Quite good fuel prices these days!

The fuel prices here in Estonia have reduced remarkably and I can only say good words about this. I don’t know if the direct reason of the reduction is crude oil or just the overall global and local economical descent. Lower consumption pushes prices down, that’s for sure. Ofcourse us, fans of American cars with big engines, are especially happy about it. Now one has to hope that there will be even more reduction in gasoline cost because the cheap barrel price has not shown all of its “power” yet. I’m really curious how things are going to develop in the near future.

The cheapest price of normal gasoline (95 octane) around here is currently 14.25 EEK per liter, this means 1.30 USD or 0.91 EUR.


First Oil Change

Three days ago I finally decided to do oil change on the Jeep completely by myself. I’ve thought of it since I bought the vehicle but somehow I just hadn’t taken the action due to a couple of reasons – firstly, I thought I might need a lift and secondly, I didn’t have the proper tool for oil filter removal. Still, oil change seemed like a relatively easy thing to do and I felt like it would be a good time to spend together with my Jeep :) And indeed it was just like that. The job itself was as simple as I imagined although I ran into a few problems. Those who have also always taken their car to service for oil change, hopefully find this little story inspiring and being honest, it saves quite a few bucks as well.

The serviceshop has always used Valvoline 10W-40 Semi-Synthetic in my vehicle but this time I decided to buy the same type of oil from Pennzoil brand cause that’s what one of our American car parts stores promotes. Probably they are all more or less the same products if we don’t talk racing but I kind of liked the Pennzoil colors more than Valvoline, too ;) I also picked up an oil filter cause you’re supposed to replace it on every oil change.

Stuff Ready
Stuff Ready

 So, the first thing you’re supposed to do – find a good container for the old oil! Not my own idea but a good place for it is an empty canister of window washer fluid. It’s exactly 5 liters so it fits perfectly for the Chrysler 318 engine which holds 4.7 liters of oil. Since the oil starts coming out from the draining hole as soon as you remove the cork, and at a fairly quick rate, the original hole of the window washer canister might be just too small. In upright position there won’t be much room left between the canister and the oil pan anyway. I took a knife and cut a good piece of the canister’s side off and I then got a pretty comfortable container to drain the old oil into. I firstly took a big trash bag and placed it under the engine area for two reasons – I didn’t want to lay on the gravel when crawling under the vehicle and it’s not very nice to have oil floating in our yard either if something should happen and the oil would go past the container. Note: Before beginning with the job, start the engine up and run it for a few minutes so that the oil won’t be too cold, hence very thick. You don’t want to run the engine too long though because hot oil on your hands will certainly be real uncomfortable!

The cork is removed from the oil pan by simply screwing it off – it’s basically a bolt. I had some trouble with it just because I didn’t have the proper wrench for it. I had all the millimeter-size wrenches but the bolt was just between 15-16 mm (I believe the exact size is 5/8 inches) so none of them were useful for me. I had to take our 4Runner and have a quick drive to a tools store in order to find a better tool for it. I finally found the proper one and it was a socket wrench – exactly the one you need. You see, the force required to open the cork is rather much, therefore it was a really bad idea from me to consider a normal wrench in the first place. It’s just too easy to cut off the bolt’s corners this way.

Time to get the oil draining. One more thing to do – open the cork on top of the engine where you fill in new oil, it will make it flow out a bit easier. Now, make sure you have some plastic bag or other material under the engine and the container properly aligned. The oil begins to flow out of the pan immediately in an enjoyable steady line. Just wait until all of the oil has dropped out, it will slowly drain for quite a few minutes once the steady flow ends.

When it feels like everything has come out from the engine, quickly wipe the oil near the draining hole off and insert the cork bolt back. Tighten it relatively strong.

Now it’s time to remove the filter. On most of the cars it should be easily accessible and in my case it was visible from the bottom of the vehicle. It was quite far away from me though which just made the removal a bit harder. On some cars it might be necessary to use a filter removal tool but in this case I could screw it off by hand. It took a lot of force though and it was certainly one of the most uncomfortable moments of the whole job. I did feel like I won’t be able to do it – there was just too little room to make good use of my hand force. Suddenly, the filter came loose. A bunch of oil fell out from there as well so be ready for it and wear some gloves.

Filter Mount on the Engine
Filter Mount on the Engine

Old filter removed, I put it aside and took the new one out of the box. Before screwing the new filter on, make sure that some parts from the old rubber seal have not been left to the engine. Also wipe all the oil off the filter mount and other parts of the engine which unexpectedly had oil drop on them. Now screw the new filter onto the engine and I suggest to check out any tips your car manual has to offer, too. Mine said that once the filter touches the engine surface, you have to continue tightening it 1/2 or max. 3/4 turns. Better not leave it too loose but I did follow those instructions – I want to get the filter off by hand on the next oil change as well.

