Jeeps are everywhere– they are cool and capable. That said, much like other vehicles, they do require occasional maintenance and repairs. What are some basic quick tips for Jeep owners that they should know to fix and maintain their rigs? That’s a good question—below are some quick tips that will help Jeep owners with their vehicles.
Jeeps do require occasional maintenance and repair work. Here are some tips to help with the process. Many of these tips can be applied to other vehicles as well. I have tried to organize them in subtopics, but the tips themselves are in no set order. The subtopics are:
- Making Life Easier When Working on Your Jeep
- Fasteners Including Rusted Ones
- Body Repairs and Painting
- More Assorted Jeep and Automotive Quick Tips
Making Life Easier When Working on Your Jeep
#1 Quick Tip: Photograph the Repair
One of the keys to Jeep maintenance is the ability to do-it-yourself (DIY). When doing a repair, photograph it before taking it apart. This helps in putting it back together– which is the important part.
With today’s digital cameras and camera phones, there is no excuse not to do this. It is fast, cheap, and smart. When you are done, simply delete the images.
I especially use this technique with Jeep and other auto repairs that aren’t already burned into my memory– especially if I don’t have a formal repair manual for my vehicle (Not readily available). This technique has helped me with
- Direction of parts
- Angles and layering
- Order of components
When you are done, you can simple erase or delete the photos.
#2 Quick Tip: Always Think Before Doing
Always think things through before doing them on my Jeep. I sometimes practice a task, model a task; draw it out– all before going at it. Two minutes of thoughtful prep work can make a 30 minute job stay 30 minutes and sometimes be less.
#3 Quick Tip: Always Have Backups
Always have backups to avoid a work stoppage. When I work on my Jeep, I make sure I have extra blades, cutting wheels, hardware, and other things to keep moving forward without an extra trip to the store. With backups you can do a two minute swap out and keep going.
#4 Quick Tip: Replace the Old Hardware as You Go
When working on your Jeep, consider replacing rusted, corroded hardware to avoid future potential failure and to make your life easier in the future. Be sure to use anti-seize dressing on the new hardware.
#5 Quick Tip: Take a Few Extra Minutes and Do It Right
When working on your Jeep, take a few moments more . . .
- Full drip out– When doing fluid changes, give the fluids fully drip out
- Sealants– Allow sealants dry a little bit before moving forward
- Dressings– Use plenty of anti-seize and other dressings to bolts, terminals, lightbulbs, etc.
#6 Quick Tip: Use Pickup Tools
Have you ever drop a nut, bolt, or tool into a tight spot while working on your Jeep? Use a pickup tool or two to minimize aggravation and frustration. Some use magnets, and some use claws— I have even used tape on a stick. These tools are available at most hardware and auto parts stores for just a few dollars.
#7 Quick Tip: Clean with Compressed Air
When you are working on your Jeep, clean the work area before and after with compressed air. Compressed air gets into hard to impossible to reach spots. Compressed air makes work easier and leaves the job finished.
#8 Quick Tip: Use Pilot Holes
A pilot hole is a “starter hole” one makes to make inserting a screw or a bolt hole that eases the permanent fastener in without splitting or cracking the surface. To make a pilot hole use a smaller drill bit (smaller than the permanent fastener) to start the final hole. Don’t go too deep– maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch deep and pull out.
Now that you have a pilot hole, start to drive your fastener or drill with a bigger drill bit all the way into place. This action adds a step, but saves you the aggravation caused by bent nails, poorly positioned screws, or cracked surfaces.
#9 Quick Tip: Measure Twice, Cut Once
A quick tip from carpentry that apply to working on my Jeep: Measure twice and cut once forces you to check your work and do it right the first time.
Sheet metal or any other material (such as headliner) is expensive. Measuring is free– improperly cut materials are a waste.
When cutting any material always measure it to death. I often have a helper double check my measurement. Another tip is to cut the big pieces first so if there is a boo boo– you might still be able to use the material for a smaller cut.
One more idea is to cut 1/8 to 1/4 inch larger and then do a second cut to perfect the fit. Redundant measurement may seem like a pain in the neck, but a bad cut always hurts your pocketbook.
#10 Quick Tip: Use Protective Gels and Grease
Always use protective gels and grease on nuts, bolts, and other fasteners on your Jeep. These compounds can protect, insulate, and make for easier removal. Examples include:
Make fasteners’ lives longer and your life easier.
