Monthly Update for July 2019 - 2018 Jeep Wrangler Long-Term Road Test

2018 Jeep Wrangler: Monthly Update for July 2019

by Dan Edmunds, Director, Vehicle Evaluation

Our 2018 Jeep Wrangler remains a popular choice around the office. And our staff members continue to demonstrate that they are more than willing to take it on road trips even though everyone agrees the ride can be clompy and the steering has a mind of its own when cruising straight. They simply don't care if an off-road trip is on the menu.

But it's even sought after by those who plan to stick to the pavement, in part because the interior is easy to live with, but mainly because the JL Wrangler oozes personality by the bucketload. Why do our Edmunds ratings have a Wild Card section? It is because of this very phenomenon. Some vehicles are much more than the sum of their flaws.

We added another 2,556 miles in July, bringing the total up to 35,774 miles. Scott drove it to the Northern California mountains to spend time exploring trails near his family's cabin. Mark drove it north into the high desert to visit the Manzanar National Historic Site. And Brent took it home to the suburbs of Fresno for a couple of weeks. He also brought it in for a dealer visit for an oil change and a look at a couple of leaky shock absorbers we noticed somewhere along the way. With the basic warranty set to expire at 36,000 miles, there was no time to lose.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

What Kind of Fuel Economy Did It Get?
While a good deal of this mileage can be described as steady-state freeway cruising, we mixed in a sizable number of city miles. There was some off-road driving, too. In the end, the overall blend was typical, and we set no new high-water fuel consumption or range marks. After I did the math, I was not at all surprised to see that the Wrangler's lifetime average ended in July the same as it began: 17.7 mpg.

Average lifetime mpg: 17.7
EPA mpg rating: 20 combined (18 city/23 highway)
Best fill mpg: 24.6
Best range: 448.7 miles
Current odometer: 35,744 miles

Maintenance and Upkeep
Dealer visit: $89.94 for a wheel alignment; $0 for the oil change, tire rotation and the warranty work

We took our Jeep in for an oil change and tire rotation at 35,500 miles, but we also brought a vehicle concern to the dealer's attention. Partway through the month it became clear that the excess wandering I'd experienced during last month's massive road trip to Seattle, which I'd attributed to strong winds, had a mechanical component.

Others called out the Jeep for excess wandering, too, and at some point I stuck my head underneath and saw a thick coating of oil on the left rear shock absorber.

The end of the 36,000-mile warranty was fast approaching when we put two and two together, so Brent had his local dealer look at the issue while the Wrangler was in for its oil change.

Brent noticed fluid dribbling from a second shock, and the dealer technician confirmed our diagnosis with a test drive and noticed a third leaker. All three shocks were replaced under warranty, but not the fourth because it was deemed to be dry and functioning correctly.

The dealer ran it up the flagpole with the warranty arbiters, but with no evidence of failure, Jeep said it wouldn't reimburse the dealer if it elected to replace the fourth shock. Only after this verdict could the right number of parts be ordered, so the Jeep sat with the dealer for two nights.

The technician also noted uneven tire wear and suggested a wheel alignment. The shock replacement didn't make this strictly necessary because, unlike struts, a shock absorber change seldom involves the removal of any components that directly affect wheel alignment. But the recommendation matched what we could see with our own eyes, and for some weeks we'd noticed the steering wheel wasn't quite centered while driving straight. We went along.

The grand total for all of this was $89.94. If that sounds a little low, you may be forgetting the Jeep Wave program, which covers up to four scheduled oil change and tire rotation visits on any Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator during the first two years of ownership.

The shocks were, of course, changed for free under the last gasps of the Jeep's bumper-to-bumper warranty. What's left is the wheel alignment. Ninety bucks comes across as a bit steep to me because nothing except front toe-in (the direction the tires are pointed relative to the Jeep's centerline) is designed to be routinely adjustable on a vehicle with front and rear solid axles such as this.

