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.
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.
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 first vehicle(a jeep isnt a car) is a 98 sport with the 5 speed.
I have both tops and hard doors, and its still very loud(I have NOISY mud terrain tires which dont help).
I have driven this things over ice, then the ice cracked and I was bogging through 3 ft of mud with ice scraping along the bottom and no problems from that.
This Jeep has 192,000 miles and has been well abused like no other vehicle.
But its been expensive.
trans rebuild at 190K($800) is only vehicle related part but I still got many miles on it.
Other problems that all cars will have is new power steering pump($120), AC system overhaul ($250), brakes ($150).
I did all the work myself(very easy to work on). FUN!!!
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.