The 1997 Jeep Cherokee: Detailed Changes
The 1997 Jeep Cherokee was in some ways an accident; according to several sources, the Grand Cherokee was originally designed as the next-generation Cherokee, but for various reasons the company kept both lines going. Once the Grand Cherokee was established as the new high-end model, taking over from the Wagoneer, the Cherokee had a new niche and was itself redesigned, twice — the second redesign originally seeming to lead to the same result, namely an old Cherokee aside a new one, but shortly after the “Liberty” debuted the old Cherokee was dropped. The Liberty was still the continuation of the Cherokee line, and in nations outside North America, the Liberty is sold as the Cherokee.
1997-2001 Jeep Cherokee repairs
We have a central Jeep Cherokee page and dedicated pages for:
- replacing the Jeep Cherokee speedometer cable
- automatic transmission kickdown / torque converter adjustment (1987-2001)
- rusty floor repair
- fuel pump replacement
- testing Jeep Cherokee sensors
1997 Jeep Cherokee body and styling features
The Cherokee's front end was rounded somewhat to cut drag and modernizing its look. New headlight bezels were extensions of the grille design, and were painted body color with black accents on Country trim or low-gloss black on SE and Sport trim. “Dimensional” Jeep nameplates were taken from the Grand Cherokee, with new decals to show trim level, the 4.0 L engine, and 4WD. Country trim included a new color dual paint stripe.
Front bumper guards were integral with the bumper end caps; both were painted body color with Country and black with SE and Sport. Front bumper end caps extending below the bumper and a new front air dam below the bumper, also in matching color, created the appearance of a full fascia. Optional fog lamps now mounted in the end cap lower extensions for a neater appearance, more effective lighting and protection from low-speed impact.
A new liftgate was more curved, but had no character lines or exposed hinges. A slim, one-piece molding that snapped onto a larger rear window provides a smooth transition from liftgate to glass. Taller taillight units with wraparound, tri-color lenses terminated the side character lines.
As with the front, wrap-around bumper end caps incorporated the rounded design theme and extended forward to the wheel openings, where they blended with the new wheel flares. Here also a complementary face bar shape creates the appearance of a fascia.
All Cherokee body panels were redesigned using new dimensional control systems and assembly processes to improve fit. New hood, grille opening panel and fender assembly processes assured accuracy, while new door assembly processed contributed to accurate control of panel gap and flushness and also helped seal against wind and water leaks. Diagonal stiffness of the liftgate opening was increased significantly, and the body structure as a whole had subtle refinements to enhance strength, durability, and static torsional stiffness.
New hood hinges were stronger to assure positive location and long term durability.
Front doors had new one-piece windows, improving vision and cutting potential wind noise or weater leaks. Low-profile window regulator handles had large matching molded knobs with knurled outer diameters for easy operation. Outside door handles were shared with Grand Cherokee and were always black, keeping their full-grip design and push button actuation.
New door latches were quieter, stronger, better-sounding, and required less effort, thanks partly to plastic and plasticencapsulated steel components; Jeep moved to a loop striker to avoid clothing snags.
Outside mirrors were standardized to use the same folding housings and enlarged by 17% for better visibility, but reshaped to improve airflow. Power mirrors with heated glass were new for 1997; the heat was turned on with the rear defroster.
New body-mounted tubular weatherstrips encircled each door opening, with additional weatherstrips along the windshield pillars using a new attachment method to reduce wind noise. Door window positioning was improved with new glass "runs." A double-lip weatherstrip across the base of each window opening increased sealing ability.
New liftgate hinges and revised gas prop geometry eased operation, with effort equal to Grand Cherokee; new stamped steel construction added dimensional accuracy. A two-stage latch was used, using a high-strength loop striker for stability and to cut rattles. Pulling up on the paddle-type handle released the latch and raised the liftgate with the same motion.
The domestic auto industry's first smooth, stretch-on one-piece liftgate window molding neatly concealed the gap between glass and sheet metal. A full-perimeter tubular weatherstrip sealed the liftgate to the body opening.
