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Orphanage in Haiti needs help with 1999 Jeep Cherokee

Hello, Im from a small orphanage in Haiti and we are currently having trouble with our 1999 Jeep Cherokee. We have had a visiting engineer look over the car and he wrote a short description of the issue posted below. I apologize in advance if this is an easily searchable issue, but we have limited internet and time. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

1999 Jeep Cherokee Sport Limit Edition 4-Door 4.0 Liter

Beginning part of the VIN: 1J4FF68S9XL------

The catalytic converter and muffler were stolen and replaced. Once replaced, the engine idles for a few seconds OK, and then almost dies, then idles OK for a few seconds, then almost dies, etc. The exhaust smells like gasoline (may be rich in fuel / incomplete combustion). I looked to see if the check engine light was on, but then discovered that the check engine light bulb is bad. I verified the check engine bulb was bad by turning the key without turning the engine on, and all lights in the dash came on except the check engine light.

It may be that the OBD 2 system has an error code stored in it, however, we do not have a OBD 2 scanner. I found online that you can short pin 4 and 9 on the OBD 2 connector and cause the system to blink the error code out, but that won?t help with a bad check engine bulb.

The vehicle is in Haiti with limited access to tools, spare parts, no access to an OBD 2 scanner, no access to a volt/ohm meter, and a bad check engine bulb. I am looking for help on how to diagnose this problem. I think it might be a bad O2 sensor or a timing belt out of timing (once again we have no access to a timing gun).

usually the bulbs for the indicator lights are interchangeable. try putting say the seat belt bulb in place of the ck eng. bulb.
You can adj. the timing and set it without a timing light if you have a vacume gauge. Ask your friends if they have one. You will have to set the idle speed (this is probably pre-set and not adjustable) and they hook the vacume gauge to a vac port on the intake, rotate the ignition unit (distributor) until the vac. gauge reaches highest vacume, and that is the correct timing. Old timers if you have one, and tell by the sound of air going into the carburator if the timing is close to correct, but if you have injection this may not work either. In that case, remove the No. one spark plug, and manually rotate the crank shaft till the timing marks on the shaft match those on the stationary surface. take a wooden baraque skewer, and insert it into the plug hole till it is resting on the piston top. Make sure this is the tdc of the piston. remove the valve cover and make sure that both valves are fully closed. Now, take off the distributor cap, and check the angle of the rotor to see if it is pointed to the No. 1 ignition wire. This will give you an approximate adjustment. You can loosen the distributor positioning bolt, and rotate the distributor for a closer adj. once you put the plug back in.
As far as the 02 sensor, I dont know how you can check that.
None of this may work if you have an electronic ignition on that thing. Maybe some of the pros can tell you better than this, I am just an old shade tree guy who hardly ever works on anything less than 25 years old. sorry I cant be of more help. God bless you for the work you are doing in almost intollerable conditions.

The code(s) should be able to be read on the digital odometer display. It doesn’t need the CEL to function. DO NOT START!!! Just turn the key ON:OFF:ON:OFF:ON(LEAVE ON) and the code will show up on the odometer. If no codes are present, “done” will be displayed.

Link to Detailed description on how to get the codes

Update: We have now located a voltmeter that can be used! However, while we were trying to fix the car the other day we left a light on (glove box or interior dome or something?) The next day, when we returned to try to get the error code out of the computer using the suggestion of turning the key on/off/on/off/on made by ?geeaea? ( we found the car battery was dead. We then tried to jump the car, however, we are not sure if we jumped it incorrectly or if there is other electrical problems because one person watching said they saw a fire (or sparks) coming from the piston #6 area (the piston farthest from the radiator). We quickly shut everything off, and disconnected the jumper cables, but could not see a fire or any charred or burned areas. While inspecting the area for evidence of burning or charring, we noticed that a spark plug wire was loose (don?t know how we missed that originally). We reconnected the loose spark plug wire and then checked the other wires as well. We found two other wires were not securely seated and may have been intermittently firing. (Mechanics that installed the replacement muffler for the stolen one, may have left the wires loose to try to exploit more ?repairs? from us) Later that day we tried to jump the car again and successfully started the car again. The car was idling much better than the other day but it is still not running correctly. We let the car run for about 20 minutes to recharge the battery. While charging we looked at the firing order listed on the manifold. It said 1-5-3-6-2-4. When we looked at the order on the distributor cap (starting at the 6 o?clock position and moving clockwise it appeared to be wired in the firing order of 4-1-6-3-5-2). We shut off the car to work on other stuff and returned later in the day. When we returned we tried to restart the car (did not change the spark plug wire order). When we tried to restart it, the car turned a little bit but did not start. When we tried a second time, a second person said they said they saw sparks from the negative terminal of the battery and then all power to the car was gone and the battery seemed dead. We jumped the car again and it started. We shut it off and rewired the spark plug wires to the ?correct? order described above. After rewiring, we jumped the car again and it would turn over but not start (seemed like the firing order was wrong). We put the spark plug wires back to the order we found them and jump started the car again, and it started and ran as it did earlier. We then tried to flip the firing positions of pistons 5 and 6. This did not help the engine to run any better. We tried to get the error codes out of the computer, but it would not bring them up. We were not turning the car ON/OFF correctly as explained in detail by ?americar?. We were not able to try again. Unfortunately we are leaving Haiti in the morning, but we are going to talk to another team arriving tomorrow and a team arriving next week to ?hand-off? attempts to repair the car. More updates to follow. Any help on the possibility of damage / sparks from trying to jump the car, or help trying to understand exactly what order the spark plugs should be in (and how to verify if it is correct) would be helpful. Thanks for all your help; the orphanage greatly appreciates it!
BTW, the next team may be posting under a new account since this one is linked to my personal email address.

Just have them post on this heading and I think we all will watch for new posts. Good luck and thank you for helping those who seem hopeless. God Bless You.

You need to find out what codes the computer has stored. Maybe someone can send you a service manual from the States as well. The sparks by the negative battery terminal followed by it ‘going dead’ are classic signs of a poor battery connection. Remove the cables from the battery, clean everything with a wire brush, replace and tighten. This should fix at least one of your problems. Re. the firing order, are you sure you know which cylinder is which to determine if it is set correctly?

Good luck

I can’t say a lot, but I should point out that the order that the distributor posts are in likely don’t reflect the firing order. I have a 1991 Chrysler where the contacts on 1 side of the cap are connected to posts on the other side of the cap, probably to help with wire routing.

Where in Haiti is the orphanage?

This vehicle will be an endless nightmare. You need a Toyota or Nissan vehicle that was made for use in a third-world country. No computers, no emissions controls, no trouble codes. Basic, simple, carbureted vehicles that local mechanics can keep running with locally available parts…