Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Mojave Bob » Tue Sep 02, 2014 8:59 am

I, in turn, may be stepping out of my area of expertise, and others may be able to either reinforce or refute my ideas with real facts :lol: , but based on the criteria you have suggested, I would look at the venerable Jeep Cherokee with the straight 6-cylinder engine. To meet your criteria, an infinite selection of bolt-on aftermarket parts are available, regular service parts are widely available, it is a tough-as-nails chassis and drivetrain, it is affordable, and friends who have them report reasonably good gas mileage. Part-time 4WD, decent ground clearance, Jeep pedigree, reasonable tow rating, etc.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby MtnDon » Tue Sep 02, 2014 9:48 am

While I agree that an XJ Cherokee can make an excellent off road vehicle, I strongly disagree with the factory rated tow capacity. I had one for 13 years.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Mojave Bob » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:06 pm

MtnDon - The criteria for tow rating was 2,000-5,000 lbs. The trailer is a bit under 1700. I agree that the factory rating for the Cherokee was a bit absurd (wasn't it upwards of 5,000 lbs?), but would you disagree that 2-3,500 is within it's capabilities, assuming trailer brakes?

Also, when we say that a vehicle tows a trailer "great", or "no so great", we may be referring to ability to accelerate, or maintain speed up a hill, or stay in gear on inclines. Or, we may be referring to it getting squirrelly, or being unable to turn or stop safely. Just curious which combination of those contributes to your hesitation about the Cherokee?

Travelling this weekend, we encountered some considerable wind on the drive home. I passed a full-size Dodge Ram towing a single axle Jayco, probably a 15 footer. That trailer probably didn't weigh 3,000 lbs, but it was dancing all over, and taking the truck with it. I was seriously waiting for it to lose control. I also passed a much smaller SUV towing a much larger trailer, in the same conditions, and it was stable going down the road. So, of course, there is much more to the equation than just weight. Load distribution, axle placement (and quantity), frontal area, rear profile, presence or absence of bikes or cargo on the rear, tire pressure and stiffness, and so much more comes into play.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby DrCrash » Tue Sep 02, 2014 3:30 pm

I used to tow with my jeep inline 6 cylinder 4.0 l and 5 speed manual tranny a 3200 lb trailer all the time, no sweat..
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby MtnDon » Tue Sep 02, 2014 4:54 pm

Maybe my statement was a little too broad. It is definitely tempered by my location; SW desert that includes mountain grades.

XJ's all run hot even when lightly loaded and running on flat ground. 210 to 220 F is the factory normal, that's to improve fuel economy. Summer heat, mountain grades and heavy loads place a strain on the cooling system. I could almost never run the A/C pulling 3500 pounds in the mountains in summer, until I replaced the factory water pump with a Flowkooler. We had the factory tow package with the 2 core radiator, and an aftermarket larger tranny cooler. But all the tranny heat goes through the engine water cooling radiator raising the temperature.

XJ's have marginal brakes to begin with. If, as the OP wanted, tire size is increased brake performance decreases. Towing more than 1000 lbs, IMO, needs brakes on the trailer to be safe under all road conditions one might encounter.

I really love the XJ as a great off highway vehicle. But I never felt comfortable with heavy loads, mountain grades, even with the brakes. More than once it felt like it was being shoved around by the tail.
Our 6x12 deep vee nose cargo trailer camper conversion... viewtopic.php?f=42&t=58336

We have a small off grid cabin we built ourselves in the NM mountains; small PV solar system; 624 watts PV, Outback CC & inverter/charger ... http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2335.0
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Jim.M » Tue Sep 02, 2014 10:12 pm

i recently towed my trailer 1000 miles with my 05 jeep grand cherokee wk (4.7L engine), 145,000 miles on the odometer.

with a big cargo carrier on the roof... did about 15mpg on the outbound. return was 17 mpg. altitudes were 2200' at start, 6000' passes, and 4000' at the end... and then the return trip. temps in 90s to 100s.

