Water leaks can lead to upholstery damage, electrical shortages, bad odor, and mold. They’re also inconvenient and frustrating. A water leak, unfortunately, is part of the package when buying a Jeep Wrangler. This problem is so rampant that it is among the top concerns reported by Jeep consumers worldwide. While FCA has yet to produce a reliable waterproof SUV, Jeep owners will have to be content with temporary solutions.
So how do you fix Jeep Wrangler water leaks when it rains? Reinforce all rubber seals, replace worn parts and gaskets, wipe it dry after each downpour, and do your due diligence in carrying out routine cleaning and proper maintenance.
Since you will have to deal with water leaks for a while, let this article ease your burden by letting you in on causes of this problem, expert tips, and best workarounds. We’ll even do a little segue into the Lemon Law, in case things go wrong and your water leaks worsen.
Myth: Jeeps Are Waterproof
Jeep Wranglers are fantastic vehicles, but they come with their share of flaws – and water leaks are one of them. Contrary to consumer expectations, materials that make up a Jeep Wrangler are not impervious to water. At best, its parts and fixtures are only water-resistant, including its interior electronics and infotainment center for newer models.
Tests done by FCA confirm that a Jeep Wrangler can safely ford 19 inches of water, driving at a moderately slow pace. Its interiors can also hold up to light rain and drizzles pretty well. But just because Jeep engineers have designed the vehicle to handle H2O doesn’t mean that it can hold out prolonged exposure to rain and moisture damage-free. Additionally, driving your Jeep through a car wash with the top down or power cleaning it without thoroughly wiping it dry asks for trouble.
Why Do Jeep Wrangler Water Leaks Happen?
Even in stock form, various Jeep Wrangler parts contribute to its natural tendency to leak. For instance, Jeeps have removable front tube doors. Automatically, this allows for water to get in the interior if you are traveling in inclement weather. If the doors are attached, the hinges will still have little gaps where water can seep through. The Jeep’s body openings are also only moisture-resistant and not waterproof, so water buildup is normal.
Jeep Wrangler Water Leak Passenger Side
All four-door Wranglers with A/C systems would also have water leaks on the passenger side’s front floor carpet due to condensation from the Jeep’s cooling process.
Both hardtops and soft tops also cause Jeep Wrangler water leaks. Newer models usually come with a Freedom top – this is a three-part panel that allows for more convenient storage and handling than the Jeep’s traditional one-piece hardtop cover. The downside of the Freedom panel’s design is that the areas where the pieces meet to make for a perfect track for water to travel. For soft tops, water leaks are almost self-explanatory. Vinyl and Velcro make up soft tops. These materials wear out and allow water to leak in as fast as two years. Moreso, a soft-top frequently comes on and off your Jeep Wrangler, which hastens its wear and tear.
Problem Areas and Causes
Depending on how bad the leak is, many cases can be solved with quick fixes. Before we can jump into solving any of these, it is crucial to determine first where the problem is emanating.
One cause of water pooling is a clogged cowl or drain plug. Its symptoms include windows fogging up constantly and possible electrical problems. It is quite easy to get clogged because it is in a perfect spot where leaves and dirt accumulate. Another cause is dilapidated seals around the windshield and doors. Additionally, other factors are disengaged latches, incorrectly installed door seals, puckered or distorted top seals, and rubber gaskets between the panels being bent or coming out of the track. Symptoms for these would usually be water trickling down the inside of the windows or floor carpets consistently being wet.
Jeep_tv talks more about worn rubber gaskets and how to fix them in his video:
A hard-shell top not connecting appropriately is also part of the problem and is especially true for Jeep owners who have installed the hardtops themselves. Sometimes, little spaces between the door and the hardtop are left unnoticed, allowing water to get inside the Jeep. Water running along the outside of the HVAC assembly drain tube results in a wet front-floor carpet. It usually happens if there is any debris or other restrictions in the drain hose. Furthermore, a leaking heater core and leaking windshield seals also contribute to Jeep Wrangler leaks when it rains.
