The Jeep Wrangler is a popular second-hand vehicle, but there are many different versions to choose from. Here’s what you need to look out for.
The Jeep Wrangler is an iconic vehicle. It has been in production since the late 1980s and has seen four different versions. The all-new Wrangler, the JL, will be released in 2018. In this article, I’ll be looking at the JK version, which has been around since 2007. The first thing to note is that Wranglers hold their value extremely well so you aren’t likely to pick up a massive bargain. Another thing to be aware of is that the JK Wrangler is available in a lot of different configurations and specifications. Here’s a breakdown of your choices.
Petrol or Diesel
The Wrangler is available with either a petrol or a diesel powerplant. For the first few years, it boasted a 3.8-litre Chrysler petrol engine that developed 146kW of power and 315Nm of torque. It wasn’t a bad engine, but it was a little sluggish low in the rev range, and there were some complaints about reliability. A common issue was excessive oil consumption. Although the 3.8 was more power-ful than the previous 4.0-litre mill, many people felt that it wasn’t as hardy. In 2012, the 3.8 was replaced by the 3.6-litre Pentastar engine. This is a better engine, it offers far more oomph (209kW and 347Nm) and seems more reliable.
With a large-capacity petrol engine like this, fuel consumption is never going to be stellar, but the performance you get in return is impressive. On the diesel side, the JK was launched with the 2.8-litre Panther turbodiesel that developed 130kW of power and 410Nm of torque. This engine was replaced in 2011 with the 2.8-litre Cheetah engine that offers 147kW and 460Nm of torque. Both are fairly solid engines, but as with any diesel, the potential for disaster grows as the engine ages and kilometres are added to its odometer. Before buying, you want to have it checked thoroughly. A general issue that seems to crop up is an oil leak that occurs by the power steering.
Shorty or Unlimited
The Wrangler is available in SWB form, and in the extended Unlimited version. Some prefer the more traditional SWB version and don’t like the look of the longer Wrangler, but there is nothing wrong with the Unlimited. In fact, with an extra set of doors, it is far more practical. If you have some overlanding in mind, it is definitely the better option.
Sahara or Rubicon
Both the Sahara and the Rubicon are capable off-road, but the latter has been upgraded to make it even better. It has, for example, lockers on both axles, and the ability to disconnect the sway bar from the cabin for improved wheel travel. Very few people need a Rubicon; although if you’re looking for a serious trail vehicle, it is the better option. It is probably the most capable standard 4×4 you can buy.
Extreme Use and Modifications
You don’t want to buy a Wrangler that has been put through the off-road wringer every weekend. Serious off-road driving places a lot of extra stress on a vehicle, especially if the driver isn’t terribly experienced. Before buying, I would suggest taking a good look at the underside of the vehicle. You’ll quickly spot if it has been bashed and smashed on a trail. The good news, however, is that a lot of people buy Wranglers purely because they’re fashionable, and not to tackle a grade-five trail, so try to buy one of those. Another thing to watch out for are modifications. Wrangler owners love to modify.
As a second-hand buyer, you can pick up some nifty extras virtually free, since aftermarket accessories don’t add much to the value of a used car. On the downside, though, some mods are shoddy, which can decrease the reliability of the vehicle. If the vehicle you’re interested in has been modified, make sure these mods were done by experienced technicians. Generally speaking, off-road mods will only make it harder to live with on a daily basis. So, unless you’ll be hitting the trails regularly, buy a standard Wrangler.