Winter Is Coming, So Now Is The Time To Get Outside And Repair Your Car

I spent every moment of daylight this past weekend tending to a 1985 Jeep J10 and a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. Why did I sacrifice the few precious hours I have to possibly enjoy a social life? Because if I wait too much longer to fix my cars, I’ll be royally screwed. And so will you if you do the same.

This is just a reminder for all of you who don’t live in a perpetually-warm climate to get outside right now, and fix whatever is broken on your car.

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I just re-packed my Jeep J10's wheel bearings (that’s why the picture above is a bit fuzzy—there was wheel bearing grease on my lens), repaired its park brake, fixed up some wiring, and installed new brake pads in preparation for a road trip I’m about to take from southeast Michigan to Kenosha, Wisconsin. But while spinning ratchets on the truck was fun, the important wrenching—and the wrenching that I’m imploring all of you to do right now—was on the winter beater.

That winter beater is a low-ish mileage 2000 Jeep Cherokee Limited, a $500 vehicle that’s in mechanically decent shape, but still needs some work before I’d trust it as a daily driver. For one, I didn’t know the state of the fluids, and since clean fluids are the key to a long, drama-free vehicular life, I went ahead and swapped out the motor oil and filter with some cheap synthetic 10W-30 and a good Wix filter, and I drained and refilled my transmission and transfer case with the prescribed Dexron III/Mercon automatic transmission fluid.

The look of a freshly-drained NP242 transfer case.
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I still need to bleed the brakes to get rid of the mushy pedal feel, extract and replace a broken tie rod end cotter pin, repair the wiring in the rear hatch so that I’ll have a rear wiper to give me some rearward visibility, and find a set of decent slush mats to keep water off my carpets.

Plus, I still have to pump some 75W-90 gear oil into my differentials, which isn’t going to be fun, considering the state of my differential bolts:

A rusty Dana 35 rear axle.
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Not to mention, I will have to drive the Jeep to the tire shop to have a set of winter tires installed. I actually snagged these rubber donuts from someone on Facebook Marketplace for $50 apiece, and considering they’re essentially brand new (still in the original bags!), I think I scored a smokin’ bargain:

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With the diffs drained, the brakes fixed, the rear wiper working, winter tires on, and slush mats below my feet, this Jeep—the single vehicle that I’m relying on to drive through Michigan’s salty roads while my other cars remain protected—will be ready for daily driving. More importantly (and admittedly, I’m being a bit optimistic writing this), it will be ready to continue daily driving throughout the winter with no maintenance whatsoever, as I’m knocking it all out while the weather is still acceptable.

You all should do the same, because trust me, fixing cars in zero degree weather, and especially in deep snow—not to mention in the dark, since the sun sets sooner in the winter—is truly miserable. I know this because I’ve been doing it for the past six years, and it should be clear to you all that it has taken a hell of a toll.

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Speaking of my sanity, the one vehicle that has been haunting my nightmares ever since I traded it to my landlord for a still-in-my-backyard-and-not-running 2003 Kia Rio is my $1 Oldsmobile. My landlord has been asking me to fix its transmission fluid leak for months now, and since I don’t plan on fixing it in the cold, I’m going to have to take care of it this week:

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Damn that $1 Oldsmobile. It will be my downfall.

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About the author

David Tracy

Writer, Jalopnik. 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle, 1985 Jeep J10, 1948 Willys CJ-2A, 1995 Jeep Cherokee, 1992 Jeep Cherokee auto, 1991 Jeep Cherokee 5spd, 1976 Jeep DJ-5D, totaled 2003 Kia Rio