1997 Jeep Cherokee electrical features
New lamp units combined park, turn signal and side marker lamps; new wedge-base bulbs for park, turn, and stop signals increased longevity and eased replacement. Higher powered (55w vs 35w), more effective fog lamps were available for 1997. The lamps were moved to below the bumper and given a revised lens and reflector design to keep the beam low, raising effectiveness in fog. Fog lamps could be used with either driving lamps or headlights.
The Jeep Cherokee’s third brake light bulb could be replaced by removing just two screws and the wedge-base bulb itself; it was mounted outside the window to maintain brightness despite window tints. New wiper blades had increased resistance to wind lift and were quieter.
New side moldings included with Sport and Country trim had a deep, rounded section to increase protection against incidental body damage.
Seats and interior
Cherokee Sport trim includes new front seat backs with sporty-looking wing back pads and integral head restraints (optional on SE). Outboard front seat tracks were concealed by new color-keyed, molded plastic side shields.
Country used new Grenoble cloth; new Highland leather was also available on Country; and Sport used Gilmore cloth (optional on SE), while SE used Fusion.
Interior trim used two new colors: Saddle and Mist Gray. Color-keyed trim covered all inner body panels. Miller grain was used on all interior molded surfaces.
The standard floor console had dual, multi-size cup holders (which could hold a 20-ounce soft drink), two ash receivers, and storage (with cassette and CD slots) covered by a padded armrest. The parking brake and transfer case lever openings were flanked by brushes to keep dirt out and maintain the appearance; the shifter opening was concealed by a rubber boot. On two-wheel drive models, the transfer case bezel was replaced by a shallow tray.
Color-keyed, one-piece door trim panels had the same rounded lines as the instrument panel, with integrated speaker grilles and padded vinyl armrests including molded pull cups (or, with power windows and locks, pull handles that extended from the switch pods to the armrests). The rear surface of each handle had a full grip.
Door trim included padded upper bolsters, with unique features added to a common design help differentiate SE, Sport and Country trim levels. Map pockets with carpeted outer surfaces were added to Country front door trim panels.
New cowl-side trim panels covered the wiring junction block and a removable fuse access panel; and, on the left, a relocated hood release lever opening. Cargo-area carpeting had new molded backing for improved appearance and durability.
Jeep Cherokee interior controls
A new Jeep Cherokee two-spoke steering wheel and column system were used; the magnesium armature and hub supported a steel rim. Both regular and tilting columns were available, with a continuously variable tilt system that did not limit the driver to detent positions. Springs counterbalanced the weight of the column for low effort.
A two-piece intermediate shaft connected the steering column to the steering gear, with a rubber isolator at the steering column-end to prevent noise and vibration transmission. An innovative rubber sight shield concealed the lower steering column and inner workings of the instrument panel while allowing full movement of the tilt steering column.
The cruise control switches were on the steering wheel, within thumb reach, using a logical arrangement including off/on, set, resume/accel, coast, and cancel. Pressing Resume/Accel briefly increased the speed by 2 mph.
A membrane horn switch in the center of the steering wheel co-existed with the airbag and required less effort than most buttons; and a new lane change feature was added to the turn signal stalk.
Rocker-type rear window defroster, rear window wiper and washer and fog lamp switches were grouped in a module at the base of the instrument panel center bezel, with illumination through their ISO graphic symbols. The rear window defroster and fog lamp switches also had illuminated indicators, amber for the defroster and green for the fog lamps. The defroster turned off automatically after the first 10 minutes of operation and after 5 minutes if turned on again in the same driving cycle. The fog lamps operated only when the low beam headlights or parking lamps were on.
An electrical accessory power outlet to the right of the center switch module delivered up to 20 amperes, with the ignition off or on, and had a tethered snap-on cap. A standard cigar lighter unit to the left of the center switch module could be used only when the ignition was on.
Front door switches were moved to pods attached to the door trim panels with raised paddles on the rocker-type door lock and window switches make operation easy. An LED illuminated each switch paddle when the ignition was on; but when the driver shut off rear power window switches via the driver’s master control, the rear LEDs also shut off. Power locks were made horizontal to differentiate them from the windows.
