Are Jeeps Actually Reliable?

So you are interested in buying a Jeep. Maybe you’ve never owned one and don’t know if a Jeep will be reliable enough for you? Well, the Jeep brand has changed a lot over the years, and are now owned by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles).

But, are they still reliable as the old Jeeps?

Older Jeep Reliability

When I say “older” jeeps I’m talking late 80s and 90s. I could dive into the reliability of Jeeps made before the 80s, but it’ll take up to much time. Plus, you should be mechanically inclined if you buy an old Jeep.

What’s the most likely thing to break in any given automobile? An engine component of course and I don’t mean engine internals, but everything that makes the engine run the way it does; (vacuum lines, O2 sensors, MAP/MAF sensors, etc.).

Renix 4.0L

Jeep’s in the 80s came with either a 2.5L 4-cylinder, or a 4.0L renix inline-6. The Renix 4.0L was a little iffy with it’s reliability. The main problem comes from the wiring harness and sensors. The Renix is pretty hard to diagnose, but is easy to repair if you know what the actually problem is.

High Output 4.0L

What awesome engine did Jeep make it the 90s? The 4.0L H.O.! The updated version of the AMC 4.0L ditched the Renix components in favor of new components. This new rendition of the 4.0L was known as the High Output. The High Output had a much tidier wiring harness, and was much easier to diagnose than the previous Renix 4.0L.

The AMC 4.0L was one of four engines that continued to be produced after Chrysler purchased AMC in 1987.

High Output 4.0L Reliability

The Jeep 4.0L H.O. has been praised by countless automotive journalists for its insane reliability. It could have a rod knock and still get you all the way home. It could be running 90* under the proper operating temperature, with vacuum leaks, a bad fuel injector, and still get you home (ask me how I know).

Seriously, Jeeps equipped with the 4.0L H.O. will do 300,000 miles easy. Mine is at 215k miles, I take it wheeling nearly every weekend, and its still chugging along just fine!

My Personal Jeep Reliability

Like I mentioned above, I take my current Jeep wheeling all the time, as well as drive it every single day. It has only left me stranded once, and that was from me going to hard off-road. There have been times where I needed to drive it upwards of 200 miles in one day and it was perfectly up to the task. Pretty good for a vehicle that only cost $1,000.

I have owned a total of 13 vehicles, which includes a few motorcycles. Out of those 13 vehicles most of them broke something major. Ninja 250 engine exploded, SC400 engine exploded, Suburban transmission exploded, Land Rover engine exploded, you get my point. Why am I telling you this?

Because my first vehicle and my current vehicle are the only ones that have lasted over a year without exploding. My first vehicle was a 93 Cherokee, my current vehicle is a 92 Cherokee.

$1,000 Jeeps seem to take literally everything you can throw at them.

Newer Jeep Reliability

This is where the whole conversation takes a massive turn. Jeeps of today are built much differently than Jeeps of the past. All models except the Wrangler have gone to fully independent suspension. What does that have to do with anything?

Well, I cover the relationship between off-roading and reliability in our Land Rover reliability article. Basically, you can’t be 50+ miles from civilization on a rocky trail and get stuck, or break something.

Quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust a new Jeep 50+ miles from civilization. The trails we have here in Arizona require a pretty capable rig, and independent suspension just doesn’t cut it.

The 3.6L and 3.8L Pentastar engine are good little engines. But, from the information I’ve gathered on Forums, the 3.6L is leaps and bounds better in both reliability and performance.

JD Power Associates

The 2013 Wrangler has an overall dependability rating of 2/5, whilst the 2013 Grand Cherokee has a dependability rating of 3/5. So, while the reliability of the Grand Cherokee is actually average.

The Wrangler is slightly below average, but is it as bad as something like a Land Rover? Well yes actually, it is nearly as unreliable as a Land Rover according to J.D. Power’s dependability study.

Honestly when I saw that 2/5 rating for the Wrangler I was fairly surprised. I have never heard anything bad about them personally. Maybe JK Wrangler owners won’t admit they bought an unreliable $40k Jeep? Maybe I don’t have enough friends with newer Jeeps? After all, most of my friends drive XJ Cherokees.

From what I can gather most of the reliability issues come from the drivetrain. Just like I said earlier, its the little things on the engine that will make a vehicle reliable or not.

Reliability rating source: USNEWS

So Are They Reliable?

As you might of figured out by now, the answer yes and no. Older Jeeps are incredibly reliable vehicles. But, its nearly impossible for Jeep to match the reliability of the 4.0L. It’s literally based off of a tractor motor, and its designed to run forever in any conditions.

The newer Jeep’s on the other hand aren’t so reliable. Strangely enough you’ll never hear a Jeep owner complaining about the reliability.

Are Jeeps Reliable?

According to this chart, the Jeep brand on average is 1 problem less per 100 cars than Land Rover. That’s surprisingly bad. Time will tell whether or not Fiat will increase or decrease the brand’s reliability. But, I feel pretty confident when I say that Fiat won’t screw up the Jeep brand.

So, if you were looking to buy a brand new Jeep, don’t. As a Jeep enthusiast and owner, it pains me to say this, but don’t buy a new Jeep unless you are willing to deal with the unreliability.

Bryce Cleveland

Bryce is a die hard car fanatic. When he's not working on his Jeep Cherokee, he's beating it up in the desert. He started Dust Runners Automotive Journal in 2014 and continues to write content for it as much as possible.

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8 Responses

  1. Alejandro Gonzalez says:

    Would a 2007 wrangler still be unreliable?

    • Ashley says:

      My 2007 has cost me over $10k in repairs since I got in 2011… there is CONSTANTLY something wrong with it. I love it, but I’m trading it in, because I can’t keep up with the repairs, even when I do a good portion of them myself to cut on costs.

  2. John Lageyre says:

    This was honest and super helpful. Not just pure hatred or love to the extremes. Thank you.

  3. PotAto Potato says:

    If you have a chance to respond, much appreciated.

    If you were in the market for an SUV today, what would you consider? My most important factors are long term reliability and cost of ownership.

    Although I love the look of most Jeep models (with the exception of the weird slant eyed model), I’m not keen on their less than stellar reliability in Consumer Reports.

    I’m looking for something very capable in heavy snow along with very occasional off roading (gravel/dirt roads). Likely nothing hardcore like you do.

    I’m thinking either Subaru Forester (4 cyl.), or Toyota 4Runner (V6) Although the Toyota is much more expensive.
    I’m not interested in CRV/Rav4/CX5 or similar.

    • Nathan says:

      Get the Toyota. It doesn’t use a CVT transmission and has a solid rear axle, and more aftermarket support than a Forester.

  4. Nathan says:

    How did you blow up a 1UZ???

  5. CC says:

    Great article- clear and to the point. Thank you!

  6. Bgf says:

    Dear dr dinglenuts

    Jeep bad, 4Runner good

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