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1987 Jeep Cherokee: sitting for 20 years

This jeep has not been run in 20 years. Is there any I need to do to the engine before I attempt to start it after this long a period?

There are so many things that need to be done before you even think of starting this thing. It could be seized , the fuel is bad and if it has a carburetor I can assure you that it will need cleaning . If you are here asking I say the best thing to do is call a few shops and see if they are interested in doing this correctly.

If you want to explore a bit yourself, you can take out the spark plugs, all of them, put maybe an ounce of motor oil in through each spark plug hole, put it in neutral or Park and see if you can turn the crankshaft with your hands or with a socket wrench on the large bolt head in the middle of the crankshaft pulley. If it turns then you should check to see if there’s coolant in the system, oil in the engine, fluid in the power steering. Disconnect the old battery and connect the cables to a known good battery and see if it will crank. With no spark plugs it will not start of course. If it cranks and you are feeling lucky put the plugs in again, open up the air filter case, and spray starting fluid straight into the air intake, and crank it. If it pops or burps or runs for a second or two, congratulations and turn it off. You have to decide how to proceed, but you’ll have to clean out or replace the fuel tank, fuel lines and clean the entire carburetor or fuel injection system.

As the other 2 posters have said, it is a big job to re-animate this vehicle so you don’t do more harm. Flushing the fuel system is a big job. There is likely rust inside the fuel tank that needs to be dealt with. Deteriorated fuel lines will ruin your day if they split and spray fuel on hot things.

Also keep in mind there a lot of dried out oil seals throughout this vehicle that are likely to start leaking every fluid they are holding back once you get it running. This thing will be a maintenance headache from start #1. If you are wiling to do your own work, have at it. If you are paying someone to make these repairs, I hope you have LOTS of money - you’ll need it!

I agree with the other posters. A guy in our neighborhood inherited a boxy Volvo of the 70s from his aunt. He just parked it beside his house and it sat there for almost 20 years.

He in vain tried to start it after deciding to get rid of it day I saw a wrecker truck pick it up and take it to the wrecking yard where it would be sold for parts.

You are in for a lot of work if you want to make a running vehicle out of this one.

As others have said, cleaning out the fuel system is your first order of business. Also make sure you check and clean out any place that rodents might have nested, especially around the air filter.

I doubt if the OP will return but they should do a search on the web because there are many videos that will at least give him an idea if they really want to tackle this project .

@Mustangman touched on something that is often overlooked. Seals are made of rubber and rubber deteriorates with age. ALL rubber. Getting the car started is only the beginning. If this car is to be driven every rubber component will need to be replaced. Tires, all belts and hoses. The seals for the doors and windows. If it’s rubber, replace it. As also noted, the entire fuel delivery system will most likely need to be thoroughly cleaned, if not replaced: gas tank, fuel lines, carburetor. Oil and filter will need to be replaced. Cooling system thoroughly cleaned and/or replaced (including checking of the heater core). Transmission and rear end fluids should be replaced.

If you have the time and inclination treat this as a project car. If you don’t you’ll need lots of cubic dollars to make this car streetable. Good luck.

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Unless this vehicle is in pristine condition, it’ll cost more to get it back on the road than what the vehicle is worth.


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Agree! My brother, who lives in England but still has his car parked in the garage of his condo this side of the pond, asked me that question. It’s a 1986 Honda Accord, and the body is good, but it has not moved in years.

I calculated a minimum of $1400 to get it moving and driveable in a safe condition.

Some items:

  1. New battery
  2. Brake system flush and adjustment
  3. Oil change and getting the engine started. This is the big one!
  4. Tires need replacement
  5. Transmission is manual so just a check would do plus new fluid.
  6. Cooling system flush
  7. Power steering check
    8 Check A/C for possible compressor seizure.
  8. Replace belts and hoses.

As you can see, you will soon exceed the value of the vehicle.

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And the clutch might be stuck to the pressure plate and/or flywheel, too!

The garage in underground and heated, but, yes, after so many years the clutch may be very stiff.

If you haven’t dropped out already I can advise you that if the Cherokee’s engine or transmission are trashed the tail gate and doors (door glass especially) should be easily sold for several hundred dollars. There are many of those model Jeeps still on the road in everyday use and glass seemed in high demand a few years ago.

And FWIW the 1987s often used the early generation GM 2.8 V6 that was notorious for cracking the block at the lifter gallery

1987 was the first year the for 4.0 L MPI engine in the Cherokee.

Again my memory has failed me @Nevada_545. That early 2.8L V6 was a real nightmare to deal with in so many vehicles until they redesigned the casting and I thought it was 1989 when that was done. The 4.0 engine is about as bullet proof as any gasoline engine on the road though.