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Hello,

I know there are quite a few no-start posts but I'm going insane trying to get my XJ running again after sitting for 2.5 years. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.. it's extremely frustrating not being able to get it fired up at all.

Back in 2017 I bought a 1994 Jeep Cherokee XJ 4.0 Auto 2wd. It was my daily driver for over a year, and it ran strong, never had an issue starting or anything. It did have some electrical issues however, the power windows would rarely work and a few times they sparked up and caught fire while driving...Also I believe the NSS was going bad because every now and then it wouldn't crank, unless I rocked back and fourth. I usually just kept the windows where they were since the switches were so finicky and would sometimes cause the engine to shut down if I used them. Eventually it started overheating, the radiator was gushing water, there was a leak by the thermostat, and the valve cover had a slight leak I believe too. Its been a few years so its hard to remember. I didn't have time to fix everything at the time or have a down vehicle so I bought a 2015 Jeep Cherokee for my new DD.

It has been 2.5 years since the XJ has been started or moved. My wife totaled our 2015 Cherokee this month so I have been trying to get the XJ running for the past few weeks. I have swapped the CPS, Ignition Coil, Spark Plugs, Battery, Oil, Radiator, Thermostat, Water Pump, Fuel Filter, drained the gas, and I bought a new Distributor but they gave me the one for the 2.5, so I haven't installed a new Distributor yet. I also checked all fuses and relays look good.

When I tried to start it initially this month, it wouldn't crank at all. With just the new battery installed, the lights and everything would work but it wouldn't crank. I eventually got it to start cranking after shifting from park to drive a few times. After trying to crank it for awhile one of the bolts from the starter fell off and obviously the teeth weren't grabbing at that point. I reinstalled the starter and it seems to be holding up, but no start. I started reading the forums and checked the grounds, CPS, etc and haven't had any luck what so ever.. I have fuel going to the engine too, I can check at the fuel rail and it sprays out if I remove the connecter.

I cleaned the grounds listed in another post and added a ground to the frame since I didn't have one.


I took a quick video of the spark test and the sound the ECM is making, and was wondering if both look normal? The ECM has a high pitch electrical whine to it and I wasn't sure if that was normal.

Video of ECM sound-
ECM sound



Video of Spark-
Spark Test



Here are the fuses in the cab, not sure if anything is missing, but it looks good?





The gas gauge shows empty, even though I have 5 fresh gallons in it.



The radio interface doesn't really show anything now, I am pretty sure it used to show all the digits.. radio does work however.

 

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Welcome to the forum. Sorry about your luck.
1st the NSS. Try putting it in neutral, usually when these start to go bad, shifting into neutral will make contact and let it crank.
2nd. The ECM whine is not good. It may be caused by some bad wiring feeding a over voltage to an internal circuit.
3rd. The spark is there. Which means everything you need to have to get the engine to fire is there. But it sounds like you may have a couple plug wires crossed. You can here the engine kinda bog itself down in the video. 153624 is the firing order. And the #1 on the distributor is closest to the fender, not the block. Or, and this is the sucky part, you have a blown head gasket and have water in a cylinder. Pull all the plugs, and do a compression check. Also it seems to be cranking slow, make sure your battery is fully charged and the terminals are clean.
4th How many miles?
You said you replaced a bunch of grounds. Check all your vacuum lines also. When a vehicle sets that long, rodents tend to chew the rubber and insulation.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Welcome to the forum. Sorry about your luck.
1st the NSS. Try putting it in neutral, usually when these start to go bad, shifting into neutral will make contact and let it crank.
2nd. The ECM whine is not good. It may be caused by some bad wiring feeding a over voltage to an internal circuit.
3rd. The spark is there. Which means everything you need to have to get the engine to fire is there. But it sounds like you may have a couple plug wires crossed. You can here the engine kinda bog itself down in the video. 153624 is the firing order. And the #1 on the distributor is closest to the fender, not the block. Or, and this is the sucky part, you have a blown head gasket and have water in a cylinder. Pull all the plugs, and do a compression check. Also it seems to be cranking slow, make sure your battery is fully charged and the terminals are clean.
4th How many miles?
You said you replaced a bunch of grounds. Check all your vacuum lines also. When a vehicle sets that long, rodents tend to chew the rubber and insulation.
I checked the ECM again today and it seems like the sound is coming from this part of the board. (green circle). I also scraped off the 3 capacitors and they all look good, no bulging or discoloration. I haven't pulled them out and tested them yet though.

The plug wires should all be good, they are in the same spot they were when I ran it years ago. I will double check them though. It does sound like it bogs itself down, it doesn't seem like a very strong start either.. Not sure what would cause that.

Would a blown head gasket prevent it from starting at all though? It did overheat 3 years ago when the radiator busted but it ran fine when I fired it up a few months after that.. The battery it had was from 2006, so it would only hold a charge for about 2-3 days, so if I didn't drive it for 2 days it would need a jump.