traveling at 'the speed limit' which was around 70 for most of the miles.

my trailer is mighty light (600? 700? lbs).

just some data for chewing on.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Wed Sep 03, 2014 10:01 pm

I'm jumping back in the conversation (lots of opinions, + & -, good stuff!). I sorta hit a brick wall when I realized that the building part of my project would require actual space in my building (garage). Now more interested in an already modified XJ or WJ,WK (2.5"-3" lift, max), 33" or less tires. I just want to be able to pull off the road, and not get immediately stuck in a drainage ditch (none of my current vehicles even have a limited slip diff). The gas mileage can be as low as I get in my Chevy 2500HD; the trade-off for added room inside, 4WD, 4 doors, and just enough tow capacity for the 1628 lb trailer> that would be worth it. MtnDon- I should be OK with my planned travels in the "project", as I don't foresee climbing the Rockies, or running the Rubicon with the vehicle/trailer. The first thing I would do to the "project" vehicle, would be to change all fluids to synthetic, followed by upgrading the stock cooling systems, or adding auxiliary radiators/fans/temperature sensors. I used to add them to engine and tranny on all my old trucks, and some cars, so that's a given in my plan.
MtnDon wrote:... all the tranny heat goes through the engine water cooling radiator raising the temperature
I would re-route the tranny fluid to its own cooler/radiator, with dedicated fan, to handle extremes (did that on my dragrace Chevelle...worked perfectly, even when "hot lapping". I also don't intend to carry a lot of gear on roof racks, maybe just side-tent and canopy, so added wind resistance, should be minimal; if noticeable, then all gear inside the vehicle.
Mojave Bob wrote:I, in turn, may be stepping out of my area of expertise, and others may be able to either reinforce or refute my ideas with real facts :lol: , but based on the criteria you have suggested, I would look at the venerable Jeep Cherokee with the straight 6-cylinder engine. To meet your criteria, an infinite selection of bolt-on aftermarket parts are available, regular service parts are widely available, it is a tough-as-nails chassis and drivetrain, it is affordable, and friends who have them report reasonably good gas mileage. Part-time 4WD, decent ground clearance, Jeep pedigree, reasonable tow rating, etc.
Your statement echoes my train of thought...the old straight six sounds just right, and the knowledge database on it is all over the web, parts everywhere too. I'm not so sure of the 4.7l,relatively complicated in comparison, and more heat sensitive (per my researches). Once again, a point in favor of the XJ et al: even if I found a smokin' deal on some relatively new design, or brand (other than Jeep-or GM -I still can't abandon that search), then I'd just be asking for a new set of problems, later, when I would need help or parts. I used to poke fun at my friend, a sworn GM aficionado/master mechanic, when he'd get several Jeeps a year to work on (helping friends out,; and yes, it always seemed to be cooling related). I got a lot of experience in helping him work on them. So, I guess that's augury enough for me, allowing me to transfer some allegiance to a non-GM product!
  • 2013 HHRv,"squareback/simple" TTT, semi-offroad? 4x8, 2000+ lbs travel weight
  • featuring:
    • 3500 lb Dexter axle,
    • 27x8.5-14LT tires,
    • LED lighting,
    • A/C & heat,Optima AGM battery,
    • extended-run 2500w generator,
    • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern
  • 147697148333125895
  • 148599148106
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby MtnDon » Wed Sep 03, 2014 11:08 pm

[quote="working on it"(2.5"-3" lift, max), 33" or less tires.[/quote]

FWIW, my opinion for an XJ (and there are lots of opinions) is that for 33's a 4.5" lift or greater is needed. I ran a Rubicon Express lift with National rear springs (double wrap eyes) with 32's and there were some combinations of terrain and amount of steering lock that made for some rubbing in the front end. Usually with the sway bar disconnected and one wheel was on a high point and the other was in a hole and you had to turn one way or the other. Okay, maybe you won't be doing that; I don't anymore*. I have friends who have followed me most anywhere with 3" and 31's.

