FSJ To-Do List

Overall, I’m pretty lucky with my Jeep: it mostly runs and drive pretty well. But like all older vehicles there are plenty of little things that need to be fixed. Here’s what’s on the list for Francis:

Fix the heater: The heater is stuck on. This was not a problem when I got the FSJ in January (well, Dave complained a little bit about how hot it was). In fact, given the choice, I was happy it worked versus not working. Now that it’s warmer, it’s terrible. Even worse, it’s dirt road season and with the windows open, lots of dust gets sucked in. This makes fixing the heater a top priority.

Tighten the antenna: I think I must either be missing a bolt holding the antenna on or it’s gotten realllllyyyy loose. It just kind of flops all over the place and really needs to get tightened up before it gets ripped off or falls off.

Rear window: FSJ rear windows are notorious for not working particularly well. I’ve bought all the parts to totally rebuild the window plus a new relay system. I just think it’s going to be quite a process with a steep learning curve so I’m afraid to attempt it until I have a window of a couple of days without rain in the forecast since there’s a good chance the Jeep will be missing a rear window for a couple of days…

Drivers’ wing window: The pin has fallen out of the latch for the driver’s side vent window. I have the latch but I’m not sure how to get another pin for it. This is going to take some research…

Passenger window: The passenger window works but it’s really tight and needs to be “helped” past the midpoint. I’m afraid that if I don’t fix it, it’ll break. This is basically going to require me to disassemble the door and make sure there isn’t anything stuck or broken.

Locks: When I take apart the passenger door to fix the window, I also need to fix the lock. Sometimes it rattles, sometimes it locks itself when I shut the door. The drivers side door almost always locks itself when the door is shut. This isn’t really a problem since the key works in the doors but it’s annoying.

Sunroof leak: When it rains just a drop or two seem to accumulate along the sunroof. I’m not sure if this is just condensation or if it’s actually a leak. Since Colorado is so dry and its such a small leak this isn’t a big priority to me right now.

It’s all small stuff but it can be really time consuming. I’m hoping to start tackling this a little bit at a time but it’s hard when I’d rather be out adventuring!

Edit: I ordered a power steering pump yesterday. At $40 it is NOT worth constantly filling the reservoir and having a mess of ATF under there. Ahem.

1977 Jeep Cherokee: Replacing Rag Joint

I’ve been shopping for the perfect XJ Cherokee for quite awhile and one popped up in Salt Lake City that seemed like it would fit the bill perfectly with low miles, a five speed, and cruise control. I didn’t want to risk missing out so Sprocket and I drove straight up from Ridgway and got into SLC at about 2am. In the morning before looking at the Jeep, I headed over to the bank to get some cash.

As I pulled into the drive through, I heard a loud clunk sound. At first, I was confused, had I some how hit something? I sort of forgot about it while I was conducting my business at the bank but as I pulled out of the drive through I realized I couldn’t turn left. Something seemed bound up.

I crawled underneath the jeep and noticed that the tie rod end & pitman arm were hitting the sway bar when I tried to turn to the left. I went back into the jeep and turned the wheels to the right and heard another larger, ominous, clunk. This time, it seemed apparent what was wrong: the steering box was hanging down off of its mounts. While not an ideal situation, I figured this wasn’t that bad and I’d be on my way within the hour.

When I returned from the hardware store bearing what I hoped was the correct hardware (this was actually the second trip…), I realized, it was more than just a broken bolt. There was actually a broken part. I had no idea what that part was but I knew that my mission had just gotten a lot more complicated. I also noticed that the steering box had been bolted from the top and they had sheared off in the steering box.

I headed over to a fast food restaurant, washed my hands, and took a walk to look at that XJ. Turns out, it wasn’t what I wanted. As  I walked back I started browsing the forums and learning all about the steering system on the Jeep. Turns out, I had a broken “rag joint” or power steering coupler—the part that connects the input from your steering wheel to the steering box.

That bolt circled in red is supposed to be attached to the hole on the rag joint (indicated by the arrow. My theory is that when the steering box fell, it stressed the 38 year old piece of rubber and it failed.

