Aim for hard go­ing

Built to go any­where, the Wran­gler has a trade-off for tough­ness — there is an abid­ing query over re­li­a­bil­ity

Herald Sun - Motoring - - USED CAR -

NEW

When it comes to off-road ve­hi­cles there is no more iconic brand than Jeep. In WWII, the go-any­where Jeep was the workhorse of the Amer­i­can army and its rep­u­ta­tion for go any­where tough­ness en­dured when civil­ian ver­sions ar­rived.

To­day’s Wran­gler typ­i­fies this, with its rough, tough good looks dom­i­nated by the fa­mous slat­ted grille. It also has had to move with the times, and the JK se­ries that ar­rived in 2007 came with down­home com­forts wartime sol­diers could never have imag­ined.

It’s still a proper off-roader, able to tackle the rough­est and tough­est places you could imag­ine. It will climb seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble hills, clam­ber over rocks and boul­ders, and cross rivers with im­pres­sive ease.

The JK main­tained the twodoor body style of pre­de­ces­sors but added a longer wheel­base four-door Un­lim­ited vari­ant.

Each came with ei­ther a soft­top for a real open-air bush ex­pe­ri­ence, or a hard­top that was more prac­ti­cal for ev­ery­day use. Spec­i­fi­ca­tion started with the Sport, then came the Rene­gade and the range­top­ping Ru­bi­con.

En­gine op­tions were a 3.8litre V6 and a 2.8-litre four­cylin­der turbo diesel. For trans­mis­sions, there were a man­ual six-speeder (avail­able with both en­gines), a four-speed auto for the V6 and a five-speed auto for the diesel.

Nat­u­rally the Wran­gler had four-wheel drive, with high and low-range, and a full-size spare. The Ru­bi­con had diff locks to en­hance off-road per­for­mance.

The JK Jeep had to be able to live in town as well as the bush, so it had many mod-cons. Safety, how­ever, wasn’t the Wran­gler’s top pri­or­ity. It wasn’t rated by ANCAP be­fore 2012, but it has two airbags, anti-lock brakes, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol and trac­tion con­trol, plus hill-start as­sist and hill de­scent con­trol.

NOW

Some town folk bought into the Jeep im­age, think­ing it fash­ion­able, but the Wran­gler is re­ally at its best away from the bright lights.

Its off-road abil­ity presents a chal­lenge for any­one buy­ing a used ex­am­ple. Of prime im­por­tance is thor­oughly check­ing it for off-road use, or more par­tic­u­larly abuse.

The Wran­gler will stand up to off-road use but it won’t cop the abuse that can come from an in­ex­pe­ri­enced or gung-ho driver.

Look for dam­age, es­pe­cially to the un­der­body, and take note of bashed sus­pen­sion, ex­haust, brack­ets and fit­tings, and look for torn or ripped seals that could al­low dust and wa­ter into crit­i­cal driv­e­train com­po­nents.

Also look closely at the in­te­rior for rips and tears from an un­car­ing owner. Roof leaks were com­mon and many own­ers com­plained of wa­ter dam­age to seats.

It’s best to walk away if you sus­pect a Wran­gler has been knocked around and look for one that a town-bound owner has main­tained.

It may not be such an is­sue for any­one buy­ing sec­ond hand but many Wran­gler own­ers we sur­veyed com­plained about the cus­tomer ser­vice from deal­ers and the com­pany it­self.

There were a num­ber of re­calls in 2016 re­lat­ing to the de­ploy­ment of the airbags in a crash, one re­lat­ing to the left front brake caliper that could af­fect the brak­ing.

In 2014 a re­call re­lated to the heated rear view mir­rors and an­other in 2012 dealt with the pos­si­bil­ity of de­bris col­lect­ing around the cat­alytic con­verter cre­at­ing a fire haz­ard.

Check with the seller to see whether these have been done. If you’re un­sure con­tact a Jeep dealer.

Also check for a ser­vice record to con­firm proper servicing, it’s even more im­por­tant on a car that’s pos­si­bly been used off-road.

OWN­ERS SAY

Dennis Sandy We bought a new 2010 Wran­gler diesel auto and loved it for the first three years un­til it tried to kill us when at 33,000km it de­vel­oped the death wob­bles on the high­way — luck­ily there was lit­tle traf­fic around and we pulled over safely and nursed the car back to the deal­er­ship. The prob­lem was worn ball joints and these were re­placed un­der warranty. The day af­ter the ball joints were re­placed the rear speed sen­sor failed and so the ve­hi­cle was re­turned to the dealer where the sen­sor was re­placed. That was it, we had lost all con­fi­dence in the car and we traded it for a Suzuki Grand Vi­tara, which is bul­let­proof.

Stan All­sop The 2011 Wran­gler Sport we bought new prac­ti­cally fell apart. The roof started crack­ing for no rea­son, one of the rims cracked and we were in­formed that it could have given way at any time while driv­ing, and the hood straps were also faulty. We could only get warranty help af­ter fight­ing tooth and nail; the ser­vice we got from the dealer and Jeep was ap­palling. We sold it.

Shaun Billings Our 2009 Wran­gler is an ex­cel­lent 4WD and very good at tow­ing our of­froad camper trailer. I’ve re­placed door seals be­cause it

leaked; I’ve also re­placed switches and other parts. It’s good fun but don’t ex­pect it to be has­sle-free.

Jim Mason We love our Wran­gler de­spite hav­ing to re­place four door and bon­net hinges due to rust and de­spite the poor cus­tomer ser­vice. Of­froad the car is fab­u­lous, while on-road it han­dles very well. The only down­side is the fuel con­sump­tion.

Al­lan Jen­nings My ex­pe­ri­ence with a Sport Un­lim­ited is that you don’t buy just one, you need two to keep one go­ing. I loved the look and driv­ing it off-road but it wasn’t re­li­able. I had prob­lems with the clutch, gear­box, dash lights, wiring har­ness and ra­di­a­tor.

Steven Wil­son My Wran­gler is an amaz­ing car and I would hap­pily buy an­other one. It’s a Jeep and does what Jeeps do.

SMITHY SAYS

It’s a real off-roader, best suited to off-road en­thu­si­asts.

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