Wrangler Conspiracy TheoristIt occurred to me that there may be a method to the madness regarding the rumor of Jeep having two different generations of Wrangler produced at the same time. If the new Wrangler JL has a greater tipped-back windshield and a grille with a kink, then there will be some issue with aficionados about whether it really looks like a proper Jeep Wrangler. Most of these folks couldn't give a hoot (within limits) about fuel economy or the EPA targets, which will certainly change with the new administration. So, in my view, that is precisely the reason why the Toledo plant will be supporting two assembly lines running simultaneously (for a time); one for the current JK, which is still selling like hotcakes, and one for the upcoming JL.
In a way, FCA can use this method to hedge their bets. If the new JL turns out to be a dog in sales by comparison, and is seen as unacceptable by the off-road in-crowd, then there is still the JK to carry the day. Of course, it wouldn't take much to reconvert the JL line to make refreshed JL Jeeps that perhaps look a bit more like the JKs. To save face, they could still be called a JL, with use of those new underpinnings and interiors.
What you speculate may seem logical to the typical JK-frenzied off-road enthusiast, but the theory doesn’t really work in reality. The die-hard off-road enthusiast is not the main consumer of the Jeep Wrangler, at least when they are new. The fact of the matter is that the majority of new Wranglers are never even shifted into low range off-road by their first owners. Off-road enthusiasts have even been considered the “Lunatic Fringe” by internal Jeep bean counters. Also, contrary to popular belief, Jeep can’t just go in and make major body changes without a significant investment and testing for crash standards and fuel mileage. It would take months and many millions of dollars to implement what you have proposed as a possibility.
A more likely reason for the dual Wrangler production line is because of the unions. There may be some agreement to keep specific plants running until predetermined dates. Another possibility is that Jeep executives are expecting some hiccups that could slow the new JL production line. Or it could be a combination of these reasons. However, keeping the JK production line up and running would ensure that there are plenty of Wranglers on dealer lots through 2017. Considering past Wrangler model changeovers, which didn’t seem to go smoothly, this makes sense. It takes time to stop a plant and convert it to produce a completely new vehicle. During that changeover period, the company could be losing sales if there were not enough of a Wrangler stockpile built up prior to shutting the plant down. Case in point, any ’96 YJ Wrangler sold was actually a ’95 model. There were no ’96 Wranglers ever built in 1996.
Current rumored information shows plans to convert the Toledo North Assembly Plant from Cherokee production to JL Wrangler production. Toledo South, which is the current production home of the JK Wrangler, will build the ’17 JK until the end of September 2017, and then it will build the ’18 JK from early October 2017 through March 2018. Toledo South will then shut down for 3-4 months or longer to retool for the ’19 Wrangler pickup. That provides 8 months of JK and JL overlap, but the word is that JL production will ramp up slowly at first. There will only be one line running for JL and JL Unlimited at launch.
More JL SpeculationAs the world’s premier magazine on everything Jeep, I'm disappointed that you don't run some articles on what is cooking on the ’18 Jeep Wrangler product line. Is the Jeep Switchback concept going to become reality? What about the talked about diesel engine and other new options? I’m thinking about buying a new off-road toy and would love to hear something about the new Wrangler from the experts.
As of this writing, the new ’18 Wrangler doesn’t exist yet, so there are no actual released facts to provide or report on. However, there are a lot of rumors, intelligent guesses based on JL test mule images, and pure speculation that we can report on. So we’ll list some of our ideas and what we have heard here and see how accurate it is when the JL is released, which will be by the time you read this.
So far there are no rumors that the Jeep Switchback concept will be produced. It likely will not be. Concept vehicles typically hide small, almost hidden design ideas that you may find on a future production Wrangler. Don’t hold your breath for the hollowed-out doors on a Wrangler you can buy at the dealer lot. They would likely never pass the required side-impact crash tests.
Rumor is that the diesel engine is a go. It’s said to be a 3.0L VM Motori V-6 turbodiesel with Engine Start-Stop (ESS). The diesel is believed to be backed up with the new 8HP75 eight-speed automatic transmission. No manual transmission option is expected for the diesel JL. The turbodiesel 3.0L is expected to be a late ’19 model year option.
Other suspected powertrain options are an upgraded version of the returning 3.6L Pentastar V-6 in front of the new 850RE eight-speed automatic transmission, which will come standard with ESS. A standard manual six-speed transmission is also expected.
The third engine option predicted is the 2.0L Hurricane turbo inline-four direct-injected engine with a Belt Starter Generator (BSG). The turbo 2.0L is expected to come in front of the 850RE eight-speed automatic transmission only with no manual transmission option. We only expect to see the turbo 2.0L and 3.6L gas V-6 available in the two-door Wrangler. If you made us guess, the Unlimited model will only be available with the gas V-6 or 3.0L diesel V-6.
The first trim packages available are said to be the Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. The four-corner coil-spring solid-axle suspension appears to be similar to the current JK with some key upgrades. The axles are said to be an all-new version of the Dana 44, and the Rubicon is expected to receive slightly wider axles than the other trim levels.
The Rubicon is also expected to retain the 4:1 low-range transfer case. The other trim levels will receive a transfer case with a 2.72:1 low range. An optional Selec-Trac all-wheel-drive drivetrain is also rumored.
The traditional hydraulic power steering pump is believed to be replaced with an electro-hydraulic steering system. Basically, the belt-driven power steering pump is replaced with an electric hydraulic pump to power the traditional hydraulic steering box. This will not be the same as an electric power steering system.
