Wow, I don't know what to say or even where to begin commenting! I purchased my '99 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo last March with 85k miles. It was very clean and well kept. I love my Jeep.
Almost immediately after I bought it, I won a lottery for 2 taxi permits here on Kauai, HI. I was opposed to using my Jeep as a taxi for 2 reasons, it was my personal car and the mileage was already high for a commercial vehicle to be put in service. But since I already purchased a '04 Nissan Maxima (24k miles) for my first taxi, I had no desire to take on another car note until I could tell how my business fared for at least 6 months. I hired a driver to drive my Maxima whenever I could find one, but I drove my Cherokee exclusively.
First of all, I have to say the patronage for my Cherokee over the various minivan tours on the island was hands down, even though I could only fit 4 passengers for the same price $50hr. Although initially, I had to replace the oil pressure sensor ($125), which started to leak a month after I bought the Cherokee, and some of the oil leaked into my starter and wasn't cleaned or brought to my attention by the dealership (not the dealer I bought the car from), so the starter failed ($250) in the first month of service. Otherwise, for the 1st 6 months the only maintenance I had for both cars was the regular oil change.
I won't discuss the repairs of the Maxima, which I believe were most likely due to poor driving by one particular driver.
After approximately 20k miles average for each car, I began to run into "major repair expenses". I didn't have any problems with my Cherokee until I ran over a camouflaged cement block, overgrown with grass and weeds, when I was pulling out of a parking space on a road side. There was a loud noise like a crash under the right front wheel. I thought I had "wrecked body metal" but when I got out to inspect, I couldn't find a scratch. Apparently, the block had scraped the under side, but the crash was simply the body of the car contacting the cement block after the wheel rolled over it. The Cherokee drove fine for the rest of the tour.
The next morning, however, on my way to work the air bag sensor light and bell started to ring intermittently. I put off getting it diagnosed because I was unhappy with the Chrysler dealers lack of responsibility when my starter needed to be replaced, because of excessive oil leaking into it during the failure and replacement of the oil pressure sensor earlier in the year. After complaining all the way to the president of the dealership, their final concession was to offer me free oil changes and car washes. But I refused to accept any further services from them.
My problems really began when I couldn't bear the distraction of the noise on my tours any longer, and went to one of the 2 garages on island with the diagnostic computers. While sitting in the waiting room, I could swear I could hear lots of banging, crashing, and what sounded like my Cherokee's horn, and like a new mother taking her baby to the doctor for the first time, it was all I could do to run out into the garage and demand to know what the hell they were doing to my car! But I was too embarrassed by my nervousness, and convinced myself that it was some other car I was hearing... now I'm not so sure.
The diagnostic ($56) confirmed that the clock-spring ($250) needed to be replaced. And when I drove my Cherokee away, it felt as if it had aged 100k miles since I brought it there. It was literally shaking, but I wasn't sure if it was me or the car, so I kept going with the dread of bringing my car back to this garage.
I called the dealership for a second opinion, and they agreed as much as they could with the diagnosis without seeing the vehicle. I finally contacted the other garage with the diagnostic equipment, and although they were extremely busy, they took my Cherokee in for testing. Again, the clock-spring repair was confirmed, however, the parts quote was ($60). I felt more comfortable at this garage, and they also recommended other repairs, which I always appreciate, rather than waiting for something to break, and take the car out of service unscheduled.
Once the clock-spring was replaced, I could hear the noise coming from the front bearings. I could feel vibration in the steering column, but it made sense that the right front wheel bearing would need to be replaced after the wheel crashed over that cement block. After inspection, the garage insisted it was the left front wheel bearing that was worn and NOT the right front wheel bearing. I was suspicious, but not being a mechanic myself, I let myself trust their expertise.
Also, my transmission which was always very "tight feeling", but sure had begun to slip in 3rd gear. And I was concerned about what used to be a small puddle of A/C condensation accumulated under the front passenger carpet. After picking up my Cherokee the first time from this garage, the entire carpet on the front passenger side was saturated. I figured they may have run the A/C to try to find the problem, and determined it was fine, so they didn't mention it when making recommendations. Even though they would have had to run the A/C the whole day to accumulate that much condensation. I didn't mention it, since there were already so many issues on the table.
