Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (2024)

Wrangler YJ: What Changed?

While the Wrangler YJ wasn't a radical transformation from its predecessor, there were many small changes that either pleased or annoyed Jeepers. The most notable change was the switch from Jeep’s famous round headlights to a square headlight design. Jeep also wanted to design a vehicle with more creature comforts, which meant sacrificing many of its off-roading capabilities.

Many exterior features of the Wrangler YJ are still interchangeable with older Jeep CJ parts. The YJ still supported a leaf spring suspension and retained its 2-door design, although there were some major changes to the suspension, drivetrain, and other parts of the Jeep model including:

  • Less ground clearance and a wider track
  • Wider springs and added sway bars for improved handling
  • Wider windshield with square headlights (the biggest YJ model indicator)
  • Quieter transfer case
  • Automatic transmission was introduced in 1994 for 4-cylinder models
  • Throttle body fuel injection system (‘88 models and above)
  • Larger axle u-joints
  • Corrosion-resistant galvanized sheet metal frame that prevented rust

The ‘87 YJ might have served as a poor test dummy for the Wrangler line, but the Jeep Wrangler did add many features throughout the YJ generation we enjoy on JK models today. New features included fog lights on the Laredo, larger U-Joints on the last YJ model year, an extended roll bar on ‘92 models, and even anti-lock brakes became standard by 1993.

The YJ Jeep length was approximately 164-184″ L x 74″ W x 73″ H, and many CJ owners are able to swap out their rusted frame for a brand new Wrangler YJ frame. As for towing, the YJ’s frame was rated to pull 2,200 lbs.

Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (1)
Front Leaf Spring

Wrangler YJ: Common Misconceptions

While the YJ generation may be the most controversial of Jeep Wrangler's history, it still represented a major improvement over its predecessor. Even the ‘87 Wrangler with its 2.5L AMC 150 I4 engine and horrid NP207 T-case had better handling, heating, and interior space than older, unreliable CJ models. Of course, the NP207 T-case was dropped the next year, and for six-cylinder owners, the 4.2 L AMC 258 with its carb setup was replaced by the 4.0L 242 with a fuel-injected CID setup.

Even if you did own the ‘basic 87 model, Laredo, or Sport, you still had the option to swap out the standard engine for the CJ’s 4.2L six-cylinder, 2-barrel carburetor. The Wrangler also added door locks to its steel half doors by ‘88 and provided better seals for its soft rooftops.

Many people from this generation complain about the endless length of vacuum that came with early Wrangler computer systems. This was also fortunately replaced by ‘91 when it finally introduced a standard 4.0L CID engine for all its models.

Though the Wrangler YJ generation was built for passive drivers, it still had many capabilities for off-roading. With a suspension lift, you could increase your off-roading angles and enjoy the power to get through harsh terrain with a 4.0L engine.

Toward the end of the YJ generation, we saw both six and four-cylinder engines enjoy a vastly improved NP231 T-case. Even the Wrangler winches and towing capabilities were far improved from the days of the dinky old CJ model, which was no prince itself.

What the Wrangler YJ Got Wrong

While the Wrangler YJ was far from perfect, so is the first new model of many manufacturers. With a few small improvements and some aftermarket accessories, an old Wrangler YJ could run just as well as a new JK. Of course, some problems definitely affected early Wrangler YJ models, which is why it often has a bad reputation-minus the square headlights of course.

  • With lower ground clearance, the Wrangler had limited hard-wheeling and off-roading capabilities.
  • The Carter carburetor on early models ran into lots of problems, even off the assembly line.
  • The Peugeot BA 10/5 manual transmission was historically unreliable (87’-’89).
  • The NP207 T-Case and hydraulic slave setup made replacing a failed Peugeot BA 10/5 transmission incredibly difficult.

With new CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Standards) standards, early Jeep models had to sacrifice power to meet emissions standards, which resulted in having to deal with the largest hydraulic vacuum lines you've ever seen. Fortunately, by 1989, Jeep started replacing their horrendous transmission system with a more reliable AX-15 transmission. By ‘94, Wranglers were fitted with a brand new hydraulic master/slave setup for an improved drivetrain.

Wrangler YJ Motor and Transmission

The Wrangler’s 2.5L AMC I4 engine remained the platform of choice for the four-cylinder owners, and the more-powerful six-cylinder was also available. 1991 also saw the introduction of the more powerful 180-horsepower 4.0 L engine that reigned superior over its 4.2 L 122hp predecessor. The new 4.0 engines also enjoyed a more reliable computer carburetor system over its predecessors.Owners could choose between five-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions.

Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (2)
YJ Engine Bay

YJ Six-cylinder Engines:

  • 4.2 L AMC 258 (1987-1991, carburetor)
  • 4.0 L AMC 242 (1991-1995, fuel injection)

YJ Four-Cylinder Engines:

  • 2.5 L AMC 150 (carburetor)


YJ Six-Cylinder Manual:

  • Peugeot BA-10 (1987-1989)
  • Aisin AX-15 (1988-1995)

YJ Six-Cylinder Auto:

  • TF999 (1987-1992) Non lock up
  • TF999 (1992-1995) Electronic Shift

YJ Four-Cylinder Manual:

  • Aisin AX-5 (1987-1995)

YJ Four-Cylinder Automatic:

  • TF904 (1994-1995)

Transfer Case:

  • NP231 (various YJs from 1987 had the NP207)

Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (3)

New in Wrangler YJ Mods

    What is a Computer-Controlled Carburetor System?

    Before 1991, early YJ Wranglers were plagued with an unreliable hydraulic computer-controlled carburetor system. Consumers could choose between a 2.5 L AMC 150 TBI fuel injection engine or a computer-carbureted 4.2L engine, both of which were strapped by the horrendous Peugeot BA 10/5.

    A computer-controlled carburetor system is designed to handle fuel the same way as a regular carburetor, except it struggled to keep a steady air/fuel ratio when a leak occurred.

    Motorists often recommend a fuel-injection system that will provide a more consistent air/fuel ratio over a carburetor. While not in use anymore, computer-controlled carburetor systems were susceptible to holes and leaks that would limit the amount of air entering the engine. This resulted in lost power and increased engine temperatures.

    A Review of the Special Editions

    • Laredo
    • Sport
    • Sahara
    • Olympic
    • S Model
    • Renegade
    • Islander

    Most special edition Wranglers only enjoyed different trims and higher price tags. The Islander replaced the Sporty decor and featured tropical stickers/decals, a center console, the option for a full or half door Jeep, and was available in both engines. The Islander only featured a great selection of tropical themed colors. The Islander also exemplified what it was made for: light off-roading on a beach.

    Then came the Jeep Renegade from 1990 to 1994. A remake of an old classic, the Jeep Renegade featured a fiberglass bumper, options for a hard roof and rear defroster, as well as slightly bigger 4.0L I6 engine.

    The Jeep Renegade didn't offer much more capability for off-roading or towing. It mainly consisted of a standard YJ body and engine with a few modifications. It’s considered one of the most controversial vehicles of this generation.

    Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (4)
    YJ Wrangler Sport Edition

    Wrangler YJ Off-Roading Upgrades

    YJs get the short end of the stick in most cases, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a versatile off-road rig. At ExtremeTerrain we offer aftermarket accessories that will make the old Wrangler YJ act like a modern-day Jeep Rubicon.

    • Lift kit for more ground clearance
    • Roll cages to protect passengers
    • Sway bar disconnects
    • Replace a Dana D35 rear axle for a Dana D44
    • Replace fender wells with plastic fender flares

    Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (5)
    YJ w/Off-Road Mods

    Fitment includes: 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, YJ, Laredo, Sport, Islander, S, Sahara, Renegade, SE

    Jeep Wrangler YJ Overview (2024)


    What does YJ stand for in Jeep? ›

    Jeep Wrangler (YJ)

    How many Jeep Wrangler YJ were made? ›

    Over the YJ's lengthy 8-year run, AMC and Chrysler produced over 630,000 Wranglers; though paling in comparison to the JK's 2.1-million unit run, that's still a lot of Jeeps!

    What engines fit in a Jeep YJ? ›

    The generous YJ engine bay allows for a comfortable, clean fit for GM Small Block V6, V8 and even Big Block V8 engines. These Jeeps are a most excellent powertrain swap platform, with their inherent durability being greatly upgraded and complemented by versatile GM power.

