Jeep Wrangler 3rd Generation 2007-2017 (JK) Review

Everything You Need To Know Before Buying A Used Wrangler 3rd Gen

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3rd Generation Jeep Wrangler: What Owners Say

  • The Jeep Wrangler JK is a serious off-roader in Rubicon guise.
  • Owners love that you can remove the doors and roof.
  • The 3rd gen Jeep Wrangler has a generally reliable and powerful V6 engine.
  • You can get it with a manual.
  • There are thousands of aftermarket accessories available for the Wrangler.
  • The Wrangler is a one-trick pony. It's good at off-roading but not particularly good at anything else.
  • It drinks heavily at the pumps.
  • Trying to find a standard car without any modifications will be tricky.
  • Even Jeep owners admit the interior quality is poor.

Jeep Wrangler 3rd Generation Facelift

The 3rd-generation Jeep Wrangler has essentially been facelifted every year. Jeep made constant improvements and added limited models like the Islander, Mountain, and Call of Duty: MW3 special editions. While we can't get into each edition separately, since there are so many, suffice it to say that each special edition is based on one of the traditional trim levels, with a few added decals, aesthetic tweaks, and the like.

Front Angle View Jeep
3rd Gen Wrangler Front View

Jeep never did anything wilder than adding new colors and alloy designs to the 3rd-generation Jeep Wrangler - with good reason. At the launch of the 4th-gen Wrangler, we had dinner with the Wrangler's lead designer, who basically admitted that you can't do too much with it. In 1987, Jeep unveiled the first Wrangler with the internal code YJ. It was the first model to move away from the CJ (Civilian Jeep) nomenclature. Unfortunately for the YJ, it has square headlights and is widely regarded as the most unloved Wrangler to ever exist. If you thought Tesla fanboys are bad, talk to a Wrangler lover about a YJ. The people hated it so much, aftermarket companies started manufacturing round headlight kits for the car. However, if you don't care about round or square headlights, the YJ is an absolute bargain. This means you simply won't find much difference between a 2007 and 2017 model.

However, the eagle-eyed may spot some changes along the way, such as the front fog lights and a tow hook that is standard equipment from the 2010 model onwards, and the optional LED headlights and fog lights on models so equipped for the final 2017 model year.

Rear Angle View Jeep
3rd Gen Wrangler Rear View

Similarly, the rear remains pretty much the same; Jeep didn't even bother updating the light clusters. Thanks to a tailgate-mounted spare tire, you can spot the limited editions easier, however. These variants are usually equipped with model-specific alloys, and one of them is always mounted on the Jeep's tailgate. The 2010 models all have a standard tow hook.

Side View Driving Jeep
3rd Gen Wrangler Side View

The side profile only changed whenever Jeep upgraded the roof. In 2010, Jeep introduced a soft top that was supposedly easier to remove, although easier is a misleading term. Still, you can only tell the difference in how the side profile looks if you're an expert and know exactly where to look. The 2010 Wrangler has a more easily removable soft top. The 2011 model has noticeably larger rear side windows and, on the Sahara trim, the optional hardtop is color-coded to the body.

Dashboard Jeep
3rd Gen Wrangler Interior View

The interior is where you'll find the most noteworthy changes to the various Jeep Wrangler 3rd-generation model years. The only year Jeep did not make a noteworthy change is 2014 when it simply moved some stuff around on the options list. 2009 models have a small storage net located under the center stack and 2010 models have standard cloth seats instead of the previous vinyl and a compass as standard.

A year later, Jeep changed the entire interior; from 2011 onwards, Wranglers had improved interior quality, better visibility, and a better infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port. The 2011 model's dashboard is smoothed off and a lot less angular, with an integrated dash-mounted passenger grab handle, a totally revised center stack with redesigned controls, and new, modern steering wheels. Quality is improved and better materials are used.

All-new door panels look more integrated and incorporate a door pull that curves up towards the door opener and doubles as a grab handle when you rest your elbow on the door-mounted armrest; in the old car, a huge door pull occupied a recessed section of the door panel underneath your elbow. Said door opener is now flushly mounted right in the upper forward corner of the door panel and no longer housed in an odd, protruding island on the door as in the pre-facelifted Wrangler, while far less body-color metal is visible on the doors from the inside when they are closed. Similarly to the dashboard, the smoother styling is more flushly integrated and fewer parts protrude into the interior. The 2013 Wrangler has redesigned seats and a premium Alpine audio system.

Engine, Transmission, and Drivetrain

There are two 3rd-generation engines you should be aware of. The first is a 3.8-liter V6, which Jeep used from 2007 to 2011. The 2007 model was introduced in late 2006 with the Chrysler-sourced 3.8-liter V6, which produced 202 horsepower and 237 lb-ft of torque. The famous 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine was only introduced in 2012.

A six-speed manual is standard fitment with both engines. A four-speed automatic transmission was coupled to the 3.8-liter V6, while the 3.6-liter V6 introduced a new six-speed automatic transmission. Jeep offered a 4x2 RWD four-door model for a short while, but it faded into obscurity.

All models use the same basic 4WD system, though more hardcore models like the Rubicon take it a step further by adding locking differentials. The 4WD system is not a permanent system, in other words, when driving on tar, you have to use the default RWD drive model. A simple explanation is that you can't use a part-time 4WD system's 4H mode on a grippy surface. The wheels are locked in a 50/50 split, and you will end up with axle binding problems. You can use 4H on any surface that provides reasonable slip, such as gravel or snow. The low-range gearing is there to provide huge lumps of torque at slow speed, and to make off-roading easier when you go down an incline. Instead of relying on a hill-descent system, you use engine compression; mechanical grip is better than an electronic nanny.

