Is it worth buying a Jeep Wrangler III


Yes, Wrangler is a legend. Of course, from the point of view of language it’s a crusty stamp, but it doesn’t take away from the Wrangler’s legendary character. So, the owners of Wranglers often cannot help grinning, looking at “girlish” Compasses, or snort dismissively, when they are told about the Cherokee. Because very few people are ready to buy very expensive car with an oak interior just for driving there, where it is impossible to drive a “nine”. However, off-road potential of this Jeep is really huge. On the one hand, it is good, but on the other hand – in a stock car it was seen only at a factory. Therefore, the choice of Wrangler at the secondary market is a search not so much of alive car, but competently “finished” by the previous owner. It is possible to saw a lot of things there. Additionally the search is complicated by the fact that on sale Wrangler third generation with the index JK occurs not too often: for example, at the time of writing the material for sale on Avito was less than a hundred cars.

Many people probably remember that the first generation Wrangler is directly related to the Willys MB. In fact, in 1987, the Wrangler YJ came to replace the Jeep CJ, the civilian version of that very Willys MB (CJ stands for Civilian Jeep). The first Wrangler was almost the same rugged spring-loaded SUV with a minimum of comfort, but maximum cross-country capability and simplicity of design. However, even in this generation it was possible to buy a car with automatic transmission. The first generation was produced until 1996, and in 1996 the next generation appeared – Wrangler TJ. The leaf spring suspension was replaced by a spring suspension and engines were taken over from the Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Finally, the development has reached our today’s hero – the “third” Wrangler, which appeared in 2007.

We’ll note right away that this generation received significant changes in 2011-2012, which are of great interest to us. We are interested for the reason that our conditional two millions are enough for cars from 2012, so there is a chance to buy a car with more decent interior and a Chrysler Pentastar engine. And exactly about such cars and we will talk below. And now let’s proceed to the examination.

The Rangler’s body is tough. But the Jeep’s off-road properties play different tricks with the body – both good and bad. Let’s start with the bad. Obviously, we should not be surprised by some amount of scratches and combat abrasions: if the car is exploited as intended, they will definitely be there. The cars under 7-8 years old don’t rust yet, and even if there are scratches or chips on paintwork, there’s no big tragedy. Another thing is dirt, which often works as an abrasive. In the joints of arch extenders with the body, in doorways, under the pads of thresholds (if they are present), it is desirable to inspect the paint more carefully. Already there are Ranglers with sagging rear door – the hinges for the door with a spare tire are too weak. However, the other doors can also sag little by little, and paint where the hinges are attached slowly comes off. Well, it is necessary to pay attention not only to the state of bottom, but also to the frame. The readable number of a frame is even more important condition, than good anticorrosion and quality protection of a crankcase. It is possible to do all these things by yourself after purchase, but “gone” number is other volume of difficulties.

A good off-road joke is a huge amount of tuning elements. The most common are, of course, power bumpers and winches. Many companies make bumpers for Ranglers, and do it beautifully and professionally. And even off the road they are very necessary. It would seem one plus, but inspectors MRI often think otherwise. It is good that many owners when installing power bumpers leave their stock bumpers. You can return them back to their place, go with them to the MREO and after successful registration again put them in the garage. But if you are planning to operate Wrangler not only in woods, remember, that almost any inspector on the road can find fault with construction interference. The situation with the winch is similar: there is no way off-road without it, but there can be problems with registration without official modification of the construction. Non-standard and additional optics is one more occasion to talk to police. In general, you must pay attention to these details.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

Installation of non-standard equipment threatens with another problem, this time – in electrics. If you have tuning, it’s worth checking how all devices are connected. Rangler has problems with rear lights because of oxidation connectors, and if there is poor soldering or twisting under the duct tape – it’s a trouble. It is desirable that the seller has some kind of documents from the installer of his off-road tuning: this is at least some kind of guarantee that everything was done in a decent office, which cares about the quality of their work. The most ideal, but practically unreal variant is if all changes are included to the certificate. However, even in this case it is worth reinsuring, so that the registration of the purchase in the traffic police is highly desirable to conduct together with the seller.

