Three Years In And My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Is Still Broken. Help?

Illustration for article titled Three Years In And My 1979 Jeep Cherokee Is Still Broken. Help?

Photo: David Tracy

Fixing this old Jeep shouldn’t be this hard. It’s a basic V8 with a carburetor and a three-speed automatic. And yet, over three years into the project, my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle remains broken, and I remain uncertain of how to fix it. If anyone has advice for a tired, demoralized man, please dish it out.

So far, I’ve been lucky. All of my wrenching endeavors have been a success. Well, all except one: my 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle. I bought it in February of 2018, towed it home through a terrifying ice-storm using a 707-horsepower Jeep as a tow vehicle, and ever since, the vehicle has been a total disaster.

It’s my fault, really. I removed the cylinder head to extract a broken exhaust stud. Then I left the head off of the engine for so long, rust began collecting on the cylinder walls. This worried me, so I yanked the whole motor to hone the cylinders. While there, I figured I’d swap the rings and bearings while the motor was out, but for some reason, the motor refused to turn over, and I never really figured out why. I was using the right rings, and the bearing clearances seemed right. At that point, I just bought a new engine.

All because I decided to remove an exhaust stud.

The engine wasn’t actually new; it was slightly used, but sold by a friend of a friend, so I trusted that it would work. I even have a video of it running.

Unfortunately, the engine didn’t come with an oil pump, so I installed one myself, and went for a drive. You can read about that in “How I Finally Got My Glorious 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Back On The Road.” The problem is, though the engine did run, it made a lot of noise from the top end.

Fearing the noise was coming from insufficiently lubricated parts, I got home from my drive and checked the oil pressure with a mechanical gauge. If the oil pump was making the appropriate pressure, then it should be pumping lubricant through the engine without issue.

The 40 PSI reading I got at idle while lukewarm was solid. But that’s what makes this so confusing:

I removed my valve covers, and spun up my oil pump using a drill for at least two minutes. Not a drop of oil ever reached the rocker arms at the top of my engine.

What is going on?

I did use vaseline to prime my oil pump, but after my drive last summer, shouldn’t that all have liquified? Could it possibly be clogging all 16 lifters and depriving all rocker arms of oil flow? I checked the pushrods; they were clear of debris.

Why is the top of my engine getting no oil despite my oil pump creating pressure?

I am lost, and I am tired. The Golden Eagle continues to beat me up, even three years later.

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