The reasons for water leaks are not limited to the causes stated above. The specific area inside your vehicle where the leak happens can direct you to different origins of the water leak. Based on customer complaints, water can often be seen on the instrument panel, shifter/console, door trim panel or A-pillar, rear hard top panel or B-pillar, B-pillar roll bar or trim, front carpet, and under the seats. Depending on where water is spotted, one will need to perform different remedies to stop water from seeping into your Jeep’s interior. The door fit, windshield header, cowl side panel, and rear-wheel flare hole are parts of your Jeep that may need to be looked into and repaired.
How to Fix Jeep Wrangler Water Leaks When It Rains: 10 Tips
Here are ten tips you can try to fix water leaks in your Jeep Wrangler:
- Wipe hard surfaces with a towel or moisture-soaking rag. Look for leaks under the dashboard, the steering column doors, the upper corner of the driver and passenger doors, windshield, dome lights, and floorboards. Secure oil caps, gas caps, and distributor caps.
- Use a wet rag to clean around all of your Jeep’s rubber seals as off-road dirt and debris can find their way in, especially in the crevices. Qtips or cotton buds are extremely helpful in getting rid of dirt and filth inside creases.
- Pull your carpets out so you can find areas in your Jeep where water is pooling. Before placing them back in, vacuum them thoroughly and let them air out. If you live in an area where it often rains and snows, consider getting a Jeep bed liner (view on Amazon). This keeps your bed truck and cargo in good shape. You can choose between a drop-in or spray type, whichever works better for you.
- For clogged drain plugs or cowls, clear them out by unscrewing the top cover and flushing the cowl drain with a hose to remove the gunk that interferes with the drainage.
- Glue the door seals all the way around and clean the door thoroughly with silicone lube before doing so. Additionally, check that the rubber has no cracks and is not peeling away from the vehicle. Routine cleaning and proper lubrication will keep your silicone-based seals from drying out.
- Ensure that the top properly seals and that none of the seals are folding outside by placing the passenger side panel down first. Check for disengaged latches, if there are any. If there are, tighten each lock in a criss-cross pattern, fold down the front metal latches, and use the screw-in bolts to compress the seals.
- Add in additional weather stripping and run it along your Jeep’s current liner for extra compression and seal for your roof. Be careful not to get foam that is too thick because you’ll wind up with a gap and only let more water in. Foam weather stripping about one-eighth (⅛) of an inch thick is all you need to do the job.
- Inject a filler into the gaskets (found along the front edge of the hood across the doors and tailgates of your Jeep) to improve contact points. Doing this solves almost all issues with puckered or distorted top seals and bent or displaced rubber gaskets.
- Check your Jeep’s exhaust systems, coolant level, and A/C. White smoke billowing out of your exhaust pipes and a lot of water coming out of the tailpipe call for an inspection and a possible replacement of your exhaust system. A low coolant level requires a top-off and filling the cooling system with an anti-freeze coolant and not water. Conversely, a small amount of moisture or water puddle underneath the engine bay or behind the rear tires is a by-product of your vehicle’s cooling process and should not be cause for alarm.
- Tighten hardtop bolts as they become loose over time, making them easy entry points for water to seep into your Jeep. Use a hex wrench to tighten the hardtop bolts on each side of the Jeep.
Following these steps are not 100% guaranteed to resolve all water leak issues. Many Jeep owners who have employed these fixes still ended up visiting their local mechanic or dealership repeatedly. Some of the lucky ones successfully stopped water leaks on their third or fourth visit, while others had to resort to disputes and legal action to get things sorted out. Among these more controversial and tedious remedies is citing the Lemon Law, which I will discuss in further detail later on.
More Tips on How to Fix Jeep Wrangler Water Leaks
Experts share additional tips to keep your Jeep Wrangler leak-free on top of recommended routine checks and maintenance. Several Jeep owners who have experienced these water leak problems suggest using Sil-Glyde – it is silicone-based and has a fantastic seal on everything. They highly recommended it for all Freedom top and soft top owners. It helps dampen the slight wind noise people get on their Freedom panel when driving at speeds of 50-70 mph.