And the last thing. A very typical “sore spot” is the rattling door locks and refusing to work door latches. They have been struggling with them for a long time, but apparently there is no universal solution. Check how interior illumination works when opening the doors. Very often it does not react on the opening of the driver’s door (because it is opened more often than the others), and the indicator on the panel does not light up. The design of the lock with a tip is monoblock, so you can try to fill the lock with some carbkliner, and then – with silicone grease. It might help. But it’s best to haggle modestly but confidently when this malfunction is revealed.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

The suspension of some cars may require as much attention and money as the engine or gearbox, but the Wrangler is not that case. Where to get big expenses, if the whole suspension is two Dana axles, suspended on springs and longitudinal levers? Accordingly, the repair is as primitive as on “Uazik”, and even the cost of spare parts at times can be not much higher. For example, original longitudinal arms cost 10-12 thousand, but there are substitutes 2-3 times cheaper. It is a thankless task to tell about a choice of shock absorbers, because instead of stock shock absorbers the owners are usually looking for something tuning, but for order we must admit that standard KYB shock absorbers will cost 6k apiece. And yes, there are little things like silent blocks and stabilizer struts, which traditionally you can buy for a few hundred rubles in non-original version. There are, of course, more expensive items, which are moreover “at risk” because of off-road operation: for example, hub bearings complete with hubs. The original unit costs about 25 thousand, but a quality replacement will cost about 10 thousand.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018
The brakes, strangely enough, are not so archaic here – disk brakes on both axles. Nothing unusual can be said about them: they are quite enough for the car, and if not to look at the original discs and pads, which can cost more than 10 thousand rubles, then maintenance is quite ordinary. It is almost the same with steering. We say “almost” because it is archaic, unlike brakes – with steering gearbox, not rack. It is a gearbox that is the most expensive thing that can break: the original one costs about hundred thousand rubles. Against this background, the steering linkage pump, which can be bought for 15-20 thousand rubles, is mere trifle. Well, there is nothing to speak about pull rods and other.

The transmission looks almost successful. There will be Mercedes 5-speed W5A580 (the same as 722.6) with the Pentastar engine, or 4-speed automatic transmission 42RLE with a diesel engine, or manual. Although there are also “five-speed” W5A580.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

The most preferable option is, oddly enough, the Mercedes W5A580. This automatic transmission has quite good service life even in SUV, but with one condition: it must have its own cooling radiator. It is not available from the factory, and it is not too difficult to overheat automatic transmission in a dirt. There are almost no problems with this automatic transmission with additional cooling. The 42RLE has one “trademark” disadvantage – a very delicate pan. It is very easy to jam it on rides, which means almost guaranteed to kill the whole box. There is good news – we are most likely not interested in cars with these automatics, and we will tell about it below.

Many consider manual transmission as preferable, but at the time of writing there were only ten Ranglers on sale out of several dozens of suitable ones (even without taking into account the price) equipped with manual. So it is necessary to be reconciled with automatic transmission. And not to get too upset about it, we note that the repair of manual transmission to some owners was more expensive than the repair of 722.6. So there is no reason to be sad.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018
Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

There are no questions about the NV241 transfer cases. But the drives do have them. The problem is found in the front gearbox oil seal. There is a plastic washer where the half axle comes out of the axle stock, which is supposed to protect the half axle from water and dirt getting inside. But this factory washer doesn’t do its job. As a result, there is considerable wear on the half axle. It is possible, of course, to change oil seals in time, but for some strange reasons the American technical genius assembled everything so that to change them it is necessary to disassemble the gearbox. This is expensive and difficult, so many people don’t pay attention to the problem until it gets really bad. And it would be good if on the car in question instead of these washers there was a plastic bushing with a seal, which is put on many “Rangler-friendly” services. Well, if it’s not there, you’ll have to at least make sure the oil seals are still alive. It is impossible to see the wear on the half axle, unfortunately. One can not take it out of a stocking during inspection.

