There are few vehicles that evoke a sense of true offroading confidence. Forget the present-day luxury class made up of the Range Rovers and Mercedes G Wagons. Sure, they have bleeding-edge tech that does everything but transforms the vehicle into a fighter robot. However, these modern-day SUVs are too stunning to expose to the battery of offroad trails, so you see them more in the city streets, driven by the rich and, sometimes, the famous. Even the present-day Landcruiser seems to have lost its edge and become more of a suburban beast.
Then there’s the Jeep Wrangler. And the TJ in particular. This vehicle takes pleasure in getting bruised by extreme offroading. It has no fancy air suspension or terrain response system. Heck, the vehicle barely has a roof! The TJ Wrangler’s bare-bones appeal has earned it a massive following that, even in the 2020s, keeps growing. The 2004 model proudly stands in this generation, boasting a lot of the good qualities of the previous years. But, sadly, it also bears a lot of the quirks of its predecessors.
Bottom Line Up Front
The 4.0-liter V6 engine is my choice in a 2004 Jeep Wrangler. I would also choose a model with a 5-speed manual transmission because it’s better at handling the rough and tumble of offroading. If you’re looking for a secondary vehicle for offroading then the 2004 Wrangler is a good choice. However, I wouldn’t recommend this vehicle for daily driving as its on-road handling and fuel economy are disappointing in everyday use.
Overview of the 2004 Jeep Wrangler
The 2004 model got the same lineup as the 2003 model: SE, X, Sport, Sahara, and Rubicon. However, Jeep added a sixth model, the Wrangler Unlimited, and this vehicle caught the attention of a lot of Jeep fans both in a good and bad way.
The Unlimited was given a longer wheelbase than the other models, 10 inches more to be precise. This meant that the interior was more spacious, offering extra legroom in the front and rear, plus more than twice the cargo room behind the rear seat.
You’d think that this would excite a lot of people and, don’t get me wrong, it did. But it also irked Wrangler purists who thought that the vehicle deviated from its original vision. This group of people must have had a fit when the four-door Wrangler was launched in 2007, but that’s a story for a different article.
Whatever the case, the Unlimited didn’t give up the Wrangler’s classic offroad ruggedness, just some of the nimbleness of the shorter version.
All other trims remained the same as the previous year, including the engines and transmissions, which we’ll get into later.
If you’ve seen one Wrangler TJ then you’ve seen them all, even the stretched-out Wrangler Unlimited. The 2004 model stayed true to the legendary design language of the grandfather Willys Jeep.
So, the removable roof and door are still a part of the 2004 model, as well as the fold-down windshield. And this is what Wrangler fans adore about this vehicle, the ability to strip it down to almost just a shell.
The Wrangler Unlimited has the same old design features but on a longer wheelbase. This new model has 103.4 inches as opposed to 93.4 inches in the other models. Ground clearance remains the same in all models at 8.3 inches.
Nothing has changed in the Wrangler’s interior. It’s still the spartan interior we loved (or loved to hate) from the previous years. After all, the Wrangler has always been a rugged adventurer so it has no time for trivial luxuries.
You do get some fancy features in the Sahara trim, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium upholstery, and air conditioning. The interior is still weatherproof like in all other models.
Front legroom remained the same in all models (including the Unlimited) at 41.1 inches. Rear legroom in the Unlimited increased by almost 2 inches to 36.7 inches as opposed to 35 inches in the other models.
The biggest difference is in the cargo area; the Unlimited has a staggering 28.2 cubic feet while the other models have just 9.1 cubic feet.
MSRP and Current Value
The value of the 2004 Jeep Wrangler depends on the trim level, mileage, and features. To help you get an idea of the current value of each 2004 Wrangler model, I’ve shared the MSRP and the present value of each model in the lineup in the table below.
The values I’ve indicated above are based on the average prices of listings on Kelley Blue Book and CARFAX. Noticeably, the 2004 Wrangler has held its value well, with the Rubicon having retained about 80% of its value 18 years later.
But why do Wranglers hold their value so well? Here are 7 reasons why Jeep Wranglers are so expensive.
Features and Specs
Engine Options and Transmission
Jeep retained the same engines in the 2004 Wrangler: a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 4.0-liter V6. Interestingly, the 4-cylinder engine was rated to have 3 fewer horses than the previous year, with 147hp. But, don’t worry, because it doesn’t feel less powerful than the inline-4 engine in the 2003 Wrangler. It’s also more powerful than the 2.5-liter engine found in the 2002 Wrangler and prior years.
