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August 5, 2016

The Prodigal TJ, Part 1

I got my '00 TJ back this week after a 7-year absence.

I bought it brand new off the dealer's lot in February 2000. It was my daily driver until my JKU showed up in 2009. Then the TJ became my daughter's daily driver for a year or two, and then my older son's who drove it for most of the past 6 years.

Now, at last, it's back where it belongs.

The TJ is a Sahara with just over 150,000 miles, a 4.0 and a 3spd auto. It's totally stock. (The Expedition also visible is a '99 4x4. I've had it since '01 and it's barely at 100,000 miles.)

It was originally equipped on the dealer's lot with 30" tires and canyon wheels. For some reason, the dealer had swapped them out with these 225/70-16s which were also a stock wheel choice at the time. For as long as I've driven it, the speedometer has always been about 10% off - indicating faster. It's probably saved me a ticket or two, so I've never adjusted it.

It's generally had a good life, but it's been hit twice.

Once a Dodge Ram struck the rear spare tire when he didn't see me stop for a stop sign. (Driving tip: That's what stop signs are for.) I had to replace the spare tire cover and the tailgate, but nothing else was damaged. The Ram suffered a few thousand dollars of damage to its front end.

Then it got rear-ended again - this time by a Mazda 3 sedan when my son was driving it. The Jeep's rear bumper had a slight bow in it and had to be replaced. The Mazda's front end was demolished. (Ironically, my older son just bought a Mazda3.)

The TJ has some issues.

It starts and runs fine, although there's an almost diesel-like rumble to the exhaust note that didn't used to be there.

There's moisture on the passenger's side carpeting in both front and back foot wells. According to my son, this has been going on for a while and he thinks there's a slow drip from the dash.

The AC, btw, hasn't worked in quite a few years.

There's also some corrosion to the front driver's side quarter where the flares meet the fender, and to the windshield hinges.

The side mirrors are pretty much toast. They were both repainted at one point a few years ago, but that cosmetic touch didn't last long.

At the same time I had to replace the fuel tank skid plate which had been totally rotted out. That's life in PA.

The rear window won't stay up. The pistons are presumably worn out.

The tires didn't look bad at first. I figured they showed enough tread to get through my next inspection (which is due this month). But a closer look showed considerable dry rot on the sidewalls. I don't think they'll pass after all. These are Michelin LTX M/S tires.

The finish overall is pretty sad. I long ago decided I would never again buy another black vehicle. The paint is scratched and scuffed just about everywhere, and every mark and speck of dust has shown clearly from day one. I don't mind dents and scratches in a Jeep. They add character. But I don't like the wholesale scruffiness of the black paint.

Here's my six-point plan for this Jeep, not necessarily in this order:

1) Take care of the rot before it gets out of hand.

2) Figure out where the leak is coming from before my floor rots away.

3) Replace the tires with 31's.

4) Pull off the top and doors.

5) Replace the mirrors.

6) Drive.

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