I can say without a doubt since I was a little boy, I wanted a Jeep Wrangler, actually a CJ back then. I finally had my chance to purchase a Jeep JK in June of 2009. I bought a slightly used 2008 X Unlimited with just under 13,000 miles on it for $21,000. It came equipped with 35” Coopers, a Warn rear bumper, Mopar Off-Road front bumper, and a generic winch. The Jeep and I quickly turned into a love affair, if that’s even possible with a vehicle. I love everything about it from its Flame Red color, to the freedom it represents and affords me. I did what every Jeep owner does that waited his whole life to buy a Jeep, and that’s build up its suspension, regear it, add lockers and put a chip in that minivan motor to get it to move.
I have wheeled the heck out of it! It’s safe to say I have over 90,000 miles of dirt roads and trail miles on it. It has been as far north as North Dakota and as far south near Tucson, Arizona. It has wheeled in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Utah, California, Nevada, and Arizona. There is not one part of my Jeep that isn’t scratched or shows wear and tear. It’s a tough machine.
That toughness doesn’t come without problems or sacrifice. Rebuilding the suspension every year, replacing shocks, water pumps, new power steering pumps, pulleys, plugs, driveshafts, transfer cases, manifolds, catalytic converters, multiple sets of tires, bushings, windshields, bulb replacement and gallons upon gallons of fluids are all part of the "long-term love affair" type ownership experience.
With most things you love, they begin to get old and show an end of life. My Jeep is no different. Although I kept up with routine maintenance, a few things had happened that probably shortened the engine life. There was the one time I drove 2,500 miles with a cracked manifold, another time when I drove 500 miles with a pancaked exhaust pipe, and the time the crankshaft seal blew on a highway trip from Colorado to South Dakota and where I could barely keep oil in it. Not to mention the countless times I forgot to check the PCV valve for its replacement needs.
The significant problems started to occur right around its 150K mile mark. That would be when the crank seal blew out when passing a semi on the way to South Dakota. Oil was everywhere. Upon my return back to Denver, I quickly replaced it. It wasn’t very long that the seal failed again. I chalked that up to the mechanic, not knowing what he was doing. Then the lower and mid oil pan gaskets went. At this point, there is oil coming out of everywhere, and now I have no idea what’s leaking. The rear main is now leaking, and this is getting beyond reasonable parking on kitty litter every night. The crank seal blows again. I repair it and the pan gaskets. My trustworthy Jeep is slowly becoming problematic, and I am considering divorce. I now think that the crankshaft has warped and caused the main seal problem over and over again.
The main blows again, and the new JL is due to hit the dealers very soon, which has me considering getting rid of the Jeep. I didn’t want to do that; getting rid of her is hard to swallow. I decided that I can’t ship her off, I love my Flame Red Jeep JKU X. But keeping her means that a significant overhaul is required of the engine. My two options were to completely rebuild the engine or go with a plug and play remanufactured engine. With the time I spend in the backcountry, both options are with risk.
I investigated prices to rebuild the motor and compared it to a remanufactured engine. I compared the pros and cons of each route. I quickly dismissed the idea of a rebuild because a remanufactured engine is that much better. For roughly the same cost, I could have an engine with a pretty nice warranty and have upgraded components. A remanufactured engine is not rebuilt, reused, or refurbished - it is remanufactured. When an engine is remanufactured, it is completely reengineered. What does that reengineer mean? It means they take the known failure points of the original motor design and reengineer them to have a longer life span and less prone to failure.
Putting a new engine in is a big financial decision, however, for me, it’s also a safety issue since I spend a significant amount of time in remote and harsh locations documenting off-road trails in the western US. If with paying for install and other related parts, this was going to cost me $5,000, I wanted to have this process backed up with a warranty. I researched remanufactured engines for days to select a brand. Once I narrowed the brand down, I researched many automotive shops in Phoenix who specialize in remanufactured engine work. Whoever I chose had to meet the sniff test when it came to their commitment to quality and how they stand behind their work. Before I made the final decision to work with a shop, I wanted to meet with them and see their operation. This Jeep is my baby, after all, and I wanted this to go perfect.
After I did my initial round of investigation on shops, I selected Apex Automotive in Phoenix, Arizona. They were very candid about the entire process of selecting and choosing an engine. They gave me the real story on the warranty claim process and how it works. With that knowledge, I quickly disregarded my original choice for a replacement engine and selected a Power Torque because of the warranty and, more importantly, the claims process. The Power Torque engine by O’Reilly Auto Parts comes with a no question asked 3-year unlimited mileage warranty.
Apex wanted the Jeep for a week to perform the work but, more importantly, put the new engine and their work to the test. They believe in driving it for a few days to ensure there are no issues when turning the vehicle back over to the customer. I left my Jeep with the guys at Apex for a week while I went out of town on a business trip. Through the process, they texted me photos and updated me of a few other problems found. My oil pan was warped, so I needed a new one of those, and both my manifolds were cracked. A new water pump and obviously all new plugs, pulleys, and a new serpentine belt we also installed. At 165,000 miles, it was time for a new engine!
The minute I drove the Jeep home from their shop, I could tell it was peppier than it ever felt. The new engine smell was coming through the vents, and I was no longer smelling oil burning from my block. It seems more capable engine wise now than when I bought it with only 13K miles on it. Since the install, I have driven 15,000 miles, and I can say without a doubt, I am glad I went the route that I did. It pulls better than ever up and over mountain passes, and I can pass other vehicles with ease.
I am looking forward to enjoying this motor for a very long time. If you love your Jeep and its dying, don’t get rid of it, look into adding a new remanufactured engine.