Jeep Wrangler Reliability & Problems
Zach is a founder of 8020 Media and TuningPro. He’s been repairing, upgrading, tuning, and writing about cars & engines for over a decade. Zach has written over 400 automotive articles and continues to be a lead writer for TuningPro. His passion, experience, and deep technical knowledge make him a go-to resource for readers looking to take their car to the next level.
The Jeep Wrangler is very much an icon of off-roading and adventure. It’s a highly successful SUV with over 200,000 sales a year since 2015 – most of which are in the United States. Wrangler’s also hold great resale value earning a lot of recognition for being among the few best. It almost sounds too good to be true, right?
Wrangler’s are certainly prone to their share of problems and reliability concerns. Jeep isn’t alone, though, as this can be said for many cars and SUV’s. Still, it’s important to know what you may be getting yourself into prior to buying. In this article, we discuss Jeep Wrangler reliability, engine problems, and more.
Wrangler Over The Years
Of course, the Wrangler has been around for over 30 years. There are several generations with nearly a dozen different engines. A lot of Wrangler reliability may come down to the specific engine. As such, it’s important to layout some background info.
Below we’re simply looking at some of the basics. The bulk of the Jeep Wrangler reliability topic is coming up next. However, we will layout the various Jeep’s along with the engines in each model. There we’ll provide some links to specific engine problems guides.
The bulk of this article is still a great starting point for general Jeep reliability. Once you narrow down your Wrangler search then the specific engine problems & reliability guides may be a good extra resource.
*Please note – we don’t have complete engine problems & reliability guides for all engines. In the future, we’ll update this post as we have new and relevant content to link.
Wrangler YJ Models (1987-1995)
Original Wrangler’s came out in 1987 and were built by American Motors (AMC). However, in the first year of introduction Jeep was actually bought out by Chrysler. Anyways, all engines in the Wrangler YJ are AMC engines. They’re also often referred to as some of the strongest, most reliable Jeep engines around. This is despite the rather old tech and inexpensive design of the AMC straight-4 and straight-6 engines. Engines in the YJ include:
- 2.5L AMC straight-4
- 4.2L AMC straight-6
- 4.0L AMC straight-6
The Wrangler 4.0 engine by AMC is especially loved. Check out the above article for more info on the AMC straight-6. Beside the reliable engine these older Jeep’s have less tech, electronics, and other potential areas of failure. Age and mileage are the two primary concerns about a 25+ year old Wrangler YJ, though.
Jeep Wrangler TJ (1996-2006)
Following the success of the YJ models Jeep introduced the Wrangler TJ in 1996. It may be a new chassis, but Chrysler left the engines similar. The TJ also has the option for the AMC 2.5 and 4.0 engines. They did phase out the 2.5L engine in 2002 in favor of Chrysler’s own 2.4L inline-4 engine. Anyways, here’s a breakdown of engines in the Wrangler TJ from 1996-2006:
- 2.4 Chrysler PowerTech
- 2.5 AMC straight-4
- 4.0 AMC straight-6
Legendary AMC/Jeep 4.0L engines were available all the way through 2006. Early 1996-2000 variants offer 190hp and 225 lb-ft while 2001+ Jeep 4.0 engines offer an extra 10 lb-ft of torque. It’s pretty underwhelming performance for the 2000’s era for a large 6-cylinder engine. Still, the Jeep Wrangler 4.0 is seen as one of the most reliable and stout engines.
Wrangler JK (2007-2017)
Jeep Wrangler JK models mark the official end of AMC engines. Moving forward these are all Chrysler/FCA engine designs. The V6 also becomes the only option less an inline-4 diesel engine built by Italian company VM Motori. Engines in the JK chassis are as follows:
- 2.8L VM Motori inline-4 diesel
- 3.8L Chrysler EGH
- 3.6 FCA Pentastar
While none of these engines earn quite the same rep as the AMC 4.0 we believe they’re still solid engines. The 3.8L V6 in the Wrangler JK was available from 2007-2010 with 215hp and 245 lb-ft. In 2011 the popular 3.6 Pentastar took over in the JK chassis. We think the 3.6L V6 is a solid engine from top to bottom, but it’s not hard to read about horror stories either. We think a large reason for that is the 10-11 million plus Pentastar engines. With that large of a sample size there are going to be some issues.
