There are probably 10 things wrong with your '07-present Wrangler right this very second. And we're not talking about the Yosemite Sam mud flaps, spare tire cover with a mural, or the nylon cheetah-skin seat covers. We're talking about real mechanical issues. OK, maybe your Jeep isn't ailing from all 10, but if you carefully inspect your Wrangler, we're betting that you'll find at least a few of these issues.
It seems like every other month there is a new diagnostic computer program upgrade for the '07-present Wrangler. Keep in touch with your local dealer to stay on top of the necessary recalls and updates. You should be able to find out if your Jeep needs any updates simply by giving the local dealer your VIN number over the phone.
Track Bar Brackets
Much like the '97-'06 Wrangler, the new JK has marginal track bar brackets welded to the factory axles, especially in the rear. Adding a rear track bar extension (which is included with most lift kits) only exacerbates the problem. Several companies, such as JKS and Poly Performance, offer reinforcement or heavy-duty track bar brackets. There are even weld-on and bolt-on upgrades available.
After many miles of on- and off-road bumps the JK tailgate has been known to develop rattles, especially if a heavy oversized spare tire is mounted to the factory carrier. Adding a spare tire relocating bracket to this combination is a surefire way to make the rattles even worse. We've found that you can eliminate some of the rattle by deflating the spare. The deflated spare absorbs much of the road vibration like a shock absorber. But make sure you have some way to refill it with air when needed. Daystar offers extended tailgate bumpers that go a long way in controlling spare tire movement, and the company is working on a solid cure for the tailgate rattle itself that should be available by the time you read this.
The stock JK bumpers suck. Even minor bouts with rocks and dirt mounds will result in them being crushed and dented. But these pathetic plastic protectors do have one appealing aspect over pretty much every aftermarket bumper available; they are very lightweight. And on a Jeep that is already underpowered, that extra weight savings can make a big difference. Simply swapping to heavy aftermarket bumpers will also sag the factory suspension up to one inch or more. If you want to run a winch you don't have much choice, but out back a factory bumper is the best way to provide some disposable protection at a fraction of the cost and weight of the aftermarket offerings. Also, a good heat gun and a little manual manipulation will take the dents right out of the factory plastic bumpers.
Squeaky Leaky Top
It's almost impossible for Jeep to manufacture a multi-piece hard top or a soft top that is 100 percent leak free. To keep your Jeep somewhat dry inside, your only hope is to be extremely careful with the seals when removing and installing the top. Even new seals leak a little, but damaged ones will let water pour into your interior when it rains. On the flipside, dry dusty seals on the hardtop will cause you to go absolutely nuts from the squeaks when driving down rough dirt roads. Lubricate and protect them often with something like silicone spray to keep them pliable and squeak-free.
Anybody who has lifted the front suspension of their '07-up Wrangler has noticed the resulting hood flutter when speeding down the highway. From the factory, the nose of the Wrangler is a little bit low; this allows the headwind to push the hood down into place. When you level the Jeep out with a lift kit or front coil spacers, the airflow no longer forces the hood down. The airflow through the grille causes the hood to lift. You can lower the front suspension of your Wrangler to fix the problem, or you can simply upgrade the hood latches with Hood Wranglers from Daystar. The Hood Wranglers are made out of polyurethane, which are stiffer than the factory rubber parts. The best part is that they are a quick, simple bolt-on part that will keep the hood from fluttering.
Watch out for front driveshaft contact with the exhaust at full droop on both the two- and four-door models with lifts of three inches or more. Some lift kits will allow it to hit, others provide shorter shocks to avoid contact. If yours hits, you can install limit straps, shorter shocks, or upgrade to a smaller-diameter U-jointed front driveshaft. Many companies such as J.E. Reel Drive Line Specialists and Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts offer bolt-in replacement driveshafts for the two- and four-door Wranglers.
Bent Front Axlehousing
You'll probably be so surprised at how well the JK suspension absorbs bumps that you'll overdo it a little. It only takes a few heavy hits off-road with 35-inch or bigger tires to bend the front axlehousing, even on the Rubicon models. Several companies such as Off Road Evolution and Poly Performance offer slip-in tube gussets, Treks Offroad Equipment offers a weld-on exterior truss, and if your housing is already bent, Dynatrac offers a complete heavy-duty, high-clearance ProRock 44 replacement housing.
Wobbly Lower Ball Joints
It took less than 50,000 miles with 35-inch tires to wear out our factory JK lower ball joints. The resulting slop can cause minor death wobble and a shimmy in the steering wheel over rough or grooved highways. Dynatrac offers ProSteer greaseable, heavy-duty upper and lower ball joints for the JK to eradicate the slop and put an end to premature failure. They feature stainless steel internals and are completely rebuildable at home or even on the trail.
If you lift the suspension of your two-door JK more than two inches, you should add a rear U-jointed double-cardan driveshaft and adjustable upper rear control arms to your shopping cart. If not, you'll eventually let the smoke out of the booted CV joints in the factory rear driveshaft. Four-door JKs can get away with running the factory rear driveshaft with lifts under three inches.