Also FWIW, 32's are getting hard to find. I was ready to go metric with new 16" rims before I decided to sell our XJ.

An ideal XJ upgrade is a Ford Explorer rear axle with disc brakes. Very nice when 4 wheeling rocky grades and a boon the rest of the time too.


* We are hiking more than 4 wheeling now. Strange behavior when one considers we are older than we were when we started 4 wheeling. 40+ years ago. But we're blessed with body parts that still articulate reasonably well. Sold the XJ when I realized it had not been given a real workout in a couple of years.

G/L
Our 6x12 deep vee nose cargo trailer camper conversion... viewtopic.php?f=42&t=58336

We have a small off grid cabin we built ourselves in the NM mountains; small PV solar system; 624 watts PV, Outback CC & inverter/charger ... http://countryplans.com/smf/index.php?topic=2335.0
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby kd8cgo » Fri Sep 05, 2014 9:04 pm

Technomadia used a 2006 Liberty CRD they were pretty happy with, towing an Oliver trailer (high-end Scamp/Casita-like fiberglass standie thing). In the end they found they were over 500 lbs. tongue on that trailer and "upgraded" to a Tundra after finding a bent hitch which caused some worries. They pulled it for several years as full timers and were quite happy with the maneuverability, 4wd, and the mileage, which was up to 20 with their older T@B trailer, and 17-19 with the heavy Oliver.

For a lightweight tear, I think the CRD is a worthy consideration if you want/need the 4WD and like Jeeps. Myself, I am outfitting my 2002 Jetta TDI for distance towing and will be building the trailer to suit, focusing on a larger size, extra "amenities" and light weight materials vs. a lot of more normal home built trailers. I am a Subaru nut too, and they are quite a good tow vehicle in a manual box configuration. If they made the diesel they teased for years, I would own one today. The gassers are no joke, and the mileage is better than any truck I know of in 4WD trim. The Outbacks and Foresters have surprised a lot of people on how well they behave as a TV - the longer wheelbase for a car really helps along with that well-designed AWD drivetrain. Depends on how gnarly a trail you intend to hit.

People in the US seem to go too large on tow vehicles often times, just like they go too large on the trailer (just an opinion!) On a teardrop at 1600 lbs. gross, you have a lot of options. I'm certainly not going to build a small trailer and then pull it around the country with my 7.3 IDI F250! Now, if I was going to be doing a big job for friends or family, going to a swap meet, extremely poor roads or trails, etc; then the truck can come along instead. I plan to pull with the TDI, as I hope the worst the trailer will ever be subject to is the Dempster, which is well within the capabilities with some planning and prep. Good mileage makes long travels more palatable well into the future, fuel's not gonna get any cheaper.

For reference, this guy just got done with a nice national parks trip in a 13-foot Scamp and a 2013 Golf TDI, he was averaging 29-30 MPG on the trip. He didn't do any extra tow prep other than a hitch and brake controller. He sized the tow rig to the trailer and to the trip with good results. I suggest getting a combo for what you will actually be doing as opposed to what you think you might do. It's nice to have a little too much TV or trailer at times, but you still have to haul the extra capacity around 100% of the time, even if you don't need it! I'd rather pack a couple bikes or a small tent and ruck sacks to reach a remote area, camp for an evening "old school" than pay for a heavy TV and TT for 0.01% use of the extra capability. If much of your camping is down in a muddy holler, or a remote hunting site on a rocky trail for many of your trips, well then the big stuff makes sense.

