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John's 98 Build Thread


NAXJA Forum User
Hi! I’m John, and this is my second Cherokee which will be an expedition style build for hunting and camping. I have really enjoyed reading build threads, and I have learned a lot from them, but I don’t have one. Let me start off by introducing my 1998 Jeep Cherokee Sport, McSquizzy. It has the 4.0L I6 that everyone loves, an NP231, and an AX15. I have a D30 up front, and a C8.25 in the rear, with stock 3.07 gears. The previous owner had installed a crummy 200W sub and had an even worse CD player that stopped working when it got hot (I lived in New Mexico). I bought my Cherokee with primer on the header panel and the front drivers fender. It has come a long way from that. The first things I set out to fix were the power door locks (passenger door module), windows that wouldn’t roll down (drivers door module), a slight miss (cap, rotor, plugs and wires), and some paint for the finder and header panel.


The first mod I made to my Jeep was installing my XM radio. I used a piece of 1/2” angle between the visors and ran the power and antenna between the headliner and the windshield. This was great, but I had my windshield replaced a day later, and the guy who did it glued my headliner to the windshield, and encapsulated my wiring in the glue. I did not catch this until later, but when I tired fixing it, I messed up my pristine headliner.


The factory key fob that came with my Cherokee was pathetic, so I decided to upgrade. I installed a Code Alarm CA5150 remote start. I chose it over the normal brands like Clifford that are owned by DEI, because it is manufactured by Audiovox who is the Ford OEM. I had previously had a DEI and was less than impressed, especially with the price, but had always liked the quality of Ford remotes. The previous owner had a Breathalyzer installed at some point, so I had to do some reconstructive wiring. I ended up disabling the remote start due to the fact I could not figure out an effective neutral safety switch. Almost two years later, and I am still impressed with the quality of the Code Alarm unit.
I found a Gentex temperature compass mirror at the junk yard for cheap, and installed it. I reused the temperature sensor and mount from the Suburban I grabbed it from. I brought ACC 12V+ up from the radio.

Temperature sensor mount

I bought a Rusty’s air tube to replace my stock airbox, cause paper media is wimpy, right? Someone on JF had one with a new K&N filter for cheap, so I grabbed it. I wanted to make room for a second battery tray later in life.


I met a guy who had the brightest dang headlights out there, and asked what he (NM96XJ) had done. He did a “headlight wiring upgrade harness” and got some Sylvania XTravision bulbs. I needed to replace my headlights, as the reflective material in one of my bulbs was flaking. I got a set of bulbs and a harness from amazon for under $30. I love the bulbs, but if you want more amperage to the headlights build your own harness. There’s a good writeup here. I will be rebuilding mine soon due to issues with the length of the leads going to the battery and fatigue on the relay sockets (its not under stress, but the heat is killing them).


Before I got to the lift I decided that I wanted to have on board air. No particular reason, I just wanted OBA. I decided on the ARB CKMTA12, and promptly found one on sale. I couldn’t find anyone who had mounted this model, so I winged it. The mount was welded up out of ½” angle, and worked. I got a local agriculture hose supply to make up a three foot section of stainless lined with Teflon to dissipate some heat, and used cheap Harbor Freight air hose zip tied up along the left frame rail, to the rear cargo area to connect to my air tank. This was all revised later due to many failures.



I bought the jeep in late July, and by tax time I had all of the bits and pieces sorted out, and used my tax refund to buy a lift. I had decided that I wanted to do everything right on this jeep, as my previous jeep was sort of hacked together from junkyard parts, and therefore I would replace everything that was affected by lifting, including a SYE, disconnects, and even correcting the shock mount angle. I ended up getting the top 3.5” package from Dirk at DPG offroad. He is a great guy. The parts list included:

• Old Man Emu XJ HD leafs - CS033RB
• Old Man Emu ZJ coils - 2934
• Old Man Emu extended front shocks – 60052L
• Old Man Emu extended front shocks – 60053
• DPG Hockey Pucks for front bumpstops
• DPG rear bumpstop plates (rear) and ubolts
• DPG Disconnect tie up cables (still haven’t installed…)
• DPG 1.75” Coil Spacers
• JKS Lower Control Arms - 6100
• JKS Trackbar – OGS126
• JKS Disconnects - 2000
• JKS rear shock mounts – OGS922
• Rubicon Express hack and tap SYE – RE1807
• Rubicon Express double cardian driveshaft - RE1898-355
• Rubicon Express 4 degree shims – RE1467

My wife and I installed the lift over a three day weekend and filmed the whole thing for class.





The next big upgrade I did was an All Aluminum “two row” radiator off of EBay and HD Fan clutch from O’Rilley Life was great, and the radiator looked awesome. The whole thing was awesome, until I decided to drift around a corner and my new Hayden 2625 fan clutch went through the back of my radiator. I promptly ordered a “superior” three row off of EBay, and did the motor mounts.

Most places in New Mexico are away from cellphone reception, and I did not like the idea of walking, so I installed a CB. I first had a Cobra 19 DX VI, which was short lived. I had misdiagnosed bad SWR as a crummy radio, and went out and bought a Cobra 25 LX. I ended up getting a real antenna mount, a real antenna, and finally some grounding straps to make my SWR manageable.

First antenna mount attempt

I fell in love with the ARB bumper style after seeing a CF build thread.

This particular build has influenced many things I have done to my jeep since. I contacted Dirk at DPG to buy an ARB bumper, and proceeded to wait eight weeks before it arrived. I mounted a Harbor Freight 12,000 pound wench behind it. The logic was, get the 12,000 pound unit, not the 8,000 pound unit because I would never need the 12,000 pounds, and the low duty cycle of the harbor freight wenches would not be an issue. I was even able to mount the solenoid pack on the bumper just like ARB intended.


My wife couldn’t figure out what to get me off of my Jeep wish list, so she bought me ACOS. I installed them and rejoiced because I could ditch the spacers that came with my lift. I actually saw an improvement in my gas mileage from doing this because it allowed me to have a forward rake.





My air tube was not doing well because the K&N took a hit when I was removing the ARB compressor on one of my many mount modification attempts. I also had lost the room I wanted for a second battery to the compressor, so I decided to look into a cowl intake. I found a Spectre cowl intake on EBay, and had it on the way. I was surprised at the noise it introduced into the cab, so I bought a silicon elbow and sleeved it into the cowl mount, pointing the intake away from the heater box intake. This worked well for noise management, and still leaves the deep growl under wide open throttle.




My wife’s 98 has an overhead console, and I liked the range to empty indicator. I followed the overhead console tutorial to combine a van and ZJ overhead console to make an XJ overhead console but id did not use the ZJ BCM. We had recently reupholstered my wife’s head liner, so we had some fabric left that matched fairly well. I did not believe that nonsense about the ZJ trip computer not working with the XJ computer, because they had a common language, the CCD bus. The only feature that did not work was the temperature sensor, and the distance to empty was unfortunately calculated for a larger fuel tank (23 gallon, not 20) so it is off by a couple percent. I really like the instantaneous fuel mileage feature. I wired the console up using the ACC power I had brought up to the headliner for the mirror, and desoldered the header from the now dead RKE module to pull the CCD bus from. I have had one major rule for this jeep, and that is that I will not cut up wire unless it is easily replaceable.





I wanted to replace the sub box the previous owner had installed. It was taking up room in the back and was annoying when I packed up to go hunting. I got a Select Increments 72625S without the sub, as I had read some unflattering reviews of the sub itself. I found that you can get a decent JBL for the difference. I picked one that was within the power range of the Alpine 200W amp (really old) that was in the Jeep.


My battery strap had come loose on a rather rough offroad adventure, and hammered out my battery tray. This was convenient, because my battery was also getting weak. This all was exciting, because I had seen the Dirtboud Offroad optima tray, and liked it. I picked one up, and a can of rustoleum black gloss appliance enamel, and a yellowtop. I painted the tray with three coats the enamel and mounted it up. I ignored all of the crying and moaning about the factory in Mexico producing bad Optimas. So far now a year later and my jeep still starts faster and has a better discharge rate over stock. I only wish Dirtbound made a right side tray so I could finally complete my dual battery dreams.

Just as I started saving for lockers and regearing, the wiring harness on my ARB compressor had tanked. I guess filling tires was too much. Actually some research shows that the connectors ARB had used were rated at something like 30 amps, and in fact the compressor draws 40 amps per motor, so the failure was under engineering. I ended up pulling the compressor due to the mount I had built interfering with the hood closing properly without first closing the driver side. I later rebuilt the compressor, and have been happy with it since.



I had installed the 703 neon injectors in my first Cherokee and was very happy with them. At work one day I found a set of eight VERY used injectors on craigslist for super cheap. I snatched them up, bought rebuild kits on EBay and got an ultrasonic cleaner from Harbor Freight. A couple hours later, the Siemens injectors were pulled and the Bosch replacements went in.

I was on the way home one day, and noticed my engine temperature was rising, so I quickly pulled into the closest parking lot. I got out and there was copious antifreeze pouring out of the side tanks of the radiator where they are bonded to the rows. The cheap Chinese all aluminum radiator had failed. Being that it had been all of three months I emailed the vendor on EBay, who promptly sent me a new one after I sent pictures of fluid pouring out. Three days later, I had a new radiator on my porch. I had it installed later that night. Well it was short lived, as I left home to go dove hunting, and while going up a particularly twisted section of road I could smell antifreeze again. The transmission mount had failed. I could move the transmission side to side, and the fan clutch had gone back into the radiator. I was so fed up with replacing radiators at this point, I bought a cheapie from AutoZone and a new transmission mount.


The transmission mount had a story of its own: apparently NAPA thinks that the exhaust hanger bushing is the transmission mount. They had to order a right hand drive mount for me to get the right part.

Life changes quickly when it does, and I found myself getting married, quitting my job for a new one, and moving 1800 miles in less than two weeks’ time. I talked to someone who used to live in Washington, where I was moving, who thought the leaky state of my jeep would be an obstacle to getting emissions passed and the Jeep registered. I crawled under the jeep and made a list of leaks that went something like this:

• Rear Main Seal
• Oil Pan Gasket
• Oil Plug
• Oil Filter Adapter
• Valve Cover Gasket
• Power Steering Box
• Transmission Output Seal

I decided that since I had so little time I would take the Jeep to a local mechanic, something I had never done. I have to say it was nice to drop the Jeep off on my way to work and pick it up on my way home, but within minutes of getting home I discovered that it leaked worse than it did when I took it, and now I had oil pressure problems. I dropped the Jeep back off and nicely asked them to fix the problem. I got a call later that afternoon, and they had “Pinched the oil pan gasket” and that was the reason it was leaking so bad. When I got the jeep back the leak was better, but oil pressure was untouched. I ended up shipping my Jeep before I could get them to look at the oil pressure issue.

My wife also has a Cherokee, a 98 as well but white, with an NP242 and an AW4. For our wedding she asked me to make cake toppers, and so I made semi-accurate models from diecast models from EBay.


Upon arriving in Seattle, my clutch throw-out bearing decided to promptly die. This was not a good thing, as rush hour is punishing on a clutch with all of the hills and stop and go traffic. I was weary of my last mechanic experience, so I decided to use my itty-bitty apartment garage to do it myself. I chose a LuK clutch kit which came with a composite throw-out bearing. I was weary of plastic in such a critical location, so I ordered a Timken replacement, but I was unhappy with the folded sheet metal state of that, and decided to use the LuK bearing. I’ll let you guys know if this fails prematurely. While I had the transfer case out, I replaced the output seal the mechanic I went to previously had missed. Here is the write-up I followed.


To try to bandage my oil pressure issue I built a cruise control servo override relay circuit. I used the diagram from here to do that. Great mod, but it didn’t really fix the problem. By the way, the cruise control servo uses Apex connectors. I was able to cut up enough harnesses at the junk yard that I could make a harness to go between the cruise servo and the engine harness. If you do this mod I strongly recommend doing it this way so it is easily reversed.



Two of the connectors on my ECU had been damaged by the previous owner. I would get random idle air control malfunction codes. I had been keeping my eye out for a replacement for a couple years, and I found a 99 AX15 harness in the junkyard on half off day. I found that there are two key differences between 98 and 99 – 1) the oil pressure sensor went from a resistance based unit to a 5 volt reference unit and 2) they switched to USCAR fuel injector plugs. I was able to splice in the Jetronic plugs using solder and heat shrink. I used my factory service manual to figure out that the oil pressure sensor used the same circuits, and then cut off the 2 pin connector from the 98 harness and spliced it into the 99 harness, sealing the 5V wire in the 99 harness with waterproof heat shrink. My jeep now runs smoother, so I can only assume there was unseen damage. I did salvage all of the TXL wire from the old harness, and reused it when I got to rewiring my overhead console.