Big Funnel
Big Funnel

Finally, you simply got to fill the engine with your new oil. I bought a bigger funnel to make this process as easy and trouble-free as possible. All oil canisters should have a quantity window on the side. Use this to pour the proper amount of oil into your engine. You can find the required amount of oil from your car’s manual. You can also occasionally check the oil level via the engine’s measuring stick. Keep in mind that the indication of the stick is not instant and you should wait a couple of minutes to get an adequate read-out.

Once completely done and oil cap closed, start the engine and let it run for some minutes. Write down the mileage when you changed the oil, mark the information onto the oil change sticker and/or car maintenance logbook. The oil change stickers can be found at the stores which sell engine oil and the place where you bought your oil, should be able to provide you one. The sticker can be placed onto the side of driver’s door. My Jeep has a notification system in the computer which counts down the mileage towards next service, hence oil change. I can reset it back to 11,000 km by holding down the SELECT button. This information is probably not available in the owner’s manual but can be certainly found via Google or from the Service Manual if you have it.

Make sure you also check for any leaks near the oil filter and the draining cork. This should be done after driving around a bit.

That’s it! The process is actually very easy and I think I included most of the important information related to this procedure. I wish you good luck!

P.S.

Old oil and filter must be taken to a dangerous substances collection point. Goes without saying that you mustn’t leave any of those to a random place. I poured the old oil back to the Pennzoil canister.

Old oil back to the canister
Old oil back to the canister

Hello and welcome everyone!

Hi everyone! My name is George and I live in Estonia, Eastern Europe. I’ve been in love with aviation since childhood. I got my Private Pilot License on my 18th birthday and last winter I studied Air Traffic Control in Germany. I am now employed in the Air Traffic Control Center here and I’m getting prepared for the air traffic controller (ATC) job. ATC’s are people who work in a radar control room or in the so called Tower and primarily make sure that airplanes don’t crash to each other in the air or on the ground. We have to maintain a certain distance and vertical height between every plane and we use modern radar systems to achieve it. We’re talking to pilots via radio and also assisting them with everything we can. It can be a stressful, but also challenging and interesting career. I decided to choose ATC right now instead of airline pilot because I had a very good opportunity to get educated + employed. I’m planning to acquire the commercial pilot license within the next few years.

Cars have always been my interest and I’ve especially adored American cars. One reason is their different style, but I just admire their big dimensions and huge engines. I’m a fan of machines and I think American cars are some of the greatest machines one could buy without being a millionaire. I didn’t have my own car until last Christmas. When I went to Germany in August 2007 I really got the idea in my mind that I now want to buy my own car. Soon I knew it had to be American. It would have been so wrong in my mind to decide otherwise! I was firstly planning to buy it from Germany and I kept looking at the used car sites every day. The very first idea was to get a Chevy Van but then I soon began looking at trucks and SUVs. One of the preferred SUVs was the older Chevy Blazer from the 80’s but I just couldn’t find a good offer. So I began looking at slightly newer vehicles and stopped at Jeeps. At the beginning I became interested in the ZJ (93-98) Grand Cherokee and I then knew that’s the one I want. However, again I couldn’t find anything near my area which would suit my pocket + requirements. I even went to see one 300 km away and it ended up being a really bad condition ’95 5.2 V8 which had all sorts of problems. I figured that there were a lot more Cherokees available and I almost bought one. The day I wanted to meet with the seller he didn’t answer his phone anymore and I decided to pause everything for a moment. I found there were several nice looking Grand Cherokees available in Estonia and I finally ended up buying my Jeep here. I actually bought the very first one I went to see and perhaps it was a mistake but right now I’m really happy I did so.

So, about my Jeep… it’s a white ZJ Grand Cherokee built in 1996 and it’s the Limited version – meaning full accessories. The engine is Chrysler 318 cid (5.2 litre) V8 which produces 158 kW (215 hp) and 410 Nm of torque. The engine has no supercharger; and gets the fuel through multiport injection. At the time of purchase, the Jeep had 217,000 km (134,800 miles) and I was able to check that the odometer has almost certainly not been hacked. The vehicle was originally from an owner in Switzerland but spent a year or so in Denmark. The equipment on it is quite remarkable and I don’t really miss anything. Some of the features include fully electrically controlled seats with memory (also saves mirrors and radio stations), leather, all automatically dimming mirrors, automatic transmission, automatic climate control with A/C, CD and Tape player with 6-CD Changer, Infinity Gold speakers with amplifier, trip computer, heated seats (which don’t work anymore/yet!) and much more. The overall condition looked fine at the time of purchase but then several problems began showing up. There was noise from the rear differential, the electric mirrors didn’t save their positions properly, the A/C lacked coolant, after a cold night the engine just stopped randomly on the road if I let off the gas, and oh finally the transmission was going bad (which I found out 20,000 km later)! And believe it or not, I couldn’t spot any of those problems in the car shop. I guess I was a bit disappointed but I didn’t let any of those problems turn down the enjoyment of having such a nice big Jeep as my first car! I remember that the engine died already when I drove it home from the shop and I even took it back to show what it does. Then I couldn’t make it die anymore and so they just thought there was some debris on the bottom of the tank :) After that I decided to forget about the shop and fix everything what’s wrong with the Jeep, cause it’s mine now.

I managed to drive it a week before going back to Germany again and no guessing here if I took it with me or not. Of course yes! My mate came with his car and we took a ferry to northern Germany. 24 hours after boarding, we arrived late at night. I warmed up the engine on the ship deck and everything seemed just so fine. That was until we had driven off the ship cause after 500 meters (1640 ft) the engine died! Oh boy we were pissed… I could start it up by giving throttle with my foot but it died just as soon as I let off the gas. 650 km (404 miles) of driving ahead, things didn’t look too bright. At the end the engine began keeping its idle again and we decided to start the journey. Everything was quite perfect all the way and I could enjoy the V8 on the Autobahn.

I kept having problems with the idle and although I suspected a bad battery, everyone told me that it can’t affect the idle. Things settled up the day when I couldn’t start the engine at the gas station anymore – not enough power. I immediately bought a new battery and all the idle issues were gone with the wind! The Jeep roared like never before and since then I’ve had no issues with the engine. Evidently, the vehicle’s computer didn’t get enough power and the alternator couldn’t probably work properly because it used most of its resource to try to charge the faulty battery.

Since then, I’ve collected a vast amount of information about this Jeep. Both from own experience but also from manuals and forums, I now have a pretty good understanding of how everything works on it.

I told you the transmission was also bad… Well, there was some noise coming underneath the vehicle almost everytime the gear changed from 1st to 2nd. Also, whenever I took off from halt with a bit more gas, there was a shudder and vibration. I was a bit worried but since nothing went worse through all the months driving in Germany, I didn’t find it necessary to get it fixed right away. Once I finally arrived at home in March this year, the transmission was slipping a lot more than it did before. I had the Jeep driven by a transmission technician and he told me that he should really look into it. After having collected the required funds a few months later, I finally had the transmission overhaul done. The first-second gear clutch assembly was completely messed up and the frictions were even bent! He had to cut the clutch drum open and replace it with a new one. After 5 days in the shop the transmission was fixed and it was one of the best days ever with my Jeep. I had never had the chance to feel it the way it was supposed to be and ofcourse also the acceleration and overall performance improved dramatically. I’ve now been driving happily and the trans. is perfect.

I fixed the power mirrors myself by opening their assemblies and cleaning the memory sensor contacts. Now they’re working quite well. Two bulbs under the dash instruments had gone out and I replaced them. Very recently I had another electrical problem – the rear license plate lamps were flashing on/off. I opened the hatch assembly and found an almost broken wire that powered those lamps. In addition to adding new wiring, I decided to replace the old lamps with Hella LED license plate lights which I carefully fitted into the old lamp housings so that the outside look remains original. Now I have some of the coolest license plate lighting solutions on the streets – at least that’s what people have said :)

In Germany a rear wheel bearing began making some noise and the noise somewhat increased this summer. I don’t know why I didn’t have it replaced right after getting home – I believe I saved money for the transmission repair. Unfortunately I drove too long with the faulty bearing and once I went to service about two months ago, they said that there’s no point in replacing the bearing anymore – the axle shaft was too worn from there and I had to find a new shaft. What a bad day it was – no place in the country to buy a used or affordable axle shaft and the places which could order it, asked around 1400 USD! A great guy from Jeepforum.com helped me out and shipped me a genuine brand new axle shaft from USA for which I paid around 300 USD grand total incl. shipping and taxes. 3 weeks ago the axle was fixed and now I can say the Jeep is more or less in a very good condition. Small things still need repair but at least it drives like it should! I’ve never worried much about the outside look because the paint is very good and after a good wash it always looks as shiny as a white limousine.

The vehicle came out from the factory configured for European roads, hence it had the yellow front turn signal covers and no side marker lights. A good offroad-lover friend of mine had his Jeep brought directly from the States and as he just used the ’93 vehicle for offroading, he didn’t need the white lights with sidemarkers. So we exhanged them and now I have the transparent covers plus yellow sidemarkers. I just love all the yellow lights on American cars so this made me real happy.

V8 fan as I am, I’ve always liked these engines greatly because of the awesome sound they produce. The Harley-Davidson kind of rumble at low RPM and the bassy roar on acceleration. I finally decided to make myself a good gift two months ago and install the new Flowmaster Super 44 muffler. It’s remarkably loud, not even talking about the volume when I really push the pedal, but I really enjoy it. I just wish I could hear more of the outside sound when driving. I try to keep one of the windows open whenever possible but the weather is quite cold now so I have to be happy with what I hear windows closed.

That was my long story about the vehicle I drive and I am happy to assist anyone with the issues that I’ve experienced. I will keep you updated on the well-being of my ZJ.