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Transmission or muffler?

I have a 1995 Jeep Cherokee country edition. It has started marking a rattling noise that seemed to be coming from the transmission/muffler area, I couldn’t narrow it down more than that. I sounds like a bolt rattling in a tin can. The noise is not constant, it seems to only happen during the first 10 mins. or about 3 miles of driving. This noise started about 2 weeks ago, now about 3 days ago the check engine light started coming on and to along with that a swishing/whistling noise shifting gears. Any ideas?? I paid $1500 it 3 years ago, have but about 3500 into since then and it has 189,000 miles on it. It needs to last me until April 2010, is there a cheap fix or am I just hoping for too much?

The rattling is probably exhaust related - loose heat shield or a crack or something. You can try to use a piece of hose like a stethoscope to see if you can pinpoint the location of the noise.

If the check engine light is on you need to find out what the codes are. Its a '95 so you’re probably OBDI so auto parts stores won’t be able to read them. On some vehicles there is a way to check the codes w/out a scanner - check the owner’s manual if you have one, or search the web a bit to see if you can do it. You might also try Autozone’s online repair manuals on their website.