Inspecting the XJS engine and the $500 XJS

Here we go again folks, another one bites the dust. He saw the listing of the car of his dreams. A great looking XJS with great looking paint, nice interior, and the tires were fairly new. Wow! he says, for $500 I am getting a super deal of a car for so little. Who says you can't buy a cheap XJS. So he calls his buddies and best girl and decided he was going to celebrate at the best club in town where he can repeat the words, play it again Sam and he would! He is on cloud nine so he tells the bartender, three rounds for the house on me. Everyone is patting him on the back for being so smart as he tugs on his lapels as others tell him "you the man".

Well, there is a guy there who was on his third round of drinks compliments of the genius in the room, walks over and asks the ultimate question. How does it drive? his response was he is having the car delivered the next couple of days then he will install a new battery as it is dead but that is all it needed according to the seller. Oh, but what a great car for only needing a battery tugging on his lapels again but this time somewhat nervously. Now the deal of the century is becoming questionable in his mind as he remembers the look the guy in the club had on his face when he told him the seller said it only needed a battery. Well, the car arrives on the flatbed and he anxiously installs the new battery and noticed that the foul smell he noticed before the truck arrived was the old bad fuel in the car that had preceded the delivery.

Oh but it looks so good. He spends $1000 to get the tank and injectors cleaned. Great! he thinks on the way to the repair shop he notices a great cloud of white smoke throughout the area and sudden sirens and everyone looking up for planes as if it were world war two again. But hold on to your hat. Its only the $500 XJS and as if that was not bad enough, he is then told that the gearbox was toast. Now here it comes, that look of a dear looking into headlights and his libido drops about 50,000 degrees. So here are some tips for the facelift and in general so you do not have to join the lonely hearts club that believes that there is such a thing as a cheap XJS. 

Look over all wires and hoses to see first if everything appears to be in place and for any unusual thin wires crossing over any components as this would be a sign that someone bypassed something. Have a good look at all the relays to be sure that they are all in place on the inner fenders on each side. The left side relays are exposed but on the right side, they are under a black cover. Check the oil level by pulling the dipstick on the left side of the engine and pay close attention to the color. If you can read the level through the oil and it slides easily off the dipstick then the oil is clean however if it is very dark, thick and gritty to the touch between your index finger and thumb then this indicates poor maintenance. And if the oil is gooey/sticky or gritty to the touch then most likely there are some very costly issues present.

As well if the oil shows any bubbles as in separation in the oil, this is most likely a head gasket problem and in such case, you may have some huge surprises so I suggest you walk away. Remember for now there are enough around in superb condition. Check the transmission/gearbox fluid located toward the rear on the left side of the engine just behind the oil. Check for level while the engine is running and warm, however, the most important is the color and smell. The color should be red but if closer to brown this is due to poor maintenance, and if it smells burnt then the unit is on its way out and needs rebuilding and should this be the case, then this may already show in the shifting while driving. Check the brake fluid located on the left side in a plastic reservoir above the brake actuator/booster that is a large metal unit connected to the firewall area.

A well-maintained system will have clear fluid in it. Poorly serviced will look tan or brown. If it is brown, this is a danger zone and is an indication that moisture has damaged the brake fluid and sometimes this color tends to be particles of rust. It is important to bleed the system as part of your post ownership of the car as the moisture collected in the brake system will eventually cause rust in the system and will be costly to repair or worst cause brake failure when you really need it to operate correctly and safely. There has always been an old rule when acquiring a pre-owned car and that was to drain all fluids and replace them with fresh new fluids. This is a great idea and practice when cars do not have current service records. Check the antifreeze level located in the black metal reservoir on the right side of the engine bay. This is where you will also fill with antifreeze. In front of this, you will see a plastic reservoir with a cap on it, which is for the windshield washer fluid.

When there is an oily or greasy engine bay, something is worn and leaking. The old saying that all British cars leak is no truer than any other car. If neglected any car will leak so do not accept someone trying to sell you the car along with that story. First look at the cam covers for signs of leaking from the gaskets as they will leak when old and need to be replaced as in any car. While inspecting the undercarriage, you will also want to look over the engine bottom and transmission pans for leaks and if they are wet, then look for a leak. The first line of defense, in this case, it to tighten the bolts but before you do, make sure that you are doing so according to the correct torque specifications or you can very easily make it worst by warping the pans. The power steering reservoir is black plastic and located on the right side of the engine bay below the fuses. If it is very oily and everything else in this area looks oily and dirty, chances are the top of the reservoir is on wrong. I have had many people ask to buy a reservoir thinking that this will solve the problem but it is a simple fix. For some reason, Jaguar designed the top to screw on counterclockwise. So if it is not totally ruined, carefully try to fasten correctly and this will solve the problem.

I trust you now have enough info to find a proper XJS to enjoy and we at Jaguar world corp are always available to help you with any issues during your XJS relationship. We do all we can to answer any repair questions you may have by submitting them to us and we normally can respond the same day. Start your engines and begin the journey!

1 comment

  • I did indeed buy a 1992 XJS for $350 and towed it home. I knew it had problems but I dismantled it and so far have sold $3200 worth of parts from it so things worked out and I still have some great sheet metal left

    Edward Buckmaster

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