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cicelyak 02-01-2010 07:42 PM

Questions before I buy a Wrangler
I'd like to buy a Wrangler. I'd really love a new JK but I don't think I can afford that yet.

In the mean time, I hope I can pick up a TJ with less than 80k miles for less than $12k. Does that sound reasonable?

I've never owned a Wrangler and I don't know anybody who owns a Wrangler. So, I have some questions. :)

First, I think I'd like a hard top for those cold Colorado winters. The defroster on the back window would be nice. I can still remove the hard top in the summer, right? Can I replace the hard top with a rag top or vice-versa? Or if I have a hard top, am I stuck with a hard top?

I understand that the new JK is the first model with power windows and locks. Is this true?

I understand the radio in TJ's prior to 2003 are easier to upgrade because of the rectangular dash bezel instead of a rounded dash bezel. Is this true? Has anyone succeeded in installing a newer JK radio with CD/MP3 and Aux-in in the older TJ? Are the cutouts the same size?

A couple questions about the back seat -- did any of the TJ's have head rests in the back seat? I don't like the idea of an adult riding in the back without a head rest. Seems like a lot of potential for a neck injury in the event of an accident. Does the back seat flip up like on the newer JK for more trunk space?

Do all of the TJ's have airbags? Driver and passenger?

I guess that's about it. I'm sorry if these are too novice. Thanks for your patience! :)

4Jeepn 02-01-2010 07:56 PM

You can switch back between hard and soft tops
All TJ"s and both driver and passenger airbags
The rear seat does not have head rests. It does fold forward and if need can be taken out
Not sure on the radio
you can get aftermarket power windows if your into that sort of thing

T-BONE N BIXBY 02-01-2010 08:05 PM

I really don't think there is any room for head rests in the back seat if adults are back there!! LOL
I have an 02 TJ with driver/passenger air bags. Don't know when they started them though.
You can get an extremely nice TJ for around can actually get a very nice TJ and have a few thousands for mods and upgrades.
You can interchange hardtops and soft tops as long as you have the hardware. I prefer the hardtop because they are much quieter on the highway and actually feels like it's a permanent enclosure. It takes at least 2 people to remove and put on unless you have a hoist for it. Soft tops are much more convenient though when it comes to a sudden rain storm or the sun goes down and it gets pretty cool.
Just my two pennies......good luck

gabeinaz 02-01-2010 08:24 PM

Mines '97 w/ airbags on both sides.
Either bezel (round or rectangular) has install kits available, the rectangular ones look better w/ an aftermarket stereo, though (humble opinion).
And you'd be better off getting a nice aftermarket unit vs. trying to retrofit a JK headunit ... if I understood you correctly.
Soft tops do a surprising job of keeping heat in, esp. with the screaming heaters these things have, but they're loud at speed.
You don't want power windows in a Jeep....KISS

burton160w 02-01-2010 08:24 PM

:wavey: welcome!

1) Absolutely a reasonable price, look into 2003-2005 and I think you'll come across something you like. Make sure it's a Sport, X, Sahara, or Rubicon (Rubicon is the ultimate choice) with a 4.0L. With that money there is no reason to skimp.

2) You can remove the hardtop, it takes two people because the hardtop is awkward. Removal is a few bolts and lift up. You can also get a soft top, with a typical Craigslist price running about $250. Look around junkyards and you can score some deals!

3) Yes. You won't even miss 'em on the TJ. There are aftermarket kits for power locks and windows, but honestly, it's not a huge concern, at least for me.

4) Yea, they're somewhat easier to upgrade on the 97-2002, however, there is a simple adapter available for the 2003+ that places like Crutchfield provides, so it's not a big deal. No idea about the JK in a TJ, but aftermarket radios have more functions, so wouldn't worry about it or bother.

5) No headrests in any model, however, Bestop makes the TrailMax II backseats that have an integrated headrest (you're welcome Geoff). The backseat does flip up and out of the way just like the JK, and backseat removal is even easier.

6) I believe all of the TJ's do have passenger and driver airbags. From 99+ they integrated a Passenger Airbag disarm in the console.