The bigger engine is rated at 190 horsepower with 235 lb-ft of torque. This engine is found in all trim levels except for SE, which has the 4-cylinder.
You get two transmission options: 4-speed automatic and 5-speed manual. The auto comes as standard in the Unlimited trim with all others getting the manual as standard and the auto as optional.
I prefer the manual because it’s can handle extreme offroading better.
The Wrangler only offers 4WD options across all models, which makes sense because it’s predominantly an off-road vehicle. The 2004 model still has the classic body-in-frame design, giving it its robust offroading capabilities.
Just like in previous years, it has a jumpy ride quality on pavement because of the rugged off-road suspension and high ground clearance. The Rubicon is particularly offensive on the road because this model is designed for extreme offroading. If you’re planning to push your Wrangler to its limit, consider the Rubicon for its extra features, like a low-range transfer case, locking differentials, heavy-duty axles, and 10.2-inch ground clearance.
The only safety features in the TJ Wrangler are front airbags for the passenger and driver. As you already know, this is a spartan vehicle without safety features like electronic stability control, and because of its modular design, there are no side curtain airbags either.
Despite this lack of advanced safety features, the 2004 Wrangler has a front-impact crashworthiness rating of ‘acceptable’ from IIHS tests. However, side-impact ratings are just ‘marginal.’
The NHTSA gave the Wrangler a rating of four stars out of five in frontal crash tests. However, the website doesn’t specify the side crash rating.
Cargo and Towing Capacity
Nothing has changed in cargo and towing capacity from the previous year, in all but the Unlimited trim. As I mentioned earlier, the Wrangler Unlimited has an overall length of 167 inches, which gives it a cargo capacity of 28.2 cubic feet with the rear seats in place.
If you remove the second-row seats, you get a total cargo capacity of 63.3 cubic feet.
This model also has a higher towing capacity of 3,500 lbs as opposed to 2,000 lbs in the smaller models.
The Wrangler’s fuel consumption depends on the engine and transmission. I’ve broken down the fuel economy of the Wrangler models in the table below, with data collected from fueleconomy.gov.
Despite its longer wheelbase, the Unlimited Wrangler has a similar fuel consumption to its shorter counterparts with the automatic transmission and V6 engine.
|Engine||Transmission||City (mpg)||Highway (mpg)||Combined (mpg)|
|2.4L 4-cylinder engine||4-speed automatic||16||19||17|
|4.0-liter V6 engine||4-speed automatic||14||19||16|
There isn’t much difference in fuel consumption between the automatic and manual-transmission Wranglers. Despite the higher fuel consumption in the V6 engines, I would still opt for this because I think the extra power and better offroad performance justify the higher consumption.
2004 Jeep Wrangler Common Problems
The TJ Wrangler is known for its leaks, be it water leaking into the cabin or oil leaking through the oil pan gasket, valve cover, or timing chain cover. In fact, the TJ happens to be the king of leaks.
However, these aren’t the only issues that TJ Wrangler owners complain about. The biggest – and most jarring – is the ‘death wobble,’ which is caused by loose front-end suspension parts and steering components.
Recalls of the 2004 Jeep Wrangler
According to the NHTSA, there have been three recalls on the 2004 Jeep Wrangler. I’ve broken these recalls down in the table below.
|February 2004||Information on the recommended tire pressure was missing in the vehicle certification label.||A new tire certification label was sent to vehicle owners.|
|February 2006||Aftermarket fuel pumps manufactured by Airtex Products had leakages.||Airtex recalled vehicles with their fuel pumps and had these parts replaced for free.|
|March 2006||Brake master cylinders manufactured by Brake Parts Inc had a seal that would become rigid in cold temperatures. This resulted in brake fluid leakage.||Affected brake master cylinders were replaced for free by the manufacturer.|
2004 Jeep Wrangler Alternatives
2004 Toyota 4Runner
The 2004 Toyota 4Runner marked the second year of the vehicle’s fourth generation. This is part of the generation that transformed the 4Runner from a boxy SUV to a curvier, more refined vehicle. If you’re not set on getting a Wrangler, then a 4Runner is a more reliable alternative to consider.
This mid-sized SUV is a formidable offroader, although it may not go everywhere that the Wrangler can. Still, it stacks up well among the Wranglers of this world, with advanced features like Hill-Start Assist, Vehicle Skid Control, and Downhill Assist Control. Plus, its body-on-frame structure gives it the ruggedness to traverse the trails that you’re likely to subject it to.