Now let’s move on to the engines. There are two engines in the cars we are interested in: petrol Chrysler Pentastar and diesel RA 428, and the first one is much more. The six-cylinder V-shaped 3.6-liter Pentastar replaced the outdated 3.8-liter engine. It can also be found on Chrysler, Ram and Dodge. It’s not the worst engine, but it’s not perfect either.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

Let’s start with the fact that it has no separate exhaust manifold: it is built into the cylinder head, and the catalytic converter is built into it. The catalytic converter rarely serves more than a hundred thousand kilometers, and when it is destroyed it starts “dusting” straight into cylinders (the presence of phase change system on intake and outlet and location in cylinder head is very much contributing to it). It is desirable to check the engine with an endoscope for scuffs and ask the seller if he has cut out the catalyst. The Pentastar has a difficulty with this procedure: in the absence of the back pressure created by the catalyst, it often begins to consume oil. There is a way out – to create this back pressure with inserts in the exhaust, but not everyone does it or does not always do it correctly. Well, if cylinders are already overdriven, there is no way out. Sometimes it is easier to replace the engine – it is usually taken from Jeep Grand Cherokee. These cars have different location of attachments, so for Grand Cherokee engine will have to install Wrangler front end cap. Still, it’s a lot cheaper than looking for an original contract motor. And that’s why one more piece of advice: check the motor number during inspection.

The second problem of the engine is a leak of oil cooler, which is in the block split. Its plastic housing could not always cope with temperature changes and cracked. After 2014, the housing was modified (there were additional stiffeners), and the problem went away. But our money for a car from 2014 and younger will not be enough. No need to despair: you can put a new oil cooler instead of the old one. Well and remember that the oil filter inserts in them are different. Otherwise there are no questions to the engine. If it was well looked after and did not miss the death of a catalyst, there will be no problems.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

Much less popular is the diesel engine RA 428. Its manufacturer is VM Motori, the Italian division of Mercedes-Benz. It is difficult to estimate this engine unequivocally. On the one hand, the diesel engine suits to SUV better than the petrol engine. But on the other hand, it is, probably, more troublesome than the Pentastar. The diesel engine has one interesting feature that almost all its owners know: if the oil level is set on the dipstick at the max level, it starts to get into the intake manifold and intercooler. Therefore, they try to keep it at the minimal mark. If you find out during the inspection that there is not much oil in the engine, it should not be frightening. Probably, the owner is afraid of getting oil in the intake and intentionally keeps it “a little bit on the bottom”. Let’s admit, it is just a peculiarity.

But there are also enough disadvantages. We can talk about them for a long time, but all of them are quite typical for diesels. The turbine Garrett can be repaired after the run of about hundred thousand km, the heat exchanger EGR often leaks, the valve regulator for fuel injection pump quickly becomes dirty (and cleaning it is not always helpful), piezoelectric nozzles give many surprises. It would seem that they are not so bad, but to low-quality fuel are very unkind. It happens that the piezoelectric element itself dies. In this case the injector pours into a cylinder constantly, that leads to local overheating and at least – breakdown of cylinder-head gasket. The crankcase gas ventilation system also stops working quickly, and the fuel injector can suck air through the fuel filter heater connector. In general, you will not be bored with this engine, most likely.

Jeep Wrangler (JK) 2006–2018

And now, having briefly understood with the basic features of this specific car, it is possible to try to formulate, how we see an ideal Rangler on the secondary market. As we have already understood, it is better to choose the gasoline version – there will be more problems with a diesel. Well, and taking into account the year of release, there can be only one engine – V6 Pentastar. You don’t have to choose a gearbox: only W5A580 is compatible with this engine, and that’s good. Not so good is that the tax for 284 hp in many regions makes more than 40 thousand rubles – but taking into account specificity of the car, here it is necessary to be ready to pay for much. But not to pay for too much, it is better to look for a car in a condition as close as possible to a stock one. The logical variant looks approximately so: it is Wrangler without obvious offroad tuning and with plausible run about 100 thousand kilometers. Well and whether it can become your car for every day is a question, which can be answered only after purchase.


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