I Think I Sold A Jeep

I have been driving Jeeps since 1996.  Real Jeeps.  Jeep Wranglers.  None of that cushy living room sofa giant beast crap out there that you suburban types like so much.

Sure, they’re a bit on the simple side, even crude.  I can see the sheet metal that makes up the part that we call The Bucket when I sit down in it.  That is by design.  It doesn’t need extra frills like layers of plastic to muffle the noises and make things all “pretty”.

Plastic is optional, it will just break anyhow.

It is as simple as you can get for a car.  At least it was.  Mine is a 13 year old Jeep Wrangler TJ4 Liter Inline Six Motor designed by AMC.  That motor could be called the last gasp of AMC before it was bought by Chrysler.  Chrysler knew a good thing and kept it in production until 2006 when they went with a V6 that is slightly smaller.  It’s predecessors date back to the early 1960s, so you know it was a keeper.  Pushrods and all that sort of mechanical “stuff” made for a tough motor that really didn’t need a lot of electronics to keep it going.

I’ll keep my straight six, thank you very much.

I had a repair to do to it because, Jeep.  You see Jeeps have the reputation of being tough but they also have a problem with their electronic controls.  You get a check engine light that comes on around 40,000 miles and people scratch their heads and say “It’s a Jeep” and walk away.  Meanwhile that light stays on and you’re annoyed.
No.  I don’t.

Thanks to my buddy Craig who gave me his old code reader, I was able to find out that the throttle body sensor wore out.  I replaced it in my driveway.  The only grief was the mosquito bite I got while bent over the hood.

No codes, no lights.  Happy Jeep, Happy Jeeper.

We noticed that there was a Jeep sitting in a driveway a block or three from the house on our dog walk.  Someone was putting it out to pasture… or rather selling it.  Good price too, 8900 for a Wrangler that was newer than mine.  Of course mine is Cherry and in Good To Excellent Condition With Low Mileage (45K) but that’s a different story.
Or Brag…

I don’t think they’ll miss that Jeep.  There was a Black TJ sitting next to it all lifted and chromed and basically pimped out.  So there’s still a Jeep “In the family” for when they want to go ride.

I saw it, and wondered how long it would take to sell it.  One day it was gone.   I thought it was sold.

I walked past the property and up to the park when I saw that Jeep making a very tight turn.  Too tight, the wheels rubbed with a “VRRRRT!” sound.

If you put too tall a tire on a Jeep, they will rub.  You can fix that by loosening a bolt.

That was exactly what I told the woman who was going to buy it:

“Hey, you’re rubbin’!”
“Oh you heard that?  I don’t know…”
“It’s easy to fix!  Just a bolt!”

I went into my Jeep Guy Geekery full on at that point.  Showed the woman then and there which bolt and told her to look online for my blog.  “I did the same thing.  Put 31s on mine and took all sorts of pictures to show you what to do.  It’s a 15 minute fix if you rush, 5 minutes if you take your time!”

I told her to keep an eye out for the AC Controls since the resistor pack burns out.  You can fix those too, but they’re annoying to get to.

I’m on my third one.  They usually last about 20,000 miles if you keep it on 3 instead of 4 like I always did.  4 is just too damn loud but you don’t hear it once you’re over 55MPH anyway.   Soft tops are loud, no way around that.

She smiled and thanked me over and over and took off with a quick chirp of the back wheels.

New learner to a stick.  You need a stick, at least once in your life.  A stick shift gives you a healthy respect for what your car does.  Much more of a primal feel instead of the numb computer-room feel of an automatic transmission, especially one of those new Continuously Variable Transmission.   Those things turn your motor into a constant drone that gets wearing after a few minutes.  The motor runs at peak torque the entire time and never changes.  Monotonous.

I went on my way.  Never saw her or the Jeep again.  The motor sounded like silk so she got a good one.

I know I did.  You see, I went in for an overdue oil change the other day.  The man behind the counter hinted strongly that he wanted to buy my car.

Nope!  I don’t want a computer room on wheels.  I’ll stick with my car.

“You know, I understand I can get classic plates for it now.  How about THAT!”

I left with an oil change and a new air filter and a big ol’ smile on my face.  If that car doesn’t make you happy every time you get in it, why have it?

In Retrospect A Cadillac Wasn’t The Right Car To Take Offroad

Admit it.  We have all done some pretty bizarre or boneheaded things in our days.

If you haven’t, I bet you’re not all that much fun.

Yeah, I said it.  You’re not that much fun.

We all know someone who decided to launch a trash can onto the roof by putting it on top of a piece of fireworks then lighting it in their front yard.

We all know someone who used to build go carts in their back yards.

We all know that neighbor who insists that Raccoons are great pets.

All of that happened in my own childhood in my own sheltered suburban upbringing in the fabled city of Cherry Hill, NJ.

So get off your damn soapbox and hear the story of one of my own boneheaded trips.