The terminals on the new battery are brand new, I redid the wires too. I cleaned the grounds to the engine and the battery is fully charged. I have charged it 2-3 times the past 3 weeks while working on it to make sure it was topped off.

It has 298,000 miles on it, but ran perfect before sitting.. aside from the shorting out when using power windows..

229134
 

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Thanks for the responses. You've done your homework. What you have circled looks like a transformer. The voltage regulator is built into the ECM. So that could be part of the issue.
I wouldn't hold much faith in that battery. If it had sat dead for any length of time, it can kill cells inside, which is probably the case. Check your connection to the stater. With that many miles it may need attention. A slow crank can lead to starting issues.
We get nervous we people say their XJ overheated. A common ailment is a blown head gasket, I think in your case the overheat was caused by the radiator. How bad did it overheat and for how long?

White Cherokees rock! 😁
 

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Thanks for the responses. You've done your homework. What you have circled looks like a transformer. The voltage regulator is built into the ECM. So that could be part of the issue.
I wouldn't hold much faith in that battery. If it had sat dead for any length of time, it can kill cells inside, which is probably the case. Check your connection to the stater. With that many miles it may need attention. A slow crank can lead to starting issues.
We get nervous we people say their XJ overheated. A common ailment is a blown head gasket, I think in your case the overheat was caused by the radiator. How bad did it overheat and for how long?

White Cherokees rock! 😁
I really want to get her running again.. I got new tires/wheel this week too, but obviously can't use them yet.

I have a new battery that I bought 3 weeks ago, because the old battery was from 2006. So the battery should be fine, and I cleaned off the terminals going to the starter. When one of the bolts holding the starter on came off, I took the starter out and cleaned everything up. It does seem to crank slow/weak though..

Well the radiator was leaking really bad, but I could put water into it before driving and it would last until I got where I was going. It stayed cool the whole time. I once tried to use some radiator sealer crap from the parts store and it clogged it up and overheated... But it did run fine the next time I ran it, it fired right up after sitting for 3 months.

The local junk yard just got a 94 XJ 4 days, I was thinking about snagging the ECM from it and trying it. I don't know if it would need to be flashed though. I think it costs about $35 from the junk yard, or $7-8 for new capacitors. I don't know if something in the wiring it causing that sound or if its the transformer itself.. it is 27 years old and 300k miles. I don't know why it would go bad from sitting for 2.5 years though.
 

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Radiator stop leak is garbage and just causes more problems. I would recommend a complete system flush, once you get it figured out. When I was having a crank no start issue, I replaced my ECM with a junk yard one from the same year. I didn't get it flashed, but it still worked. My problem turned out to be the cam sensor under the distributor cap.
How are your vacuum lines?
 

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Radiator stop leak is garbage and just causes more problems. I would recommend a complete system flush, once you get it figured out. When I was having a crank no start issue, I replaced my ECM with a junk yard one from the same year. I didn't get it flashed, but it still worked. My problem turned out to be the cam sensor under the distributor cap.
How are your vacuum lines?
I bought a whole new distributor too, but they sent me the wrong one.. they sent me the 2.5 4cyl distributor. I opened mine up and tried cleaning the cam sensor though, it was nasty in there. I might try the junk yard ECM then, hopefully it will at the very least get rid of the high pitch sound.

Visually the vacuum lines all look good, is there anything in-particular I should do to them?
 

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Be careful with the distributor, make sure #1 piston is at top dead center and you pin the sensor ring, they can be a bear to get installed correctly. I had mine out 180° the first time I did it. It would run but ran like crap.
Fingers crossed that the junk yard ECM solves that issue.
Vacuum lines will dry rot over time. Bend the hoses and look for dry rot and cracks. A bunch of small leaks are as bad a large one.
 

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Be careful with the distributor, make sure #1 piston is at top dead center and you pin the sensor ring, they can be a bear to get installed correctly. I had mine out 180° the first time I did it. It would run but ran like crap.
Fingers crossed that the junk yard ECM solves that issue.
Vacuum lines will dry rot over time. Bend the hoses and look for dry rot and cracks. A bunch of small leaks are as bad a large one.
Well I made it to LKQ today, but all 5 XJ's they had already had their ECM's taken... They were all onsite for 3 weeks or less too... I did find a 91 XJ at another LKQ and got the ECM from that, but I don't know if the 91 will work in my 94. They were both 4.0 and auto's though. I tried it when I got home and it still didn't start.

I unsoldered my capacitors and it still makes the sound with my original ECM, so I know replacing the capacitors won't fix it.

I am going crazy trying to get this thing running, it's frustrating throwing money at it and nothing fixing it. There aren't any other XJ's nearby to even buy in the meantime to have a running vehicle. hah.

I didn't touch the distributor or cam sensor yet, since I wanted to try the junkyard ECM first, I wasn't expecting the ECM's from the 94 XJ's to all be gone by the time I got there...
 
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