1990 Jeep Cherokee Laredo 4.0 6 cylinder
Challenging to repair, but rewarding to own
Sagging rear springs. This is easily fixed with an add-a-leaf kit.
Intermittent stalling, still not resolved.
Small rust holes on the floor needed patching, the rocker panels themselves had rusted away, along with some small sections of wheel-well. Otherwise the truck was rust-free and looked very good. I was able to make and shape all the required patch panels quite easily.
I bought this truck used and the previous owners had taken excellent care of it... except for rust-proofing.
Beware of the '87 to '90 Cherokees. They are hampered by a poor engine management system called "Renix" that's a hold-over from when Renault owned AMC. This system comprises the electronic fuel injection system and ignition system, that was grafted onto AMC/Jeep's otherwise excellent engine.
The Renix system has numerous engineering and design shortcomings, from poor-quality sensors, substandard ground circuits, bad ignition coils, fragile EGR valves etc.
Unlike most other electronic systems, there is no self-diagnostic system (check-engine light). This means when there's a problem, you have to figure out the problem based on the symptoms, and testing the suspect components.
The first problem is that many different failures cause very similar problems. Intermittent stalling, hard-starting and rough running can be produced by many different failures, and it's time consuming to test all the suspect components, to figure out what's wrong. This gets very expensive if you are paying a mechanic, and simply infuriating if you do the work yourself.
This truck has intermittent stalling, especially when warm. It's infuriating, and has resisted many hours of diagnosis and repair.
So, avoid the Renix system at all costs. Buy a newer one, '91 or later, which had the more reliable Chrysler systems.
Other details... I have the 5 speed manual transmission, the good, strong Aisin-Warner unit. This trans is much stronger than the earlier, Peugeot-sourced 5 speed trans, which were weak.
Still, the transmission is not at all sporty and not fun to drive. The shifter has a long throw, with a heavy feel, and is slow-shifting, especially when cold. Don't expect light, precise sports-car shifting or fun here. It's more like shifting a heavy transport truck. Normally I love driving a manual transmission because autos are so boring. But the Cherokee is the first vehicle I owned where the auto version is preferable.
The standard axle gearing is 3.07:1 , which is simply too high, even with the stock tires. Even on pavement, taking off from a stop requires too much clutch-slip. 1000 RPM in 1st gear is too fast for heavy, slow city traffic, or off roading. Yes, the low range helps off-road, but lower axle gears, which were optional, are very worthwhile. Highway cruise would benefit from shorter gears too. 100 km/h comes at 1800 RPM... too low for anything except level ground. My other Cherokee had 3:73 axles... way better.
This truck has the simple, part-time Command-trac system, which is reliable and works well... much better than the full-time Selec Trac system I had.
The rear springs are sagging, which is a common problem, but reasonably easy to fix.
Otherwise, this truck has all the same virtues of most Cherokees... the 4 liter engine is powerful, torquey and pretty fast, the vehicle is compact, maneuverable, and fairly light-weight, with an excellent driving position and visibility. It's easy and handy to drive both off-road and in the city.
The steering is light and numb, and the ride is not exactly luxury car smooth and quiet. It's actually a busy ride, with lots of bumps and rocking motions on paved roads. But the suspension is reassuringly firm on rough roads. It's no sports car, but has a more sporty, responsive feel than most large, fat SUV's.
The interior is comfortable, but a bit small, especially the back seat. There is no wasted space here, it's an efficient design. It feels small because of its compact dimensions, which is an asset in the city or off road. The rear seat folds down for decent cargo space. Overall, I find it's very versatile and an excellent compromise of size, efficiency and utility.
These trucks had a poor "closed" cooling system with a sealed expansion tank. My truck has been reliable, but the system causes problems, with leaks and overheating. One can get a kit to convert the system to an "open" design... inexpensive to do and way better.
All these trucks run hot. Coolant temperatures of 220 deg F are NORMAL when running... so don't be alarmed when you see this. Most other vehicles are on the way to overheating at these temps, but not the 4.0.
So, overall, I like this Jeep, for its benefits. But it's definitely a handyman special. One needs the automotive and mechanical background to fix and maintain it. The internet is decent at providing knowledge to do so, as all of its peculiarities and repairs are well documented on-line
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know
Review Date: 17th February, 2013
This is my Jeep and my review here. So this is just an update.
At about 195,000 km the main leaf on one spring pack broke. The rear axle shifted backwards 2 inches. The only thing holding the axle in place was the back of the spring wedged against the body. This happened during my daily city commute, not off road.
Replacement leaf springs are available. Otherwise the Jeep has been great. The poor running I reported earlier was a bad ignition coil. I replaced it with an aftermarket one since they seem to be more reliable than the stock coils.