Jeep JL Models (2018+)
Wrangler JL models are the newest around. It also gets a little confusing since there are so many different engine choices for the Jeep Wrangler JL. It’s really only a few engines, but they also have hybrid engines available for some. The list of JL engines looks something like this:
- 2.0 Hurricane inline-4
- 2.0L Hurricane inline-4 MHEV
- 2.0 Hurricane inline-4 PHEV
- 2.2 Multijet inline-4 diesel
- 3.0 V6 EcoDiesel
- 3.6 Pentastar V6
- 3.6 Pentastar V6 Hybrid
- 6.4 HEMI V8
It’s quite the list of engine options in the 2018+ Jeep Wrangler models. The 3.6 Pentastar is the main engine, but in 2016 it did get a number of updates. There’s also the 6.4 HEMI in the Rubicon model for those wanting massive power and performance potential.
We’re less familiar with the hybrid drivetrains, but the 2.0 Hurricane, 3.6 Pentastar, and 6.4L HEMI V8 are all solid engines. The JL is also 2018+ which means many are still under warranty. From that perspective they’re definitely going to be the least expensive to own in the short-term.
General Reliability Topics
It’s hard to cover 30+ years of Wrangler models without at least laying out some general topics. This all ties into the Jeep Wrangler specifically. However, many of these general topics apply to almost any automotive engine or car. We’ll move onto more specific info in the next section. For now, let’s discuss some important topics when it comes to reliability.
Wrangler Age, Mileage, Maintenance
Again, many consider the AMC 4.0 straight-6 as the most reliable Jeep engine. It may be true but we’re also talking about 15+ year old engines. In general, that means the 4.0 straight-6 is going to require more TLC. Age and mileage take a toll on many engine parts, especially stuff like gaskets and hoses. That can bring about coolant and oil leaks. Problems that shouldn’t be very common on a 5-8 year old engine, for example.
In essence, maybe the 4.0L engine was the best when it was newer. In some cases it may still be the case. However, some Jeep Wrangler buyers are better suited to a new SUV/engine that doesn’t need as much attention.
If you’re buying a used Jeep Wrangler then maintenance is a major topic, too. How did the previous owner take care of the SUV/truck? It’s not always easy to tell but finding a clean model with a good maintenance history goes a long way.
Jeep Wrangler Uses
This topic ties into maintenance a little bit. However, you or the previous owner uses the Jeep is an important consideration. Off-roading can potentially bring about a plethora of problems. It shouldn’t be a huge concern in the short term if you’re cautious and not going too crazy. There’s always the possibility of bottoming out, hitting something, or whatever else could happen.
Otherwise, off-roading can put extra stress on suspension, axles, bushings, etc. It shouldn’t be a major concern in the short-term or for occasional, modest use. Those looking to get a bit crazier are likely dedicated and understand what’s needed and what may go wrong.
The basic point is this – if you plan to off-road with your Jeep Wrangler expect a higher likelihood of running into issues.
What Others Say
It’s not hard to find ratings from some of the major reliability ranking sites/companies. Scores often change a lot on a year to year model basis. A big reason for that is the fact many base reliability on very short-term evidence. Recalls are a major point which can drastically change ratings from one year to the next (even though the engine, options, features, chassis are the same). We don’t like looking at reliability this way.
Sure, recalls and other short-term problems on a brand new vehicle are annoying. All cars, manufacturers, and engines are prone to this. We simply don’t like the scoring system for many reliability rankings. Take them with a grain of salt.
Jeep Wrangler Common Problems
Alright, it’s time to move back into more specific Jeep Wrangler reliability & problems topics. What are some common engine and chassis problems on Wranglers over the years? We’ll dive into a few of the most common issues with the Wrangler, and then finish the article with overall thoughts on reliability.
1. Wrangler Engine Problems
Exact engine problems can vary a lot given how many Jeep Wrangler engines are available over the years. We do have specific articles for the 4 most common Wrangler engines that were linked above. Anyways, common problems that are pretty standard across all Wrangler models include:
- Oil leaks
- Cooling system
- Engine head/valvetrain issues (mostly newer engines)
Coming from the BMW world the oil leak topic hits close to home. The comments are much the same around the BMW and Jeep worlds. “If your Jeep (BMW) isn’t leaking oil then your out of oil.” In reality, oil leaks are common on many engines. Even brands perceived to be highly reliable like Toyota and Honda. Jeep Wrangler oil leaks are mostly age and mileage related.
