Author Topic: easy maintenance off road vehicle  (Read 4899 times)

Offline jonass21

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easy maintenance off road vehicle
« on: December 14, 2012, 12:59:35 PM »
I am looking for an off road vehicle that would also work as a daily driver, and serve well as a bug out vehicle. Most importantly for me is the ease of maintenance so that I can easily fix basic problems in my driveway. I don't have much mechanical experience, just a few oil changes and such. Currently I was thinking about an older Toyota pickup or blazer, any helpful suggestions?

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 01:22:27 PM »
Lets see. Trying to get a all in one vehicle under your parameters may be hard. The older vehicles will be easier to work on if they are pre OBD 1. No computer controlled engine or transmission components. The only draw back is when something is wrong you wil have to do some old school diagnostic testing (which you say your skills are limited but you can learn). Also the older vehicles are less fuel efficient and are more solid so you wouldnt want to drive it everyday.
The newer vehicles have ALOT of do-dads that can go bad on them and are a pain to work on. The plus side to this is just plugging into the diagnostic plug under the dash with a hand held machine and having the issues spelled out for you to repair.
So could you afford two vehicles? Buy an old truck for your BOV and keep it parked and drive a newer fuel efficient vehicle to work everyday. That would be the best of both worlds.
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Offline inconel710

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 01:30:01 PM »
+1 to what ncjeeper said.  Unless your "daily drive" is short, you'll probably save $$$ in the long run having two.  I drive my 4WD K2500 to work most of the time, but I have a 15mile round trip commute.  I still wish I had a less expensive car to drive, but 4WD sure comes in handy!
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Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 01:47:40 PM »
Definitely can't afford two vehicles, but most of the driving around town is done in my wife's car. So gas mileage isn't a huge issue, biggest things I was going for were ease of maintaining it and reliability. I have had an 87 Toyota pickup before and that always seemed like a decent truck but I'm not exactly knowledgeable about this

Offline Htown

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2012, 03:33:06 PM »
What is your budget?

Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #5 on: December 23, 2012, 02:37:52 PM »
Preferably under 8000, this is not an emergency in anyway I am just planning ahead for when I'll likely need a new truck as my current Toyota is close to 300k.

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2012, 02:50:22 PM »
dirt bike would be my first thought. you'd have to travel light but you can access so much more
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Offline MTUCache

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2012, 09:26:19 AM »
I probably know less about car maintenance and repair than anyone here, but it is a skill I'm hoping to start delving into in the near future...

From a lot of what I read, it looks like the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) is a pretty good choice. A relatively simple vehicle with a TON of aftermarket off-road potential, a mid-size SUV that can definitely handle the duties of a BOV. Gas mileage is going to be poor, just as you'll probably see with any off-road capable vehicle, but I've heard of typical ranges between 13-16mpg.

Most importantly, the 4.0L 6-cylinder engines are near bulletproof, with many well-maintained ones going well over 200k. A bunch of them were produced, so it's not likely you're ever going to be starving for parts.

XJs from the late-90s, around 150k miles, are typically $1500-3000 on craigslist, with bunches added everyday. As long as it's not an emergency it sounds like you could take one of these home, learn a whole bunch about how to maintain and fix it, throw on an aftermarket lift kit, some tires and a few other toys, and still be under $6000. At least... that's what I've been trying to talk myself into lately. (Haven't started trying to talk the wife into it yet.)  :P
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Offline meapplejak

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2012, 10:41:28 AM »

From a lot of what I read, it looks like the Jeep Cherokee (XJ) is a pretty good choice. A relatively simple vehicle with a TON of aftermarket off-road potential, a mid-size SUV that can definitely handle the duties of a BOV. Gas mileage is going to be poor, just as you'll probably see with any off-road capable vehicle, but I've heard of typical ranges between 13-16mpg.

Most importantly, the 4.0L 6-cylinder engines are near bulletproof, with many well-maintained ones going well over 200k. A bunch of them were produced, so it's not likely you're ever going to be starving for parts.