Another must-have item is a Jeep cover like Bestop 8103709 All Weather Trail Cover (view on Amazon). This Jeep-care piece is not only impressive but also inexpensive. Even when it doesn’t rain, it is advisable to use it if you leave your tank parked for long hours. Just pull it over the roll cage and windshield and cinch it tight, and your Jeep will have instant protection. Seat covers also help keep your seats hygienic and mold-free. A set of water-resistant seat covers (view on Amazon) offers excellent breathability and UV resistance.
They also recommend a dash panel and steering wheel covers. These overlays and covers protect the clock spring and electronics in your Jeep’s dash. More and more customers use these as previous Jeep owners have reported that a faulty clock spring resulting from water leakage can cause malfunctions with the airbag, horn, and radio controls. Bikini tops come in handy and give less-restrictive overall protection to your Jeep and are best to use for drizzles.
The Lemon Law
Lemon refers to defective products, ranging from small electrical appliances to large pieces of machinery. On the other hand, Lemon laws are U.S. state laws that provide a remedy for vehicles and other consumer goods to compensate for products that repeatedly fail to meet quality and performance standards. The general rule is that an auto manufacturer (not the dealership) must repurchase a vehicle that has a significant defect if it is unable to repair the said defect within a reasonable amount of time.
While a manufacturer’s warranty might compel it to do no-cost repairs for its consumer, particular scenarios go beyond its scope. For one, it does not include maximum periods for the completion of the repair. Nor does it trigger buy-back provisions for incomplete repairs within a maximum time. Vehicle warranties also usually do not cover warranty for used vehicles. It is during these scenarios where Lemon laws step into the picture.
Lemon law criteria vary by state and are even absent in certain countries. For instance, Australia does not have a law similar to the U.S. Lemon laws, which leave its consumers without legal protection beyond their vehicle warranty. On the contrary, Canada has its version of Lemon laws in the guise of the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan or CAMVAP. CAMVAP is the dispute resolution program for problems with the assembly or warranty implementation of their vehicle. It covers new and used, owned and leased vehicles from the current model year to an additional four model years, and is available in all Canadian provinces and territories, free-of-charge. Asian countries like Singapore and the Philippines also have their respective versions of Lemon laws.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I stop my Jeep soft top from leaking? Check the weather stripping along the top bars where you attach the soft top. Chances are the weather stripping folded in during storage, creating a gap where water can seep in. Replace the damaged foam, and the water leak should stop immediately. Check out this video by fiero880 to find out more:
- How do I fix a hard top leak? Before you can fix this problem, you need to be able to pinpoint where it’s originating. You can do this through the bubble trick. Get a spray bottle filled with water and detergent and spray it on your Jeep’s body with the client control system on high to pressurize the inside of the cabin. What should happen next is pretty similar to what vulcanizing shops do to punctured motorcycle tires – you will see bubbles on spots that indicate holes where water is getting in. Then you go from there.
- How can I waterproof my Jeep? Add a snorkel (view on Amazon), extend breather tubes for your axles, seal up your front and rear axles, and grease your tire rod ends, U-joints, and ball joints. Just bear in mind that waterproofing is supposed to be done only as a precaution, and not so you can treat your Jeep like a submarine. If you’re dealing with heavy rain or snow, it is not necessary to waterproof your Jeep.
- What Jeep Wrangler year models are more prone to water leaks? Water leaks come naturally to almost all Jeep Wrangler models. From consumer feedback in the Jeep community, water leaks seem to happen more often to 2015 models or older. There are rare cases where 2016-2020 Jeep Wranglers have the same issues as their predecessors.
Conclusion – How to Fix Jeep Wrangler Water Leaks When It Rains
With water leaks being second-nature to Jeep Wranglers during the rainy season, it is not surprising for owners to have mixed reactions about it. Newbies find resolving the issue daunting, while more experienced enthusiasts almost ignore it. Thankfully, routine cleaning and proper Jeep care help tremendously in lessening the problem. The support Jeep owners get from their Jeep communities also makes water leaks more manageable. That is for the time being until a leak-proof Jeep Wrangler comes along.