#11 Quick Tip: Keep Your Work Area Clean, Organized, and Well lit
Always keep your work area clean, organized, and well lit. Why make your life harder than it must be when working on your Jeep?
- Put things back
- Keep things together
- Straighten up between tasks
- Use lights and flash lights
#12 Quick Tip: Use Suggested Service or Maintenance Schedules
When serving your Jeep, always use suggested service or maintenance schedules. Another approach would be to create your own if need be. Check your owner’s manual– the schedule is in there! The idea is to stay ahead of problems.
#13 Quick Tip: Check Online Forums
Check online forums for help and advice for your Jeep. There is a forum for everything under the sun these days. Someone has had the same problem as you. Having faced the same challenges as you, in many cases, they have kindly shared approaches and answers. Research and save yourself some of the headaches. Many have answers and most provide creative solutions.
Fasteners Including Rusted Ones
#14 Quick Tip: Threaded Fasteners Rule of Thumb
When dealing with threaded fasteners (screws and bolts) on your Jeep, always think, “Right to tight and left to loose”.
I know this sounds simplistic, but even old hands at do-it-yourself (DIY) projects sometimes need a moment to pause and think about direction (This is particularly true when working from a direction approaching the fastener other than head-on). Threaded fasteners tighten clockwise and loosen counter clockwise. There are very rare exceptions to this rule, but they do happen occasionally. Usually, the instructions of something with reverse fasteners are very clear on the difference.
Don’t make the mistake of over tightening something you really want to loosen and vice versa.
#15 Quick Tip: Use Anti-Seize Dressing
Use anti-seize dressing on fasteners that you will have to loosen again in the future. This is especially important in Jeep automotive DIY, because your Jeep is exposed to the elements and possibly road salts. Anti-seize dressing is available at hardware and automotive parts stores.
Simply apply it to the threads or screws and bolts, or metallic surfaces that tend to fuse together.
I use it on my alloy rims and the wheel hub to avoid problems removing the wheels on the side of the road. This adds a step to your repairs but will possibly save you hours in bolt breaking efforts.
#16 Quick Tip: Use Leverage to Loosen Rusted Bolts
Use leverage to loosen rusted bolts on your Jeep. Dealing with a stuck bolt (Usually rust or corrosion) is sometimes made easier using leverage.
How do you get leverage? Well, instead of using a 8-12 inch wrench, add leverage by using a 25 inch breaker bar or even more leverage by adding a three foot long lead pipe over the wrench or breaker bar.
I won’t give you a physics lesson, but if you think about the amount of pressure you can apply to a 10 inch wrench (mostly arms and shoulders) compared to a three foot cheater pipe over a 25 inch breaker bar (effectively the force of your whole body including your legs), you will know what I am talking about.
#17 Quick Tip: Need to “Freeze” a Fastener Loose?
If you need to freeze a fastener loose on your Jeep, buy a can of compressed air and flip the can upside down and spray . . . voila– frozen bolt! Hopefully, soon unstuck bolt.
#18 Quick Tip: How to Remove Rust from Old Tools or Parts
Remove rust from old tools or Jeep parts with white vinegar, baking soda, and a wire brush. If you have or come across old tools, they typically have rust on them. Here is one way to remove rust, clean the tools, and protect them. Here’s what to do:
- Put the tools in container and cover and soak them with white wine vinegar.
- Add some baking soda and give the container a shake.
- Allowing a couple of hours or overnight soaking remove the tools.
- Wipe the tools down with paper towels.
- Scrub the tools with a wire brush and wipe paper towels until satisfied.
- Finally, apply some household oil to the tools and buff with old, cotton t-shirt rags to remove the excess oil.
That’s it! Now avoid letting them rust again. I will share other ideas on removing rust on the future.
#19 Quick Tip: Hold Nuts and Bolts Balanced in Place
Hold nuts and bolts balanced in place with shop towel pieces or tape.
There are times you need to get a nut or bolt into a tight spot (happens many times on a Jeep) where you can’t support it with your other hand. A simple solution is using a small piece of shop paper towel or some tape to hold it as you work it into position. A simple, but workable solution to common Jeep DIY challenge.
