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  #1  
Old 08-25-2013
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7Lbar 7Lbar is offline
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Default WJ's versus WK'S
I'm planning on downsizing from my 3/4 ton Dodge down to a Jeep. I require a few essentials, seating for 5 and at least 5000 lbs towing capacity, and not having a car payment. All of my Jeep experience come from the "universal" Jeeps, CJ's YJ's and TJ's. I've looked at all the Grand Cherokee builds on here, and they are all WJ's as well as most of the builds on Expo. with the exception of a hand full of WK builds.

I've found several WJ's with the 4.0L and several WK's ranging from the 3.6L to the 4.7L. I'm looking at building one more on the mild side.

What are the pros and cons of each and what to look for and look out for?

Thanks in advance for your input.


Austin
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Old 08-25-2013
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LO PHAT LO PHAT is offline
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
As far as most Jeep enthusiasts are concerned, WJs are the last of the Cherokees that can be called "real" Jeeps. Every Cherokee after them is built with independent suspension for better on-road handling (which of course comes at the expense of off-road capability and ease of suspension modifications).
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Old 08-25-2013
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theksmith theksmith is offline
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
a WK makes a great forest-road expedition rig, you can get mild lifts for them and they have big wheel wells that accommodate decent size tires. the independent front suspension gives a nice ride but won't give you any decent flex for even the slightest rock-crawl type obstacle. the best thing about the WK is that it was available with a diesel. i don't know much about the other engine choices.

as LO PHAT said, WJ's were the last Grand Cherokee with a solid front axle. they can be built into extreme machines, but it costs a lot to do so. the 4.0L is bulletproof but is a bit underpowered in my opinion for how heavy the WJ is, especially not suitable if you want to tow. The 4.7L is powerful, but watching JeepForum now for several years it seems like they either last forever or else they have a major expensive failure, it's a toss-up. the WJ is in a sweet spot right now as far as finding good condition ones for a decent price, and junk yard items

if you want to stick to 3 rated trails (out of 5) as an absolute max, then a mildly built WK might be a great rig for you. if you ever anticipate wanting to build it up to do 3+ rated trails, then a WJ is probably more what you want - or maybe a different rig altogether.

you might also consider a 5.9 ZJ (the 93-98 Grand Cherokee). they are more in the class of a "universal" Jeep with the same width axles as your other standard Jeeps and no funky ABS sensor based speedo, etc. it's getting hard to find a 5.9 in good shape still, but if you do then i think those engines are long lasting. i've heard mixed reviews on the 5.2 engine. you can expect lots of little issues with seats, A/C, and other such convenience features due to the age of the vehicle, and junk yard parts are sometimes harder to find.
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Old 08-25-2013
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7Lbar 7Lbar is offline
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
I think I'll be sticking around the 3 rated trails, for the time being. My last TJ was sitting on 35's so I am familiar with the 4 and 5 rated trails. The flexibility of the WJ with the solid front axle, more flexible suspension and the ability to build from mild to Kris' WJ, which I really like but that could be down the road a ways.
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Old 08-25-2013
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
Originally Posted by theksmith View Post
you might also consider a 5.9 ZJ (the 93-98 Grand Cherokee). they are more in the class of a "universal" Jeep with the same width axles as your other standard Jeeps and no funky ABS sensor based speedo, etc. it's getting hard to find a 5.9 in good shape still, but if you do then i think those engines are long lasting.
The 5.9 Limited ZJs are the bomb!


Originally Posted by 7Lbar View Post
I think I'll be sticking around the 3 rated trails, for the time being. My last TJ was sitting on 35's so I am familiar with the 4 and 5 rated trails.


Although it can be done, I don't know many guys who wheel TJs with 35" tires on trails rated higher than a 4.0. I'm curious to know if you are using a different rating scale. Generally I see rating scales that look more like this:
  • pleasure: street to 2.0 (stock and mild vehicles)
  • moderate: 2.5 to 3.5 (modified vehicles)
  • difficult: 4.0 to 4.5 (heavily modified vehicles and rock buggies)
  • extreme: 5.0 (rock buggies only)
My point here is not to be critical of your claim, but rather to caution you on your vehicle choice. I agree with theksmith's post above. If you plan to stick with pavement and forest service roads only, you'll be fine with a WJ or WK. If you plan to run moderate rated trails, get a WJ.
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Old 08-25-2013
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
I should have explained it better. We are talking about the same trail rating scale. I know of the 5 rated trails and know they were way out of mine and my Jeeps capabilities, trails such as Last Crusade and Portal to Hell, ya they are not going to happen. I had driven my TJ on several of the 4.0 rated trails, while they were out of my comfort zone, I knew and trusted my spotters.

I prefer the moderate trails, while they can be challenging at times, they can be relaxing at the same time. I have been without a Jeep for close to two years now and I've been itching to get back out there.
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Old 08-25-2013
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Guardrail Guardrail is offline
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
Originally Posted by 7Lbar View Post
I should have explained it better. We are talking about the same trail rating scale. I know of the 5 rated trails and know they were way out of mine and my Jeeps capabilities, trails such as Last Crusade and Portal to Hell, ya they are not going to happen. I had driven my TJ on several of the 4.0 rated trails, while they were out of my comfort zone, I knew and trusted my spotters.

