The Jeep Wrangler is the ultimate adventure vehicle and a popular choice for those who like to explore and engage in a multitude of outdoor activities. From boating to camping to dirt biking— If you own or are planning to own a Jeep Wrangler, there’s a chance you’ll be doing some towing in the near future. Let’s go over towing basics and tips to help you hit the road running.
Jeep Wrangler Towing Capacity
Stock Towing capacity for the 2020 Jeep Wrangler ranges from 2,000 pounds for 2-door models to a maximum of 3,500 pounds for 2020 4-door Wrangler Unlimited models.
If you’re driving a pre-2007 Wrangler, your towing capacity is limited to 2,000 pounds and in some cases may even be as low as 1,000 pounds, depending on how your Wrangler is equipped (engine displacement, gear ratio, etc).
But there is one caveat— introduced in 2004, the Unlimited trim level (briefly designated “LJ”) increased that capacity by 1,500 pounds, bringing the 2004-to-present Wrangler Unlimited models’ towing capability up to 3,500 pounds.
And if you’re in need of even more towing prowess, look to the newest member of the Jeep family: the Jeep Gladiator. This four door pick-up Jeep can tow over 7,500 pounds.
Wrangler Model Specifics: Which model Wrangler do you plan to tow with?
If you’re planning to tow anything with your Wrangler, the first thing you need to know is exactly which model you’re driving. From the WWII-era “CJ” to the introduction of the Wrangler name in 1987, to the current “JL” Wrangler, this iconic workhorse is the pinnacle of robust all-terrain American adventure.
Jeep Wranglers have been in production since 1987 and although they may have evolved slowly in regard to their timeless styling, there have certainly been some changes under the sheet metal over the years.
Towing Capacity: Up to 2,000lbs
Starting in 1987, the “YJ” model ran to 1995. This first model to bear the Wrangler name was a direct evolution of the “CJ” or “Civilian Jeep”. This model is easily identified by its uncharacteristic rectangular headlights. They were offered with a choice of four or six cylinder engines and either a five speed manual or three speed automatic transmission.
Towing Capacity: 2,000lbs or 3,500lbs for Unlimited
The Wrangler iterations evolved to the “TJ” model from 1996 to 2006. New trim levels were introduced that included mechanical and appearance options. The Unlimited was the first Wrangler to increase towing capacity to 3,500 pounds.
Towing Capacity: 2,000lbs or 3,500lbs for Unlimited
The JK Wrangler ran from 2007 to 2018. This was the first Wrangler to run almost all functions through a vehicle computer.
Towing Capacity: 2,000lbs or 3,500lbs for Unlimited
If you happen to have the latest version, the 2018+ “JL” Wrangler, you’ll be able to achieve some of the highest towing capabilities in the history of the Wrangler name.
Towing Capacity: 7,650lbs
Of course, if you’re looking for the ultimate in out-of-the-box towing capability, you need look no further than the newest member of the Jeep family: the Gladiator. While not exactly a Wrangler model, it’s based on the JL Wrangler platform. However with over 7,500 pounds of towing capability (7,650 pounds to be exact) the Gladiator more than doubles that of the Unlimited. Plus, with the addition of a 60” bed, the amount of gear you’ll be able to bring along is virtually limitless.
Towing Basics and Safety: What you’ll need to get towing?
While at first consideration it may seem as simple as backing up to a trailer and hitting the road, there’s a bit more to it than that. In addition to verifying your Wrangler’s towing capacity, there are some more towing essentials you’ll want to be sure you have on hand. Let’s talk about some towing basics first.
Hitch Receiver: Just about all modern Wranglers will have a hitch receiver size of 2” by 2”, which is the most common size. These moderate-duty receivers are given either a Class III or Class IV rating, meaning they can tow in excess of 3,500 pounds or 5,000 pounds, respectively. However just because the receivers can tow those loads comfortably, doesn’t mean your Wrangler can. It’s important that you don’t exceed your Wrangler’s limits or you may inflict damage or premature wear on your motor, axles, suspension, steering components, and more.
Hitch Ball: In addition to the receiver, your Wrangler will need a hitch ball. A 3-ball mount offers more versatility and increases the variety of trailers you’ll be able to tow.
Safety Chains: Safety chains are a must-have as well. These chains, which attach from the trailer to the back of the vehicle, act as an extra precaution if your trailer should somehow manage to come free of the hitch.
Lighting: let’s briefly talk about trailer lights. Most Wranglers will come pre-wired. Required trailer lighting is variable by state so it’s important that the operator of the vehicle looks into what their state requires. Some states require at least one trailer-mounted red light and others only require lights if the towing vehicle’s lights are obscured. One thing that virtually every state requires, however, is that the trailer is registered. Be sure to check your local laws and have a plate on your trailer if needed.
Tongue Weight & GVWR: The section of your trailer that hitches onto the ball is called the ‘tongue’ and ‘tongue weight’ is a very important factor. This is not the weight of the cargo you’re towing, but rather is the weight exerted directly on the hitch ball itself. This is worthwhile because that weight needs to be kept in mind when considering your GVWR, or Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. In short, this is the total amount your Wrangler can safely carry. If you subtract your Wrangler’s weight from the GVWR you’ll be left with what the vehicle can safely carry: the ‘payload’. Try to be cognizant of the cargo weight (and occupancy) in your Wrangler so as not to exceed your vehicle’s payload. Tongue weight contributes to the payload, so keep in mind that it should generally be between 10 to 15 percent of the trailer and cargo weight.