#20 Quick Tip: Replace Old Nuts and Bolts with New Ones
Always try to replace old, rusted, and corroded nuts and bolt when doing repair work on your Jeep. Why? Well, why risk failure or seizure when it is easy to replace the old with the new?
This is especially important with Jeep automotive or other hardware exposed to the elements . . . Save yourself the headaches . . . replace them!
#21 Quick Tip: Tighten Bolts in Unison
When working on a Jeep project that involves several bolts or screws– remember to tighten them in unison.
Two examples that come to mind are:
- Lug nuts on your Jeep’s wheels
- Valve cover gasket replacement (a common Jeep repair)
When tightening lug nuts, start with one tightened 66%. Then go to the lug nut directly across and tight to 66%. Keep repeating this process until all lug nuts are 66%, then go 90% following the same process. Finally, repeat the process until all are 100% tight.
With valve covers, there is usually a specific order to follow. I would follow the order and use the same 66%, 90%, and 100% approach as outlined above.
Sometimes precision and process matter– tighten your bolts in unison.
#22 Quick Tip: Use Torque Wrenches!
Jeepers need a torque wrench. When the job calls for it– always use a torque wrench!
Some of you may ask, “What is a torque wrench?” A torque wrench is a special tool designed to tighten fasteners, (that’s bolts and screws), to a very specific pressure or tolerance. This idea of a specific pressure or tightness is very important when dealing with joining objects separated by a gasket. A gasket is a rubbery or paper or fiberous seal designed to hold in pressure or liquids.
The way the wrench works is that it measures the pressure on an analog or digital gauge, thereby allowing the user to achieve certain tolerances that match to the specifications in the instructions for that part. Typically, the number is x foot pounds– just be sure the gauge pressure matches the specifications and you will be fine.
Like to do jobs right the first time? Use a torque wrench when it is called for to do the job.
Body Repairs and Painting
#23 Quick Tip: Rubbing Alcohol is a Great Surface Prep
Use rubbing alcohol for surface prep before using adhesives and paints. It is also good for cleaning wiper blades on your Jeep (Just don’t overdo it or you could dry them out).
#24 Quick Tip: Fix Holes with a Mound
When repairing a small hole on your Jeep, always mound the filler. Why? The filler always contracts and seems to dry in a depression, so to save a second application, just over fill and mound it.
We have all had a hole on our older Jeeps, here is how to fix it:
- Sand the area
- Apply filler or other filler with a plastic scrapper
- Mound the filler
- Allow to dry (for example Bondo filler dries fast)
- Lightly sand the fill smooth and flush with the surface
- Paint on primer and allow to dry
- Paint the repaired area
Be sure to feather the color out a little beyond the repair to blend the paint
#25 Quick Tip: Want a Professional Looking Paint Job?
It is your Jeep– Make the paint job look professional.
- Fix the area
- Prep the area
- Apply a primer coat
- Apply the color coat or coats
- Finally, apply clear coat or coats
You may want to use a wet high number grit sandpaper between coats to keep the job smooth.
#26 Quick Tip: Sandpaper Grits Explained
Sandpaper grits are easy to understand and important to understand when repairing your Jeep.
The grit number system is simply this– the lower the number the courser the sandpaper, the higher the number the finer the sandpaper. A 40-grit sandpaper is very course and good for stepping down, an 800-grit sandpaper is very fine and is good for a fine, soft finish.
The importance of the system is that one needs to understand it to identify where to start in the system. When I am getting wood ready for finishing, I may start with a 60 grit to remove paint, rough spots, and level the surface. When I am ready to apply a finish, I might jump to a 120 or even 220 grit sandpaper. Then the final product will have a nice smooth finish.
If I am working on metal like steel and I want to preserve the finish, I might use a wet/dry sandpaper with 600 or 800 grit– this will remove nicks and burrs.
It usually pays to work through three grits on average.
Have fun and don’t forget eye and respiratory protection for the dust!
#27 Quick Tip: Make Shields and Masks from Pizza Boxes
You can make shields and masks from pizza boxes for painting and spraying your Jeep. Even templates can be made. Start to save a few larger boxes for this purpose.
#28 Quick Tip: Always Use Primers
When you plan to paint a surface on your Jeep– always use a primer first.
