1998 Jeep Wrangler Review

Pros & Cons

  • Unmatched off-road capability, overflowing with character, dual airbags, optional ABS, fun to drive, speedy with manual transmission
  • Soft top is fun, but still a pain in the $%!@#
List Price Estimate
$1,466 - $3,103

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Edmunds' Expert Review

Vehicle overview

We were a little concerned last year when we heard that Jeep was giving its bad-boy mud-machine an overhaul. Luckily, the Wrangler hasn't received the leather interior, cellular phone makeover that has recently emasculated so much of the sport-utility segment. No, the Wrangler remains the drive-me-hard-through-the-slop beast of yesterday, with a few appreciated improvements.

Jeep Wranglers have long been the standard for those valiant explorers who truly wish to go where no one has gone before. The go-anywhere ability of the Wrangler has been improved by the Quadra-coil suspension which allows an additional seven inches of articulation over the old leaf spring set-up; thus resulting in increased approach and departure angles. Jeep boasts that the Quadra-coil suspension, as well as improved shocks and tires, also greatly improves the Wrangler's on-road manners.

The Wrangler receives minor adjustments to the powertrain by combining the Dana 44 rear axle with a 3.73 axle ratio, replacing the 3.55 axle ratio with the 4.0-liter engine. And Jeep claims that a revised torsion bar provides improved steering response. Nobody, however, will mistake this vehicle for a smooth-running family sedan; the Wrangler is very much a truck. A five-speed manual transmission remains standard and a three-speed automatic is available for those who don't plan on doing any serious off-roading.

For 1998, most people will not notice any changes to the Wrangler other than the new Chili Pepper Red and Deep Amethyst exterior colors. Front bumper guards have been added and a new underhood lamp will aid in finding the wiper fluid reservoir in the dark. A TLEV (Transitional Low Emission Vehicle) 4.0-liter inline six-cylinder engine is available for states adopting California emission regulations, so Jeep owners can feel even closer to nature: they make less smog.

Over the past two years, Jeep has done a great job improving the Wrangler. Gone are some of the nagging complaints we had about safety, wind noise and engine roar; what remains is a solid truck with hard-core capabilities and rugged good looks. This is obviously not the truck for everybody, but those willing to put up with a cloth interior and a little road noise will be rewarded with an amazingly fun vehicle. Hey, they even brought back those snazzy round headlights ... what's not to like?

1998 Highlights

Jeep has improved off-road capability by increasing the axle ratio offered with the 4.0-liter engine and revising the torsion bar for better steering. Optional this year on the 1998 Jeep Wrangler are a tilting driver seat, automatic speed control, a combination CD/cassette stereo, a new Smart Key Immobilizer theft-deterrent system and two new colors.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 1998 Jeep Wrangler.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