XJs from the late-90s, around 150k miles, are typically $1500-3000 on craigslist, with bunches added everyday. As long as it's not an emergency it sounds like you could take one of these home, learn a whole bunch about how to maintain and fix it, throw on an aftermarket lift kit, some tires and a few other toys, and still be under $6000. At least... that's what I've been trying to talk myself into lately. (Haven't started trying to talk the wife into it yet.)  :P

 

I would not buy an xj.  I had a 94.  Worst car i ever had.  I was a jeep guy for many years 93 yj 94xj 95 yj.  They were all awesome fun jeeps.  The xj was a money pit it felt like it was in the shop every week with some new problem.  Timing belt snapped, header cracked, engine mount bolts sheared off, ultimately caught on fire and was totalled. But it was sure fun.  Id get a zj or wj (grand cherokee) over an xj and they look slightly cooler.  Only downside to the grand is they are mostly large v8s but nice.  Anyway just my 2 cents and the problems I listed were just the ones I remember.
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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2012, 12:28:27 PM »
You can pick up a 1994-2000 Toyota 4Runner for under $8k in most markets.  Mileage will generally run 130-180k miles, but they're definitely 250-300k vehicles.  Reasonably easy to work on, lots of available parts, and good running on and off the road.

My personal preference would be to find one of the 4 cylinder models.  Better MPG and a lot cheaper than the V6 models.  Sure, they aren't the best if you live in big mountain country, but for most folks, it's enough power to safely get you down the road.
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Offline meapplejak

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #10 on: December 26, 2012, 12:38:27 PM »
You can pick up a 1994-2000 Toyota 4Runner for under $8k in most markets.  Mileage will generally run 130-180k miles, but they're definitely 250-300k vehicles.  Reasonably easy to work on, lots of available parts, and good running on and off the road.

My personal preference would be to find one of the 4 cylinder models.  Better MPG and a lot cheaper than the V6 models.  Sure, they aren't the best if you live in big mountain country, but for most folks, it's enough power to safely get you down the road.

Second on the 4runner. I think import is likely to last you a whuile and be fairly cheap repair..  nissan pathfinder is a cheaper alternative with comparable reliability
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Offline meapplejak

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #11 on: December 26, 2012, 01:05:08 PM »
I just noticed recently that they have some diesel Blazers on Craigslist with low miles that are pretty cheap like 3000 4000 dollars. They seem to be ex military Blazers.  After rereading the original post you mentioned Toyota pickup and blazer you can't go wrong with a toyota Tacoma Ranger pickup trucks a pretty nice the Mazda the same thing Nissan makes a decent pickup truck the frontiers pretty cool 1 and if you're looking for a nice SUV that's not super off road the Volvo that's a really nice one.  Also the Subaru Forester and honda CRV are pretty decent medium build
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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #12 on: December 26, 2012, 02:52:01 PM »
I've had a Blazer and my only complaint (besides the awful HEI system they made in 1984 that was finally fixed when I put in a 1978 HEI distributer) was that on icy roads, the short wheelbase was scary as hell.  That thing would spin around on you so quick on ice that the best driver in the world couldn't correct for it fast enough.  The only reason I'm still alive is because it never happened when somebody was coming the other way on the highway. :o

And yes, if a Subaru Forester will meet your needs, they're awesome for reliability, MPG, and cost to maintain.  I would say the late 1990s models probably aren't 250-300k vehicles like the Toyotas, but they're still probably good for the first 200-225k.  The newer ones seem like they're going to last forever, but they're out of your price range.
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Offline Cooter Brown

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #13 on: December 26, 2012, 03:24:49 PM »
If you look at a late 90's/early 00's 4 cyl. Subaru, get a Carfax and make sure that the head gaskets have been replaced and that there were no overheats on the engine or it might be more like a 125k mile car.
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Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #14 on: December 30, 2012, 09:44:21 PM »
Second on the 4runner. I think import is likely to last you a whuile and be fairly cheap repair..  nissan pathfinder is a cheaper alternative with comparable reliability

I hadn't heard that about the pathfinder being comparable to the 4 runner, are Nissan equivalents typically close to their Toyota counterparts? I love Toyota but they really are in short supply and you really pay for them.

I have heard that cherokee is a good vehicle for off roading, but that it really isn't very reliable.

Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #15 on: December 30, 2012, 09:52:20 PM »
I just noticed recently that they have some diesel Blazers on Craigslist with low miles that are pretty cheap like 3000 4000 dollars. They seem to be ex military Blazers.  After rereading the original post you mentioned Toyota pickup and blazer you can't go wrong with a toyota Tacoma Ranger pickup trucks a pretty nice the Mazda the same thing Nissan makes a decent pickup truck the frontiers pretty cool 1 and if you're looking for a nice SUV that's not super off road the Volvo that's a really nice one.  Also the Subaru Forester and honda CRV are pretty decent medium build

I was looking at some of those old diesel blazers, there was a company in Colorado that totally reconditioned then and sold them for 10k, I could post the site of you want. But my bro in law, who is in the army, says those old diesel blazers are always in the shop getting worked in.

I think ideally I would like a small truck as I have a small family and once I didn't have a truck and I really missed having a truck bed. Is there really any small truck that can hold its own against Toyota's?

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2012, 11:48:07 AM »
There is nothing better off road than a Jeep.  That said, there is not much less reliable on road than a Jeep.  IMHO, you're sacrificing a lot in the way of reliability and mpg if your primary purpose is a road car and you will only occasionally go off road.

As far as light trucks go, in my experience, nothing even comes close to Toyota, not even Nissan.  I used to be a huge Honda fan, but they've never offered anything 4x4 in the same caliber as Toyota.
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Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2012, 03:12:05 PM »
There is nothing better off road than a Jeep.  That said, there is not much less reliable on road than a Jeep.  IMHO, you're sacrificing a lot in the way of reliability and mpg if your primary purpose is a road car and you will only occasionally go off road.

As far as light trucks go, in my experience, nothing even comes close to Toyota, not even Nissan.  I used to be a huge Honda fan, but they've never offered anything 4x4 in the same caliber as Toyota.

Yeah that's the general opinion I've always heard about Jeeps. 

That's a bummer about the Toyota's, I love them but feel like you really pay a premium for the name nowadays.  Granted they are amazing trucks, my current 96 Tacoma is at 265000 and never had a truly serious mechanical issue other than fluid leaks. 

I don't typically due "serious" off-roading mostly dirt roads and such, some can get a bit rough but nothing near rock crawling.  If you needed a small truck, but couldn't pick up a toyota (I can never find them reasonably priced, anymore), what would be your preference?  For now I'll just keep running with my Tacoma but I like to keep my eye on the market.

Offline tacticalzigzag

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2013, 04:47:41 PM »
For the price range I would say a 89-93 Dodge pickup with the Cummins would be a pretty good choice. I don't know if you would prefer gas or diesel, but if diesel is an option I would definitely look at a couple. The old 12V Cummins are still pretty simple to work on, they have plenty of torque if you need to tow or haul something, and if you don't do any upgrades it seems to me they usually get somewhere in the low to mid 20MPG range. Obviously get the 4x4 version, it has a straight axle with means they are really simple to lift if you looking for bigger tires.
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Offline meapplejak

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #19 on: January 22, 2013, 04:59:22 PM »
For the price range I would say a 89-93 Dodge pickup with the Cummins would be a pretty good choice. I don't know if you would prefer gas or diesel, but if diesel is an option I would definitely look at a couple. The old 12V Cummins are still pretty simple to work on, they have plenty of torque if you need to tow or haul something, and if you don't do any upgrades it seems to me they usually get somewhere in the low to mid 20MPG range. Obviously get the 4x4 version, it has a straight axle with means they are really simple to lift if you looking for bigger tires.

They are great but not cheap even early 90s models can be 9k or more because they are that good.
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Offline cep89

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2013, 07:36:06 PM »
I have owned blazers and Toyota pickups.  The full size blazers are tough and easy to work on,but are gas hogs. Diesels are rare and hard to find and expensive.  The s10 blazers fall apart after 100,000 miles.  I had a 93 Toyota pickup with the 4 cyl. and manual trans.  It got over 20mpg and super tough.  I got hit by a semi that totaled it but it still drove away and I was unhurt.  I now have a '99 Tacoma with a 6 cyl. and auto trans.  It gets 17 to 21 mpg.  I have 197,000 miles on it and it runs great and looks almost like new.  It has the TRD offroad package. I don't want to get into a flame war with jeeps, but this truck is just as good offroad as any street legal jeep.  Toyota's hold their value very well too.