Primers can do many things including:
- Seal the work area
- Prepare the surface for paint
- Tint the area for new color application
Always be sure your primer’s base matches your paint’s base (water base or oil base).
A good primer virtually guarantees a long-lasting, professional looking job done right the first time. Unprimed areas usually require multiple coats of paint and don’t last. Primer is a time and money (paint is more expensive than primer) saver.
#29 Quick Tip: The Power of Spray Paint
Use spray paint on your Jeep. Why?
- Protects against rust
- Renews and restores
- Changes the look
This approach works best on small area repair and painting—large jobs might require a power paint gun.
#30 Quick Tip: Allow for Curing Time
When painting (or working with sealers or glues for that matter) your Jeep, always allow for proper curing of the material.
Always be sure to read the directions and information on the package of any applied material– especially for curing times. Curing means the time it takes for all the material to dry– not just the surface.
The reason you want to wait is that using the surface before it is ready can ruin the application. Paint typically cures in 1-2 weeks– the same with glues. Concrete can take much longer (I have heard that the concrete in the Hoover Dam is still curing decades after its “completion”).
Know your cure times and when it is safe to use the surface.
#31 Quick Tip: Protecting Metal
To protect your Jeep’s metal parts and surfaces from the elements, you need to use one of the following:
Want to keep your Jeep rust free for years? Protect it!
#32 Quick Tip: Use Toothpaste as Compound
Have a scrap or scratch on your Jeep? You can use toothpaste as a buffing compound. Put a dap on some folded cloth or paper towel and work in a circular motion . . . rinse with water and repeat if needed.
More Assorted Jeep and Automotive Quick Tips
#33 Quick Tip: Start with the Simple Tasks
Want to do some simple DIY tasks on your Jeep? To ease yourself into working on your Jeep, you should be:
- Replacing headlights and other bulbs
- Changing your own wipers blades
- Replacing air or cabin filters
- Installing a new battery
- Adding wiper fluid
- Using additives
Take baby steps, but it is time to get to know your Jeep and repair and maintain it yourself. Most of these jobs take less than five minutes and require little more than a wrench or a screwdriver.
#34 Quick Tip: Improvise Tools and Solutions
Improvise tools and solutions. What do I mean? Fashion custom solutions like using wooden dowels and tape to reach and place things into very tight spots. I used this idea several times when working on my Jeep.
#35 Quick Tip: Always Wear Gloves
Always wear gloves for safety, cleanliness, and improved grip when working on your Jeep.
#36 Quick Tip: Think Baselines
When working with your Jeep, an older vehicle, always think baselines. Try to bring it back to an acceptable level or new. Sometimes proactive measures can save more than time and money . . . it can save aggravation.
#37 Quick Tip: In Harsh Environments or Applications– Think Marine Grade
When working on a Jeep or anything that will face a harsh environment (like weather or salty sea air) or extreme application; it pays to go marine grade or heavy duty.
In the north we have harsh winters with salted roads. Some of us have coastal access with salt in the air. Others have extreme use such as towing or off-roading in warm weather. I have all three and in working on my Jeep, I am using marine grades and extra preventative measures. The extra cost is marginal and well worth the peace of mind. I am going as far as larger parts, protective lubrication, extra wrapping, and rubberized undercoatings.
#38 Quick Tip: Protecting Electrical Connections
Protect your Jeep’s electrical connections. Here is how to do it:
- Electrical tape
- Heat shrink tube
- Dielectric grease
Make sure you always protect the connections from oxidation and moisture and you will not only get better performance, but performance for a longer period of time too.
#39 Quick Tip: Be Proactive in Repairs
Be proactive in your Jeep repairs. When you are making repairs, fix and repair around the problem to avoid future problems. If you are in an area to fix issue “A”, take advantage of the tear down to resolve future problems. Why open up the same area and do it twice?
#40 Quick Tip: Save Replaced Non-Failed Parts
Always save non-failed, replaced parts as “emergency” spares or back ups. I practice this with my Jeeps. My view is if I have an emergency, I have got a quick, temporary fix until I can get a new part in.
#41 Quick Tip: Keep White-Out in Your Toolbox
Always keep White-Out in your Jeep toolbox– it is handy for marking things, particularly in automotive projects on your Jeep.
#42 Quick Tip: Keep a Sharpie in Your Toolbox
Keep a Sharpie or other permanent marker in your Jeep toolbox– very handy!