The 3rd-generation Wrangler has solid axles front and rear. Couple this with large tires and a high center of gravity, and you have something that handles like a drunk moose. If you're here because you think a Wrangler looks cool and that it's going to offer a pleasing in-town driving experience with the roof down, you're in the wrong place. It's a terrible thing to drive daily. The compromises Jeep has to make in order for the Wrangler to be unstoppable off-road has a direct negative impact on the driving experience in every other scenario.

3.8-liter EGH OHV V6
202 hp | 237 lb-ft
Horsepower
202 hp
Torque
237 lb-ft
Transmission
Six-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission

2007 to 2011 models are equipped with the 3.8-liter EGH V6 engine. In retrospect, this engine was a placeholder of sorts, as Jeep needed to move away from the aging AMC 4.0-liter straight-six, but the 3.6 Pentastar wasn't available yet. The engine is a larger version of the venerable EGA 3.3-liter V6 launched in the late-'80s and features a traditional iron cylinder block and overhead-valve valve gear. It weighs more than the more modern 3.6-liter V6 and it isn't as fuel-efficient, not to mention that an old-fashioned four-speed unit is the only available automatic option, further stunting performance and denting fuel economy. A six-speed manual is the standard transmission. Properly equipped, it can tow a maximum of 3,500 pounds. Besides a propensity for using and leaking oil, this is quite a tough engine that should exceed 200,000 miles with proper care.

3.6-liter Pentastar DOHC V6
285 hp | 260 lb-ft
Horsepower
285 hp
Torque
260 lb-ft
Transmission
Six-speed manual or five-speed automatic transmission

2012 to 2017 models are all equipped with the newer 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 engine. The 83-hp power increase is very noticeable, and it comes paired with the better five-speed automatic transmission that offers a broader range of ratios - or the same six-speed manual used before. Fuel consumption improves too. Jeep considers the 3.6-liter V6 good enough for even the Grand Cherokee and far more luxurious models introduced as late as 2022. It's a refined powertrain, though it's not mounted in the most sophisticated vehicle. Besides a few cylinder-head failures up to around 2013, oil-filter-housing leaks, and occasionally troublesome valve gear and cooling systems, the Pentastar is a durable engine capable of racking up thousands of miles with the proper maintenance. The engine uses a chain drive for its camshafts and with regular servicing and oil changes, the chain does not have to be replaced periodically unless it wears out and starts to rattle.

3rd Gen Jeep Wrangler JK Real MPG

It doesn't matter what model or year you go for, the Wrangler will consume gas at an alarming rate. According to the EPA, there are some supercars that are more efficient than the Wrangler. According to owners, the 3.8-liter engine is typically more frugal than the EPA claimed. The 3.6-liter is, on average, slightly less efficient than claimed. This could be because the 3.6-liter V6 engine is more rev-happy and produces its torque a little higher up the rev range than the 3.8-liter V6.

EPA MPGREAL WORLD MPG *
3.8 2WD 6-speed manual16/21/18 mpgN/A
3.8 4WD 6-speed manual15/19/17 mpg17.5-21.5 mpg
3.8 2WD 4-speed auto15/20/17 mpg18.6 mpg
3.8 4WD 4-speed auto15/19/17 mpg16.2-19.2 mpg
3.6 4WD 6-speed manual16/21/18 mpg14.5-21.1 mpg
3.6 4WD 5-speed auto16/20/18 mpg14.5-20 mpg

* Real-world mpg and MPGe figures are provided by the EPA. Once a car has been on sale for a significant period of time, the EPA gets real-world figures directly from the customer base. These figures are then provided on the EPA website. Real-world figures are not available for certain models due to a lack of sales, or not enough people partaking in this after-sales survey.

Safety

All models come as standard with traction and stability control that includes a rollover sensor, as well as ABS and at least dual front airbags. The total airbag tally differs according to the body style and trim. Hill-start assist and trailer-sway control were added for 2009 and, for 2013, the upgraded tire-pressure monitoring system displays individual tire pressures. No backup camera or driver-assistance features were available for any of the model years or trims, not even optionally.

There are a few things you should know about the Wrangler JK's ride and handling, however, in terms of safety. You may be shocked that when you brake hard, the rear will go light. The steering wheel is more of a suggestion wheel. We cover the infamous "Death Wobble" a little later on, which is a dangerous handling characteristic that comes up so frequently that we have to include it under the known-problems section.

It is important to keep in mind that Jeeps are often heavily modified. Owners love fitting 35-inch mud-terrain tires, which naturally results in the center of gravity moving even higher. Additionally, mud terrains offer almost zero grip on a wet road. So you have an RWD oversteering monster with a traction and stability control system that has its work cut out keeping the whole plot facing in the right direction. If you aren't familiar with the Wrangler, just know that you'll have to adapt your driving style drastically.

US NHTSA Crash Test Result (2017)

Pre-2011 models don't have full safety ratings from the NHTSA. The NHTSA only tested for front impact and rollover. The Wrangler received the full five stars for the drive and front passenger in a front crash. In the rollover crash, the 4x4 received three out of five stars, while the four-door 4x2 received four stars. The later Wrangler models were only tested in the rollover category following stricter NHTSA crash tests. Once again, it scored three out of five stars.

Frontal Barrier Crash Rating::
(3/5)
Rollover Rating: :
(3/5)

2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler Trims

There are several trim levels available for the Wrangler. Jeep introduced a new limited edition model almost every single year, so when browsing around you'll find several of these models.

It seems confusing, but each limited edition model is based on one of the trim levels mentioned below. For its entire lifespan, the Wrangler was offered in two and four-door guise, available in an entry-level, mid-spec, and proper off-road trim. For the first part of its life, the entry-level trim was labeled X, but Jeep eventually moved over to the Sport name in 2010. Both two-door Wrangler and four-door Wrangler Unlimited models were available.