Overhead Console and Trip Computer
Jeep Cherokee had a new overhead console that included a five-function trip computer in addition to the compass and temperature functions available on prior models. The sunglasses holder and garage door opener compartments were wider, and the garage door opener compartment included a strip of Velcro® tape that secures the opener in place to prevent rattles. Available functions included an eight-point compass, outside temperature, trip odometer, time elapsed (with the ignition on), trip average gas mileage, instant gas mileage, and fuel tank range.
The compass now worked without calibration; and the outside temperature reading was oderated by the computer. When the engine was started while still hot from prior operation, a temperature reading higher than ambient could be indicated, so the last temperature reading before the engine was stopped was stored in memory and remained until the vehicle is moving fast enough and for a sufficient time to assure an accurate reading.
New instrument panel
| Cherokee 4x4
|I4 power||130 @ 5,250||125 @ 5,600|
|I4 torque||149 @ 3,000||150 @ 3,250|
|I4 mpg (manual)||17/21||19/22|
|I6 power||190 @ 4,750||190 @ 4,600|
|I6 torque||225 @ 4,000||225 @ 3,000|
|I6 mpg (manual)||15/20||17/21|
|Cargo, rear seat up||35.6 cf||34 cubic feet|
|Cargo, folded seat||71.8 cf||71 cubic feet|
|Max towing||5,000 lb|
|Frontal area||24.5 cubic feet|
|Shoulder room, F/R||55.3/55.3||55.2/55.2|
|Brake type, F/R||Disc/Drum||Disc/Drum|
|Base wheel size||15 x 6 steel||15 x 7 steel|
A new instrument panel provided a feeling of spaciousness, and used a painted, Miller grain finish. Upper surfaces were Agate colored to reduce reflection, while lower surfaces matched the rest of the interior. An “eyebrow” blocked gauge reflections. Clip-on center bezels covered the center HVAC air outlets, HVAC controls, radio, switch module, cigar lighter and accessory power outlet; Country models had high-gloss woodgrain highlights.
Chrysler wrote, “Beneath the skin of the panel is the domestic US auto industry's most advanced molded plastic instrument panel structure. This structure provides support for the cluster and all panel-mounted equipment including the passenger air bag; acts as a crash energy absorber in conjunction with the air bags and seat belts, which must always be worn; and guides air to the panel outlets. Structural plastic construction give the panel outstanding stiffness that is perceived as stability and freedom from BsRs, even on the bumpiest roads. Weight is reduced by over 10 pounds (4.5 kg) compared to conventional panel construction techniques by combining structure and function. This also reduces part count and the potential for BsRs, thereby making the panel easier to assemble and improving quality.”
The basic structure was made of two pieces of plastic, vibration welded together, which also formed an air duct. Outer panels generally snapped onto the structure; the cluster bezel also used two screws. A blend of polycarbonate and ABs, which has excellent strength, impact resistance, and appearance, was used for both structure and outer panels.
The integrated air ducts freed up space for a larger glove compartment. Removable rubber stops on the bin allowed it to swing down for repairs to the airbag and other components.
Instrument cluster (gauges)
The 1997 Jeep Cherokee had two new modular instrument clusters, each with a microprocessor to controls gauge readings, operates indicator lamps, and sound a warning chime as required. All instruments and indicator lamps were in a single module; a large 100 mph speedometer had a secondary 160 km/hr scale.
The basic cluster had a large fuel level gauge that balanced the speedometer. Low engine oil pressure, excessive engine coolant temperature and battery voltage too low or high were indicated by warning lamps. With Sport and Country, a 6000 rpm tachometer was used, and smaller engine oil pressure, coolant temperature, fuel, and voltage gauges were added. All clusters had these indicators:
- AIR BAG - air bag electronic system malfunction
- BRAKE - hydraulic system malfunction or parking brake on
- Turn signal arrows
- Seat belt symbol
- High beam headlight symbol
- 4WD with graphic - two indicators are provided: green to show when the transfer case is in full-time four-wheel drive and amber to show when it is in part-time four-wheel drive
- CRUISE - to show when optional automatic speed control is on
- CHECK ENGINE - to show a malfunction in the exhaust emission control system
- Upshift symbol - used only with manual transmission to indicate shift points for maximum fuel economy
- Anti-lock brake system symbol - to show a malfunction in the optional anti-lock brake system
- LOW WASHER - to indicate low windshield washer fluid level
Sport and Country also had a low fuel (below 1/8 full) light, and a check gauges light for abnormal oil pressure, temperature, or battery readings.