While I was able to locate a replacement rag joint fairly easily, first I had to figure out how to get the old broken one off. I struggled with it for awhile and was finally able to get the old joint off of the steering box. This might have been the low point for me—I was covered in power steering fluid (cursing the advice I’d been give to not replace the pump and just make sure it was full), removing a part that I didn’t fully understand how it worked, and just feeling a little bit unsure.

As I read the installation instructions, I realized that I was going to need some backup. While I was carrying tools, I didn’t have a grinder or a drill to remove the old pins. Away I went to Pep Boys (again) to see if their service department would do me a little favor. Thankfully, they seemed happy to help and soon I was headed back to figure out how to reinstall the rag joint.

Somehow, I made this way more complicated than it needed to be and it took me a long time. It was all made more difficult by the fact that the steering box was definitely supposed to be attached by the top bolts so I ended up using ratchet straps to hold it exactly in place.

On the way to fellow #omniten member Josh’s house (yay for friends to crash with!) I stopped for some beer and for the bolts I’d need to fix the Jeep for good (yay for Josh having a drill!). I had some priceless looks but when the cashier at the liqour store asked, “What happened to you?” And I answered, “Well, the bolts on my steering box sheared and when it fell it look the 30 year old rag joint with it, but I fixed it.” His answer? “I’m seriously impressed.” Since I was seriously impressed with myself, it felt good to hear someone say it.

At Josh’s place I was able to use his drill to extract the broken bolts from the steering box and get it bolted up so that I didn’t need the ratchet strap safeties. The replacement rag joint was a little thicker than the original and I couldn’t get the metal support to fit on correctly in the parking lot because the bolts were too short and had little “keepers” on them. I ground off the keepers (they looked like ski pole baskets) and replaced with the longer bolts that came with the replacement part.

Everything is back together and looks great. Except, I’m going to have to take it apart one more time to get the steering wheel straight since I apparently bolted the steering column attachment on 180 degrees off. Oops. But this time, it should go fast. 3rd time’s the charm. 🙂

(The wheels are just slightly turned to the left in this photo. It’s driving me nuts to have the AMC logo upside-down.)

FSJ Cherokee Trim Packages

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you might have realized that I am sort of a Cherokee aficionado. I got my first Cherokee in 2009 which I replaced in 2010 with a 5-speed. After The Little Red Jeep reached the end of its life with me, it was replaced by yet ANOTHER one. Plus, I have my sweet vintage Cherokee. If you hear me talk about my cars, however, you’ll mostly hear things like “XJ” or “FSJ” (or “SJ”). I’ve picked up the Jeep model parlance.

So what’s the deal with all of these different models? Where did they come from? The following is a description of SJ Cherokee trim packages from its inception in 1974 to the end of its run in 1983. Click to jump to a summary table.

Predecessors to the Jeep Cherokee

The Cherokee’s roots begin with the Willy’s Station Wagon produced from 1946 until 1965.

By the mid-1960s, however, Jeep decided to replace the Jeep Station Wagon with the Jeep Wagoneer on the “SJ” platform. This station wagon model was available in both two door and four door models and with or without four wheel drive. After 1967, two wheel drive was discontinued and after 1968 the two door model was also discontinued. The Wagoneer continued to evolve as a family vehicle and remained in production through 1991 as the Grand Wagoneer.

Introduction of the SJ Cherokee

In 1974, Jeep introduced the Jeep Cherokee using the SJ platform of the Wagoneer. The Cherokee was marketed as a “youthful and sporty” alternative to the family-focused Wagoneer and was meant to keep customers buying Jeeps instead of Ford Broncos or Chevrolet K5 Blazers.

1974 Jeep Cherokee sales brochureThe 1974 Jeep Cherokee came in two models. The base model had black window moldings and painted bumpers. The “S” model had chrome bumpers, Native American themed striping, aluminum wheels, a roof rack, and “bright” window moldings. Cherokees had drum brakes front and rear however front disk brakes were an option. In 1975, electronic ignition was added to Cherokees and The trim tape on “S” models was changed from the 1974 model year. This new trim was used again for the 1976 model year.