Throughout its lifespan, Sahara was chosen for the mid-spec trim, while Rubicon was reserved for the top-spec trim with all the off-road toys. Later models are the ones to go for if you want a modicum of comfort. Not only did Jeep include more standard features, but fancier optional extras became available on later models. Standard features improved over the years and for 2010, front fog lights, tow hooks, and a compass became standard; the soft top was also redesigned to be easier to remove. Along with the new 2011 interior came better sound insulation, larger rear windows, trailer-stability control, and hill-start assist. Along with the new 3.6-liter engine and five-speed automatic transmission, the 2012 Wrangler loses all the 2WD models and becomes an all-4WD lineup. The 2013 lineup receives redesigned seats.

There were many Wrangler JK special editions over the years, so be on the lookout for used ones:

  • 2009 Rocky Mountain edition. Based on the X trim, the Rocky Mountain edition runs on 17-inch alloy wheels with 32-inch tires, tubular black sidesteps, and optionally available color-coded fenders. Inside, it gains a six-disc in-dash CD changer.
  • 2010 Islander edition. Based on the Sport trim, the two-door-only Islander has Islander-edition tubular sidesteps, slush mats and seats, as well as unique 17-inch wheels with 32-inch tires, performance suspension, Islander badging, and a blue-accented and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
  • 2010 Mountain edition. Also based on the Sport 4x4, the two-door Mountain edition sports 32-inch off-road tires on 17-inch alloys and Mountain-edition seats. Its special hood and grid decals, taillight protectors, tubular sidesteps, and fuel-filler door are all finished in black. The four-door Unlimited Mountain edition is based on the normal Sport trim.
  • 2011 70th Anniversary edition. Based on the Sahara trim, this special edition was launched to commemorate Jeep's 70th anniversary and was offered on both the Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. On the outside, it has brushed-aluminum Mopar sill plates and polished 18-inch alloy wheels. On the inside, it has satin-chrome vent surrounds, a Chestnut-accented Dark Olive or black center console, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, perforated black or Dark Olive leather upholstery with Chestnut piping, Chestnut accent stitching for both the seats and steering wheel, and Chestnut-bound Berber floormats.
  • 2011 JK-8 Independence Mopar pickup kit.
  • 2012 Arctic edition. Based on the Sahara trim, the Artic gets Arctic badging, black 17-inch alloys, a decal recalling the Yeti, and other Mopar accessories.
  • 2012 Unlimited Altitude edition. This is basically a package added to the Unlimited Sahara trim that adds blacked-out treatment for the fuel-filler door, the wheel spokes, the Jeep badge, and the special hood sticker, while being available in only red, black, white or silver and coming with a standard color-coded hardtop. Inside, the black color scheme is continued on the passenger's grab handle, the steering wheel's spokes, and the vent trim, while the stitching is red.
  • 2012 Call of Duty: MW3 Special Edition. The Rubicon trim on both the Wrangler body styles came in for this special treatment inspired by the Call of Duty video game. Silver or black are the only paint colors and this edition has semi-gloss-black Rubicon alloy wheels, special graphics on the spare-wheel cover and front fenders, a sculpted AEV hood, AEV bumpers (winch-ready in front), a Mopar fuel-filler door, rock rails, 32-inch off-road tires, taillight guards, locking front and rear differentials, and a two-speed transfer case. Inside, it has black seats with Call of Duty branding and accent stitching, a dash plaque, model-specific gauge-cluster graphics, Mopar slush mats, and other special features.
  • 2013 Moab edition. In a nod to the annual Moab Easter Jeep Safari, this Sahara-based special edition comes in both body styles and has most of the same exterior features as the 2012 Call of Duty edition, but with a choice of six paint colors and with matte-black fender flares. It also features 32-inch Goodyear Silent Armor tires on black 2013 Rubicon wheels, an optional color-coded hardtop, a limited-slip rear differential (or optionally a lockable one), and the standard Wrangler 2.72:1 transfer case.
  • 2013 Rubicon 10th Anniversary edition. The 10th Anniversary Edition is based on the Rubicon and is available with both body styles. It has a Rock-Trac transfer case with a 4:1 low ratio, locking Dana 44 axles at both ends, satin-black 17-inch Rubicon wheels, black steel off-road bumpers (winch-ready in front), a six-speed manual transmission, a ride-height increase of half an inch over the Rubicon, disconnectable sway bars, a Power Dome dual-intake hood, Mopar rock rails and fuel-filler cap, and red tow hooks, among other features. Inside, it has red leather upholstery, heated front seats, a unique Rubicon X gauge cluster with additional vehicle-information readouts, and special trim.
  • 2014 Dragon edition. The limited Dragon edition is a trim package comprising model-specific 18-inch alloys and front fascia treatment, as well as Dragon decals on Bronze Satin Gloss paint and a black three-piece hardtop.
  • 2014 Polar edition. This edition, available in three colors (Billet Silver Metallic, Hydro Pearl Blue, and Bright White) comes in both body styles and has heated black leather seats, automatic climate control, a color-coded hardtop, Sahara-like color-coded fender flares, and a Trac-Lok limited-slip differential (optionally a locking one).
  • 2014-2015 Freedom edition. The Freedom edition is based on the Sport and comes in Billet Silver Metallic, Hydro Pearl Blue, or Black and Dune paint with a Mineral Gray grille, Oscar Mike badging, silver 17-inch alloys, color-coded fenders, black taillight guards, and rock rails. Black leather-tectonic fabric seats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with French Silver stitching, and an Alpine audio system are standard.
  • 2014-2015 Rubicon X edition. The 2014 Rubicon X edition is based on the 2013 10th Anniversary edition and shares virtually all its hardware and features, with a few exceptions such as using black leather for the seats instead of red. It also sports the Connectivity Group package and an Alpine sound system. It continued on as a 2015 model as well.
  • 2014-2017 Willys Wheeler edition. Based on the 2014 Sport trim, the Willys Wheeler commemorates the 1945 military off-road Willys-Overland CJ-2A and is offered in both body styles, adding a Dana 44 rear axle, limited-slip diff with a 3.73:1 ratio, rock rails, special BF Goodrich mud-terrain tires, a Willys hood decal, a bespoke tailgate badge, and gloss-black treatment for the 17-inch alloys, the bumpers, and the grille.
  • 2015 Altitude edition. The Altitude is based on the 2015 Sahara, but with a color-coded hardtop, model-specific 18-inch wheels, black treatment for the headlight surrounds and exterior accents, the Connectivity Group package, and heated front seats.
  • 2015-2017 Rubicon Hard Rock edition. The 2015 Rubicon Hard Rock edition is essentially the 2014 Rubicon X edition by a new name and with a premium Alpine sound system added to its spec.
  • 2016 Black Bear edition. This Sport-based special edition is available in both body styles and named for the tough Black Bear Pass trail in Telluride, Colorado; it features a topographical map of the trail on its special hood decal, Goodyear Silent Armor tires, rock rails, black treatment for the 17-inch alloys, grille, taillight guards, and bumper applique, and a choice between a color-coded hardtop or Sunrider soft top. Inside, it has black cloth upholstery, all-weather floormats, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with gray contrast stitching, iron-gray treatment for the vent rings, instrument bezels, and door handles, air-conditioning, and the Connectivity Group package.
  • 2016-2017 75th Anniversary edition. This edition celebrates 75 years of the Jeep brand and adds a package that was worth $4,680 at the time consisting of rock rails, a Trac-Lok lockable rear differential, a color-coded grille, bronze tow hooks front (2) and rear (1), painted bumpers, bronze badging, a Power Dome hood, and 17-inch alloys. It is offered in a limited range of colors, including Sarge Green. The interior has Ombre Mesh leather/cloth upholstery, an upgraded gauge cluster with a bezel in Moroccan Sun and which displays additional vehicle information, and the Connectivity Group package.
  • 2016 Backcountry edition. The Backcountry (available in both body styles) features exceptional winter ability and is essentially a Sahara with black 17-inch Rubicon alloys, rock rails, model-specific pink decals, the Connectivity Group package, gloss-black interior trim, slush mats, leather seat bolsters, and a nine-speaker Alpine audio system. It is available in a limited range of colors, including the Backcountry-exclusive Xtreme Purple.
X/Sport
2007-2017
Engine
3.8-/3.6-liter V6
Transmission
Four-/five-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Drivetrain
4WD

