A factory Jeep Wrangler is a highly capable vehicle that is fun to drive, engineered for adventure and performs excellently in its many roles. From commuting to work to rock crawling at your local off road park, a stock Jeep Wrangler will have no problems offering itself to plenty of trails, parks and off road experiences. Join us as we dive into what makes a Wrangler an impressive vehicle and explore some of the options that optimize specific trim packages and features for increased off road capability.
Trail Rated Stock Jeep Wrangler
Jeep throws a badge on all their Wrangler vehicles as a certification your truck is “Trail Rated.” This stamp means your car is optimized for off-roading with a focus on a few specific engineering traits. Every Wrangler in the current lineup is Trail Rated and that’s pretty much a sign that your Jeep was designed to be an off road capable Jeep Wrangler right from the factory.
Every Jeep Wrangler offers 4×4 all wheel drive, low gearing and all-terrain tires providing exceptional traction in rain, snow, sand, mud, and dirt. Specific Wrangler brand such as Rubicon offer locking differentials, lower gearing and options to increase traction and performance over obstacles.
Short Wheelbase affords maneuverability to drive around obstacles and handle switchbacks with ease. If you have ever taken larger trucks off-roading and had to drive around switchbacks or through narrow turns, you will appreciate the short wheelbase of a Jeep. Maneuverability will change slightly between base Jeeps Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited options.
Large tires and suspension give proper ground clearance for driving over obstacles. The goal of off roading is to drive over things and do so safely. More substantial ground clearance affords you more height over objects to safely clear them without damaging your vehicle. Multiple trim packages and Jeep options provide higher ground clearance over base models.
The suspension can “flex” or articulate to allow wheels to remain in contact while driving over large obstacles providing more stability. Obviously, with 3rd party options, you can increase articulation aka “flex” drastically such as the Jeep pictured below (which has larger tires, lift, winch & other options).
Jeeps are meant to get dirty and cross water/streams. The vehicle is designed so that electronics/components are tucked away and protected, and the interior/body is easy to clean and drains water away.
Define your Mission
What is it that you want to do with your Jeep? Are you a weekend warrior mostly using your Jeep for fun on the trails while on vacation? Do you commute to work and use it as a daily driver with an itch to go or wheeling on the weekends? Do you already have plans to specialize in hobbies or specific goals in mind? What is your budget? What are your dreams?
Out of the factory Chrysler offers a few vehicles that have enhanced performance for off road capability and tailor your purchase to your mission.
Wrangler Options & Trims
Chrysler has a few Jeep Wrangler brands that offer specialization geared towards enhanced trail ratings and off-roading experiences. The Sport is your base package and a very capable vehicle that is trail rated however the Sahara and Rubicon lines offer default options that increase their capability over other base models.
The Sport Wrangler is the base module and out of the factory offers the following core gear specs. I mention 3.21 / 3.73 gearing because this gearing varies wildly between region/dealer/option – such as automatic transmission vs. manual transmission and you can locate vehicles with the higher gearing as needed. (recommended if you plan on larger tires)
- 8.4″ ground clearance
- Optional “Trac lock” limited slip diff
- 3.21 / 3.73 Gearing
- Dana 44 rear, Dana 30 front axles
- np231 (selec-trac) t-case
Over the base Sport Package, the Sahara offers a trim package that includes more color options, painted flares, better sound system and increased interior options. However, they also include some upgrades that help for off road performance – the major one being larger wheels that give you another 1.3 inches of clearance.
- 9.7″ Ground Clearance
- 18″ Wheels
Jeep Rubicon is the premier Wrangler brand for off-road factory performance that comes with enhancements that help it achieve more advanced trails such as electronic quick disconnects, larger tires, Dana 44 axles front and rear plus other options.
- 9.7″ Ground Clearance
- 17″ Wheels
- Dana 44 Axles front & Rear
- tru-lok electric lockers
- up to 4.11 Gearing
- v241 (rock-trac) t-case
- Electronic Front Sway Bar Disconnect
- Rock Rails
Chrysler offers many Wrangler trims and packages and has been known to do one limited production of special options however the Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon lines are usually abundantly available and the most common options.
In selecting your base package, be sure to be thinking ahead. If you’re just into mall crawling and want to customize your Jeeps looks or you want to customize to large extremes and replace everything, then a Sport is a more affordable option to start with. If you want to off road but not mechanically inclined, then the Rubicon may be your best bet giving you strong off road options out the door.
Jeep Wrangler Unlimited
The major difference between the Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Unlimited is that the Unlimited series has four doors and a larger wheelbase. The standard two-door Wrangler has a ~96″ wheelbase, and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited has a 116″ wheelbase. For most people, the decision is between 2 doors or 4 doors but keep in mind that if you’re looking to customize your Jeep, the wheelbase could play an important purchase decision.