If you need to go big/offroad, but plan to do long highway trips too, the new RAM 1500 diesel or the soon-to-arrive Duramax 2.8 Colorado pickups might be worth a look.
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Sat Sep 06, 2014 10:00 pm

I'm still researching these points: a) best way to sell/trade the Chevelle without psychic trauma, b) best vehicle to buy cheaply-then improve expensively!, c) best vehicle to buy expensively-but not be afraid to damage (thru incidental scratching-up or off-highway, not major mishaps), and d) best time frame to jump in the market. Current thoughts: A) If I just list the Chevelle on a racing site, I'm gonna be low-balled to death (the body is rough, the paint is scratched, the thing has not raced in 5 years, no one around here will remember it)...I have no real way to price it...I have no way to display it, until I get it back outa the garage, and trailer it to another site (my property is off-the-grid, hard to find, and I would rather not have people entering my compound anyway). I no longer have contacts experienced in wheeling and dealing race cars. I am stuck with it! B) I'm leaning towards an older Cherokee/Grand Cherokee for two reasons, mainly...the prototypical 4WD 4-door style, and the dependable 4.0L engine. The boxy SUV will have room enough inside for whatever I (or the wife) need to do, and there are plenty of parts (and long-block engines, and drivetrain parts) to keep it going and growing. If my wife needs to use it, it can be repaired nation-wide (I had a Volvo 142 in the mid-late 70's; I started carrying spare parts with me when I travelled, for lack of coverage....). C) If I buy a later model, needing less immediate repairs/upgrades, then I will have no "justification" to upgrade (read "modify") it as I want it. After the Chevelle days (mod after mod until it was a racer, enflaming the wife), I haven't added anything "too visible" to my other rolling stock. Call me chicken! (The trailer build was done mostly in secret; she never even saw it for two years!) And if I dent or scratch a newer one (that she might actually like), then OMG. D) Timing. I want to retire (early, I'm 64), possibly in two months, since my job is hell. I would rather not expend too much reserve at this time, and would rather get some mad-mod money (and garage space) from the departure of my twenty-year love-the Chevelle (the wife has been around for 22, in case you thought that I was contemplating...). And fall seems to be the time when summer toys start coming on the market (off-road vehicles, boats, etc). And the new Colorado/Canyon will begin to be sold, perhaps freeing-up some older Colorados/Canyons/? S-10/Sonomas? (I still can't disregard my GM slant). I had hoped that the Labor Day sales would flood the market with desirable prospects, but the pickings got even slimmer around here. And if I don't quit work before T'Giving, then the wife will go hog-wild on Black Friday, as usual. Most likely, I won't be finding one before winter. And even then, people will want to hold on to their beater-4WDs even longer. Catch-22. I should be used to the planning/researching/building game by now. My S-10 took 12 years from planning to completion (it was T-boned 6 years later, by a Ford Exploder. RIP!). My '69 Chevy C-10 took 1 year to find, 1 year to build, 4 years to drive, before I sacrificed it for two bigger/badder engines for both my Chevelle and my '75 C-10 (which also took 1 year to find, 1 year to build, and 4 years to drive, before I sacrificed it for....). And the Chevelle build: planned for 2 years, built in stages, modified/raced continuously, for 13 years, and has remained unused for 5 years-with fully charged batteries on board, and with $300-400 of unused modifications inside the trunk.And since this forum is mainly about trailers, I'll mention that I lurked here for many months, maybe a year (after finding it from another site, Expedition Portal- where I lurked for years, until finally posting last month), then I planned for a few more months, then started my trailer build simultaneously with my first post here. Then 23 more months until I first camped. I seem to move s-l-o-w-l-y when I really care about building something; whether or not I stick to my plans, I always finish what I start, so I will do this TV Project, if I live long enough. Keep your input coming; I learn from your experiences.
  • 2013 HHRv,"squareback/simple" TTT, semi-offroad? 4x8, 2000+ lbs travel weight
  • featuring:
    • 3500 lb Dexter axle,
    • 27x8.5-14LT tires,
    • LED lighting,
    • A/C & heat,Optima AGM battery,
    • extended-run 2500w generator,
    • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern
  • 147697148333125895
  • 148599148106
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby kd8cgo » Sun Sep 07, 2014 12:07 am