The X was likely meant to be a blank canvas model, but Jeep took it a step too far. In order to keep this trim as affordable as possible, it only comes with vinyl seats, the folding soft top, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel, power steering, and a CD player with a six-speaker sound system and an auxiliary input jack. It has no electric windows or even basic manual air-conditioning. Front door pockets are listed under the comfort and convenience items. Thankfully, Jeep offered air-conditioning as an optional extra at first, and later as part of a package that added a few more luxuries.

In 2010 Jeep decided to ramp up the interior quality and it moved away from the X badge. The entry-level remained almost as is but was renamed "Sport". The Sport's standard equipment list is only a little longer than the X's. It has 16-inch steelies, a folding soft top, and a basic 6-speaker sound system with a CD player. It also has cloth for 2010 instead of vinyl, a compass, and fog lights. The four-door Sport comes standard with air-conditioning as it's more of a family car, but the two-door does without. As before, it was an optional extra, so check whether it's been fitted. Jeep's optional packages were affordable, however. It's highly unlikely you'll come across a Wrangler that doesn't at least have air-conditioning.

Sahara
2007-2017
Engine
3.8-/3.6-liter V6
Transmission
Four-/five-speed automatic or six-speed manual
Drivetrain
4WD

There are two kinds of Wrangler buyers. Those who buy them for off-roading, and those who buy them as a fashion accessory. The Sahara caters to the latter group, even though it's well equipped for off-roading and has heavy-duty suspension. The Sahara caters to the fashion crowd as it adds 17-inch alloy wheels, body-colored fenders, air-conditioning, and upgraded fabric upholstery. Optionally available was navigation with nifty "breadcrumb" off-highway tracking. Jeep essentially added a new feature every year, so choosing the right MY is important. In 2008 the better Sunrider soft top became standard; in 2010 leather upholstery became an option; and, in 2011 Jeep updated the entire interior with modern features that include a USB port.

Rubicon
2007-2017
Engine
3.8-/3.6-liter V6
Transmission
Four-/five-speed automatic or six-speed manual.
Drivetrain
4WD

The Rubicon is the hardcore off-roader: The other models will get you 90% of the way there, while the Rubicon is for the final 10% that only the brave usually tackle. It comes standard with the Sahara's features but adds off-road tires straight from the factory, an electronically disconnecting sway bar for increased articulation, a Dana 44 front axle, and locking differentials front and rear. From the 2011 MY, the chances of finding a semi-luxurious Wrangler Rubicon are easier. Along with the new interior, Jeep started offering an optional package that includes two-tone leather, a touchscreen infotainment system with navigation, and heated seats.