#43 Quick Tip: Siphon Before Storing Your Jeep or Other Seasonal Equipment
If you will be storing your Jeep, consider running the fuel tank down or siphon the fuel out. Just like when summer ends and the lawn mower gets stored in the garage, same with winter and the snow blower. If you want to extend their working lives, use a syphon to empty the fuel in their tanks back into the gas can.
Why? Because gas can go stale and leave deposits in the engines that power this equipment. A $5 syphon can solve this problem.
So, take five minutes at the end of the season and add years to your power equipment.
#44 Quick Tip: Storing Fuel? Consider a Stabilizing Agent
If you are going to store your Jeep or piece of equipment and choose not to syphon the leftover fuel out of the tank or if you are storing fuel long-term, consider using a stabilizing agent to protect the engine and keep the fuel fresh. Stabil is the brand name that comes to mind.
#45 Quick Tip: Use Q-Tips and Toothpicks for Detailed Cleaning
Use Q-Tips and toothpicks for detailed cleaning of your Jeep. Whether you are detailing your Jeep or doing craft or hobby work . . . these everyday household items are invaluable.
#46 Quick Tip: Plastic Parts Can Sometimes Be Fixed with Epoxy and Duct Tape
Yes, plastic parts can sometimes be fixed with epoxy and duct tape. In my Jeep Cherokee (XJ) I had a secondary plastic radiator fan that had some cracks in the housing. I flipped it over and noticed I could fill the hollow back with epoxy and could use some cut to size duct tape to hold and then reinforce the cracks. Always consider creative solutions before completely giving up on a part. I ultimately changed out that part when I replaced my radiator a year later.
#47 Quick Tip: Learn to Use New Tools with Several Applications
Learn to use new tools with many applications. A good example is a multi-meter. A multimeter has many household electrical and automotive DIY applications like checking a battery’s charge. With a multi-meter you can:
- Test resistance/continuity
- Test voltage
- Test current
Always look for and learn to use tools with many applications for your Jeep.
#48 Quick Tip: Get Good General Reference Manuals
Always get a few good reference manuals. Jeep provides service manuals, Haynes and Chilton both publish Jeep manuals, and there is always your Jeep’s owner’s manual. automotive, etc. Reference manuals should be part of your personal library.
Here are some “must have” books for Jeep owners and other automotive DIYers:
- Haynes vehicle specific repair and service manual
- Chilton vehicle specific repair and service manual
- Manufacturer and vehicle specific service manuals
Here are some “good to have” books:
- Haynes Automotive Electrical Systems
- Haynes Automotive Detailing
- Haynes Automotive Tools
- Haynes SUV Customizing
- Haynes Small Motors (Handy for mowers, snow blowers, and the like)
Most of those books can be found Amazon and eBay– avoid buying them at the auto parts stores where you will pay top dollar.
#49 Quick Tip: Learn How it Works
Learn how something works and you are half way to fixing it. Especially on your Jeep, it pays to understand all aspect—particularly off-road. Many times, simple, quick fixes are possible– if you know how it works in the first place. Take a few minutes and learn how it works.
#50 Quick Tip: Ask for Help!
Always ask for help. Other people can and will help. They can provide ideas, tips, and hints based upon their experiences that may save you from the same fate. Also, don’t be afraid to share what you know either . . . it sometimes pays to give a little back.
#51 Quick Tip: Sometimes it Pays to Pick the Brains of a Pro . . .
I like engaging in “small talk” with “professionals”. Why? Because I can bounce ideas off him and pick his brains for some tips ad approaches.
#52 Quick Tip: When to Get a Professional Involved . . .
Many of us, tackle many complex jobs when working on our Jeeps– but as much as I hate to admit it . . . there are times one needs a professional. Personally, on my Jeeps I don’t install my own tires on rims, nor do I perform alignments—I just don’t have the tools and equipment.
Why use a professional you ask? Here are four good reasons:
- The task is highly specialized and beyond your technical abilities
- When a task is dangerous and beyond your physical abilities
- The task involves specialized tools and equipment
- You just can’t or won’t do it yourself for personal reasons
Hopefully, you can negotiate a good deal, but there will be times you need a professional . . . accept it. We can’t all do everything, just as much as we can.