I prefer the moderate trails, while they can be challenging at times, they can be relaxing at the same time. I have been without a Jeep for close to two years now and I've been itching to get back out there.
I feel for you. My vote is for a WJ or an older ZJ. Be careful with the WJ's if you plan on adding traction aiding devices. Although it uses a Dana 44 in the rear (with the 4.7 V-8), it's an aluminum housing for which there are no lockers available. This leaves the option of finding one with a quadradrive system with the gerotor limited slips in both ends (not a bad choice if you plan on sticking with moderate trails and run tires smaller than 31's), or swapping axles to be able to add a locker. A good suspension will go a long ways towards negating the need for lockers, and several are available for WJ's. If you want to add lockers, a ZJ may be a better choice as it had the Dana 44 (steel) available on V-8 models. There are also many suspension systems available for the ZJ. If you plan on doing any mods for serious off road, I think the ZJ would be the better choice. But if your mod list is on the light side, go with the WJ.
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Old 08-26-2013
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
I've thought about trading up to a 5.9 liter zj in the past. They're smaller than a wj or wk for trails with tight brush plus they offer the largest engine displacement available in a jeep.
You can't go wrong with a v-8 & solid axles.
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Old 08-26-2013
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
Originally Posted by Guardrail View Post
I feel for you. My vote is for a WJ or an older ZJ. Be careful with the WJ's if you plan on adding traction aiding devices. Although it uses a Dana 44 in the rear (with the 4.7 V-8), it's an aluminum housing for which there are no lockers available. This leaves the option of finding one with a quadradrive system with the gerotor limited slips in both ends (not a bad choice if you plan on sticking with moderate trails and run tires smaller than 31's), or swapping axles to be able to add a locker. A good suspension will go a long ways towards negating the need for lockers, and several are available for WJ's. If you want to add lockers, a ZJ may be a better choice as it had the Dana 44 (steel) available on V-8 models. There are also many suspension systems available for the ZJ. If you plan on doing any mods for serious off road, I think the ZJ would be the better choice. But if your mod list is on the light side, go with the WJ.
Both Aussie and Spartan make a locker for the 44a, but it is a "lunchbox" type locker, which means it is not selectable. Keep in mind, if you want to lock a WJ that is equipped with Vari-Lock axles, you'll have to replace the guts before you can lock it. You'll need an open carrier and the non-vari lock axle shafts.

My vote is for a WJ, but I'm a little biased. ZJ's are also nice and I think they're a little cheaper to modify with more aftermarket support, but I've never really done a whole lot of research into them.

Here is a link to a helpful thread over on JeepForum about 44a lockers. http://www.jeepforum.com/forum/f310/...blues-1222535/
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Old 08-26-2013
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Default Re: WJ's versus WK'S
Originally Posted by Guardrail View Post
I feel for you. My vote is for a WJ or an older ZJ. Be careful with the WJ's if you plan on adding traction aiding devices. Although it uses a Dana 44 in the rear (with the 4.7 V-8), it's an aluminum housing for which there are no lockers available. This leaves the option of finding one with a quadradrive system with the gerotor limited slips in both ends (not a bad choice if you plan on sticking with moderate trails and run tires smaller than 31's), or swapping axles to be able to add a locker. A good suspension will go a long ways towards negating the need for lockers, and several are available for WJ's. If you want to add lockers, a ZJ may be a better choice as it had the Dana 44 (steel) available on V-8 models. There are also many suspension systems available for the ZJ. If you plan on doing any mods for serious off road, I think the ZJ would be the better choice. But if your mod list is on the light side, go with the WJ.
the ZJ had either a 35C or the 44HD/44A with aluminum center section just like the WJ. the ZJ's 44HD also had the downside of c-clips which the WJ's did not. i think only the 96-98 V8's got the 44HD, not positive... but there was no normal 44 ever in the ZJ.

WJ's are complete bastards with axles nearly as wide as a JK (wider than TJ/XJ/ZJ). they have ABS sensors on them which are required for the speedo (and therefore the transmission to shift correctly), unless you do a different t-case and some electrical mods. the front is a Dana 30, but with true CV shafts that can break if you run 33"+ tires and a locker with a V8 (though i was lucky and never split one). one company makes alloy replacements with u-joints, and i think RCV makes replacements too. ARB is available for the 30. i forget what spline count the 44HD is, but it's a pretty thick shaft - however i still managed to bend more than one at the outer bearing. as was said by others, the 44HD has no selectable lockers, only lunchbox style (click click click click) - i think Spartan and Aussie were the only 2.

random other fact, for 99-02 the WJ had a rzeppa front driveshaft that will need to be replaced when lifting more than 3". the oem ones from an 03/04 are normal double-cardan.

the ZJ i think had either a 242 or 249 t-case, if i remember right the viscous cooupler in the 249 fails in a way that puts you into 4x4 and so then you can't drive on the street to get it home.

the WJ had either a 247 (V8's) or a 242 (I6), or a 147 POS for 04 Laredo's. the problem with the 247 is that it's only AWD or 4-LO, the 4-HI is missing (and less of a concern so is 2WD). also only one company i think made a SYE for a 247 and that's hard to find. the 242 is a nice case, and a 242HD from a Durango will fit (just a bit beefier). a 231 can be made to fit as well and is a popular swap for trail rigs since it's such a common case with so many mods available.

the limited slip vari-lock axles in the WJ work great for 31" or less tires, otherwise you wear out the clutches in them quickly.

basically a ZJ can be made into a 6" beast on 35's for the same price as a WJ with 4" and 33's or a WK with a mild lift and not sure what size tires.... each older generation is easer to mod for trail - each newer generation has nicer ride, creature comforts, safety devices, etc.

each newer one seems roomier too... might be a real consideration for your "seating for 5" request, i wouldn't want to cram 5 folks in and out of a ZJ much.
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