2018 Jeep Wrangler

Logbook Highlights

"When Dan Edmunds got back from his drive to Oregon, he warned me that the Jeep might feel a little funny due to a leaking rear shock. Sure enough, it is now 'extra wandery in its lane,' to quote my text message to Dan. More precisely, it feels like a bunch of kids in a caterpillar costume trying to move as a unit — a little wiggly, in other words. Of course, the wiggles come standard on every Wrangler, but as I said, this is extra. Brent's bravely driving our Jeep to Fresno as I type this. I'm eager to hear his impressions." — Josh Sadlier, director, content strategy

"It took two days, but finally I got the Jeep back. The result? Definitely improved. It leans less when going around turns and generally feels as stable during cornering as it used to. Straight-line cruising is better, too, though it's still relative. Compared to any other modern vehicle, this thing's got ADHD." — Brent Romans, senior editor

"Why did the shocks give out? I've been asking myself that, and the best I can come up with is my own trip to Hole-in-the-Rock back in April. The road from Escalante, Utah, to Hole-in-the-Rock (and back) is a 114-mile round trip on poorly maintained dirt roads, and there are long stretches of significant washboard.

"But the washboard on that road is not nearly as brutal and relentless as the 54-mile round trip to Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, the infamous road that blew out our long-term Tacoma's factory shocks after just 4 miles.

"And I'd have thought we would have noticed the degradation sooner than this if the trouble had originated there and then. I'm not convinced, but it's the best theory I've got at the moment." — Dan Edmunds, director, vehicle evaluation

2018 Jeep Wrangler

"The Wrangler has been in the fleet for more than a year, but this was really my first time in it. I made the 215-mile trek to the Manzanar National Historic Site way out in the desert. To my surprise, the new Wrangler is far more comfortable than its predecessor. There's a lot less driveline lash, and the whole thing just feels more buttoned-down. On the long stretches of straight highway, the large dead spot in the steering meant I was constantly busy on the wheel to keep the Jeep within its lane.

"It required subtle inputs on the left and right sides of the dead spot, which is a pain after hours of driving, but it's not all that uncommon for such off-road-capable vehicles. There were a lot of squeaks and creaks, too, as is expected of an all-terrain Jeep, but they never got annoying. Overall, it's a huge improvement over the last generation, but it's still one of the least refined vehicles you can buy today. For the Jeep faithful, that's probably a plus, and yeah, I get it." — Mark Takahashi, senior reviews editor

"Regardless of how impractical, fuzzy on the freeway, and how bad it handles, this Wrangler is always fun. It puts a smile on my face almost every time I drive it. I even said the Subaru Crosstrek was better in a comparison, and objectively, for everyday driving, I stand by that statement. My head is with a topped-out Crosstrek rather than a base, no-frills Jeep. But my heart wants the Wrangler, specifically in this red with all the Rubicon goodies." — Travis Langness, reviews editor

2018 Jeep Wrangler

"After doing a visual inspection of our Wrangler, the service technician asked, 'Do you have a key for the wheel locks?' I replied, 'Umm, maybe?' I hadn't thought about that. I looked in the Jeep's console, glovebox and rear cargo compartment. No wheel lock key. Thankfully, my adviser said he'd see if they could find a set that would work. And they did." — Brent Romans

"I like the look of our Wrangler now that it has the Mopar bumper, black grille and spotlights that Dan recently installed. It looks a little bit tougher and more rugged. It's a nice combination of both style and actual enhanced functionality." — Brent Romans

"Oh, how I love this Jeep. I never get tired of driving it, which is weird because I should get tired of it. The driving experience is marred by its constant road-going wandering and background soundtrack of wind and road noise. It's not even all that practical, at least as SUVs go. I haven't even done much of the off-roading stuff that I should with this rig. But there's so much personality here that those concerns aren't a factor. It's just fun." — Brent Romans

2018 Jeep Wrangler

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