What you can tow with a Jeep Wrangler?
You won’t be hauling any yachts with your Wrangler, but don’t worry, your towing capacity allows you to bring along more than you’d think. From smaller boats and personal watercraft to ATVs, side-by-sides, dirt bikes and small campers— most reasonably-sized loads can be accommodated.
Depending on your budget and the cargo you’ll be towing, your type of trailer will most likely be either a cargo trailer or a utility trailer.
Utility Trailers: Utility trailers are open air trailers that are suitable to carry a variety of cargo. These trailers have wide mesh or wood floors and can be used to haul just about any sort of powersports vehicle. Versatile and simple, utility trailers come in a variety of dimensions and can be utilized to carry just about anything you’d need.
Cargo Trailers: Cargo trailers are enclosed and, much like utility trailers, can haul just about anything within their capacity. Cargo trailers are better suited than utility trailers to carrying cargo that isn’t necessarily large, heavy machinery. Because of their enclosed design, these trailers offer much more protection to what’s being hauled. However, the main drawbacks with a cargo trailer are its added weight due to its enclosed design as well as its price— cargo trailers are generally much more expensive than utility trailers.
Boat Trailers: Boat trailers are comparatively less heavy than either of the previously mentioned styles of trailer, but it’s still important to remember that with watercraft, gasoline adds a significant amount of weight.
Campers: If camping is more your speed, there are some great lightweight camper options on the market that should fit nicely within your Wrangler’s capabilities. Pop-up campers rarely weigh more than most modern Wrangler’s can handle, but if you’d prefer something that doesn’t require set-up, there are also a bunch of cool retro ‘teardrop’ styles available too.
Maximizing Your Towing Experience:
Some Wrangler owners consider towing cargo that may be outside of their vehicle’s capacity. While this isn’t necessarily advisable, there are certain ways to increase the safety of towing more extreme loads. Heavy duty suspension and upgraded axles are two necessities. Before you do that though, consider your other, better options.
Although your Wrangler is more than capable, you may want to bring along some items that wouldn’t necessarily be trailerable. Let’s talk about that.
Cargo Racks: If you’re considering something a bit more utilitarian, there are many options of cargo racks that will fit your Wrangler. These heavy duty racks come in a variety of sizes and cargo capacities and provide ample room for gear, bags, coolers, and more.
Bike Racks: Bike racks as well are a common sight on the roadway and will certainly be right at home on your Jeep. Keep in mind that if your Wrangler has a rear mounted spare, there’s a good chance you’ll need a hitch extension to give you enough room if you’re planning to mount a bike rack or other hitch accessory that will sit fairly flush to the back of the car.
Other Hitch Ideas: One interesting option is hitch hammocks. These hammocks have a stand that slides directly into your receiver and allows you to suspend two upright hammocks side-by-side.
If you’re interested in something a bit outside the norm, there are no shortage of novelty trailer hitch accessories. From safes that allow you to store valuables inside your receiver to TV mounts, tables, and bench seating— even if you don’t plan to tow you lol be able to utilize your trailer hitch in some really unconventional ways.
Frequently Asked Questions About Towing With the Jeep Wrangler:
What if I tow more than my Wrangler’s capacity? It certainly isn’t advisable to tow more than the capacity recommended by the manufacturer. While the results of overburdening your Wrangler may not be immediately noticeable, putting undue stress on your vehicle can cause premature wear on components such as brakes, suspension, axles, and the transmission. Bear in mind that exceeding your Wrangler’s towing capacity will also adversely effect your vehicle’s handling, acceleration, and braking distance.
Will Towing Hurt the Transmission? Towing with your Wrangler isn’t going to damage your transmission, providing you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines. One option to help keep you towing smoothly is to install a transmission cooler. These small oil coolers help keep your transmission from getting overheated by cooling off your transmission fluid. Of course, it’s always advisable to follow the required maintenance guidelines for your vehicle as well.
Can A Jeep Wrangler Tow An Airstream? Airstream trailers are almost as iconic as the Wrangler itself, so it’s no wonder you may be interested in pairing the two up. While your Wrangler won’t be able to safely tow most Airstream models, if you have a Wrangler Unlimited you will be able to tow the coziest trailer made by this heritage brand— the Airstream Basecamp. Weighing in at 2,585 pounds, the Basecamp should be no problem for correctly equipped Wrangler Unlimited models.
What happens if tongue weight is too heavy? Tongue weight is, of course, a very important part of having a safe towing experience. If the tongue weight is too heavy, it can put an undue stress on your Wrangler’s rear tires which, in turn, can have adverse and drastic effects on your Jeep’s handling and braking.
Can a Jeep tow a tiny house? While tiny houses have been increasingly drawing attention from those who are looking for an interesting alternative to campers, they may not be the best fit for Wrangler owners. Unfortunately, most tiny houses weigh well over 3,000 pounds and that’s not including additional weight such as furniture, liquids, supplies, and miscellaneous cargo.
Your Wrangler is one of the most capable cars on and off the road. This capability applies to the versatility of your Wrangler’s towing capacity as well as the variety of trailers and hitch accessories your Wrangler can accommodate.
When it comes to towing with your Wrangler, whether you choose to tow a camper; a boat; ATVs; or just utilize your vehicle’s towing capacity to haul supplies, safety and common sense are paramount. Besides your towing capacity, your options are only limited by your imagination. Don’t forget to have fun.