Welcome again!

billyb 02-01-2010 10:14 PM

Bought my 2000 Sahara in Aug 09 with both tops, 62000 miles, in your price range. Switching tops isn't hard, but finding instructions for what goes and what stays when you switch tops isn't always obvious, IMHO. Of course, when in doubt, ask the good people here (thanks again).

Just put a Kenwood head and put 6.5" Kenwoods in the soundbar and they sound awesome. Put the speakers in first and they sounded good, but they sound fantastic with the better head pushing them. Don't really need power windows or locks, it's so narrow, I just reach across :).

cicelyak 02-01-2010 11:35 PM

Thanks, everybody! I'm really pumped. :)

PaulRevere1991 02-02-2010 01:12 AM

i think TJ saharas had power locks and windows

burton160w 02-02-2010 09:07 AM


Originally Posted by PaulRevere1991 (Post 536357)
i think TJ saharas had power locks and windows

Nope, JK's were the first to have 'em standard. However, there have been a few times where I've found "OEM kits" online, though how genuine I don't know (or think so).

There's also this

Electric-Life LK0110122 - Electric-Life 2 Door Power Door Lock Kit for 07-10 Jeep® Wrangler JK 2 Door - Quadratec

But honestly, power windows and power locks in a Jeep = :9lame:

cicelyak 02-02-2010 09:45 AM

All right -- Here's what I've decided:

1997 to 2002 (TJ)
- hopefully blue or green

Must have...
- manual transmission
- air conditioning
- cruise control
- hard top
- less than 70k miles

Is there anything else I should look for?

Someone suggested the X, Sahara, or Rubicon trim packages. I don't really care for the Sahara graphics though. Someone else suggested the 4.0L engine. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

p.s. This forum is great

4Jeepn 02-02-2010 09:49 AM

Get the 4.0L
If you even think you will take it off-road it might be wise to look for the stronger rear dana 44 axle, it has a metal fill plug vs a round plastic plug on the dana 35.

2000 and up models don't suffer from the exhaust manifold crack issue and the nv3350 5spd came out in that year as well, nothing wrong with the ax15 in prior years though.

PaulRevere1991 02-02-2010 03:29 PM

x2 on the 4.0

the rubicon is the top of the line model with many factory add-ons that you may want to get later if you find a sahara or sport, with 12g you should be able to find a decent rubicon.

Mr. WOT 02-02-2010 03:38 PM

Did you say blue?!?! I have a 99 Blue 4.0 TJ. I love it. Where in Colorado you at? I'm up in Westminster.


baja 02-02-2010 03:46 PM

That blue is sharp.Black on blue is awesome unless its the color of a new smack down!

Mr. WOT 02-02-2010 03:52 PM

Blue on black smackdown! Yea, I got lucky with this one, I don't see them much and it's my favorite color. This pic is from last Saturday at Slaughterhouse Gulch.

burton160w 02-02-2010 03:54 PM


Originally Posted by cicelyak (Post 536457)
All right -- Here's what I've decided:

1997 to 2002 (TJ)
- hopefully blue or green

Must have...
- manual transmission
- air conditioning
- cruise control
- hard top
- less than 70k miles

Is there anything else I should look for?

Someone suggested the X, Sahara, or Rubicon trim packages. I don't really care for the Sahara graphics though. Someone else suggested the 4.0L engine. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

p.s. This forum is great

Sounds awesome, and easily manageable for under 12k. The mileage might be slightly tougher since people do love to hold onto these cars. But check out,,, and ebay and you'll find a great deal I'm sure.

Here's the packages in order of preference

SE - Base 4cyl. model, with most everything being an option so it varies
X - Base 6cyl. model, a step between SE/Sport with most extras as options
Sport - 6cyl. model with some more standard features, typically a/c, and really most of what the X comes with
Sahara - 6cyl. model with "Sahara" off-road package, usually a D44 axle and some extras, but it's more a cosmetic thing
Rubicon - 6cyl SUPREME with upgraded suspension, D44, 16" wheels, well-suited to go off-road, but can be overkill in some cases

The Unlimited and Unlimited Rubicon are extended wheel-base versions that come with the D44 axle, but you do pay a premium, and not all modifications will be compatible (most are though)