Unlike the 2004 Wrangler, the 2004 4Runner is more spacious, with ample leg and headroom. It also offers 42.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which is more than even the Wrangler Unlimited.
Three trims are available: SR5, Sport Edition, and Limited, and you get two powerful engine options. You can choose between a 4.0-liter V6 with 245 horsepower and a 4.7-liter V8 with 235 horsepower. Yes, the V8 delivers less power than its V6 counterpart, but it offers more torque for better towing performance and faster acceleration.
I would recommend the V6 engine, though, as it still performs well in both on and off-road driving. Plus, you get slightly better fuel economy.
2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee
What better alternative to the Jeep Wrangler than its own sibling, the Jeep Grand Cherokee? The Grand Cherokee is a comfortable SUV that rides well on pavement and handles offroad situations admirably. Admittedly, it’s not the vehicle of choice for most extreme offroaders, but you can still modify it to bring it close to Wrangler-level performance.
You get a more spacious and luxurious interior in the Grand Cherokee than you do in the Wrangler. In fact, you get a more luxurious interior in most other SUVs from the 2004 Wrangler’s era. If you don’t care for the removable doors and foldable windshield, then perhaps you might be happier in the Grand Cherokee.
There were five trim levels in the Grand Cherokee: Laredo, Special Edition, Freedom Edition, Limited, and Overland, with all trims getting either a 2WD or 4WD version. However, I think the Grand Cherokee’s best versions are 4WD; if you’re looking for a 2WD SUV, consider a Honda CRV or Toyota RAV4 2WD model.
The four bottom trim levels got a 4.0L V6 engine as standard, but buyers could opt to upgrade to the more powerful 4.7L V8. This V8 came as standard in the Overland models. There was also a high-output 4.7L V8 that had 30 more horses than the standard V8.
There’s no doubt that the Grand Cherokee is the vehicle of choice if you have a trailer. However, it’s thirstier than the Wrangler, so prepare to visit the gas station more often.
2004 Land Rover Discovery
Land Rover owes its reputation for building tough offroaders to the legendary defender, which is a close competitor to the Wrangler. However, the Defender left the US market in 1997, creating a shortage of this generation in the present-day used car market. This means that the value of a late 90s Defender is almost as much as it was back then – you’re better off buying the new Defender instead.
So, if you’re looking for Land Rover that will be a good alternative to the 2004 Wrangler, consider the 2004 Discovery. This is a full-size SUV with a boxy design and excellent off-road ability.
The Discovery has a classic look that I’m sure Wrangler lovers endorse. It’s not as spartan as the Wrangler, though. This vehicle has British luxuries that the American Jeep would envy. For instance, there’s automatic climate control and exterior temperature readings. You’ll also get parking assist and satellite navigation in the top-spec models.
Only one engine is available; a 4.6-liter V8 with 217 horsepower and 300 lb-ft of torque. Admittedly, this isn’t as powerful as the V8 in the Grand Cherokee, but its high torque offers it excellent on-road performance at low RPMs.
As you’d expect, the Discovery does a great job off-road as well. All models have 4WD, and features like suspension articulation improve its handling on rough terrain.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the least reliable Jeep Wrangler?
Question: What year Jeep Wrangler has death wobble?
Answer: All Jeep Wrangler models are prone to the death wobble because of the vehicle’s solid front axle.
Question: What year model is the best Jeep Wrangler?
Answer: According to the number of owner complaints on carcomplaints.com, the best Jeep Wrangler models are the 2001, 1999, 2003, and 2004 models. The 2019 model year has the fewest complaints among the latest generation models.
Question: At what speed does death wobble happen?
Answer: Most reports indicate that the death wobble starts at a speed of about 50 mph or less if you hit a pothole.
Should You Consider a 2004 Jeep Wrangler?
Yes, if you’re looking for a gritty offroader for your weekend adventures, then the 2004 Jeep Wrangler is worth considering. However, I wouldn’t buy this as a daily driver because its on-road performance is underwhelming, and its fuel economy is inferior to other compact SUVs from the same era, like the Toyota RAV4. I would only buy the 2004 Jeep Wrangler as a secondary vehicle for driving on rough terrain.
Still, if your heart is set on a Jeep Wrangler, then the 2004 model is one of the most reliable, and you’ll love owning it.
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