The microprocessor smoothed the gauge readings, for example averaging fuel tank data to prevent needle fluctuations due to fuel slosh. Start-up and refill algorithms override the averaging program to provide an appropriate indication when averaging would obviously be inappropriate.
Algorithms controlling other gauge outputs were designed to provide gauge readings during normal operation that are consistent with customer expectations. Conversely, when abnormal conditions exist, for example, low or high battery voltage, low oil pressure or high coolant temperature, the algorithm drove the pointer to an extreme position. The gauge pointers and the indicator lamps get signals from their respective analog sending units; separate switches for the lamps, with their added complexity and the potential for possibly conflicting signals, were avoided.
Simple white-on-black gauge graphics were accented by orange pointers; backlighting was blue-green. A warning chime would be produced by:
- Headlight on with driver's door open - repeats as long as condition continues
- Key in ignition with driver's door open - repeats as long as condition continues
- Seat belt warning - stops after 6 seconds or when drivers seat is buckled
A single chime tone accompanied the following warnings:
- Coolant temperature above 255° F (124 °C)
- Optional overhead console trip computer reset
- Low fuel (Sport or Country)
Jeep Cherokee stereo equipment
Cherokee had three new audio systems and an Infinity® speaker system with separate power amplifier for 1997, using corporate equipment with speakers are uniquely equalized to Cherokee's interior:
- AM/FM stereo radio with two, front door-mounted speakers
- AM/FM stereo radio with cassette player and four speakers: two, front door-mounted and two in a sound bar above the liftgate opening
- AM stereo/FM stereo radio with graphic equalizer, cassette player, CD player and four speakers as described above
- Infinity speaker system with eight speakers in six locations and power amplifier.
All radios shared:
- Ergonomic controls
- Variable-intensity blue-green backlighting and digital display
- Push button numbers on the button faces for easy identification
- Twelve-hour digital clock with recessed "H" (hour) and "M" (minute) reset buttons
- Clock or program display selector button (Volume control)
- Electronic tuning
- A separate amplifier rated at 14.5 watts for each channel- 58 watts total power
The cassette player had a four-track head for full stereo, with a frequency response of 31.5 Hz to 12.5 KHz, auto-reverse, locking fast-forward and rewind buttons, microprocessor controlled cassette loading, pinch roller release during fast-forward and rewind, Dolby, edge lighting of the cassette door, radio operation during fast-forward and rewind, music search, and automatic equalization.
Electronic controls monitored operation of the take up and supply reels to detect stuck or broken tape and to prevent tape damage. The tape drive eliminated tape loops that "eats" tape, and reduces binding and resulting ejection but automatically ejects defective cassettes.
Heat, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
A complete redesign provided better heating, cooling and defrosting, with 30% higher airflow, new ducts, and more cooling capacity, with no increase in sound level. Cooling performance was equal to the best competitive units.
Rotary controls were easy to reach and operate; the control symbol is "personalized" by using a Cherokee silhouette with the ISO curved arrow that indicates recirculated air. The compressor ran in the Defrost mode and now also in Mix mode to assure effective defogging of the windshield and side windows (but only when the ambient temperature was above freezing). The fan had four speeds.
Four instrument panel outlets delivered air in Panel and BiLevel modes. The outlets were mounted high in the panel to provide volume, velocity, and a good range of adjustment. Flow from any outlet could be minimized by moving the vanes to a closed position. The ducts were larger and more aerodynamic than on prior Cherokee models, partly due to the redesign of the instrument panel structure.
New, more effective demister outlets in the ends of the instrument panel delivered air to the side windows in the Floor, Floor-Defrost and Defrost modes. Fixed, directional louvers in each outlet directed air flow to the area of the window adjacent to the outside mirror to initiate demisting there.
A new, higher-capacity floor duct with separate outlets for driver and front passenger provided better air flow distribution than the prior system.
Cooled and heated air flowed directly to rear seat passengers through an enlarged duct beneath the floor console, which had twice the air flow of the 1996 system. Cooling was available using the Bi-Level mode.