We've done a lot since 98 and still going strong.
I bought my Jeep new at a dealership in Colorado. When it was brand new a huge snowstorm hit and there was a pounding on the door. The ranch owner stood there up to his waist in snow. "Can I borrow your rig?"he asked. He needed to do an emergency insulin run for a friend and none of their big expensive ranch trucks could get through the snow. It got through when nobody else could and spent the day rescuing stranded people in what turned out to be a deadly storm. Since then I have driven it across the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific. We have lived in rural Colorado, New Mexico and now on the Plains. Hauled feed to horses, pulled a boat, loaded goats in the back and transported them. Hauled railroad ties and used it as an anchor to stretch fence. My two Irish Wolfhounds curled up in the back and slept for long trips between New Mexico and Kansas. It gets no babying and it has given no trouble. Pop it into four wheel drive and it can get you almost anywhere and back. It's still going strong and I drive it nearly every day.
My favorite Wrangler ... so far!
I've owned several Wranglers, including the new Unlimited, and while the '98 is the oldest (and most experienced) ... so far, it's my favorite. The 2.5L 4 fits me better than the previous 4.0L engines, and this one is also my first with a manual tranny. Aside from a bit more road noise (a great excuse to add a "monster" audio system) than my other Jeeps, I have no complaints. The economy of the 4 cylinder is fine for me. It's a fun little utility vehicle, and I guess I've been lucky, but I've had no mechanical issues with any of the Wranglers I've owned, putting a collective 150,000 miles on them. I'll never be without a Wrangler as long as I live.
Best Vehicle I've ever owned
Sport 2dr SUV 4WD
I was given a 98' Sport with a 5 speed, 6 cylinder and a 3" body lift riding on (initially) 32X11.5 tires as my first car. The "Bigfoot Edition" package had been put on by a dealership when new. It had 140,000 miles on it but was very clean. I kept it for the next 9 1/2 years and (for personal/financial reasons that weren't connected to the Jeep) sold it with 262,000 on the clock. With a set of All terrain or good mud tires, it was a beach machine. Dunes, mud, none of it stopped it...even with a trailer in tow in areas known to swallow much more powerful 4X4s. I used it to pull stumps, tow other vehicles, drive long distances and cruise through town. The torque of the 4.0 combined with a good 1st gear and 4Lo is very handy. My only complaint was that the A/C wasn't strong enough to cool the back seat terribly well in super hot weather. The heater, however, was astonishing. I could drop the top in 50 degree weather, wear shorts and have to turn the heater DOWN because it was scalding my feet. Everybody will ask if it is top heavy. Honestly, I've driven a stock height Grand Cherokee and felt much more likely to roll it. The following things failed and had to be replaced: Exhaust Manifold-Apparently every Wrangler will have this happen at some point. A shop in the next town replaced it but put a small "flex" joint after the header. Never had a problem with it after that. Power Steering Pump-150,000. Easy replacement Alternator-188,000 Not unexpected nor difficult to replace. Rear Axle-Mine had a Dana 35 rear in the beginning, bigger tires and was regularly used to tow boats, pull stumps and recover other vehicles. This failed at the 210,000 mark. I replaced it with a Dana 44 that was easy to acquire used and never had a problem after that. Seats-The support gave out somewhere around the 230,000 mark. I replaced the fronts with relative ease. Transmission - Synchros on 1st and 5th gear started to fail around 220,000 miles. I replaced it with a crate transmission for cheap at about 245,000. Soft Top-I replaced this twice actually. They just don't last much longer than five years it seems. Cheap to replace though. I misjudged the depth of a mud hole and killed the engine at the 232,000 mark. A dealership replaced the engine with a $400 donor from a same year Cherokee. This illustrates the final point I want to make: It is ridiculously easy to get parts for these Jeeps. Everything can be replaced in short order. There is no waiting on a part and it is relatively easy to work on the 4X4 yourself. The straight six isn't a powerhouse, but (unless it inhales a bunch of muddy water) it won't die.
fuel economy
Great auto, it does whatever you want it to do. It has had to have some repairs done to it, but with a vehicle that is designed to go anywhere, things are bound to wear out. The inline 6 is a great engine, the fuel econ is a little low but with knowledge of how the eng works you can improve it dramatically i.e.: a little diesel mixed in the fuel at the right levels sent mine from 16mpg to 20mpg keep the lift low 2.75 inch, run 33inch tires change the trans to an AW4 and I added 4 more now I’m at 23mpg. the last thing I did was use a cylinder cut out at 1200 to 3500 rpm (highway speeds) #2 and #5 drop out that added 5 to 6 more depending on who made the gas, now 29 to 30mpg. Anyone can do it.

Features & Specs

16 city / 18 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
120 hp @ 5400 rpm
15 city / 19 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
181 hp @ 4600 rpm
15 city / 19 hwy
Seats 0
5-speed manual
181 hp @ 4600 rpm
See all Used 1998 Jeep Wrangler features & specs


NHTSA Overall Rating

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger4 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    OverallNot Rated
  • Side Barrier Rating
    OverallNot Rated
    DriverNot Rated
    PassengerNot Rated
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front SeatNot Rated
    Back SeatNot Rated
  • Rollover
    RolloverNot Rated
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of RolloverNot Rated
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
    Not Tested
  • Roof Strength Test
    Not Tested
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
    Not Tested
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 1998 Jeep Wrangler

Used 1998 Jeep Wrangler Overview

The Used 1998 Jeep Wrangler is offered in the following submodels: Wrangler SUV. Available styles include SE 2dr SUV 4WD, Sport 2dr SUV 4WD, and Sahara 2dr SUV 4WD.

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Find a used Jeep Wrangler for sale - 10 great deals out of 19 listings starting at $19,604.

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Should I lease or buy a 1998 Jeep Wrangler?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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Check out Jeep Wrangler lease specials