Third Generation Jeep Wrangler SUV Features

X/SportSaharaRubicon
BluetoothOOO
Leather SeatsN/AOO
Keyless EntryN/AN/AN/A
Keyless StartN/AN/AN/A
HD RadioN/AN/AN/A
Alloy WheelsN/ASS
Soft TopSSS

Interior, Trim, And Practicality

Front Seats Jeep

The Wrangler is available in two body styles: two-door and four-door. Though the four-door Unlimited is also extremely capable off-road, the two-door and its shorter wheelbase is the ultimate 4x4 toy. Rear headroom and legroom are adequate in the short-wheelbase Wrangler, but it's hard getting in back there. Rear passengers are also perched right above the old-school suspension setup, so hitting your head against the roof is a common occurrence. Not as much of a problem with a soft top, but more noticeable if the car has the optional hardtop. The two-door has 12.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity, which is surprisingly good - that's roughly the same as the average mid-size sedan.

The long-wheelbase Unlimited is better for daily driving, though you still need to be a hardcore Jeep fanboy. With a longer wheelbase, the ride is more comfortable for rear passengers. The Wrangler never manages to truly escape its poor ride and handling, however, which is an inherent flaw with every model out there. The four-door gets 31.5 cubes of cargo capacity, which is plenty for a family of four.

There is enough interior small-item storage space for both the front and rear, but the quality is way below par. There isn't a single piece of soft-touch material or high-quality plastic to look at or touch. On the plus side, the interior does seem to age well. There are plenty of high-mileage, three-owner examples out there that prove this.

As with the driving experience, there are a few things you should know about the Wrangler as a driving tool. Yes, it comes with a soft top as standard, but it's no Miata. To take the roof down, you need a degree in mathematics. To put it back up, you need a doctorate in astrophysics at the very least. The doors come off, but unlike the modern Bronco, Jeep does not provide dedicated storage space. So you leave them on or keep them off. The interior refinement is also deeply affected by the soft top. Earlier models are noisy, while later models with the improved soft top are still noisy.

All of the things that make the Wrangler so good on an adventure severely compromise its daily usability. That's the number one thing to keep in mind when shopping around for one. We highly recommend buying a model with an optional hardtop. On later models, the four AUX buttons are a nice touch. Jeep knows its customers modify Wranglers, so it included these four blank buttons for whatever a customer had in mind, be it spotlights or a winch.

TRIMX/SportSaharaRubicon
VinylSN/AN/A
ClothS (post-2009)SS
LeatherN/AOO

3rd Generation Jeep Wrangler Maintenance and Cost

Jeep has roughly 2,500 dealers scattered across the USA. You'll have no problem finding an independent service center that will take care of your car, or modify it for that matter. Speaking of, it's something worth keeping in mind when shopping for a Wrangler: We looked at hundreds of used examples, and it's extremely difficult to find a standard model. The vast majority of vehicles have larger tires and an aftermarket bumper. This will have an effect on fuel economy, and the price of replacement tires. Larger tires also put extra strain on the gearbox, which was not designed with that in mind. With the fourth-generation Wrangler, Jeep moved over to an eight-speed automatic, tuned perfectly for 35-inch rubber.

The Wrangler is affordable to service, however. You can expect to pay roughly $650 for a full annual service, while a basic oil and oil filter replacement costs around $150. As the mileage increases, so do the service costs. From the 120,000-mile mark, you can expect to pay $2,000 for a service. That's when the car requires a new ignition cable, a transmission fluid service, and a cooling-system flush, to name just a few. With these cars, preventative maintenance is as important as scheduled maintenance. It's worth noting that these cars have a bad reputation for high repair bills because they're subjected to hardcore off-roading. Simply put, the chances of something going wrong are much higher when the engine, gearbox, and suspension are put under severe stress more often than not.

2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler Basic Service

Engine Oil Change Including Filter

Oil capacity: 5.7L (6 quarts) for 3.8 V6, 5.6L (5.9 quarts) for 3.6 V6

Recommended oil viscosity: 5W-20 for both engines

How often to change: 7,500 miles

Average Price: Around $67

Battery

3.8 and 3.6 V6

Part number: 118666-05952201

Replacement: Every 3 to 5 years

Average Price: $262

Jeep Wrangler 3rd Gen Tires

If you are going to buy a Jeep Wrangler, there's a good chance it won't be running the standard tires. Most owners tend to go for 35-inch tires, but there are a few used examples with highly modified suspension setups that run an even bigger tire. While it may look cool, keep in mind that you're going to be paying a lot to replace said tires. A single BFGoodrich All-Terrain KO2 retails for roughly $430 per tire.

From the factory, Jeep gave buyers some options to choose from: More economical 225 tires or a wider 245 with a more aggressive off-road biased thread pattern. Since trying to save fuel in a Wrangler is like ice skating uphill, we're only providing the all-terrain option.

X and Sport
Tire Size:
225/75-16 or 245/75-16
All-Terrain:
$628 to $854 per set or $686 to $958 per set, respectively
Sahara
Tire Size:
255/75-17 or 255/70-18
All-Terrain:
$964 to $1,288 per set or $861 to $1,084 per set, respectively
Rubicon
Tire Size:
255/75-17
All-Terrain:
Around $1,000 per set (BFGoodrich KO2 highly recommended by owners)

Check Before You Buy

Technical Service Bulletins according to the NHTSA. Check service book for:

The only thing that outnumbers the 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler recall figure is the number of complaints it received. It's not strange for a new car to receive a few complaints. For example, when the Ford Explorer launched, the NHTSA received 261 customer complaints. In comparison, the Wrangler received 1,037 complaints during its first year on sale.

The 2007 Wrangler recall list includes several worrying items, from the passenger frontal airbag inflator rupturing to the possibility of a transmission overheating and causing a fire, to the loss of the ABS braking system problems. 2008 Wrangler JK recalls carried over most of the previous problems. The floor liner could tear leading to unwanted acceleration, throttle problems, partial loss of the brakes due to a brake fluid leak, and the fluid in the transfer case boiling and causing JK manual and automatic transmission problems and issues. All of these problems led to transmission cooler lines, brake lines, and airbag recalls in 2008. These problems continued, and the most notable was the 2009 airbag recall.

