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With our "kids" now of working and driving we found ourselves with a decision to make. We had 3 cars now; my wife drives a 2017 Ford Edge, my oldest drives the 2002 S-Type and I have the 2017 SS. My youngest will be getting a car soon as well so that we can finally retire ourselves from taxi duty. But...there's always one of those...we still live in a state that is prone to 4-5 months of snow and icy weather that can occur at the drop of a hat. Two of the mentioned motor vehicles are rear wheel drive. The youngest is not keen on the SUV/CUV/XUV/Whatever-UV fashion that has gripped America and wants a car as well. So hers will most likely be an AWD something or other. But that still leaves me and my oldest with V8 rear wheel drive. So why not find something that winter ready and capable to in case our other AWD vehicle is otherwise being used? That was the decision we had to make. After deciding on getting something else that was AWD/4WD came the hunt for the right vehicle. Cheap, dependable and easy to work on the main criteria. Oh. And no pickups. After a month of searching we finally found Gemma the 1998 Jeep Cherokee Limited.

Gemma was born Aug 1997 in Toledo, Ohio. She was shipped to Pitre Chrysler-Plymouth Jeep-Eagle of Scottsdale, Arizona. Original sticker price: $25,140. The new owner added a sunroof soon after through the dealer. Gemma lived in AZ until sometime in late-2010 when she was sold in Denver, Colorado to a new owner. This owner kept her until 2018. Her third owner kept her until I bought her for $5,000 in Aug 2020.

When I got Gemma she had only collected 94,000 miles. In general she had been well taken care of until the last few years. Her paint was solid and the interior was generally clean save for a ton of dog hair that the dealer had to remove. The engine was in good shape but did have a rear main seal and oil pan gasket leak (common XJ issues). Transmission was stout with no leaking or slipping. And surprisingly, though XJs can be prone to rust especially at the floor pan and side sills Gemma was totally rust free. Even more surprisingly the sunroof wasn't leaking either. There were a few minor things that needed work; at least one seat motor and three door locks weren't working. The jack was missing. And the suspension was in need of a complete going over (tie rods, stabilizer bar bushings and links, shocks, etc). But in general she met the criteria set out: cheap, reliable and easy to work on. On the plus side, the dealer put new tires and a new radiator in it prior to my purchase.

As with the S-Type and the SS, I'm doing the running tally of expenses and lessons learned for this Cherokee. Unlike the SS and more like the S-Type it'll be a daily driver so entries may be more frequent; or not. Only repair/replacement costs are listed. Regular preventive maintenance things like wiper blades and oil changes are excluded.

Stabilizer Bar Links $99
Seals $750 Had this done by a local shop. Included the rear main seal, oil pan seal, oil change (full synthetic), filter and labor.
Drive System Service $275 Had this done at the same time as the seals above. Service the transmission, both differentials and the transfer case plus labor.
Sway Bar Bushings x 2 $10
Radiator Hoses - Upper and Lower $30 Went ahead and replaced these since the dealer didn't do it when they replaced the radiator and I was having to drain the radiator due to the heater hose issue (next entry).
Heater Hoses $46 While checking things out under the hood I had noticed that the upper heater hose had a tap added to it for flushing the system at some point in the past. A small leak had developed around it. Upon inspection I found that the leak was caused by the plastic tap braking off in the hose. So I replaced both hoses. The lower hose is a common 5/8-inch that any auto parts store has in bulk. The upper is an 11/16-inch that no auto parts store seems to carry in bulk. At least not around here. So I had to spring for the more expensive fitted/angled custom hose.
Steering Stabilizer $45 Again, a fairly easy replacement. Plenty of how to videos on the interweb.
Wheel Center Cap $6 Missing this from one of the wheels when I bought it. Always some on eBay.
Power Door Lock Actuator x 2 $35 Got these from the local you-pull-it. Of the 4 doors, three of them had inoperative power door locks. Hitting the button got sound from the actuator but nothing happened. Inspection found the little plastic gears inside were show. Replacement is a pain in the tuckus the first time you do one but once you do it, the others go quick.
Turn Signal/High Beam/Emergency Flasher Unit $15 Another you-pull-it find. The one in Gemma worked fine except that the turn signal didn't turn off after making a turn. More of an annoyance than anything else but figured since I was scavenging parts I'd grab this too. Replacement is fairly simple but tedious. Remove the plastic panel under the steering wheel and drop down the metal panel under that. Then remove the three Phillips screws holding the steering wheel cover on. Then the three Torx screws holding the dust cover over the turn signal and wiper stalks. With some wiggling and cajoling, the turn signal unit lifts up and out to the left where you can unplug it.
Power Seat Motors x 2 $165 The driver's seat is powered and the front up/down tilt motor wasn't working. These are a known weak spot in the Cherokee. The plastic teeth at the motor that drives the metal worm screw get weak and break off. So while the motor is fine, all you get is a loud clicking sound out of it. I found the motors online at 2 Men 1 Garage. They also have replacement metal gears as well but the information I found on replacing those looked like it was way more involved than it should be. So I opted for replacing the entire motor complete with the gear and worm screw instead which is a very tedious process in its own right. While the seat is easy to get loose (3 bolts and a nut), you have to separate the seat from the seat carrier and pull it out of the car. Then using a small punch, tap out the two pins holding the motor to the seat carrier. Only then can you get the motors out. I did the job in about 2 hours start to finish.
Shock Absorbers x 4 $120