I needed to face my oil pump issue. It turned out that the mechanic who had done my rear main seal had removed the oil pickup from the pump, and then reinstalled it without replacing it. I decided while I was in there replacing that I would go ahead and do a high volume oil pump. I used the Melling M167HVS. This was fairly easy, I just beat the hell out of my oil pan before reinstalling it to clear the additional couple millimeters. This essentially solved my oil pressure problem.

I decided I needed to rework my growing overhead console wiring disaster. I found that WJ door harnesses use the same connector as the XJ trip computer. I had bought a 98 overhead console harness, but I did not want to modify it more than just adding wire to it for my new Contura II switches for future lockers, high idle, and in cab wench control. I picked up the bezels, switches, harness plugs, and rockers from OTRATTW. If you want to do a clean overhead console, but don’t have a XJ computer, I strongly recommend this route.



Next I addressed my compressor issues, as I have finally got a little closer to being settled in Seattle now, and went about rebuilding the compressor harness. I used 50A battery disconnects that look like knockoffs of Anderson Powerpole connectors I found at a local independent automotive supply. They work great. I also decided to mount the compressor better, where it would allow me to install a second battery now that I had the cowl intake. Once I had everything hooked up, I reconnected the plumbing and found that my harbor freight air hose was as leaky as a sieve. I went to Lowes and bought some 3/8 ID poly pipe and barb fittings. I used fuel injection hose clamps, and it looks like its holding well. One touch I’m especially proud of was I reworked where the air hose comes into the jeep. I originally had used two 90 degree fittings with a 2” nipple that passed the whole thing through the floor. This was not optimal now that I live somewhere it rains. I found a 2 inch long bulkhead fitting that had garden hose threads on the outside and ½” NPT threads inside. I was able to sandwich this through the floor. I used electrical box conduit spacers to hold a large rubber grommet against the carpet on the inside, and used the grommet that came with the fitting on the bottom. It is now nice and strong, and now it doesn’t leak because I was able to tighten everything down.




Here is my current plan in no specific order:

• In cab wench controls
• Fan bypass (on, off, auto)

Axel/steering upgrades
• 3.73 gears
• ARB Lockers Front and Rear
• ARB Differential Covers
• Boostwerks Steering Box Brace
• Dirt bound steering box spacer
• Currie currectlync
KJ Disc brakes

• Brown dog motor mounts
• Detours tailbone

• JKS Control arm mini-skids
• Oil Pan Skid
• Transfer case and Transmission skid
• Gas tank skid
• Detours Rock sliders

• Dirtbound cargo rack
• Air tank
• WJ Leather Seats with Seat Heaters – sitting in my garage
• ARB fridge
Nice build, where at in Renton? I'm in fairwood if you want a tour of some good trails hit me up.
Im basicaly in Kennydale, off Lake Washington Blvd. My wife and I have been going to Evan's creek and I'm always up for somewhere new.

So today I got around to finishing up my in cab wench controls. I used the diagram from here, but I didn't like the rough sketch, so I redrew it.


I used two AC relays, soldered them up in about ten minutes. Pulling the solenoid box was off the top of the bumper was the hardest part.


I found that the cutout in the passengers side fender was the perfect mounting spot.


I thought I had taken another picture... but I spliced into the blue and white leads so that the wired remote woud still work. White is in (right terminal) and blue is out (left terminal).

Great mods so far man.
I like to see other people delving into the electronics side of things as well.
Keep up the great work, I can wait to see how this jeep evolves!
Hey john, your rig looks real good!! I like all you've done to it so far, I envy your smarts with electronics and wiring! Good job do far, keep it up!
Wow, you just pasted a link to my build thread on CF. I totally forgot about it.. Some good times.. At least when done right nothing fails and the car had been to a few challenging trails..
Yup. I still use it for search and rescue regularly.. We have 5 XJs in King County SAR and 4 of them are built/configured like mine .
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So guys my Jeep was stolen last night in the Kennydale area from the secured parking garage at my apartment. If you see it please call the cops or contact me on here.