The 2010 Wrangler saw another uptick in recalls, this time for automatic transmission problems. The transmission skid plate was located close to the catalytic converter, which caused overheating and possible fires. These complaints were widely reported as a catalytic converter problem, even though it isn't strictly true. The 2012 Wrangler oil pump recall was more of an oil cooler and transmission recall. The power steering line could potentially make contact with the transmission oil cooler line, leading to transmission fluid loss and automatic transmission problems. The 2013-2017 Wrangler had the same oil leak and transmission recall as above. All models from 2007-2017 also suffered from the airbag recall.

There were many common problems for the 2007-2017 Wrangler and the notable error and trouble codes you'll most likely encounter when shopping for a third-generation Jeep Wrangler are as follows.

  • Jeep Wrangler code P0430/P0420 is an indication that the catalytic converter is not working efficiently.
  • Code P0457 is for a loose fuel cap.
  • Code P0513 is an indication that you might be having starting issues or problems. The ECU is not detecting the immobilizer key. This is a well-known Sahara ignition switch problem.
  • Code P0420 is a failing O2 sensor, most likely caused by an exhaust leak or a problem with the catalytic converter.
  • Code P0032, P0152, and P0057 are also for oxygen sensors, also indicating catalytic converter failure. The Wrangler JK is known for having oxygen sensor problems.
  • Code P0706 indicates an automatic transmission problem. In this case, the transmission range sensor is not sending the correct information to the ECU.
  • Code P0732 indicates a problem with second gear, most likely related to low transmission fluid levels.
  • Code P0868 is an error code for line pressure.
  • Codes P0406, P0404, P0403, and P0401 indicate that there is a problem with the EGR sensor or the exhaust gas recirculation.
  • Codes P0300, P0301, P0302, P0303, P0304, P0305, and P0306 all indicate a misfire at the related cylinder.
  • Code P0440, P0441, and P0456 indicate there is a problem with the EVAP system.
  • Code P0690 indicates that there is high voltage flowing to the ECU.
  • Code P0740 is a common Wrangler automatic transmission problem. It shows that there might be a torque converter problem.
  • Code P0128 indicates thermostat problems.
  • Code P0339 means there is a problem with the crankshaft position sensor.
  • Code P0520 means there is a problem with the oil pressure switch.
  • Code P0830 shows up when the powertrain control unit picks up a problem with the clutch position sensor.
  • Code P0533 indicates that there is an A/C, climate control, or air conditioning problem. This code is related to the refrigerant level, which means it's most likely an easy fix.

3rd Gen Wrangler Common Problems

Death Wobble And Suspension Problems

The infamous 'Death Wobble' is the most common problem and is difficult to explain. It's basically a steering, alignment, and suspension problem. It's easier to see it unfold in practice, so a YouTube search will be helpful. Any car with a solid front axle, a coil spring suspension, and a tracking bar is highly susceptible to it. Add in bigger wheels, lazy steering, and known steering problems, and it's no small wonder the Wrangler is most commonly associated with this issue. In short, the car hits a bump and because the front wheels don't act independently, it leads to a chain reaction. Before you know it, the wheels are wobbling around, making the car extremely unstable. You want to check this out when getting the most hardcore Wrangler, as it's a known Rubicon problem. The Wrangler can also wear out over time especially if the previous owner didn't take all the necessary steps following an off-road trip. Hardcore off-roading for extended periods can lead to the driveshaft, ball joint, and control arm problems. All of these problems will make the Death Wobble happen more frequently. You can avoid it by checking the tire pressures constantly, and ensuring the wheel alignment is in order. If you intend to regularly off-road the car, it's worth inspecting the suspension after each trip.

Another suspension-related problem has to do with the electronically disconnectable sway bars available on certain models. This system's electronic control unit is prone to water ingress because its housing is both poorly located and badly sealed. Once water gets in, the system fails and the sway bars stay in whatever state they were last left in - either connected or disconnected - with no way to switch them back. Needless to say, disconnected sway bars can make for wayward highway handling, while connected sway bars translate to poor off-road wheel articulation. There has even been a lawsuit filed against Stellantis over this issue.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: Replacing the sway-bar control module costs $1,500 in parts before labor and typically nearly $2,500, all-in.

How to spot: The death wobble is related to the Wrangler's inherent chassis setup. It's not so much a problem in a standard car, but it does get worse if you fit bigger wheels. The vehicle starts wobbling and bouncing, becoming unstable until you reduce speed. A failed sway-bar module should trigger a dash warning and the system will refuse to shift between modes; handling will be squishy with the sway bars disconnected and body lean excessive around corners. Off-road wheel articulation will be poor with the sway bars connected.

TIPM Failure

The Totally Integrated Power Module (TIPM) controls the Wrangler's entire electrical system, including the fuel pump, power windows, radio, throttle, headlights, airbags, and more. Unfortunately for Jeep, it was a poor design and it failed regularly. It's one of the most common Wrangler issues and is responsible for most of its electrical problems. These include PCM (Power Control Module), traction control, neutral safety switch, turn signal, alarm, LED headlight, remote start, door lock, ABS, trip computer, and heated-seat problems. There was even a lawsuit against Stellantis over this problem. 2008 seems to be the worst model year for TIPM failures.

Mileage: From as early as 40,000 miles or less, but typically around 100,000 miles

Cost: Around $830-$1,200 for the average TIPM repair

How to spot: You likely won't be able to spot these problems on a short test drive, and the only way to be sure is to test every electrical component the car has - even if you have to sit there and test the radio, electric windows, traction control buttons, we'd suggest it. The TIPM is known to fail at nearly 100,000 miles, so if you find a car with more miles on that, check the service history to see whether it has been replaced.

