I've been lurking here for a few weeks now trying to soak up all I can about life with a Jeep, and I've got to say it looks pretty good. Before I drop $8 or 9k on a nice TJ, though, I've got a few questions and I was hoping some of you could help me out.
For reference to the following questions, what I'm looking for is a bone stock (read: NOT LIFTED) TJ with a 2.5L or 4.0 with a 5spd, A/C, and soft top, with probably about 80-120K on the odometer. I'm thinking probably a '97-'03 model to save money.
1. Could I expect maybe 20+ mpg with a light foot and mostly highway driving? If I'm spending that much on a vehicle, especially one as cool as a Wrangler, I'd like to make it my daily driver without going bankrupt. However, I have a 40 mile round trip commute 5 days a week (about 80% at 55-65 on hilly interstate without much traffic). I've already got an old beater POS VW Golf that's geared way too high, has a bad catalytic converter, alignment probs, and should only get 28 mpg highway according to the EPA, yet I consistently manage 35mpg overall by driving SLOW, coasting down hills, and taking it easy on the acceleration. Doing the same things in a Wrangler, is it reasonable to expect the same 25% or so over EPA? I've heard stories of people averaging 25-27 mpg before with 2.5Ls and light feet, and my mom swears the old i6 CJ-5 my parents had in the late 70s was great on gas. She spent most of her time in the passenger seat, though...
2. How reliable are they as daily drivers? I know the 4.0s are bulletproof and last forever, but how are the clutches, suspension, and electrical components? The VW also has a bulletproof engine (13 years, 223,000 miles and counting), but everything else is crap and I'm tired of having to replace some $50 part every other month.
3. How high are the maintenance costs? This will also be my first 4X4 and I understand that there is a lot more maintenance involved for the suspension and drivetrain, but is it that hard or costly? I hear that Wranglers are very easy to work on, but that usually comes from people talking about lifts, soundbars, and other mods. How about the stuff I need to keep it running? Are parts/fluids expensive? How hard is it to fix problems with the electrical system, transfer case, etc and how often will I need to climb under the Jeep just for basic maintenance? If I'm comfortable doing minor repairs at home, how often should I expect to take it to a mechanic for bigger stuff?
4. Just how hard are the TJ tops and doors to get off and on? Mom says the old CJ's top and doors were such a bitch to get off and on that they almost never tried. When I get mine (wanted one for YEARS) I plan to cruise with the top and doors off as much possible! Could I do that without worrying about getting stuck in the middle of a storm swearing at the sky for an hour as I wrestle with it?
I guess I could keep the VW for a commuter/beater and mostly drive the Jeep on the weekends, in bad weather, or as a 2nd car, but my current car is a catastrophic repair waiting to happen that already needs about $1000 in maintenance on the cooling system, exhaust, and suspension. I'd have to drive it for 2 years with no probs at all--not likely--just to break even on the gas savings.
Anyway, I'd appreciate some feedback here. Thanks!
The soft top can be a slightpain in the ass to put up and down but isn't to bad. Go for the 4.0 and they are easy to work on if you know somthing and are machanical. There reliable if maintained.
flowmaster40,hpd30 with aussie locker,currie upper joints,4.88's, lca skids,chromo shafts,vanco brakes,d35 with super 35 and arb locker,re 4.5" springs,currie arms,re front uppers,Re shocks in back,walkerevens shocks up front, Re track bars with currie jj joints,anti rock,ss brake lines,re rear sway bar links,jks 1.25" bl and mml,bfg 35x12.5 km2's,craiger soft 8's,ome steering stabilizer,currie hd steering,rockmen front bumper,emp tank skid,lots more too.
1. 20+ mpg in a bone stock jeep is doable but expect something from 16-19 mpg. Jeeps are not known for their aerodynamics, and gas mileage but 40 miles a day you would probably use 1 tank a week
2. They're just as reliable as any other car. The trick is finding one that hasn't been beat on by the previous owner.
3. Maintenance costs aren't that bad but will vary with the amount of wheelin' you might be doing. One thing to keep in mind test drive any jeep you're thinking of buying and look to see if there is any wobble between 45-55 mph. That can lead to or be an indication of possible death wobble which can be pricey to fix
4. doors and top can be taken off in less than 1/2 an hour by one person.
When you look at any jeep, crawl under and look for any signs of hard wheelin abuse.
If you plan to start taking it offroad and have visions of big tires some day, the following is more important than you can imagine at this early point... insure the rear axle is a Dana 44. Jeeps come standard with a Dana 35c with a Dana 44 being an extra-cost upgrade. The difference being that the Dana 44 is a MUCH stronger axle, strong enough to install big tires and a locker on. The Dana 35c is not strong enough and you'll find that it is breakage prone with bigger tires, especially if you install a locker which helps when offroading on a tough trail.
A used Wrangler TJ likely won't cost a dime more with a Dana 44 than it would with a Dana 35c. But if you go to buy a Dana 44 later on to install, it'll cost you an extra $800-1000. It's far better to get it now than have to worry about it later.
You can tell a Dana 35c from a Dana 44 (both are rear axles) by looking at the rear differential cover. A Dana 35c's cover is perfectly oval shaped and it has a black plastic snap in cover for the lubricant fill hole. The Dana 44's differential cover is more angular, kind of like a Washington Delicious Apple laying on its side, together with a threaded steel bolt in the lubricant fill hole.
Remember that having a different opinion doesn't also require one to be a jerk when expressing it.
The first thing I discovered about my jeep is how damn easy it is to work on. Its vastly simple. Takes about a 45 min to an hour to change the oil, plugs, cap, and rotor. Fluids are all easy. I use synthetic in everything so its a tad bit expensive.
Also, not one problem, but some shot swaybar endlink bushing, but I'll just wait and get disconnects.
The 2.5 is a bit of a dog, but throwing on a 4.0 T.B. and E-Fan in replacement of the mechanical should make it more than bearable and I enjoy it very much without having gotten these mods done yet. The 4.0 is great, but I've heard more reports of oil leaks with it.
I do a 34 mile round trip to work 5 days a week. Its stop and go to two big bridges to highway and back to stop and go. I spend 35-40 dollars a week on gas but am good at avoiding unnecessary driving and I have a light foot.
The AX-5 backs the 2.5 and is far from an engineering marvel, but with closer to stock tires, good fluid, and a light foot it should go awhile. The AX-15 that backs the 4.0 is mostly bulletproof.
Also, the soft top is a breeze to put up and down, and the doors take about two minutes if you leave the nuts off.
Overall its the best car I've ever driven or driven in. It makes a good dd and a great hobby. Best of luck with the search.
Rotting piece of junk with some bling in the rear axle.
They are a BREEZE to work on! I did an engine swap in my 97 TJ and it only took 3 days. This is probably because I had never done something like that before. When I first started I had about zilch mechanical knowledge but through talking with the people on boards like this, friends, and the nice people at Advanced Auto Parts I've been able to figure out most of the in's and out's of repairs. And the parts are easy to find and not too expensive (depending on what your fixing that is). The top is also a breeze. I'd say 5 minutes max to put it up and even quicker once you get familiar with it. I've got an 01 with the 4.0 now, the 97 had the 2.5. From my personal preference I'd say go with the 4.0. I only drive about 6 blocks to work every day so my version of gas is slightly askewed.
"Malfunction is the mother of modification"
'01 TJ Sport
2" Teraflex BB
FourReal front and rear bumpers
KC Windsheild light mounts w/ lights (lights aren't KC)
Headlight and Taillight guards