Offline hillclimber

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2013, 12:02:32 PM »
I'll second the Jeep XJ, but I'd make sure you get one that's newer than a '96. They made alot of upgrades in the later ones. The old renix's were ok, but they weren't very dependable. I have a '98 that I drive every day. It's a 4.0, 5speed, has over 220,000 miles, burns no oil, gets 20mpg, and has been my favorite vehicle ever. My daughter wanted a XJ of her own to drive back and fourth to colledge, and I scored a '99 4.0 auto, for her that had 120,000 miles on it. I paid $3,000 for her's, but it was a "one owner" jeep, that had never been smoked in and was really nice. Her's gets about 18mpg, but it's an auto, and she drives her's a little harder than I do.
They've needed little stuff over the years, but no more than any other 4x4. Parts for a XJ are way cheaper than for a Suburu, or Toyota.
I also have a '91 XJ Laredo, but it's a bucket. Runs great, but you couldn't keep a cat locked inside for all the rust holes.
The only real downside is that they're rather small inside by today's SUV standards.
 
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Offline moops

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #22 on: March 23, 2013, 07:02:10 PM »
proud owner of a 91 Cherokee.

cant think of a better vehicle for the money
I'm not disputing you, i  just got my own way of doing things :)

Offline Berlinettaa

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #23 on: April 05, 2013, 03:20:01 PM »
Some thoughts on the vehicles listed:

Toyota trucks from the mid '80s to the early '90s will have much of what you are looking for in terms of reliability and economy.  The later models equipped with a four cylinder engine, the 22RE, are notorious for their logevity.  These are also very simple fuel injected engines, there are many replacements easily found in junk yards that will keep chugging long after the frame rails rust out.  Speaking of rust, however, these trucks use thinner steel that is far more prone to rust than their domestic counterparts.

Jeep/chrysler vehicles from this era had their own share of issues, the 4L inline 6 is well known for throwing a rod or developing piston/cylinder issues between 120-150km if not properly maintained (read as following recommended oil and fluid change intervals).  The aftermarket support can be great, but it's like the aftermarket support for Harleys- how much of that stuff should you really have to add to a complete vehicle to have it work for you?  Shouldn't it do what it is manufactured to do without adding thousands in name brand parts?

The K-5 Blazer (and later the K 1500 Tahoe) are an interesting combination of excellent ideas and horrible execution.  The older models with solid axles and gas engines are so simple to fix I would be suprised if you ever need to ask anyone for troubleshooting tips.  However, the later independant front suspension models were notoriously weak off road.  I would steer so clear of the 6.2L diesel (rated at a whopping 192 hp) as to use one for a boat anchor and nothing more.

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Offline sdcharger

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #24 on: April 09, 2013, 12:21:03 PM »
I currently own a 2002 Jeep Liberty KJ and a 2002 Toyota 4runner.  Both 4wd and v6.  I have owned in the past a 57 jeep, a Cherokee KJ, a Jeep YJ, a Tacoma, and a 2000 Land Cruiser.  I have worked on all of them at one time or another.  I don't actually have a fear of the "newer" vehicles for working on them.  I find diagnostics very simple with a cheap handheld computer tool.  While most folks can't work on an electronically controlled transmission, you can fix about everything else yourself.  Then again, I was never much for working on any transmission for that matter.

The 4runner is a much better vehicle btw.  I just got it from my folks recently and they are the original owners.  We are the original owners of the Jeep.  At 150k the 4runner has a ton of life left in it while the Jeep is showing more age.  The 4runner has been problem free and the Liberty has a rebuilt transmission and many small problems over the years.  The Jeep cost about 10k less, which is why I bought the Jeep.

If I was looking for a quality used 4wd I would definitely look at a 98-02 4runner with the excellent 3.4 v6.  You should be able to find a real nice one under your price point.

Offline SloSheepdog

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #25 on: April 10, 2013, 04:19:10 PM »
Okay, I love my truck and I want to throw out some support for the older vehicles. If you're careful about what you buy and it's condition, older vehicles can be a big win. For one, they are cheaper to buy, insure and register. My Toyota Pickup has the 22R engine, so it's carburated (EMP) four cylinder (better gas mileage than full size). I've never really been ever worried about EMP, but it's nice to know it'll keep running, and I have had electrical/computer problems in newer cars.

