The Wrangler is back with a new heart

The Wrangler is back with a new heart

Project Wrangler is back, complete with a new factory-built engine banging away quietly under the hood. My Jeep has a new heart.

After almost three weeks of extensive engine repairs, Fiat Chrysler had finally authorized the new engine. Within days of receiving authorization, I had my Jeep back.

No more ticking, tocking or knocking, just the quiet flutter of the valvetrain and the rumble of the exhaust.

My Jeep was whole again.

My trouble with the Jeep’s ill-fated Pentastar started late last summer. It had started out as an intermittent hollow tick or tock that resounded through the cabin.

At city speeds, the sound bounced off nearby buildings like a playing card in the spokes of a bicycle.

The engine had always been kind of loud — louder than other JK Wranglers with the same engine but no louder than my old 3.8L V6 Camaro with its chattering water pump and chittering AC compressor — but I figured it drove fine and had never bucked, backfired or stalled.

The ticking continued to grow ever louder and more persistent as the months on until it became the norm.

A Band-Aid or a fix?

The Band-Aid

Just before a long Christmas road trip, I drove through the doors of the local dealer’s garage and so began the first of many visits to the dealership. The next day I had my Jeep back complete with a few new valve lashes and rocker arms. Most importantly the ticking had faded to a nearly imperceptible clatter that only occasionally taunted my ears.

The new valvetrain components turned out to be more of a band-aid for a bigger and much more serious problem.

The fix? Not quite


There was no getting around it now, I’d bought a lemon.

In early February, that awful cacophony of hollow knocking was back and louder than ever.

There was no getting around it now. I’d bought a lemon and now all I could do was pray I’d have enough sugar to make lemonade.

On my way home from work I stopped by the dealer to make an appointment. The last thing I needed was my livelihood detonating on me on my way to an assignment.

A week later and with a few shiny new camshaft bearings and a fresh rear main seal I turned my Jeep over, drove it around the block and right back into the parking lot. My engine sounded like it was dying. The ticking was now so loud you could hear it from across the parking lot.

Irate, I asked to speak to the shop manager. He turned out to be a nice guy who really honestly seemed like he just wanted to help.

The thing is, the people at the dealership had actually been really good to me. My vehicle was under warranty and they’d provided me with a loaner while they were making the repairs.

A week later I got the bad news. They’d discovered the number-four cylinder walls had been scored and pitted. My engine was toast.

Going nuclear

Image of nuclear blast

Almost three weeks after I’d dropped the Jeep off, I finally got some good news. The service department, stumped went nuclear and convinced Chrysler to replaced my engine under warranty.

It was a pretty simple process in which I was required to submit proof I’d maintained the engine properly. I’d kept good service records, but I was relieved they didn’t take issue with my home oil change records.

Two days later, I got an email from the technician with three pics.

My old engine was out, the engine bay was empty and a shiny new long-block was ready to go in.

Project Wrangler is back in business


A new engine sits in my now pristine engine bay. I don’t remember ever seeing it so clean.

With the successful repair of my Jeep, Project Wrangler is back on track. Updates on the drawer build, downsizing prep and a review of the Jeep Cherokee are due out soon. Stay tuned.