3.8-liter EGH OHV V6 Engine Problems

The 3.8-liter V6 EGH engine was old-fashioned even at launch and has always lagged behind in terms of fuel efficiency and power output. It is based on Chrysler's late-'80s EGA 3.3-liter V6 and is an OHV design with an iron block. Contrary to what many people believe, this engine can last well and can exceed 250,000 miles if properly cared for. Conversely, its known problems with corrosion and oil consumption/leaks can mean its early demise and if neglected, you'd be lucky to get 150,000 miles out of it. There are common oil leak problems, but no oil-pressure or oil-pump problems. Unfortunately, the oil leaks can become quite extensive and serious with age, with one of the main culprits being the timing-chain cover whose O-rings fail and start to leak oil. The valve cover' gaskets also start to leak with the advancing years. These are some of the most common Wrangler engine problems.

Besides the oil leaks, the engine has also gained a reputation for burning oil; the severity of this problem varies and can become quite bad. Oil consumption in itself is not a deal-breaker and many engines burn oil, but once an engine starts burning a quart per 1,000 miles, it is excessive. This is often a hard problem to spot on a test drive, so check the oil level and if it's low, the engine might be an oil drinker; avoid engines with low oil levels anyway, because it also points to lax maintenance. Excessive oil consumption can also foul the spark plugs, which will cause rough running and misfiring. The internet tends to blow these problems out of proportion, but the EGH does tend to consume oil, so keep an eagle eye on the oil level until you have determined the engine's thirst for oil. There's nothing you can really do about excessive oil consumption except regularly checking and topping up the oil. The vast majority of EGH engine failures are due to dangerously low oil levels.

Lastly, some corrosion and rust problems have been reported, but this can mostly be avoided by periodically draining and flushing the cooling system and refilling it with the correct ratio of water and antifreeze - and never just water alone. If you see one with only water in the radiator, avoid it like the plague. The coolant can also leak out and this most often happens at the lower intake manifold gasket. It's not a huge problem, but keep an eye out for coolant loss, because coolant and radiator problems can lead to overheating issues and head-gasket problems.

Mileage: Oil consumption can occur at any mileage; timing-cover O-ring failures likewise; both the valve-cover gaskets and the intake manifold gasket could start leaking oil and coolant at around 100,000 miles.

Cost: For oil consumption, the cost of top-up oil. All the different gaskets and O-rings that can leak oil are usually cheap at between $10 and $50, but labor can run into hours and hundreds of dollars, depending on what must be replaced. Replacing the intake-manifold gaskets should require a maximum of $250 in labor - and the gaskets themselves don't cost much more than $50. Letting the oil or coolant run dry can ruin an engine and replacing it will cost roughly $5,000.

How to spot: Oil leaks will leave evidence on the floor and the engine will be wet with oil at the site of the leak; the oil level will also drop. When oil drips on hot engine parts, smoke from the engine compartment and a burnt-oil smell are common. Excessive oil consumption may manifest in fouled spark plugs that may cause misfires, as well as visible smoke from the exhaust. The coolant leaks should leave evidence on the floor and the coolant level will drop; you might smell the sweet smell of antifreeze.

3.6-liter Pentastar DOHC V6 Engine Problems

The Pentastar V6 engine has been refined over the years and is now a genuinely reliable engine that can last for hundreds of thousands of miles with proper care. However, there were a few cylinder-head problems in the early years from 2011 to 2013, but those should all have been fixed under the extended warranty granted to affected engines. There is the odd problem with failing rocker arms and/or cam followers and also hydraulic lifters. The occasional failure of these components seems to be a Chrysler weak spot and various engines suffer from valve gear issues. Poorly maintained engines develop problems sooner. Water-pump and radiator failures are rare but do sometimes happen, so ensure that the cooling system is flushed and refilled with the proper water/coolant mixture periodically to avoid problems. There seems to have been quite a few problems with crank and cam position sensors for the 2013 model year, which can cause a stall. Oil-filter housings tend to leak on the Pentastar V6 and this can be quite an expensive repair.

Mileage: Defective cylinder heads, cam followers, and rocker arms can fail at any mileage. Oil-filter housing typically starts leaking at around 50,000 miles.

Cost: Replacing all the rocker arms and cam followers will set you back about $1,000 and that bill can amount to more than $2,300 if the camshafts sustained damage and must be replaced too. Sorting out the cooling system can vary between $200 and $800, depending on what's wrong. Replacing crank or cam position sensors shouldn't cost much more than $100-$150 per sensor. Replacing the oil-filter housing costs $600-$700. A radiator costs around $500-$800 to replace.

How to spot: Defective cylinder heads, cam followers, and rocker arms all tend to emit ticking sounds when they fail. An engine should run quietly and sweetly without any ticking or rattling sounds. Coolant leaks should leave evidence on the floor and the coolant level will drop. Leaky oil-filter housings should be wet with oil and it might also drip onto the floor.

Transmission Problems

The Chrysler Ultradrive 42RLE four-speed automatic transmission in the 2007-2011 Wranglers is reliable if properly cared for. We recommend replacing the transmission fluid at least every 60,000 miles, although it's never a bad idea to do it even more frequently in a hard-working 4WD vehicle such as the Wrangler. Most problems with bad shifting and worn valve bodies stem from low oil levels and postponed oil changes and can often be avoided with proper maintenance. Some owners that do hardcore off-road work have fitted an additional transmission cooler to prevent overheating.

