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It’s a Jeep Thing. You Wouldn’t Understand.

2021 is a big year for the Wrangler. It is introducing its first ever hybrid Wrangler, the Wrangler 4xe, and it is facing new and dangerous competition from the revival of the Ford Bronco. Jeep responded to this new challenge by making very few changes to the Wrangler for 2021. This might seem surprising given that the 2020 Wrangler ranked as one of the top 3 least reliable vehicles in a Consumer Reports reliability study. However, Jeep afficionados know the magic trick that Jeep appears to pull off in the Wrangler. Despite its low ratings, numerous recalls and dubious safety ratings, the Wrangler is still the most profitable division of FCA worldwide. The Wrangler has sold over 190,000 units annually since 2015 and is regularly one of the top selling midsize SUVs in the US. 2018 was its best sales year on record.

The 2021 model was eagerly anticipated by Wrangler fans but there is not much to get excited about. It is available in the same trims as 2020 – basic Sports, luxury Sahara, and off-roading Rubicon. The Sahara or the Rubicon may be the Wrangler that you think you are getting when you set your adventurous heart on a Wrangler. With their enhanced off-roading ability and premium interior features, they are undoubtedly superior to the Sport but at a price. (The starting price for each is almost $39,000.) The basic Wrangler Sport is likely not the vehicle that you think you are buying. Were you expecting air-conditioning? Electric windows? Automatic braking system? General comfort? None are included in the base model Wrangler Sport. Wrangler enthusiasts like to describe it as infinitely customizable but fail to mention that customization is necessary just to get features that are considered basic in other vehicles. All of these optional extras quickly add up to increase an already high starting price of $28,295.

You’re right. We don’t understand.

The Wrangler has a loyal following – a clan that tends to wave at each other when they pass on the road, and even gathers across the nation at Wrangler events and Jeep Jamborees. Wrangler buyers are drawn to its instantly recognizable styling, rugged look and the promise of adventure. It is one of the few vehicles that markets itself on the premise that if you buy this vehicle, you are a risk-taker but do you really know the risks you are taking when you get behind the wheel of a Wrangler?

Let’s start with the recalls. The 2020 Wrangler has already had 3 recalls. The 2019 model was subject to 4 recalls and 2 separate investigations (into weld deficiencies) by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2018 model had a whopping 10 recalls and 4 investigations by the NHTSA. Investigations into weld deficiencies and airbag issues in the 2018 Wrangler are still open, while an investigation into fracturing seat belt buckles led to a recall and continued monitoring by the NHTSA. The recalls on the 2018-2020 models cover everything from cracking rooftops and faulty door latches to overheating clutch pressure plates and loss of steering. It is worth remembering that recalls are not used for minor issues but only for failure to meet a federal standard or safety related defects.

The Wrangler’s safety rating is only marginal according to recent tests by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). The low rating was mostly due to the rollover risk in the Wrangler. The Wrangler was the first vehicle ever to flip during this IIHS testing, … and it did it twice. The IIHS noted that “(t)his is a particular concern in the Wrangler, which has a roof and doors that can be removed, … and lacks side curtain airbags designed to deploy in a rollover to keep occupants inside.” Safety testing by the NHTSA had similar findings (only 3/5 Rollover Rating).

Let’s not forget the infamous death wobble. The death wobble is a violent shaking of the steering after hitting a bump in the road, so violent that other drivers can see it and should steer clear. It has become so synonymous with the Jeep Wrangler that many owners just accept it as a consequence of the solid front axle design. After years of complaints and lawsuits, Jeep announced a fix for the death wobble (a steering damper or stabilizer) in 2019. However, based on the continuing complaints, including a class action lawsuit, the death wobble still survives.

Then there are the leaks. The removable top is unique to the Wrangler (until the Ford Bronco is released) and with it come the leaks. Wrangler owner forums are dominated by complaints about leaking round the doors, the pillars, and the windshield, resulting in wet and moldy floorboards. The roof also is known for cracking and, even when it works perfectly, it is cumbersome and makes tailgate access difficult. Somehow, Wrangler manages to shrug all of this off and remind buyers of their desire to be rugged and close to nature…really close.

The Wrangler really is designed for people who like to take risks and experience the unexpected. It is just that the risks to your personal safety (and your wallet) are much higher than you might have thought, and those unexpected experiences are frequent trips to your dealer.

If you are experiencing issues with your Wrangler, you have rights under the law. Call us at Timothy Abeel & Associates, or contact us via our website for a free case review.

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