You see, I like to travel.  Truly.  I like to get out and explore and see things not necessarily in my own backyard.  I used to go on my bike and ride out of my protected neighborhood to the wild place called Woodcrest Shopping Center.  It would take me out to Berlin Road, then over the I-295 bridge and the NJ Turnpike Bridge.

It was a world away, and it made me feel like I achieved something in my own pre-teen mind even if it was only a mile and a half off from the house.

Later when I got my first car, we started to explore.

I’d go down to a semi-adjacent town to visit a friend.  Somerdale, NJ.  An older settled burb that was a little less Wonder Years than my own home.  It felt different. 

We’d go further on until we got hooked on going offroad.  I still have my third Jeep Wrangler, but the first was a CJ-7.  The CJs were a rough buckboard of a car that were so uncomfortable that I traded it in on a compact car in Indianapolis after going for a visit one year.

But while I had it, I discovered the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

South Jersey is nothing like what “You People” think of when you think of New Jersey.  No closely settled homes in rows where you might get a good meal on a Sunday afternoon, those places have their own charm, if you grew to know them.  They’re also kind of polluted, since they are too close to New York City or Philadelphia.

The Pines are where the roads turned to dirt.  There never was a real reason to settle these areas since the soil was basically beach sand and you couldn’t farm other than Cranberries.  If you look from the skies all you see are pine trees, berry bogs, cedar water rivers, and small towns in the middle of a vast “empty” area.

But if you explore them, you find a beautiful forest unlike any other place that was surprisingly easy to get to.  They’re latticed like a good pie, Cris-crossed by groomed fire-trails so that when the dry summer season hits, the fires can be stopped before they burn down those little towns.

You really didn’t need a Jeep to go through those areas, but it helped.

We’d drive down to the Carranza Memorial and see the monument to the man who died flying back to Mexico to speak in New York about the children’s fate back in the pre-war era.  Those same children saved their pesos to build that monument.  Now, you can get there and picnic easily since the state built a small parking area.

From there you can hop on one of those sand trails and drive almost all the way to the Jersey Shore without ever touching tire to tarmac except to cross over the road.  We’d stop at Apple Pie Hill to take in the view from the highest spot in South Jersey, a whole 205 feet or so, plus the fire tower.  On a good day you can see Atlantic City, Philadelphia, and if you are really lucky and it is clear, New York City was just in view.

Beautiful spot.

But most of that time I did it in my Honda Accord that predated the Jeep.  A 1978 Honda.  You had to hope it didn’t break because parts had to come from Japan directly, and it rusted out by the second year in the front quarter panels because they designed little pockets for water and debris to sit in and corrode.

Surprisingly I didn’t get stuck.

When Mom got her new car, I knew I had to go explore with it too.  Great.  Me and two of my friends piled into Mom’s Car, an early 1980s Cadillac Sedan deVille D’elegance and headed out.

Mind you, since Jim was living in Medford, NJ, a beautiful suburban town on the edge of the NJ Pine Barrens Preserve, we knew we were going to see what this puppy could do.

Great, lets go to Atsion Lake.  Beautiful place where you were supposed to be able to see the Milky Way if the night was clear.  I never did.  I always believed it was a myth living in the light polluted areas near Philadelphia all my life.

But we got there.  Easy to get to, open two lane black top and we could open it up.  Nobody else there anyway.

I got a gallon of Pump Water for a girl I was seeing at the time since she always raved about how sweet the water was there.  It just tasted like iron to me so I let her keep the jug.

After boring ourselves, we hit the sugar sand road that went east toward Long Beach Island.  Not such a good idea.   The first couple miles were great.  We wallowed past a pothole or three, but nothing really tough.

See that’s the problem.  Eventually those roads became the road less traveled.   Bringing a full sized Cadillac on a sand trail made no sense to anyone but us.  The pines closed in on the trail and eventually it got so that the trees were just on each side of the road. 

Beautiful spot but you just knew you weren’t in the right car when driving on the road felt more like you were going through 6 inches of snow.

When is the last time you saw a Cadillac going through a 6 inch snowfall before the snowplow hit?

You guessed it.  About five miles from Atsion Lake, we wallowed to a stop.

Jim said it first: “You’re stuck, Bill”.
“Yeah I know, lets see what happened.”

I was wheel hub deep in white beach sand.  That big Caddy buried itself to the transmission.

I popped the trunk and began to dig.  It moved easily and we were able to free the beast and back out of the road.

“Not a good idea, Guys, lets head back to the lake!”

We all agreed and got everyone back home.   I rolled into the driveway around midnight.  Mom was fast asleep as was Pat.  Giving the car a quick hose down, I washed away most of the evidence.

Mom drove the car to work the next day not knowing what happened.  She did have me hose down the driveway and ask how all that sand got onto it.

“Sorry, Mom, I don’t have a clue.”

Lets just say it was my education leaking out onto the driveway.   We never did the Caddy again.  The Jeep worked fine when it arrived, and until then we fed our offroading needs with my buddy’s CJ-7.