The 4Runner is identical to the pickup mechanically. Choosing an SUV versus truck is a personal choice. The truck has a bit more utility, as I use mine to help people move, bring firewood to beach bonfires, and most recently bring home a full load of horse manure for the garden. But I can't (legally) fit my family in it, so seating is a limitation. And you could do these things in an 4Runner, except perhaps the manure.

If you do choose to buy an older 4X4, try to search for old in years, young in miles. If you get an older Toyota, avoid the 3.0 V6 and get the 22R or 22RE. The 3.4 is very good, but only available on newer models, and is more expensive. Toy's made in 1985 and earlier have the solid front axle, which I personally like. But I'm admittedly biased :)

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Offline meapplejak

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #26 on: April 10, 2013, 05:34:25 PM »
Nice looking truck slosheep I wish I had one ;p
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Offline pro-market

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #27 on: June 26, 2013, 05:44:54 PM »
This is a bit of an old thread but as someone who has owned both a Tacoma and XJ Cherokee and who is/was also a mechanic I can tell you that there is some pretty solid advice on this thread. Anything Toyota equipped with the 3.4L V6 is a good choice. I personally would look for a Tacoma extra cab and put a contractor type camper shell on it. The XJ with a 4.0L is a good choice as well, the 4.0L straight six was manufactured for 40+ years and has great torque for off-road driving. The automatic models use the same transmission as Toyotas, manuals are good too. I put 192K miles on mine and only had three issues with it, cracked exhaust manifold at around 160K miles (common failure), the water pump pulley (pressed on) walked off the impeller shaft (90k miles, I have never seen another water pump fail in this manner) and carbon build up on the valves. I believe one commenter remarked that they have a timing belt which is untrue, they have a timing chain.

There is great aftermarket support for both when it comes to upgrading for more rigorous off road driving such as Rusty's Off-Road for the XJ http://www.rustysoffroad.com/ Both are relatively easy to maintain, probably give the advantage to the XJ for a novice since there is a little more extra room under the hood. Another good thing to do is to get on eBay and buy a set of factory service manuals for whatever vehicle you choose. I could probably make a good case for a 2001+ Ranger 4x4 manual trans and 96-98 Vortec powered Chevy/GMC trucks as something easy to work on too.

Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #28 on: July 09, 2013, 12:27:41 AM »
This is a bit of an old thread but as someone who has owned both a Tacoma and XJ Cherokee and who is/was also a mechanic I can tell you that there is some pretty solid advice on this thread. Anything Toyota equipped with the 3.4L V6 is a good choice. I personally would look for a Tacoma extra cab and put a contractor type camper shell on it. The XJ with a 4.0L is a good choice as well, the 4.0L straight six was manufactured for 40+ years and has great torque for off-road driving. The automatic models use the same transmission as Toyotas, manuals are good too. I put 192K miles on mine and only had three issues with it, cracked exhaust manifold at around 160K miles (common failure), the water pump pulley (pressed on) walked off the impeller shaft (90k miles, I have never seen another water pump fail in this manner) and carbon build up on the valves. I believe one commenter remarked that they have a timing belt which is untrue, they have a timing chain.

There is great aftermarket support for both when it comes to upgrading for more rigorous off road driving such as Rusty's Off-Road for the XJ http://www.rustysoffroad.com/ Both are relatively easy to maintain, probably give the advantage to the XJ for a novice since there is a little more extra room under the hood. Another good thing to do is to get on eBay and buy a set of factory service manuals for whatever vehicle you choose. I could probably make a good case for a 2001+ Ranger 4x4 manual trans and 96-98 Vortec powered Chevy/GMC trucks as something easy to work on too.

Thanks for the tips on easy to work on trucks, I have heard good things about the newer early '00 Rangers, I'll start looking at those.

Offline jonass21

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Re: easy maintenance off road vehicle
« Reply #29 on: July 09, 2013, 12:29:08 AM »



Gorgeous truck.  Toyota really did just completely nail down the smaller truck segment