I decided to have my transmission checked first, since that could be much more expensive to repair if the transmission were damaged. The garage said the transmission fluid was over-filled, causing the slipping. I took it back to Speedie Lube, and they insisted the fluid was within specifications as indicated on the dip stick. I was inclined to trust them, since I had no problems with either of my cars serviced by them for the past 6 months, but still something was wrong. The garage serviced the transmission ($125) with new fluid (on the lower level) and adjusted the belts. The transmission never ran better for 2 weeks in the time I drove it. By the time I was ready to repair the left front bearing ($350), the transmission was slipping and spurting again. The garage re-adjusted the belts (no charge), and I haven't had that problem again.
However, the noise and vibration from the right bearing of course was still awful, and I was very upset that replacing the left front bearing had no effect whatsoever, and suspected foul-play from the garage.
Before I could get into the garage to replace the right front bearing, my fan motor burned up while idling for 5-10 minutes one night, and I was lucky to get home, even though I lost a lot of income that night.
First thing that morning, I drove to the garage and left the Cherokee. At first they said it was only the fan relay ($100), but once installed, said it was also the fan motor ($500), which was only available from the dealer at a premium price. With labor and all, to get my car back cost me ($850) and my right front bearing was still getting worse, but I had to postpone it at least another month. Not good when my average mileage per day is 100-150 miles.
I managed to get through these repairs, along with others from my Maxima (some of them on warranty thankfully). After finally getting the right front bearing replaced, I could hear the noise coming from the rear and getting louder each day. I never took it back to this garage, nor have I paid him for the right front bearing ($350) on credit. I have taken my Cherokee to Speedie Lube to check the lubrication of the axle, the dealer for a test drive, and Sears for brake diagnosis, wheel rotation and balancing and rotation, to determine it's not from my wheels.
I haven't paid the dealer ($95) to diagnose if in fact the noise (continuous rotating hum, louder at lower speeds, faster at higher speeds) is the brakes or not. Midas had check my brakes a month earlier, and said I could have as much as 6 months use in the current condition with my vehicle usage, along with an estimate of about $500 per wheel to replace brake pads, calipers and grind the rotors, which were not serviced properly before I owned the vehicle. I decided it was time to take my Cherokee out of service and replace it with a newer car.
While out of service, we've had an unusually wet season, and my little A/C condensation problem turned into a full-blown mystery leak, where my front passenger carpet became a small fish tank. We check the door inside and out for leaks, check all the weather stripping without success, and finally drilled a hole right through the bottom of the chassis to drain the water. That took care of the symptom, and possibly the rust and corrosion damage that the collected water would have caused, but the source of the leakage is still a mystery.
I've taken my Maxima (48K miles) and my Cherokee (101K miles) out of service, and now operate alone with my '04 Honda Odyssey (under full warranty until October 2006). I drive my Maxima and my Cherokee in my free time, which is not often.
Which brings me to how I found this site. Yesterday, after approximately 3 weeks of not even starting my Cherokee, I tried to drive it last night, and didn't get 2 blocks away before the engine light went on and stalled. This happened twice before I drove back home.
Today, I checked the fluids in daylight, and everything is in order. I let the engine run in idle for several minutes, and in all gears before checking the transmission fluid, which seems a little too low. There was no strange noises or smells, and the car seems fine to the naked eye, except for that light. I didn't drive it far enough last night to hear the rear noise, since it usually doesn't start until after driving for a little distance, and gets louder with more driving.
Before I drive it, I was going to add a little tranny fluid and just baby it for a while. After reading the comments and horror stories on this site, I'm worried. I just figured I had come in to the typical way mechanics take advantage of women owners. I hope my comment helps someone, and let's all pray for each other and our Cherokees.
I still love my Cherokee. It has earned much admiration, enjoyment and praise from me and my patrons this last year in service. Beware, mechanics also know about the weak points in the design as much as the dealers. We all know mechanics have to eat too, but don't let them carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey.