obvious low cost junk. But MOPAR parts seem to be, usually, a rip off, too?!

#1 full coolant system flush (badly needed), absolutely job #1
#2 full tune up (plugs, wires, distributor rotor/cap), more?
#3 a rad cap, 195 thermostat/housing/gasket, maybe a water pump?, (has new
ish radiator with only 6000 miles since 2017 but maybe it should go?)
#4 clean the injectors and throttle body,
#5 transfer case, transmission, power steering and brake services.
#6 grease joints and replace any rubber mounts/stops that need replacing. None
are too bad but all are 24 years old.
#7 should probably replace a few sensors, too. Not sure which ones are reliable
and which ones wear out more easily? O2 and TPS? Intake air temp?
#8 less important is the suspension. Leaf springs are flat,
front coils are dead, shocks are worn out. But engine first.
#9 Needs a damn radio and speakers. All dead.

I know this is a big list and somewhat of a vent in some ways. It will all take time, not looking for it to be done ASAP.

Thanks to NAXJA for being a great learning resource for the last 5 months so far though!