There are many other less significant bits of info about the JL floating around out there, but this is the major stuff to look out for. You should be able to check one out at the local dealer by the time you read this.
Bumper BlockedI am an avid Jeeper and reader of Jp. I have an ’06 TJ that's been modified with AEV parts. It has a Hemi V-8, aftermarket axles, a Highline hood conversion, and more done to it by two prior owners. The initial owner showed the love and spent over $50,000 on it. The second owner was a kid who basically trashed it and drove it in our harsh rustbelt southern Ontario environment. I've spent the past few months fixing what I can and cleaning it up. I also recently did a little fix up job on my daughter’s LJ. I'm reaching out to you in hopes that you might be able to either answer my question or network me with the owner of the ’88 YJ featured in “Underestimated Excellence” (July ’17). The front and rear bumpers were not mentioned in the article. I have the same bumpers and I can’t figure out what brand they are. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated. Please keep up the good work!
Actually, the bumper brand is mentioned in the story. The bumpers in question were offered by a company called BulletProof. That particular company apparently went out of business several years ago, although there is now a different bumper company with the same name. Another company called BodyArmor offered a similar bumper; however, that particular model bumper does not appear to be available anymore either. The good news is that there are an unimaginable number of Jeep TJ/LJ front and rear bumpers available. If you have your heart set on that particular basic square-tube design, the Garvin (wildernessracks.com) ATS Series front bumper is very similar. Garvin has an optional bolt-on top hoop available for the ATS Series bumper as well. Other companies such as Rock Hard 4x4 (rockhard4x4.com) and Tomken (tomken.com) also offer bumpers with a similar design.
Tech Column QueryIn Your Jeep (July ’17), a reader asked about some steering column issues. The turn signals were no longer cancelling, the horn was not working, and the airbag light was on. All of these issues can be attributed to the clock spring, which was never mentioned in your response. The signal shutoffs are in fact part of the clock spring on the TJ. Furthermore, the electrical connector for the horn runs through the clock spring as well. This is a fairly common failed part on the TJ. I am surprised no one at Jp was aware of what was most likely the cause of failure.
You got us! We try hard to stay on top of all the flaws and modifications for the more than 75 years of Jeeps ever offered, but as you can imagine it’s quite a task. As you have found, we don’t always get it right, so thanks for the assist on the clock spring mention!
Jp-VentureI love the Jeep adventure trips that are written about from time to time. I would like to see more of that. I am building an overlanding adventure trailer and I feel I can relate. I want to do that sort of trip so bad. Can Jp put on an Ultimate Adventure sort of trip? I plan to one day apply to that, and having more than one event out there gives me a greater chance of getting to go, plus a second adventure event will give me more to read about.
I loved the article about the LS swap (“TJ LS1 V-8 Swap,” Jan. ’17). I'm going to be doing that. I have the engine sitting in the garage. That will have to wait until I'm done with the trailer, though. Keep up the great work and thanks!
Jp already has its very own adventure trip! It’s called the Jp Dirt ’N Drive. It’s our annual road and dirt-trail wheeling trip that starts in Las Vegas, Nevada, and meanders its way to Moab, Utah, just in time to catch the Easter Jeep Safari. For more info about how to be a part of the ’18 Jp Dirt ’N Drive go to jpmagazine.com or follow facebook.com/jpmag.
Road WarriorI’m an avid reader of Jp and enjoy it thoroughly. I recently jotted down a quick thought from a different perspective on the beloved Jeep Wrangler.
While nobody can deny that off-roading is a blast and that most of us dream of taking on the Rubicon Trail, some of us poor suburban daily grinders purchased our Jeeps for their on-road capabilities. As we get older and trade in our Harley motorcycles, some of us look for a replacement vehicle that lets us keep our connection to nature with the wind in our hair (what’s left of it) and road noise in our ears. So, we search. Might it be a convertible muscle car? Nah, that’s just a car without a top! The real, keep in touch with the outdoors vehicle is the Jeep Wrangler. Talk about a convertible. Pull the doors and remove the top and you have the ultimate convertible and almost a four-wheel motorcycle.
Don’t for a minute think we don’t spend our fair share of time and money fixing these on-road warriors up, because we do! We just take a slightly different approach. Our money is spent building road-worthy monsters with a premium sound system and accessories that enhance our everyday driving. We start by putting in new LED headlights and reverse lights. (How can anyone see with the stock lights?) Then we have to jack it up a few inches so we can fit bigger tires and wheels. After all, we can’t be outdone or looked down on by the pickup trucks! We follow that up by getting rid of the stock plastic bumpers and replacing them with nice, damage-causing metal ones, also known as don’t get too close to me in traffic bumpers. While we’re at it, we might as well throw a winch on the front. You never know who you’ll need to pull from a ditch or which wheeling friends you’ll have to rescue. Naturally, you’ll need to have a rear bumper that takes the spare tire weight off of the tailgate. Then we can add the appropriate skidplates and armor below for road hazards and bad weather. Lastly, we add a few extra parts and pieces to personalize our Jeeps, because we can. Now you have the ultimate on-road vehicle for tackling and enjoying the everyday battle with the other humans on our godforsaken highways and byways.
Don’t get us suburban road warriors wrong. We still look for bumpy and muddy trails and sit around making plans for a trail ride, but not all of us are fortunate enough to live in the great wheeling spots of this good ol’ USA that we read about in Jp. Finally, keep in mind we still have to drive our Jeeps to work on Monday morning!