Blown Engine


Asked by Jun 11, 2015 at 03:33 PM about the 1999 Jeep Cherokee 4 Dr Limited 4WD

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

Hello CarGuru Community,
I'm hoping someone might be able to help me out here. I was driving home on the highway in my 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee (AWD, V8) around 11:30pm with two babies in the back--wife following in separate car. After about 20 miles the steering gets very stiff (unbeknownst to me the idler pulley had failed). I figured the Jeep was low on steering fluid as I can steer but it feels like it's gone to manual steering. I have another 20 miles before we're home. Figure I'll be fine and may need to pull over once we exit the freeway. I'll then transfer the babies to my wife's car and call a tow.

10 more miles and the Jeeps starts losing power. Now on bridge and check engine light goes on. Need to make it to exit as there's no shoulder. Before the exit the car seizes up and stalls on the bridge in a middle lane. Steam is coming from the hood. Tow pushes me off the 5 mile long bridge. Transfer kids and tow the Jeep to mechanic in the morning. Two mechanics inspect and determine the idler pulley broke causing the serpentine belt to fall off. Power steering goes out, alternator and radiator all fail--thus the overheating and eventual seizing.

Jeep was purchased in 1999 new. I'm the original owner. Babied and pampered this car. After 15 years looks like it did when I bought it. 155k miles on original engine. Had at least another 100k on it. Chassis and interior is in excellent condition. All trashed due to a $20 plastic POS part. If i was driving in the city the car would have stalled at a stop sign or light but because I was on the freeway, it just kept running until it overheated. By the time the the car started running rough and the check engine light came on it was too late.

It would cost roughly $1500 - $2000 for a refurbished engine. This doesn't include the cost of labor to drop it in--which would run roughly $5-6k. Rebuilding the original engine would make no sense as there's a ton of issues that you can't see without taking it apart, i.e. cracked/warped cylinders, rods, pistons, etc. Had coolant and oil mixing so who knows the extent of the damage. My mechanic replaced the head gasket for free. Engine started and car can move about 2 mph but the car shakes and sounds like hippos having orgasms.

Now for the $4000 question... do I have a case against Jeep Chrysler? Should this POS $20 plastic part be a part of a recall? Hard to believe they would engineer a car where the failure of such a small part would trash an entire car. I've already reached Chrysler's first line of customer service defense to no avail, i.e. "Not under warranty so your SOL. Have a nice day". Even after explaining the situation, the danger me and my kids were in and being a loyal customer of Jeep for so many years, all they could offer was "sorry... can't help you".

Am I wrong in thinking Chrysler should take some kind of responsibility here? Should they provide some kind of restitution given the danger they put my family in with such poor engineering? Even giving me the value of the car prior to the incident as a credit towards a new car purchase would be greatly appreciated.

Options that have come up include taking Chrysler to small claims court knowing they couldn't use an attorney and the cost of sending a representative would outweigh offering me a credit. Others include telling my story to local news TV stations. With GM and other automakers having issues in the media where people are either being hurt or killed due to faulty engineering could make for the kind of PR they don't need/want. And it's something everyone should be aware of. Apparently BMW and other manufacturers use plastic idler pulleys. Should these be metal of something that wouldn't fail thus causing such car ruining results? Even back in 1999?

Should I just give up and sell/donate what's left of my still beautiful baby? Btw, attached is a pic of the car after the incident.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


4 Answers


The pricing is a bit crazy, no way it can cost that much to R&R and engine in this rig. I would get a second opinion, remember you don't have to use a dealer to have this done, there are many good independent shops out there that do this kind of work. As far as a claim I doubt you will get anywhere it should have been replaced at the same time as the belts and hoses were done. But if you feel strongly about doing something most lawyers will give you a 30 minute free consultation, that would give you better idea what your options are if any. Yes a lot of manufactures use plastic idlers, what usually fails is the bearings, they get hot and melts the center hub out of the pulley, a metal one would also cause a problem as it would lockup and burn the belt off, so either way there will be a problem.

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Best Answer

Hi tennisshoes, Thanks for the response. The estimate was from a couple independent shops. That said we are in San Francisco where it's easy to see $90/hour for labor. Dealerships would be a lot more. This could also be the cost to rebuild and not buy a refurbished engine. it's been a while since this went down. How many hours would you estimate to drop a refurbished engine in?


Book time says 17.3 hours, so that would be 1557 bucks at 90 per hour. Engine prices are a bit variable but the most expensive rebuilt engine I could find was right at 3 Grand, but there are a lot of them that were cheaper, even found some used ones that had a 3 year warranty. So now you have some more information. Hope this helps.

1 out of 1 people think this is helpful.

You're the man! Thanks tennisshoes. Yeah, i saw some refurbished engines with 3 year warranties for about $2k. Based on the book time you're seeing it's not a bad alternative given the excellent condition of the car. I appreciate the help.

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