It sounds like you need to lift the Chevelle a couple inches, put in a divorced t-case, and a front drive axle! :twisted:

Rough body? Sounds like a tow vehicle!! And that would be one hell of a fast tow! I wonder what you could do with 4WD and pulling the trailer on 60ft and ET.... lol

In fact, that would be a good ultimatum for sale on the racing sites, just tell them if you don't get asking price you are going to chop it up into a trailer pulling workhorse, that should ruffle some feathers!
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Sun Sep 07, 2014 2:01 am

kd8cgo wrote:It sounds like you need to lift the Chevelle a couple inches, put in a divorced t-case, and a front drive axle! :twisted:

Rough body? Sounds like a tow vehicle!! And that would be one hell of a fast tow! I wonder what you could do with 4WD and pulling the trailer on 60ft and ET.... lol

In fact, that would be a good ultimatum for sale on the racing sites, just tell them if you don't get asking price you are going to chop it up into a trailer pulling workhorse, that should ruffle some feathers!
As a tow vehicle, I would need to tow a gas tanker with me. I got GPM not MPG in this car. Believe me when I say that a metamorphosis for my car has crossed my mind a few times...I thought about pulling the BBC engine and transbraked 'glide, w/4500 stall converter and Hurst quarter-stick shifter, & delayed transbrake release switch (sell them as a unit), swap in my old 327 SBC and install a rebuilt 700r4 or 200r4 (no electronics, overdrive), reinstall the original 8.2" 10-bolt 3.36:1 open rear (after pulling the 12-bolt w/c-clip eliminators, full spool 4.88 gears and 33 spline Moser axles; I might have to pull the ladder bars also), and get cheap replacement tires/used wheels to replace the 10.5" MT slicks and two sets of front runners (all on Welds). But, then, I'd have to replace the 5 gallon fuel cell, 1100 cfm carb, regulate the fuel pump down to a trickle, put in a full exhaust for the small-block, and re-install wipers and heater. Oh yeah, I probably would want to put in a rear seat too (just in case someone wanted to squeeze in under the rollcage to sit there. I might put stereo speakers back in, since they were pulled to put in the rear firewall (aluminum). I like the two plastic racing seats, with 5-point belts, but the wife won't. I might want to replace the race shocks with normal types, as they allow too much lift & weight transfer (whoops, almost forgot to re-install the front sway bar, rear too, if I didn't sell it before). The brakes can remain (I put in manual discs up front) as can the line-lock; the manual steering might be a little tough for the wife to parallel park with, might need to install power. That will require engine driven pulleys and belts...I've been running an electric water pump with no alternator for years, have to convert back for street use?? The racing aluminum radiator with two electric fans stays, as does the dedicated tranny cooler with attached fan (but I have to move it from the right outboard headlight tunnel, and re-install a light/bucket there). Ignition is not much of a problem; the MSD capacitive discharge box (the rev limiter won't be needed) and MSD distributor can go in the SBC ok, but I'll have to change out the oil pump gear since the camshaft in the SBC will chew it up. I'll probably have to make provisions for timing advance (my distributor is locked-out). I'll probably have to re-wire the turn signals and other niceties, as they were bypassed when I put in the Painless Products toggle switch panel, for controlling start/ignition/fuel pump(s)-I experimented with NOS once/interior fan/lights/radiator fans/water pump/tranny fan. I need to install horns, too. The batteries can stay in the trunk, though I'll disable the master cut-off switch (would be too tempting for car-jackers, I bet). Did I forget that I need to install a lockable ignition? Fortunately, I never removed or epoxy-filled the slots as was suggested to me. And after all that, I'll need to install an after-market A/C, since I'm getting too old/spoiled to drive very far in an un-cooled triple black car anymore in Texas heat. Maybe if all goes right, and I sell some parts for top-dollar, and I get to work on the Chevelle for 12 hours a day on weekends, I might only spend out-of-pocket cash double what I get back and might finish getting the car streetable/inspectable by the time I'm 70. And then it will be a rough bodied/scratched paint 54 year-old beater that won't get me off-road, won't have four doors, and my wife still won't drive/ride in it (I took her for a few quick drives, with the 327-375hp engine 3.73 posi axle -at that time- 15 years ago; she will never recover). Nope, I don't think I can go that direction anymore. I'd rather it go to someone who will race it, enjoy the lope of the 14:1 compression .850 lift solid-roller cammed engine, and scare their neighbors late at night as they pull it off the race trailer, returning from battle at the strip. Time for me to try something different.
  • 2013 HHRv,"squareback/simple" TTT, semi-offroad? 4x8, 2000+ lbs travel weight
  • featuring:
    • 3500 lb Dexter axle,
    • 27x8.5-14LT tires,
    • LED lighting,
    • A/C & heat,Optima AGM battery,
    • extended-run 2500w generator,
    • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern
  • 147697148333125895
  • 148599148106
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Gold5one » Tue Sep 09, 2014 12:59 pm