Heater-only and heater/air conditioner components installed into a common housing in the passenger compartment. This housing held the heater core, air conditioning evaporator, the temperature and mode control doors and their actuators and the molded plastic fan.
A state-of-the-art plate and fin evaporator was 25% more efficient than its predecessor, and was hooked up to a new parallel-flow condenser for state of the art performance. Refrigerant expansion was controlled by an orifice tube inserted in the condenser outlet line, simpler and more reliable than a thermal expansion valve. New gearing reduced compressor noise, and a rubber isolated clutch hub cushioned compressor pulsations for quieter operation. Evaporator freeze-up was prevented by a clutch cycling switch that monitors evaporator suction pressure.
Front and rear courtesy/map lamps were included in the optional overhead console, with crystalline lenses for individual occupants. Courtesy lamps under the instrument panel, included in the Light Group, have new white plastic diffusers to enhance light dispersion. Other interior lighting remains unchanged from 1996.
The 1997 Cherokee uses a new on-board data bus to exchange messages operating signals and data - among electrical and electronic systems, including the:
- Instrument cluster
- Air bag control module
- JTEC Powertrain Control Module
- Automatic transmission control module (where used)
- Overhead console
- Keyless entry module
The first automotive company to use this type of bus, Chrysler remains the leader for applying it to meeting customer requirements for "intelligent" electronic features with reasonable cost and complexity. The wiring network assures high reliability by minimizing the number of circuits and circuit connections required to provide electrical and electronic features. Wiring is simplified because a two-wire network, which winds throughout the vehicle, can carry messages among many components and systems. (This type of bus became standard in modern cars.)
To assure that multiple messages are not sent at the same time, corrupting one another, only one system at a time can transmit over the network. Access for message transmission is prioritized— high priority messages have immediate access, low priority messages must wait until the network is clear of higher priority transmissions, usually only a few moments. Each message is preassigned an identification code based on its priority. Patented CCD (Chrysler's Collision Detection) circuitry is incorporated in every module connected to the network. When a message is generated, the CCD circuitry evaluates its priority and sends or holds it depending on its priority relative to other messages seeking access at the same time. All electronic equipment on the network is also connected to a common data link connector for access to diagnostic information using a scan tool.
The Jeep Cherokee power distribution center in the engine compartment supplied power to more circuits in keeping with the overall plan for feeding fewer systems per circuit and allowing for the use of lighter, smaller gauge wire.
A junction block forward of the right front door pillar housed relays fuses and circuit breakers, combining the functions previously provided by separate relay center and bulkhead fuse block units — simplifying wiring.
The 1997 Jeep Cherokee’s optional four-wheel anti-lock brake systems produced significantly less noise and less pedal feedback than the prior system, thanks to a completely new hydraulic unit with changed valve operation and integration with the electronic controller; this integration enhanced system reliability by eliminating 15 external circuits, and cut 1.5 lb (700g) of weight. New diagnostic functions allowed technicians to monitor system operation while driving. Wheel brakes and sensors remained the same as in 1996.
Goodyear Wrangler RT/S® tires were optional, with compounds and construction engineered specifically for the 1997 Cherokee and fine-tuned in conjunction with the suspension system.
A new fuel tank was molded from high-density polyethylene, saving weight; and the fuel filler cap was tethered.
Both airbags were made of controlled-porosity fabric so inflation gases could escape, but smoke and particulate matter stayed inside. Driver and passenger air bags were electronically operated by a centrally located electronic control mounted on the floor, under the left front seat.
New rear seat belt attachment made folding the rear seats more convenient. Webbing-mounted buckles were positioned by molded plastic scabbards that are suspended from the seat back by elastic cords. The buckles rested against the seat back when it is folded. When restoring the seat to its upright position, the cushion easily slid past the buckles, which are then ready for passenger use.
For easy operation, all belts have new end-release buckles. Pushing down anywhere on the bright red end of the buckle releases the latch plate. When buckling up, the concave shape of the release button guides the latch plate into place.
Larger, stronger door key cylinders made lock removal more difficult. Improved sealing and an extensive package of damping and insulating materials applied throughout the body resulted in substantially improved interior quietness.