Our Jeep Wrangler
2013 4-door auto 3.6
WE ARE HERE
Love it or hate it the Jeep is something everyone likes to talk about. Travelling round Oz we spoke to those who hate them, want one, actually have one, or had one and it broke. It certainly helped us stand out from the crowd and being bright orange no-one could forget us.
The Wrangler is made for the off-road enthusiasts who specifically like to take their vehicle off road and be up close to the elements. It’s designed to be an open top 4×4 with a simple and effective solid axle 4×4 system and can accommodate four people. I sometimes use the words ‘big toy’ when describing the Jeep. It wasn’t until the JK model that a 4 door became available which turned a small toy into a more usable one. If you compare it with other 4×4’s (as you would normally compare vehicles) no one would ever pick the Jeep. However, their difference can make them appealing if you’re prepared to step out from the norm. Many people have the view that ‘Land Cruisers are the best thing ever invented, how could anyone travel Oz in something other than a Land Cruiser and everyone who doesn’t have Toyota tattooed on their body is inferior’. There is certainly an argument for this if your priority is reliability and dealer support, but is that your priority?
We are a testament to the Jeep doing exactly what it states on the box; fun and capable. Most people touring, travelling, and camping Oz have similar modifications to their vehicle as we have done. The basic but effective ARB lift and bull-bar, a winch, UHF radio, and good all-terrain tyres. This list is all most people need regardless of what vehicle they have. The modifications that come after are more vehicle specific and application specific, this is were the strengths and weaknesses of your vehicle may be exposed. Twin cab Utes have become more popular than beer due to them being a jack of all trades, the strengths list is long and the weakness list short. The Jeep on the other hand is the opposite. It does a couple of things really well and you either modify or put up with the rest.
Here’s a list of our modifications:
- ARB bull-bar with winch
- ARB old man emu 50mm suspension lift
- AEV Geometry correction brackets front and rear
- Mopar tube steel rear bumper and tow bar
- Mopar snorkel
- Airbag man rear helper air bags
- LRA long range aux fuel tank 60L
- Rhino rack backbone mounts custom bars
- Extended diff breathers
- Hema HX1 and GME UHF
- Redarc Towpro Elite
- BFG all terrain 265/65/18
Let’s start with the ‘really well section’ because that’s what it’s all about. These things are made to go off-road and they shine when doing so. Comparing off-road vehicles with a similar mods list to above, and here’s what the Jeep does better. Angles, especially approach and departure. Better wheel articulation particularly in the front end where others struggle. As well as considerably less weight and a great off-road traction control. If your priority is hard off-road then the Jeep could be for you. Obviously other trucks with considerable money spent on them will be better off road, but any improvements you do to other vehicles can also be done on the Jeep.
There is also the case of ‘The Jeep will break in the first five minutes’ and we will talk more about this later…
There’s a long weakness list for the Jeep for touring Australia, none of them game changers but all of them need to be considered. Due to such a focus on off-road it is not the best on road, and there are a few reasons for this. One of the major items is the suspension, in simple terms it can be bumpy, wobble from side to side and it can wander a bit on the road. This can make it tiring to drive requiring constant input. I believe the key to this is a quality complete suspension solution, I would stay away from adding bits a pieces as much as possible and also stay away from big lifts and changing too many components. Don’t get me wrong, a big Jeep can be set up right, but it requires a lot of money and isn’t needed for touring. Make sure everything is in great condition especially steering components if your steering isn’t the best. If you have changed parts up front, double check all the alignment is inside specs. We found the seats to be really comfortable which makes up for some of the uncomfortable suspension.
People always ask about fuel economy. We are running the JK 3.6 v6 petrol and 5 speed auto as this is the best engine and gearbox combination, ask Jeep people if you think otherwise. The diesel can be ok but is technically old, some have had trip ending failures, they’re expensive to maintain, and don’t be fooled in thinking you’re going to get great fuel economy. Aerodynamically the Jeep is terrible. From my experience this has the biggest impact on fuel. Unfortunately this is not easy to fix but can be minimised. The easiest way being dropping your speed. Remember we are towing, and hardly ever go over 100kph, most of the time 90ish. If it’s a middle of nowhere type road why not do 80, its called holidays! Fuel is the most expensive part of the trip. We also have a custom slim roof rack with only a shovel up there. Adding big items to any roof is like adding a parachute; the petrol engine has enough torque but not diesel torque so you will notice it. This gives you room up there for emergencies, maybe we have to take someone else’s gear or put a wheel and tyre up there. Something else to remember is the higher your Jeep is lifted, and the bigger tyres you run, the more fuel you will use.