Benefits of a stock Jeep
A stock Jeep is a great Jeep – it gives you something that is entirely capable of many missions right from the factory but more importantly, you get to know your vehicle and you can choose how you want to modify or tailor it for your mission. Stock Jeeps have abundant parts, lots of repair places which are familiar with the brand and if you have a new vehicle you have warranty coverage on a stock Jeep.
Factory Jeep has is to safety standards, and Jeep has to stand by them. Adding a lift, increasing wheel size or customizing the drive train of your Jeep may impact the safety standards that your vehicle has been tested against. There is a strong piece of mind knowing your vehicle meets or exceeds factory safety requirements. While anything can go wrong with any vehicle Mopar parts are generally of decent quality and build consistency that they can be relied upon. I’ve heard many stories of catastrophic part failures and death wobble from modified Jeeps when owners cut corners and bought cheap to get the looks but avoid the costs. Be smart and be safety conscious. It’s your life at the wheel.
Having a new Jeep Factory warranty is a great way to control costs. While many Jeep owners love “wrenching” on their vehicle some owners just like the piece of mind that a warranty covers their car for the first few years. If you mod your truck, you may risk your warranty coverage.
No shortage of factory parts and 3rd party parts. With a stock Jeep, you don’t have to wonder if your boutique customized lift is going to have spares two years down the road or if they’re even going to be in business. With everyone seemingly rushing to customize their Jeeps stock owners have the benefit of a nearly unlimited free parts supply chain. People are often giving away so many factory parts for free simply because there is so many available with everyone customizing their Jeep.
Speaking of parts, the best way to find Jeep Parts at huge discounts is to check out the many Jeep Groups on Facebook, watch for Jeep Parts on Craigslist and join a Jeep club in your area. I’m blown away by the community at times with the support and parts trade network that exists on the iternet.
Learn the fundamentals of Jeeping
Driving your stock Jeep on beginner/intermediate trails will help you learn the fundamentals of off roading and lets you enjoy your vehicle without having any further outlay in cost. There are many trails all over the world where a stock Jeep is more than capable of completing them, so there is no need to rush into upgrades or spending money – just get out and explore.
There are lots of clubs, facebook groups, and forums on the internet to get out and discuss everything about ownership, off roading and trail riding. I suggest finding a local club and getting to know them. It’s a great way to source used parts, share knowledge, learn from the experiences of others.
Figure out what you like
It’s fun to wheel, mud, trail ride and rock crawl and your Jeep can do all of these without any mods. This is a great way to see if you like doing these and help you define the mission of your vehicle and future mods. All too often we dream of doing things or are envious of what others achieve, but when you try them yourself, you may figure out it’s not for you. Not everyone loves bouncing off rocks in their car. Not everyone can drive along a single track shelf with a 1500 foot drop-off. Not everyone likes getting muddy and spending days cleaning out their car. Now is the time to experiment and figure out what you want to do before you invest heavily in your vehicle.
For me, my Jeep is a primary vehicle used to get kids to places, shop, run errands and as a daily driver. Because of that, the mods will be minimal, and anytime I take it out on an adventure I have to remember this.
I enjoy trail riding myself. I’ve had fun at the local off road park and loved every minute out there, but I know my Jeep is a daily driver, so I’m not going to do anything nuts. One of my favorite off road adventures is heading up to Southern Colorado and exploring the magnificent San Juan mountains – The Jeep Capital of the World. We also love packing up our gear to head out to the unknown and just enjoy being able to explore off the beaten path.
Moral of the story, don’t make the mistake of dumping so much money into your Jeep that you can’t afford to use it to do the fun things that even a stock Jeep can do. Get out, enjoy your Jeep and have fun. Don’t worry about all the mods, accessories and looks of your Jeep, Just get out and ENJOY IT!
The best thing about such a large community is the ability to learn from others and more importantly not repeat their mistakes. The Jeep community is a fantastic group of people that come together to help each other out, help each other have fun and have a shared passion for their vehicle. Whatever your interest may be, you can start with a stock Jeep and try it out and work your way up building invaluable knowledge, experience, and capability in yourself and your vehicle. It’s a great stepping stone to more ambitious projects, or like me, you can be delighted with near stock configuration and enjoying everything about it.
A Jeep is only as capable as the person driving it, and a Stock Jeep Wrangler is more than capable of building you up as a great driver regardless of what your end goals and mission are. We love hearing from other Jeep Owners, Leave your comments & feedback below – and your story of your first off road adventure.