The Mercedes-sourced W5A580 five-speed automatic that replaced the 42RLE in 2012 is known to be a tough transmission that will easily exceed 200,000 miles if maintained to the above standard. It's important to keep up with the maintenance, especially in a rugged vehicle that is often subjected to harsh off-road terrain. Always check for transmission oil leaks and keep an eye on the oil level of the diffs (especially limited-slip diffs) and transfer cases too - and replace these fluids when as per the required schedule to avoid problems. The Chrysler NSG370 six-speed manual transmission can last well but is only as reliable as it's treated, as is the case with manual transmissions; an abusive owner can shorten its life and damage the clutch. A tired unit can pop out of first gear. The transmission must be sweet-shifting with no crunching and clutch take-up should be smooth and progressive.

Mileage: Transmissions should remain trouble-free beyond 200,000 miles with proper care.

Cost: Oil changes. A failed automatic transmission costs at least $2,000 to rebuild. A clutch replacement on the manual transmission is around $1,500.

How to spot: Harsh shifts and overheating on automatic transmissions may indicate deferred maintenance and low oil levels. Walk away.

Throttle Position Sensor Failure

The TPS tells the ECU how much throttle is being used. As you can imagine, a broken TPS can lead to multiple issues. These include shifter/shifting, fuel injector, throttle body, transmission, stalling, and acceleration problems. This is just one of the known manual and automatic transmission problems.

Mileage: Around 100,000 miles

Cost: Between $130 to $150

How to spot: The easiest way to spot this problem is via the transmission. Both engines are naturally aspirated, which means the throttle response should at least be instantaneous. If there's a delay, it's most likely the TPS acting up.

Battery and Alternator

Wrangler owners love to modify their vehicles with third-party accessories. On later models, you'll even see AUX buttons dedicated to such features. Unfortunately, there are some dodgy installation shops out there that do a poor job of connecting these modifications. This can easily lead to battery, alternator, and ignition issues and problems.

Mileage: Around 150,000 miles

Cost: Around $350 for a new battery and alternator

How to spot: Check the vehicle's service history to see if and when the battery and alternator were replaced.

Power Steering Problems

Yet another problem that stems from off-road use. Thanks to a loose serpentine belt, a fluid leak, or a broken stabilizer bar, the Wrangler can develop power steering, steering box, or power steering pump problems.

Mileage: High-mileage or abused vehicles

Cost: $500 to replace the power steering pump

How to spot: During the test drive, be sure to make a sharp turn into a parking space. The steering will go extremely heavy the closer you get to full lock.

Fuel Spills When Filling Up

Several owners also reported gas fill problems. The fuel pump would not automatically shut off, or it would shut off and some gas would still leak out of the fuel filler. The NHTSA determined that no recall is necessary for the fault, but be sure to fill up carefully, as the Wrangler's fuel system does not always trigger the pump's automatic shut-off. The number of complaints listed for this problem suggests that it's quite commonplace.

Mileage: N/A

Cost: At least $1,000 to replace the fuel tank

How to spot: Fuel spills out during fill-up because the pump's automatic shut-off is not triggered.

Failing A/C and Blend Door Actuator

The JK's A/C blend door actuator is known for being problematic. Most owners report the main symptom as heater or heating problems. The A/C will blow cold on one side and hot on the other. This is also a symptom of a known door issue with the Wrangler, where it will blow hot on one side but not the other. A few blower motors and control modules have also failed. There have also been a few heater-core failures.

Mileage: Many HVAC problems start around 50,000 miles.

Cost: $30-$50 for a blend door actuator but the labor can be well over $1,000. $1,000-$1,400 for a heater-core replacement. Replacing the whole system can exceed $4,000.

How to spot: During the test drive ensure that the air conditioning and heater are working. Check all the vents, front and rear.

Less Common Problems

We know people love to complain, and it seems that people really like complaining about the Jeep Wrangler. We picked up a few owners that had clutch problems, but we suspect this has more to do with owners not knowing how to drive a manual car off-road. The same goes for the brakes, rear brakes, and parking brake. If you subject these components to regular hardcore use, they will wear down much faster. Owners also reported radio and navigation problems, though Jeep's earlier infotainment systems are known for being terrible. Unless it's the more modern Uconnect system, you'd be better off replacing the radio with an aftermarket setup. Though more a Jeep Liberty problem, failing power window regulators and window lift plates that cause the glass to fall into the door do pop up every now and again. Luckily, there doesn't seem to be excessive oil filter, ignition switch, coil-pack, torque-converter clutch, and rust problems.

Which One To Avoid

Most JK experts agree that the 3.8-liter V6 was a poor engine. As you can see above, it's also the engine responsible for most of the known problems. We'd avoid all of the pre-2012 models and get a Wrangler JK with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6. We also urge you to stay away if you're buying a Wrangler to make a fashion statement. It really is too compromised unless you intend to use it for what it was built for: off-roading. Instead, buy a Mini Cooper. Among the model years, 2007, 2008, and 2011-2014 were the most problematic.

Which One To Buy

The Wrangler is only really good at one thing, which is going off-road. That's why the Rubicon is the only model that makes sense to us. For even better off-road performance, go for the short-wheelbase two-door. There are loads of Rubicons out there, and we'd try to find one as close to stock as possible. We'd go for a 2015 or newer because Jeep sorted out most recurring problems by then.

3rd Gen Jeep Wrangler JK Verdict

The 2007-2017 Jeep Wrangler is a mixed bag. It can be an infuriating car to live with daily, yet it's unrivaled off-road. For more than a decade, the Wrangler had the hardcore off-road niche all to itself. You could make a reasonable argument for the Toyota 4Runner, but it's simply not as capable. It's only in recent years that the Wrangler started receiving proper competition from Ford and Land Rover, but the Bronco and Defender still have some depreciating to do. If it's a hardcore off-roader you seek, the Wrangler JK is going to be the only realistic option for at least the next five years until the prices of other more modern off-roaders start to plummet. Just keep in mind that some Wranglers have been abused off-road and it pays to take an expert along to check out a vehicle you're considering.

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