Ok, enough excuses! How much do we use? Well, the Jeep weighs around 2.5 tonne and the Tvan is 1.4 tonne. On the highway we use around the 15L per 100km mark, which I’m happy with. It can slip into the 14’s with a tail wind and the 16’s with a head wind. Once you hit the dirt it’s generally 16’s, and in low range it only increases. With days of low range expect to see 20’s. Everyone has their own opinion of fuel economy and there are plenty of factors. If you were doing the same thing with a Ford Ranger don’t expect 10’s, the diesel Patrol we travelled with for some time was not towing but used a similar amount of fuel. Another factor, in 2019 at least, is unleaded fuel is generally cheaper than diesel in most areas.
The next elephant in the room is space and weight. With those wheel flares on the outside the Jeep looks big, however, on the inside that is not the case. It’s small and really doesn’t give you any more room than a Subaru Forester. It also doesn’t give you that much more weight to work with than the Subaru. You know those Jeeps you see, not towing but with full roof racks, full luggage area, plate steel bumpers, tyre carries, rock sliders, huge tyres, and every other accessory? Well unless they have an engineers certificate that includes GVM and axle upgrade, which is not likely, they are illegal. Besides reliability this is the biggest thing that turns people off touring with the Jeep. You have to tow or leave most of it at home. After all, it is not a converted farm truck, it’s a purpose built off road vehicle. I suggest learning how to pack light, as we found out all that weight saving will give you the edge off road.
Dust has been a small issue, some 4WD seal better than others. As the Jeep is designed to be open top, the sealing isn’t great. You don’t really notice until you drive for days on dusty roads and a layer starts forming on everything inside. I reckon the rear tailgate and lifting window is where most of it comes from, but it’s also come to light that our Jeep is missing a small seal in the rear door frame too.
Lastly, reliability. This is subjective and everyone has heard or seen something different. After 45,000km towing on and off road I’m not sure it’s any less reliable than some other 4×4’s. That said, it’s certainly not as reliable as some of the Toyotas. I think with the Wrangler, they are getting better and better. This 3.6 v6 5 speed auto is a step in the right direction. Build quality has been the source of an electrical issue for us, and we also had an engine oil cooler failure. I certainly have come to trust it, but you have to be aware of its shortcomings. It never let us down when we were off the grid and we have spent a lot of time out there. Not that we personally had any issues, but the axles are a common concern. They’re not Nissan patrol axles, but they’re light duty to suit the vehicle. I would not recommend overloading the Jeep or beating on it like you might some of the bigger trucks. Something else to mention is that because Jeeps are so easy to modify, people do go overboard especially with suspension. If not done complete or correctly this can be the source of many failures. Bigger tyres also place bigger loads on all these components.
Another bit of advice that is very important on the Jeep Wrangler, especially when towing; don’t put big spot lights in front of the grill. Don’t put anything there. Wranglers have high under bonnet temperatures and you need to have the grill as open as possible. There is a large transmission cooler in front of the radiator and you want this to be working as best it can.
Due to the lack of service and parts availability from Jeep Australia it would be handy to have some mechanical and electrical knowledge. As a Jeep owner you will become familiar with after market Jeep specialists. These are the places that can help you. If you are the type of tourer who has no idea about cars and takes it back to the dealer when stuff goes wrong, the Jeep might not be for you. Here’s an example: Our oil cooler issue was quickly sorted once I ordered the part from an after market Jeep specialist in Melbourne and fitted it myself. Jeep Aus had a back order on that part from the US. If you had taken your Jeep to the dealer, you would need to buy a house nearby as it would take that long to get repaired.
Over the course of our trip the Jeep has become part of what makes it so much fun. Whether people love or hate the Jeep after seeing it tow off-road, you have to respect what it was made for. After using and abusing it for so long we have come to realise how compromised other vehicles are off road. Yeah it can’t carry that much but all you really need is a place to sleep and a fridge full of food and you’ll still have a great time. The 4×4 industry has come up with all these “must have” accessories to make a profit, and the truth is you don’t need half of it.
Until our next update - see you on / off the road 😉
Cassie and Micky