Then there’s the cooling system. Water pumps are a standard reliability concern, especially at 10+ years and 120,000+ miles. It’s a big topic on the AMC 4.0L engine. The Wrangler Pentastar engines have a few possible cooling system problems and manifold coolant leaks were common on the 3.8L V6.
Lastly, we’re looking at some valvetrain related failures that mostly affect the 3.6L Pentastar and 6.4 V8 HEMI. Early 3.6 V6 engines had cylinder head failures and there’s even a 10 year or 150,000 mile extended warranty. Otherwise, look out for failures from lifters, lifter rollers, or rocker arms.
2. Jeep Suspension Issues
OK. There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Jeep suspension problems. About 6% of all Jeep Wrangler complaints involve the suspension. We are talking about wear and tear parts, so replacement is normal on older and higher mileage examples. This is especially true with frequent off-roading. However, there are a number of other problems that pop up. These may include:
- JK/JL Death wobble
- Electronic swaybar
- Other misc. failures
The two main problems mostly affect newer JK and JL models. We won’t spend much time talking about the death wobble since it’s a big topic. The death wobble is mostly due to the solid front axle. The fix from Jeep involves a steering damper to reduce vibrations from the suspension.
Next is the electronically controlled swaybar on some 2007+ Wrangler JK and JL models. It’s a good design for those who want the best off-roading performance, but still a smooth ride for normal use. Good thinking by Jeep. However, if it’s designed for off-road use it doesn’t make much sense the electronics aren’t very water-proof. Ultimately, the swaybar may fail and you’re either stuck in a certain setting or it’s an expensive repair bill.
Aside from that, there are tons of various suspension problems that may pop up. None are quite common enough to specify, though. It’s simply part of the nature of owning a Wrangler designed for on and off-road use.
3. Jeep Wrangler Electronics
We keep wanting to write BMW in this article. Many of the Jeep Wrangler reliability issues feel much the same. Anyways, electronics are another pretty big complaint from many Jeep owners. Sometimes it’s simply that they’re lacking compared to similarly priced SUV’s and competitors. Common electrical issues on the Wrangler include:
- TIPM (2007-2018 JK)
- Blower motor short
- Old, worn wiring
The Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) is a popular reliability topic for the Jeep Wrangler JK. Issues usually begin with a fuel pump or battery draw problem. It’s sometimes intermittent, only affects one or two things, or completely fails.
On older Wrangler’s it’s not uncommon to run into blower motor shorts. Speaking of, older cars like the YJ and TJ are more prone to electrical problems in general. At least in the shorter-term. They’re simply older and some fuses, wiring, etc may be old and brittle.
That said, newer and newer Jeep’s have more tech and electronics. The electronic swaybar we just discussed is a great example. In the longer-run the newer models may be more problematic simply since there are more areas that can fail or become troublesome.
Jeep Wrangler Reliability
Is the Jeep Wrangler reliable? Yes and no. We think the Jeep Wrangler receives average remarks for reliability. In some cases they may be better than average or worse in other cases. We’ve certainly heard and seen jokes about Jeep being the BMW of American cars or vice versa. Ultimately, Jeep Wrangler’s do not have the best reputation for reliability. We don’t agree with all the various jokes and stereotypes about them, though.
A lot of Jeep Wrangler engines actually deliver solid overall reliability. All engines are prone to problems and that applies here, too. Although, it doesn’t seem Jeep engine problems are any more common or concerning than your average car. A lot of bad rep probably comes from the way Wranglers are used. On average, a Wrangler likely sees more abuse than your standard car, SUV, or truck.
Anyways, maintenance is a major key to Jeep Wrangler reliability. Stay on top of oil and fluid changes, use quality parts and fluids, and fix problems if they occur. Additionally, if you’re using the Wrangler for heavy-duty off-roading then make sure you have the necessary upgrades. Do everything right an the Jeep Wrangler can be an awesome SUV that lives a long and reliable life.
What’s your experience with the Jeep Wrangler? Are you considering one?
Leave a comment and let us know!