For the 1976 model year, in addition to the base and “S” models, the Cherokee Chief model was added with wider axles and fender flares, a low gloss black tape decal that showed “Cherokee Chief” in the body color.

In the 1977 model year, a 4-door Cherokee was introduced (this means that there were two SJ-platform four-door models as both the Cherokee and Wagoneer had four door variants). A wide track version of the Cherokee “S” was added in addition to the wide track Cherokee Chief. Four door models only came in narrow track versions. A new version of the “S” model trim tape was introduced and used for both 1977 and 1978.

For the 1978 model year few changes were made to the Cherokee line up. The following photo is from the 1978 Jeep sales brochure and it shows the differences between the different models. Clockwise from upper left is a 4-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track 2-door Cherokee “S”, a wide track Cherokee Chief, and a narrow track 2-door Cherokee “S”:

Front End Changes

In 1979, the Cherokee grill was revised with its most prominent change being to square headlights. The “S” model trim was revised again (for the 4th time) and used in 1979 and 1980. The “S” model continued to be available in 2-door narrow track and 4-door wide or narrow track models while the Cherokee Chief continued as a wide track only model.

A new trim package, the Golden Eagle, was also introduced. The Golden Eagle was a wide-track 2-door model with beige denim seats, a large eagle decal and tape striping on the hood, “Golden Eagle” lettering on the lower doors, “bronze tone” rear quarter windows, a brush guard. and painted gold wheels with a black stripe.

In 1980, Jeep added two trim packages to the lineup of “S” model, Golden Eagle, and Cherokee Chief: the Limited and the Laredo. The “S” continued to be the only model available with 4-doors and with a choice between wide track and narrow track versions. The Chief and Golden Eagle models were also unchanged from 1979.

The Laredo model was a two door wide track model with special striping (either silver and grey or gold and brown) and badging. It also featured extra sound deadening insulation, extra plush carpeting, a special seating package, and some interior striping to coordinate with the outside. The Limited model was also a two door wide track model that had gold and brown striping on the lower body and on the fender flare. The Limited also had a faux woodgrain finish on the dash, cruise control and other options—in many ways, the Limited resembled a two door version of its cousin the luxurious Wagoneer.

Top: Cherokee Laredo; Bottom: Cherokee Limited

1980 Jeep Cherokee Limited Cherokee Laredo

For 1981, the Laredo package added a four door narrow track option in addition to the existing two door wide track model. The Cherokee Chief became the standard four door trim package while also adding a new body striping scheme option as well as an optional “blackout” grille. (I believe, but have not been able to confirm that the bolder of the two striping schemes was only available on the two-door model). The Limited and Golden Eagle were dropped for 1981. The “S” simply became an unbadged base model.

1981 Cherokee Chief

In 1982, the Cherokee was available as a base model 2-door, 2-door and 4-door Cherokee Chief, and 2-door and 4-door Laredo. All 2-door models were wide track while 4-door models were narrow track.

1982 Cherokee Chief 4-door

End of the SJ Cherokee:

The final year of the SJ Cherokee was 1983. The Pioneer model was added to the lineup in both two- and four-door models. It joined the Chief and Laredo that were each available in two- and four-door models. The base model Cherokee was only available in 2-door models but both wide and narrow track were available.

1983 Cherokee Pioneer:

1983 Cherokee Pioneer
Photo Credit: Dustin Libby


AllPar.com: The Massive Site for Mopars, Jeep Wagoneer.
FallOut’s CJ-7 Site: Jeep Brochures.
Geepster’s Flicker: 1977 Jeep Sales Brochure1978 Jeep Sales Brochure1980 Jeep Sales Brochure.
Love to Accelerate: Jeep Brochures.
Old Car Brochures: 1981 Cherokee Brochure.

1978 Cherokee

I don’t know why but I wanted a 1978 Cherokee. “FSJ” in Jeep parlance. (Aaand I know way more of this language than I ever thought I would).

Forrest sort of laughed at me and said, “Someday.” I don’t think he expected that “someday” would be this soon. Turns out Blaze bought one and wanted to sell it. And it has ended up in my possession.

And thus my lovely, ridiculous, fun, but completely impractical vehicle: