Question about 1988 Jeep Cherokee

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Jeep turns over but won't fire

Greetings from Edmonton. Sadly my 1988 Jeep Cherokee (4L inline 6 4X4) isnt liking the cold one bit. Saturday the temperature here dove to a chilly negative -30 C. Thats around negatve -25 F or so. As my luck would have it, my XJ was never fitted with a block heater (First on the list for spring) so when it was sluggish and wouldnt start Saturday morning I wasnt all that surprized. I brought in the battery and charged it, tried to start later in the day ( temp had rose to a cool negative -17 C at that point) but still no go. So I brought the battery back in, let it charge overnight and was back out in the morning ( up to - 14 C ) Now we have had these temps ( -15 to -20 ) all last week and the ol girl started up every day, all be it a tad sluggish. Not today though. So I started with the basics, checked the fuel rail to make sure the gas wasnt frozen, which it was not, shot out of the release valve with a good spurt, so im assuming my pressure was ok. next onto spark, removed a spark plug, it was damp ( not soaked) with fuel, put it up against the block and had my wife turn over the engine and voila, there was my spark. I did notice however that the plug had ice on it just after the thread towards the gap end. I checked a couple more plugs and they had spark as well. Now Im at a loss, I removed the breather hose from the throttle body, made sure the valve was opening and still no start!!!! So off and walking to the Partsource I went, picked up a new cap and rotor, plugs and some quick start. Changed the plugs cap and rotor, tried to start but no go. I removed a plug, again i could see and smell the gas on the plug. So i tried the quick start and still nothing. So I have fuel, i have spark, and air seems to be moving through, so what gives? Is it possible that its just too cold for her? I tried to get a CPS at the part source but they need to order it in. But if the CPS was bad wouldnt there be no spark at all? Tomorrow Im going to try to ohm out the coil, just to be sure im getting enough spark. Any other ideas?

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  • tdownes Jan 09, 2009

    Nope still not running, no one else seems to know either.

  • tdownes Jan 10, 2009

    I checked the ignition coil, first day I worked on it after the no start, 1/4 away, got a good blue spark. So im assuming the coil is good. I bought a heater for the block ( just the magnetic kind but its the best we can do atm). Checked the CPS resistance at the connector, all in specs. Finally tried changing up the starter, got one from a upull, i believe it has a bad solenoid, just clicking on ignition turn, full battery charge. Tried turning the engine by hand, didnt take the plugs out however and couldnt budge it, on the same hand I didnt reef on it because the last thing I need is a broken harmonic balancer bolt to dig out. Havent played with it for a couple days now,mostly because been too cold and I have no garage, so all this is taking place in -15 cold while laying in the snow, and frankly I was just too frustrated. supposed to go up to 0 tomorrow so Ill be back at it again. change up the starter to the old one and begin again fresh. I figure either my timing chain jumped or the engine seized. Either way not good considering I have no cash to get another car let alone pay the 90 - 100 an hour to let a mechanic look at it. If you come up with anything else to check or any hints let me know, im desperate....

  • tdownes Jan 10, 2009

    Well I went out today and changed up the battery from the jeep to the one from our rv, turned her over ( starter turned and didnt click so obviously all the attempts to start the jeep in the past week killed it good ( joy) ), I checked for spark again and had none????? Took off the coil and pinched and scraped the ICM connectors, reinstalled the coil and spark was back. Left the starter and hooked up an IAC I pulled from the UPull when I got the starter and she fired right up! So now Im left wondering, is this solved or does the next cold snap leave me with no car again? Was it the starter? bad spark from the coil? the IAC? or was it just totally frozen? I will keep you posted, as for right now I dont consider this problem fully solved yet. Next cold snap will be the tell tale sign . Thanks so much for the help and positive attitude, I was feeling really defeated and at a loss, even though I cant say if its totally fixed, right now its running, which is more than I can say for the last 7 days!



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Nice to see someone can post in real words without gibberish!!!
OK... Likely will sound crazy, but remove all the sparkplugs and put them on the stove. Heat them really well to get any residual fuel to burn off. What I believe is that the engine has flooded. According to the laws of physics, a cold engine should never start! What we do is to put more than the needed amt of fuel in, hoping that enough vapor will ignite before it floods. In "warmer" weather it works fairly well. At the temps you are working at, it won't.
Put the warm plugs back in as quickly as possible and give a very small squirt of starting fluid into the intake. before (not during )cranking.
It should light. If it tries, play with part throttle to find where it wants to run, 'till it idles by itself.
To aid in preventing this, add 3oz of acetone to 10gal of fuel in tank. Acetone vaporizes faster than gasoline. It may also give you a few more mpg. I heard a few bad things about this but have been doing the same for over three yrs and have had no problems!!!
good luck and try to stay warm!!!

Posted on Jan 05, 2009

  • 2 more comments 
  • Richard Scordino Jan 07, 2009

    Just curious.... did you finally get it to start... if so what did you do?

  • Richard Scordino Jan 09, 2009

    Can't believe it's not running yet! Try this: Hold the coil wire just above (about 1/4in) the tower on the distributor with an insulated pair of pliers anything else that won't transmit spark to you and have someone crank it. What you are doing there is creating a "booster gap" which will amplify the spark. See what if anything happens then.
    I did not mention cps... I'd be surprised it that was it,,, usually it works or not. If the plugs are wet, it concerns me... even if you figure it out, it won't start unless they aren't soaked with fuel! The thing about the ice on the plugs is really messing with my mind... 30 yrs and have never seen that. Anyhow, tid you try anything to warm up the oil (like a heating pad on the oil pan?)... Keep me posted !!!

  • Richard Scordino Jan 10, 2009

    It appears that you are going astray. If the engine turned and you had spark, why mess with the starter... But, you gave me an idea! Battery amperage runs very low when exposed to extreme cold. Try removing all the plugs and grounding the coil wire. attach a good fully charged battery with jumpers and make sure connections are solid and clean. Spin the engine over and it should clear any excess fuel from cylinders (make sure no spray gets on coil wire or it will start on fire.) Make sure the plugs are clean and dry, and put them back in. re-connect everything and attempt to start it. If amperage is below what the system needs, the starter may be drawing more amps, depriving the ignition system and computer of needed power. Both batteries should overcome that deficit, provided they are both fully charged. since you have had the heater on it for some time now, the oil that you warmed will have circulated a bit as well making it easier to turn. Still don't understand the frost on the plugs, but I'm going to ignore that for a while (never worked in the arctic.) You might also spray some starting fluid on the air filter, As air passes through, it will vaporize and be useful (it does not burn in liquid form) You don't need much there, just enough to "enhance" the air entering the engine. Now...take that starter out of there and put the good one back. before you even start doing anything else, including what I just said. I should have thought of this before... On every vehicle I've had, except the jeep I now have, I always use two batteries, a police version of the stock alternator and Amsoil synthetic oil (which was originally made for military operating in the arctic) I use the 0w50 pours like water at 0 degrees... can't ask for more than that!!! Ran the same stuff in a top fuel car and never lost a bearing, even with over 7000hp! I just can't find a good place for the extra battery yet... likely it will go behind the rear seat, connected with "00" welding cable.
    You WILL get this fixed, just stay with it!

  • Richard Scordino Jan 10, 2009

    Extreme cold can play hell with everything... Even perfectly good components become marginal in the cold. I went into my basement last night and a flashlight I had hanging in the entryway did not work...'till it was in the house for an hour! (It was 2degrees here last night about forty miles west of Albany NY) Years back, I used to love the cold... Now, it's just a feeble like) The only thing snow is good for is tracking deer. (you don't have to shovel it)
    Take my advice on synthetic oil...It works! Keep the heater on it as well. just thinking,,, perhaps iac had ice in there?
    Happy to hear you are running again,
    Rich Scordino (alias: thundergod)



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