Jim Grant's Tech Tips
‘98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, Water Logged
My ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee was in a flood in July of 04. I’m still not sure why the insurance adjuster did not total the vehicle. The motor and transmission were the first on a long list of replacement/repairs that the vehicle and I have been plagued with. The vehicle has been in the shop 17 weeks in the last 10 months. Now the vehicle is beginning to exhibit problems with the electrical system. Occasionally the headlights won't come on and the next day they work fine. The AC will change vent routes when accelerating and then returns to normal when the vehicle slows down. The AC completely stopped working over two weeks ago. It came on for a day and then quit. Sometimes it will come on and blow just a hint of cool air before it stops again. I am getting horrible gas mileage and I get shocked every time I exit from the drivers side of the vehicle(this is a spark that you can see with the naked eye!). I am afraid it will happen when I am fueling up the vehicle. I have made an appointment with the Jeep dealership to have complete diagnostics run on the vehicle. I’m afraid that the entire electrical system will short out or the computer chip will fry right after the insurance company decides to stop paying (it has almost been a year since I filed the claim). While making the appointment, the service technician asked me if the check engine light was on. I told him it was not. He then informed me that if the check engine light is not on the diagnostic machine would not tell them anything. I explained to him that the light did not come on when the tranny fluid was overfilled by 1.5 quarts (yes, the people that replaced it, overfilled it which blew just about every seal on the motor and transmission). Maybe the check engine light has shorted out along with heating/cooling/audio/lighting systems... Does the check engine light have to be functioning before a scan can be accurately performed? Can the diagnostic machine tell if something has previously malfunctioned, even if it is running correctly at the time of the test? I also asked the technician for an estimate to take every electrical fitting apart, clean it, reconnect it, to check all wiring, fuses and relays for corrosion. Is there anything else that I should have inspected at this time? The fact is, the vehicle should have been totaled. There are laws in some states that require flood vehicles to be totaled and then destroyed to protect consumers from purchasing these money pits. I am at my financial/wits end with this mess. I desperately need your input!!
- Tami Simpson a.k.a. Lucky
Okay Lucky, the first thing I would like to know is the definition of flood? Flood up to the floor pan/lower part of doors is called the “Jeep got wet”. Water up to and over the lower seat cushion is called “Jeep got in a flood”. If Jeep got in flood is your category then pull all of your paper work for repairs from the date of the Jeep got in flood and review them. Water to that level in your Jeep will leave a flood-damage paper trail of repairs that just won’t stop. If the trail is marked well a call should go the your state’s insurance commissioners office. If this is the case the rest of this article will have little value and you might as well get to work on collecting and organizing your paper work. If Jeep got wet, that’s not a big deal and we actually wring them out on a regular basis. The key is they have to be wrung out correctly, or damage to the transmission and other driveline components will occur. If Jeep got wet, it is likely that your lighting problem and A/C problem are unrelated. If the A/C system is changing modes while accelerating or going up a hill it is likely you have a manual A/C control system and there is a vacuum supply problem. The manual systems use engine vacuum to operate the blend doors. If there is a bad check valve, cracked vacuum line or damaged reservoir there will be a loss of vacuum when the engine is under load and the blend doors will move. Loss of cooling from the A/C could be as simple as the A/C system being low in charge. As for the headlights, it could be a bad headlight switch or dimmer switch. As for getting a shock as you get out of the vehicle, it happens to most everyone. I get in and out of vehicles all day long, I’ll get shocked, and knocked so bad by some vehicles I just want to cut them in half with a torch. As for the check engine light it is easy to determine if it is working correctly. Oh yes, the diagnostic scan is clearly over rated and misunderstood by many people. Plugging into the vehicle’s computer doesn’t tell all and doesn’t know all. However, for some reason people have this perception that by plugging into the vehicle all will be told. Not true. As for an estimate on taking out and inspecting everything electrical is a massive undertaking. Financial sanity is questionable with such a request. I would not recommend it, you’d be money ahead of the game if you went out and bought a new vehicle.