I can relate to this! Finding the perfect non-abused used car is hard- and staying in a budget, too.
I started looking to replace my 2001 F-150 a few months ago. I set it up to tow a small 5th wheel right after I bought this truck. I never realized that all the small 5th wheels are up north where families live- not in Florida, where all the huge 30ft+ RVs end up when retirees either quit or get too old to tow a big RV. I pulled the hitch out and sold my truck. I looked at a 1998 Jeep Cherokee with 132,000 miles- $3200- well used and rusty- nope.
2008 Toyota Scion Xb- too much money- too small- and all were around 100,000-120,000 miles in my price range. Then I hit paydirt.
I ended up with a vehicle I had driven back in 2006 when they first came out - a Chevy HHR.
Working at Chrysler back then, I couldn't justify buying one- The prices on HHrs are depressed by several thousand dollars right now, due to ignition switch recalls and a lot of trade-ins hitting the market at once. I kept looking at all the low mileage HHRs here in Florida offered at low prices, so I zeroed in on that vehicle.
My HHR was a snowbird's car, one owner locally owned- only 38,000 miles & GM certifed, a 2009 model and I got a GM 12mo warranty- so no repair issues on the road with this car- and Onstar in case I get in trouble. All for the same price as that Scion XB with 120,000 miles.
I have $241.99 invested in my new Harbor Freight 90154 trailer and I have to be done with my camper by next spring.
"the slow road has the most adventure"
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby working on it » Tue Sep 09, 2014 10:40 pm

Good deal, the HHR is great for getting around town. My '09 panel is up to 134500 miles now, running good. Just too small to haul the trailer, and certainly off-road. The majority of jeeps I have seen in my online search have 125k to 175k miles and are priced at $4500-7500. That's why I'm taking my time...I'll probably have to drop in a fresh engine before long, so the rest of the vehicle better be sound.
  • 2013 HHRv,"squareback/simple" TTT, semi-offroad? 4x8, 2000+ lbs travel weight
  • featuring:
    • 3500 lb Dexter axle,
    • 27x8.5-14LT tires,
    • LED lighting,
    • A/C & heat,Optima AGM battery,
    • extended-run 2500w generator,
    • Coleman dual-fuel stove & lantern
  • 147697148333125895
  • 148599148106
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Re: Tow Vehicle Project: decision matrix rationale

Postby Gold5one » Wed Sep 10, 2014 7:10 am

The Cherokee automatic transmission is better than the one that goes into the Grand Cherokee. I worked at Chrysler's engine block foundry from 1994-2005 and then Kokomo transmission until I retired and the Cherokees built from 1998 on have better engines and in 1998 they did some extra NVH mods to quiet the Cherokee down. I use a website called http://www.cargurus.com to compare pricing. Really good deals, I have found usually involve cars with salvage and rebuilt titles. Which might not bother me, if it wasn't a flood claim and the frame is straight.
"the slow road has the most adventure"
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