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.).
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 its 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 actual problem is. However, it was very reliable mechanically, but the poor electrical system ultimately held it back.
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.
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. My last one was at 215k miles, and I took it wheeling nearly every weekend, and it kept chugging along just fine!
My Personal Jeep’s 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 the two Jeeps I’ve ever owned are the only vehicles that have lasted over a year without exploding. My first vehicle was a 93 Cherokee, and my last vehicle was a 92 Cherokee. Literally, everything else I ever owned had some sort of detrimental issue that forced me to get rid of it. Of course, my current vehicle is super reliable, but that’s because it has 25k miles and a warranty.
My $1,000 Jeeps seemed to take literally everything I could throw at them. From daily driving to road trips, to light prerunning, to trail riding. The current owner of my last Jeep takes it out wheeling almost every weekend and it’s been super reliable for him too.
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 IFS is arguably weaker, especially when you’re out on some rough trails. This leaves IFS Jeeps more vulnerable to breaking, and therefore being less reliable. However, with modern IFS systems, this is hardly the case anymore.
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. Also in my experience as a lube technician, I have found that the 3.6L Pentastar engine is pretty darn reliable. That engine comes in a massive variety of automobiles and they almost always seem to be running in tip-top shape regardless of mileage. The 3.8L Jeeps, on the other hand, aren’t always running tip-top.
But, not all modern Jeeps are reliable. The current Cherokee and Grand Cherokee are the least reliable vehicles in Jeep’s entire history. Seriously, poke around on any Cherokee/Grand Cherokee forum and you’ll find thousands of threads regarding issues with those SUVs. Many shops won’t even work on them anymore because they’re so riddled with insane issues.
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. Which is really interesting considering customers are reporting horrid reliability with the Grand Cherokee.
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. Jeep, Dodge, Ram, and Chrysler are all in the top 10 least reliable vehicles in the US.
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.
Reliability rating source: USNEWS
So Are They Reliable?
As you might have figured out by now, the answer yes and no. Older Jeeps are incredibly reliable vehicles. But, it’s 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 Jeeps, on the other hand, aren’t so reliable. Strangely enough, you’ll never hear a Jeep owner complaining about the reliability. Alteast I’ve never met a Jeep owner in person who openly complained about its reliability. But, Jeep forums are full of people dealing with poor reliability.
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.