    Which is better YJ or TJ? ›

    For all intents and purposes, the TJ exemplifies the typical Wrangler look. In terms of broad performance differences, the TJ recouped some of the lost off-roading abilities of the YJ by raising the vehicle a tad and swapping leaf springs for a coil spring- suspension system.

    Why did the YJ have square lights? ›

    The Wrangler YJ was released with rectangular headlights, that gave the Jeep a more aggressive look than the previous models.

    Should I lift my Jeep YJ? ›

    If you have the means to take on the reduced gas mileage and high cost of installing and maintaining your lifted Wrangler, then by all means go ahead. However, if you've been fine with your stock Jeep Wrangler and how it performs, there's really no need to spend all that time and money lifting your Wrangler.

    What year YJ is fuel injected? ›

    As the 80s found its place in the history books, so did the carburetor (on modern production vehicles at least.) Enter the 1991 YJ. Though it is almost identical to earlier YJ Wranglers the engine were instead fed with fuel injection. Fuel injection works much the same as a carburetor.

    What is a 95 Jeep Wrangler YJ worth? ›

    How much is a 1995 Jeep Wrangler worth? The value of a used 1995 Jeep Wrangler ranges from $422 to $1,793, based on vehicle condition, mileage, and options. Get a free appraisal here.

    What year of Jeeps to stay away from? ›

    A: Potential buyers should be cautious with the 2012, 2007, and 2008 Jeep Wrangler models. The 2012 model is particularly notorious for its high number of recalls, while the 2007 and 2008 models also have a significant recall history, indicating potential reliability issues.

    What is the best engine for the Jeep YJ? ›

    Ford Windsor V8 power is actually a very good choice for the YJ Wrangler. These engines develop great power and they fit well into the envelope of the Jeep's engine bay. This won't be much of a comparative discussion between GM and Ford V8's, but our customers do often ask us our opinions on the topic.

    What transmission does my YJ have? ›

    Which Transmissions Came in Which Wranglers?
    Wrangler Gen/YearEngineTransmission
    YJ 1987-19954.0 I-6, 4.2 I-63-Spd 999 Auto
    5-Spd BA-10/5 (1986-1990)
    5-Spd AX15 Manual (1991-1995)
    TJ 1997-20062.4 I-44-Spd 42RLE Auto (2003-2006)
    18 more rows

    What transmission came in a YJ? ›

    The YJ didn't come with a lot of great transmission options, but with proper care they it last in most on- and off-highway driving conditions. The light-duty AX-5 was the standard five-speed manual transmission behind the I-4, with the TorqueFlite 904 available in '94-'95 models.

    What is the best Wrangler model? ›

    The Wrangler Rubicon is one of the best Jeep Wrangler models. The Rubicon is perfect if you're looking to explore some more difficult terrain and have amazing off-roading experiences. This Wrangler comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and 33-inch all-terrain tires with the option for 35-inch tires.

    What does TJ stand for Jeep? ›

    Jeep lovers rejoiced with the introduction of the Jeep TJ in 1997. The term TJ stands for True Jeep, and many considered this Jeep Wrangler as the ultimate escape machine. Jeep made the Wrangler TJ from 1997 to 2006 and only as a two-door model.

    What's the difference between a CJ and YJ? ›

    The biggest thing you should know about the YJ is that it was a redesign of the legendary CJ. They came with a stiffer frame, which helps with durability, plus the rear seating area has more protections. Stability was also improved through the use of wider front leaves in the suspension, plus a winder track and body.

    How do I know if my Jeep is a TJ or YJ? ›

    Jeeps, from the start (dating all the way back to WWII), had up to this point always used round headlights, until AMC changed that by designing rectangular headlights for the YJ Wrangler. Since the TJ and JK Wrangler models, in contrast, both use round headlamps, the YJ is easy to identify by this feature

    What does TJ JK and JL stand for? ›

    All of the Jeep Wrangler generations — the YJ, TJ, JK, and JL — have two-letter codes that help differentiate the different body styles but don't stand for anything in particular.

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