The Jeep is about as American as apple pie and has been the symbol of versatility and capability since the end of World War II when light military vehicles became available to the public. Its massive wheels and off-road-ready suspension make it the perfect SUV for leaving the pavement behind on a weekend adventure.
Whether that means dirt trails through the countryside, rock climbing to the top of the mountains, or cruising around the dunes, you want a Jeep, and these days it goes under the name of the Wrangler.
Civilian Jeeps have been available since 1945, but the marque has had several owners since then. Willys-Overland, who manufactured the iconic Jeep used by the U.S. Military, produced the civilian models until 1953 when they were bought by Kaiser Motors, who were then bought in 1970 by AMC (American Motors Corporation, not the movie theatre chain), who owned it another 17 years. And while the Jeep has maintained a consistent identity throughout all those changes for the past 75 plus years, the mechanical side of the car has changed a lot to keep up with modern technology.
This means that the towing capacity of a Jeep Wrangler depends largely on its wheelbase and its axle ratio, which have all changed over the years. We will help walk you through what this means for towing with your Jeep Wrangler.
How Many Doors Does Your Jeep Wrangler Have?
Essentially, if you have a two-door Jeep Wrangler, you can expect it to tow about 2,000 pounds. Meanwhile, the towing capacity of a Wrangler with four doors is 3,500 pounds. Why do the doors make a difference? Well, as you might have guessed, adding more doors doesn’t increase the towing capacity, but increasing the wheelbase to accommodate those extra doors sure does.
The two-door variants of the Jeep have a respectable wheelbase of 96.8 inches, while the larger four-door models have 118.4 inches of space between the front and rear axle. Those 22 inches might not sound too significant, but the tow rating of a car vastly improves the more that number increases. This is because when you have something attached to the tow bar at the very back of your car, the whole car turns into a lever with the rear wheels as the fulcrum, balancing the front end of the car and the trailer behind it.
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That added wheelbase makes the lever arm longer, which increases the leverage the front end of the car has. The added size also increases the curb weight of the car, further increasing the leverage and allowing you to tow heavier loads. If your car is too light or too short, then no matter how strong the engine is, it won’t be safe to pull heavier trailers behind you.
Adding more weight to the back can begin to lift the front end of the car off the ground, which is very dangerous. Even if the tires are still on the ground, they will have less traction, meaning you will lose steering capabilities as well as power. So if you really want to tow in your Jeep Wrangler, go for four doors.
What Does This Mean for You?
If you have a boat that you’re hoping to bring out to the water, you’ll have to give the manual a quick check before you try hauling it with your Wrangler. Boats designed for cruising the waters with friends and family will often weigh around 3,000 pounds, but there is plenty of wiggle room on that, depending on the size of the boat and the materials it is constructed from.
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But if you can’t find the exact weight of your boat, it is best to err on the side of caution. With the weight of the trailer to consider, too, the total weight may well exceed the towing capacity of even the Jeep Wrangler. Bass boats are a much lighter option, and even with the trailer included, these will typically weigh around 2,500 pounds, so you should be able to tow this with a four-door Wrangler, but don’t push your luck with the two-door models.
If you own a two-door Wrangler, your towing is a bit limited, but you can still haul some toys or even a little bit of storage with you. Jet skis are said to be a beautiful union of form and function, and many of them weigh in under 500 pounds, meaning with a trailer attached, you might be able to tow two of them. Sailboats can also be rather light since they don’t have engines or fuel to weigh them down, as long as they don’t have full-sized sleeping quarters under the deck. If moving is a concern, you will be able to carry a small cargo trailer behind you, though not at full capacity.
A 5x8 U-Haul trailer weighs about 900 pounds empty, so you could tentatively pack about 1,000 pounds worth of possessions into a trailer and take it with you, as long as you are careful not to overload it and keep the weight as far forward as possible.
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While most Wranglers sold today have four doors and a long wheelbase, that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, all Jeep Wranglers and Civilian Jeeps sold prior to the 2004 model year had two doors and a shorter wheelbase. But after almost 60 years, Chrysler decided to add an extra set of doors and call it a Wrangler Unlimited. Clearly, they had a good idea, as it makes for an easier family car and a better towing machine.
What is the Axle Ratio?
The axle ratio is how many turns of the driveshaft it takes for the tires to make one rotation. Higher axle ratios deliver more torque to the wheels, but that comes at the cost of fuel efficiency. The axle ratio doesn’t actually change the towing capacity of the Wrangler, according to Jeep, indicating that the wheelbase and weight of the car are the limiting factors at play here, but that doesn’t mean that the axle ratio doesn’t matter.
The stock Wrangler models come with a low 3.21 axle ratio, while the more off-road-oriented trims offer 3.73 and 4.1 axle ratios. The higher ratios should give your Jeep more power, so you don’t feel so sluggish when you are towing, and it also helps for climbing steep roads and trails, but you can expect to pay the price for that power at the gas pump.
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