Now that CJ … that’s a story in itself.

But people do ask me why I keep my Jeep.  Because of times like that.  When I do go back to visit friends and family in New Jersey, I intend to do that trip.  It may be the last time I get a chance to go offroad, but trust me, I’m looking forward to it. 

In the Jeep.

Replacing A Jeep Wrangler 2002 Fan Resistor Pack

Join me on a journey with my Jeep. 

You will see me scrape knuckles.  You will see me swat mosquitoes.  You will see me refashion tools.

But you will see the job completed.

Ok, enough of this Zen Crap.  If you found this article, you have a Jeep.  Probably a Wrangler, but it could be a Liberty, Patriot, Cherokee, or Grand Cherokee.  I am under the impression that this is common for these cars of the 1996-2002 era, plus or minus a few years, and maybe even to this day. 

This is informational only, you’re on your own, At Your Own Risk.  I take no responsibility for any mistakes you do or whether you damage yourself or your own vehicle.

Lawyer disclaimer crap aside, it took me an hour to get the part out, and an hour to get it finished.

However, if you had the right tool in the first place, you could have had it done in about a half hour total.  If you have a Liberty or a Grand Cherokee, I understand the resistor pack is in a similar location but much more accessible since they are a newer design or just larger.

My Wrangler still has some AMC Design Elements in it, and that means it’s a simple beast and you can still fix it in your carport while swatting mosquitoes, swearing, and sweating, but it could be somewhat improved.  That was what Chrysler did in later models by moving this part into a more accessible area.

I was able to diagnose this with a little logic.

My Jeep had either no air when I turned the selector to off, or it only had air when it was turned on full.  The middle speeds simply did not work.  This implied that the switch should be intact, and the resistor pack was fried.  I confirmed this with a multimeter inside the house when I had it removed on a cool down break.

The Resistor Pack is necessary to put a load on the power lines supplying the blower motor that moves all that precious AC and Heat around your car.  What it does when you select speed 1 is to put the highest electrical resistance in line.  Select speeds 2 or 3, and you get less resistance.  Speed 4 is no resistance, and the fan runs at its highest speed.

That was what I saw in my Jeep.  Darth Jeep by name, he’s black and tan just like a good beer.  DJ to his friends.  DJ the TJ.

You don’t name your Jeep?  How does it know how to get home? 

Anyway…

The Resistor pack has a large flat area in the back where the resistance is actually created by a number of lines of resisting wire.  The large flat area is stuffed inside your air flow boxes so that it acts like a heat sink and is kept cool while the fans are on.

In my case, my Jeep has 44,000 miles and 12 years on it.  That means, 6 years of use, and it went pop.  That fits with my memory since I needed replacement a couple years after I moved to Florida in 2006.  I almost never use the car since I generally don’t have to go anywhere here other than by foot.

The first picture shows the location of the resistor pack as installed in the dashboard of my Jeep.  It is in a cramped spot, and is held down by two 5/16 inch bolts.  You can see the first one in the picture, the other bolt is at the alternate corner.  If the first one is at the Northwest corner, the second bolt is at the Southeast corner. 

Both bolts must be removed, and doing so is a task that I completed with a 5/16 inch crescent wrench.  Since a wrench that small is typically not bent to have the circular end at an angle, and they are made of thin metal, I used a leatherman’s tool to bend a 30 degree angle in the wrench in order to be able to get the bolts out.  Once I did that, the bolts came out much easier.  There are tabs that are simply in the way of your being able to do this job. 

You will be removing that lower bolt blind unless you are small enough to wrench yourself under the dashboard.  Since I am 6’4″ tall there was simply no way I was going to get into that spot upside down and looking up at the part.

You will also need to temporarily remove the green Connector Block from its tab on the air box/plenum/dashboard.  There is a little red tab that snaps to lock the whole thing in place.  Unlock the red tab by snapping it forward, then slide the connector block out of your way. 

I disconnected the connector block, then pulled the resistor pack out.  It wasn’t easy, it required a lot of maneuvering around to get it out of the little hole.  I was able to do so by removing the connector from the back of the block.  That itself was difficult since there was a red plastic lock holding it all together.  I removed that lock by pulling it apart and removing it permanently.  It may cause problems later, but at least I know where it is!

The detail shows the block in close up as assembled.

Two final things:

To get the part?  You can find it at your local auto parts store.  I got mine at Autozone for 1/2 the price of the dealer.  You can also find it on Amazon.  I wanted it TODAY, not in 3 days.

To see someone else do the work?  Search Youtube.  There are videos and none of them showed the detail that I am showing here – where the blasted thing actually is. 

Before you even try, remove the glove box, get your flashlight and look to see if you can find it.  If you can find it, it’s an easy fix even if you’re going to get your knuckles scraped or maybe mosquito bit.

After all it’s March and its in the 80s, and mosquitoes are everywhere.

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