The AMC straight-six engine, commonly known as the Jeep 4.0 motor, was introduced in 1991. The engineers did an excellent job with it; plus, over the years, they perfected the original formula. Discontinued in 2006, it is still a fan-favored unit. Why is that, though? First of all, it’s quite powerful and handles off-road without breaking a sweat. Secondly, it’s fairly cheap and easy to fix.
And the biggest selling point is, of course, the Jeep 4.0 engine reliability. It can go on for hundreds of miles and requires little effort in maintenance. However, some experts claim it’s not at all reliable. This engine does have its fair share of issues, that’s true. So, let’s dig a bit deeper, talk about that in more detail, and compare it to the 3.8-lit motor!
What’s the Average Lifespan of the Jeep 4.0-lit Engine?
It’s safe to say that most straight-six motors are built to last. They don’t vibrate nearly as much as the so-called V-style engines, and that’s partially why they have an extended lifespan. Eight-cylinder motors are pretty great as well. However, they’re a bit too expensive for most folks; and, they take a lot of room. That’s exactly why the Jeep 4.0-lit unit is so popular. So, how long can you expect it to run?
When properly taken care of, it will serve you for 150-300K miles. This depends on the actual vehicle, the area that you live in, your driving habits, the spark plugs, exhaust system, air intake, and more. But, in general, the engine should run smoothly before you hit that mark. Now, for the average driver that puts out +/- 15K miles a year, the 4.0-lit straight-six will go on for 10 to 20 years!
According to statistics, Jeep owners start to complain about overall performance once they reach the 220-250K miles limit. But, as you’ll soon learn, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the engine’s fault. So, the superb Jeep 4.0 reliability isn’t at all a myth. It is, indeed, incredibly long-lasting.
Common 4.0 Jeep Engine Problems
The 4.0-lit motor is quite alright – we just verified that. It’s not a perfect unit, though, and does have its fair share of problems. Let’s take a look at those. I’ll keep it short, but cover the most annoying issues:
- Strange noises. This can be caused by the gearbox, the ignition coils, exhaust manifold, wires, and, of course, the motor. So, I wouldn’t say that engine noises are a 4.0-lit-specific problem – it’s actually very common.
- Stalling + misfires. If you run regular maintenance checks, you’ll be able to largely avoid this issue. Stalling and misfire mostly happen due to faulty spark plugs, coils, or cylinders. In many ways, this is one of the most frustrating 0 lit Jeep engine problems, though, because if the vehicle fails to start, it might not get back on the road.
- Coolant leaks. No hoses, valves, or any other part of the cooling system lasts forever. That’s exactly why proper maintenance is key to maximizing the motor’s lifespan. If you notice the tiny cracks early on, it will be much easier to “patch them up” as compared to having to deal with an all-out leak. The same is true for oil and transmission fluid.
- Faulty exhaust manifold. The manifold is the 4.0 Jeep engine’s weakest link in the chain. When the engine is pushed to the limit, it tends to overheat, and the exhaust manifold takes the biggest “hit”. Over time, that leads to cracks and leaks. Check the bolts first – they’re usually the root of the issue. Or, upgrade to a header: it will be much more reliable.
- Trouble with the wires. As mentioned, the straight-six Jeep engine is pretty old. Therefore, it doesn’t have lots of advanced electronic components. That’s why in many cases, the fuses, coils, and wiring are to blame for premature failure. The stock wiring harness leaves a lot to be desired. So, if you’ve got the bucks, I’d recommend replacing it.
- Weak fuel injectors and cam sensors. Again, often, the issue is not with the engine itself, but the peripherals. People believe that it’s the 4.0-lit failing, but it’s not. Crank/cam sensors and fuel injectors aren’t at all reliable in the older Jeeps – keep that in mind and have them checked first.
Maintenance: How to Care for the Jeep Straight-Six Motor?
You won’t have to do anything unusual or specific. Just like any other motor, the 4.0-lit will serve you a lot longer if you follow the standard recommendations. I’m talking about frequent oil and coolant changes, regular checks, and auto shop trips (at least once a year). Also, keep your eyes on the dashboard. If you see the check engine light, low-oil warning, or any other signs pop up, do your best to fix those issues as soon as possible.
Is the 3.6-lit Engine Better?
The short answer – no, it’s not, even though some folks swear by it. This engine is a bit cheaper, but it has a lower resale value and common Jeep 3.6 engine problems. Plus, the 4.0-lit motor has more low-end torque, which most drivers tend to like. As for reliability, these two units have been thoroughly tested for many years, and the 4.0-lit has proven to be a more durable engine. Not by a long shot, but the difference is still there.