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After an absence of decades of the brand in South Africa, some local dealerships were established in 1996 and the models were officially imported.

The Jeep brand gained loyal local support and while the vehicles in general are reliable, the later ones have many electronic systems and this can eventually lead to problems that is a nightmare to solve.

Over the years, Jeep did pioneering work in terms of traction control and managed to make traction control systems that were very affective, compared to that of rivals. Jeep registered many trade names for the 4x4 systems used in the vehicles, like Quadra Trac, Command Trac, Select Trac and Quadra Drive to name but a few. This is a topic on its own so make sure you read up on it.

There are three Jeeps that falls in the price range of a budget family overlander. The XJ series Cherokee produced form 1984 to 2001 had live axles front and rear, which in terms of off road capability, makes it superior to the later Cherokees, at the expense of on road comfort and handling. The ZJ series produced between 1993 and 1998 and the WJ series produced between 1999 and 2004 had all independent suspension.

With independent suspension all around and low ground clearance, the ZJ and WJ are not the type of vehicles that you can tackle extreme trails without damage, but they are more than capable for any overlanding trip and they are very comfortable.

In spite of the dealer network, spares availability is unfortunately a problem and waiting weeks for parts that one would reckon should be in stock, is nothing unusual. This is big frustration to loyal owners and this alone can make ownership of an older vehicle a hassle. However, if you are willing to import parts on your own and wait a bit, many sources are available. It is therefore advisable that if you do choose a Jeep Cherokee as an overlander, to buy critical spares that will leave you stranded and put it in the toolbox.

Although these vehicles are very affordable second hand, spares are more expensive and it is not recommended for people with a restrictive budget.

Jeep Grand Cherokee 4.7 lt V8 (1999-2004) - WJ

Strong Points

  1. Very comfortable on road and off road.

  2. Extremely well built and durable. Even the oldest models should have the door close with a solid chunk..

  3. Very reliable if looked after.

  4. Reasonable off road ability.

  5. Excellent vehicle for daily use.

  6. Little rust.

  7. Great handling on corrugated dirt roads..

Weak Points

  1. Little Packing Space. Will require trailer for long family. holidays.

  2. No under belly space for accessories like long range tanks.

  3. Poor break over angle – needs at least 2” suspension lift if more difficult trails needs to be done.

  4. Maximum tyre size can be 31” without severe bodywork modification.

  5. Requires special (expensive)lubricants for diff’s transfer case and gearbox.

  6. Automatic gearboxes are expensive to repair.

Suggested buying price for prestine late models

Not more than R 80 000

Typical Issues: General

  1. Blend doors of the climate control system of models up to 2002.

  2. Front brake disks tend to warp (earlier models affected more).

  3. Slip pads on transfer case selector fork lasts only about 150k km.

  4. Front suspension coils sag.

  5. The front prop shaft has CV joints that fail if the suspension gets lifted. An aftermarket double cardan type shaft is the only long time solution.

Typical issues: 4.7 V8

  1. Radiator cracks.

  2. Prone to sludge build up, which can cause severe engine damage if not tended to.