What I would look for is a 1999-2002 4.0L if you're looking to save some money and put some $$$ towards your own modifications. If you're going to be doing some rock crawling, then a D44 axle should be a definite. X's and Sport's do sometimes come with 'em, but it's a hit or miss search. Just look underneath the rear at the "pumpkin" and see if the fill cap is metal or rubber. Metal is the D44. The reason I wouldn't pick a 97 or 98 is just that 99 had an interior revision and the HVAC controls are a little cleaner. If you're like me and do mostly sand or light-mudding, then a D35 will get you through the day. Don't believe ALL the hype. Just don't plan on lifting it higher then 33" tires.

Manual transmission-wise, make sure to test it out on the roads and the highway before purchase. Both the ax15 and the nv3350 are solid transmissions, but they shift like truck transmissions, so just recognize some bumps and grinds at first are common, but you adjust to it. :punk:

Your final debate will be on door/roof styles. Do you want a hardtop/softop or hard doors/half doors/or soft doors? Honestly, it's a preference thing, but realize that in the winter the soft top can get cold, the zippers can become detached, and the top will need to be replaced every 5 years (a $200 job). But in the summer, the hardtop can't be folded down to avoid the weather if that's your concern. Honestly, your best bet is to pick up a hardtop, and then resell it because they're worth a ton of money, and finding a replacement softop complete is about $250 to $300 with some hunting.

Cosmetically, look for rust on the frame. Rust on the body. Damage, bending, repairs, etc. Drive it on the road. Drive it on the highway to check for severe shaking or vibration (a sign of frame damage). Don't worry about scuffs, fading, paint chipping since they're all just battle wounds and easily fixable. If you find one with faded fenders (the grey pieces on the sides), it's a $5 rattle can job to get it back looking fresh. Same with the hardtops.

The reason most of us are so nice about helping is simply a selfish part of us that just wants to talk and talk about our cars.

It's funny though. When I had my Cougar, I hated seeing others with Cougars. When I had my Mustang, I hated seeing other Mustangs on the road. Now that I have my Jeep, I notice and appreciate every single Jeep on the road, and gotta get my :wavey: on.

Kazlam 02-02-2010 04:23 PM

1 Attachment(s)

Originally Posted by Mr. WOT (Post 536817)
Did you say blue?!?! I have a 99 Blue 4.0 TJ. I love it. Where in Colorado you at? I'm up in Westminster.


green is a nice color, too... im in Aurora

this was before my lift but the color is nice

CMEvans79 02-02-2010 04:33 PM

I just got my 99 TJ back in Sept 09 for right around your price range w/ hard and soft top. In some parts of the country because of the cash for clunkers program they are hard to find... good luck and welcome to the forum.

Mr. WOT 02-02-2010 04:53 PM

Should get up and wheel with us sometime.

03 RUBI 02-03-2010 12:34 AM

To burton160w: I hope you meant to say that the DRAIN PLUG on a d44 is metal not the FILL PLUG. Per post

burton160w 02-03-2010 03:54 AM


Originally Posted by 03 RUBI (Post 537217)
To burton160w: I hope you meant to say that the DRAIN PLUG on a d44 is metal not the FILL PLUG. Per post

:confused: wait, isn't that where you're supposed to put in your transmission fluid?


actually, that's a fill plug not a drain plug. To drain it, ya crack that fill plug, unscrew the diff cover with a bucket underneath and let her drain out.

cicelyak 02-03-2010 12:02 PM

Wow, thanks for all the great info! This is really helpful.

I think I'm gonna pull the trigger in the middle of April. :)

I'm in Glendale. Do we have Jeep meet up groups like the Land Rover folks have?

AllJackedUp 02-03-2010 12:22 PM

I lived in Littleton for years and had a 2003 Sahara.... Whatever you do, go with a 4.0L and not the 2.5L! With the mountain altitiude the 2.5L wouldn't have enough power to jerk a sick whore off a pisspot! (You lose about 2% HP for every 1,000 feet in altitude).

03 RUBI 02-04-2010 08:01 PM

burton160w: You can put whatever you want wherever you want. I was just trying to correct an error so that the newb would have the correct info.

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