Here’s how to turn your Jeep Wrangler into an off-road beast

A Category 4 hurricane tore through the Florida coast this year. The Atlantic hurricane season ended with 14 named storms, eight hurricanes, and two major hurricanes, including Category 4 Hurricane Ian, the 5th strongest hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States. Hurricane season may have ended, but it’s never too early to prepare for the next one. You can no longer ignore the effects of rising water when planning your next Jeep build.


Whether you want to navigate the next storm surge or embark on an outdoor adventure on the trail, you’ll want to do some prep work on your Jeep Wrangler, and this article highlights ways to improve your Wrangler’s off-road performance. The automaker is happy to share that “over eighty years of Jeep Brand off-road development has been rolled into the Wrangler.”

The Wrangler is the first vehicle people associate with off-road driving, just as convertibles conjure up the imagination of drop-top tours through the Florida Keys on hot summer days and pickup trucks are one for transportation and off-road driving. While Jeep offers a variety of standard features and available features to support your Wrangler’s off-road performance, there are still a thing or two you can do to turn it into a true off-road beast.

Related: These are the 10 best Jeep Wrangler models ever produced


The biggest risk to your Jeep Wrangler while off-roading

Via Jeep

Aside from common problems like water leaks and wind noise associated with the Jeep Wrangler, rushing water poses the biggest risk in your off-road adventures. Your biggest concern is water getting into the air intake behind the passenger headlight, just above the fender well. You don’t want water to get through and into one or more of the engine cylinders, as it can hydrolock your engine.

Also known as a hydrostatic lock, a hydrolocked engine occurs because excess water in the cylinders causes the pistons and other parts of the engine to lock. Your Wrangler’s engine cylinders compress air as it operates, so any water that gets in there is also compressed and can result in catastrophic damage as the piston tries to compress the water.

This is especially important because even if a hydrolocked engine is fixable, the cost can be astronomical, from $3,000 to over $8,000, and your vehicle warranty is worthless in this case. Fixing a hydrolocked engine is time consuming, so don’t blame the high cost on the mechanic. It’s always good to be prepared and understand what you need to know before driving your Jeep Wrangler through the water.

Here’s how to make your Jeep Wrangler a better swimmer

2023 Jeep Wrangler
Via Jeep

Your Wrangler is a land vehicle, but also an off-road capable 4×4. The current reality of Mother Nature as well as the necessity of crossing shallow or deep lakes and small streams makes it important to discuss how to keep water out of the engine and make your Jeep Wrangler a better swimmer.

First up: breathing tube. Your vehicle’s transmission, front/rear axles, and automatic transmission have breather tubes that relieve pressure in this critical drive system. You run the risk of water entering the system and contaminating the lubricating oils if the pipes end up in water.

So what can you do to prevent this from happening? Extend the vent hoses with pipe extensions. You can buy the parts you need and extend the hoses yourself, but several companies like River Raider sell complete snorkel systems with almost everything you need to make your Jeep a better swimmer.

If you’re going the DIY route, you’ll need a 3/8-inch hose bender (if you’re just extending the factory hose), hose clamps (to secure the ends), and a 5/16-inch rubber fuel line. Remove the mender if you plan to replace the whole thing. Once you have all the parts you need, your next step is to extend the hose and secure it in a good place, raise it as high as possible or route it to the air box. Just remember to remove the airbox first and seal all holes and seams properly to prevent water from seeping through the bottom or sides.

Your Wrangler may well get through water safely as it is, but extending the breather hose goes the extra mile to make your vehicle a formidable off-road beast. With the vent pipes secure, your next step in turning your Jeep Wrangler into a fearless swimmer is to invest in a snorkel system to extend the air intake as high as possible, even up to the vehicle’s roofline.

Your Wrangler is not an all-terrain animal but a snorkel. It helps keep the engine breathing while your Jeep wades through the water. Some snorkel systems like those from Rugged Ridge are effective enough to also protect your air filter by filtering sand and dust before they clog and compromise engine ventilation. So to make your Jeep Wrangler a better swimmer? Beef up the breathing tubes and snorkel.

Related: These are the best 4×4 SUVs updated for 2023

More ways to turn your Jeep Wrangler into an off-road beast in mud or water

Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 392 rear
Via Stellantis

Your Jeep Wrangler can be just as at home in mud or water as it is on regular roads. However, we have pretty much established that your vehicle needs to be modified to be better at what it was built to do. Your goal is to protect the mechanical and electrical components. To protect your Wrangler’s electrical components, devices such as ignition lock cables and waterproofing kits for the fans and power distribution packages will increase their immunity to water.

Equipping your Wrangler with larger off-road tires and lifts will not only improve the vehicle’s off-road ability in mud or water, but also make them look the part of a formidable all-terrain beast. You’re in luck because Jeep builds them to accommodate custom off-road add-ons like wider tires and lift kits. Some Wranglers even have rear spacing to accommodate tires up to 35 inches.

The next step is to seal the covers – control cover, gas cover and distribution cover. They all have to be waterproof when you go out there. And finally, the exhaust. It’s just as important to protect your Jeep Wrangler’s exhaust from drinking up as it is the engine. There are aftermarket kits for exhaust vehicles with things like vent pipes and raider tape, or even a smog pump you can get to keep the exhaust from drinking. Go get your beast.

Sources: Jeep, Extreme Terrain, Four Wheel Trends, prb.org, Lange Tech

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