TJ Wrangler vs YJ

TJ Wrangler vs YJ

Last Updated March 4, 2021 | Sam Padgett

The Jeep Wrangler has been a consistently reliable and loveable vehicle throughout the years. From its inception, there has been a steady following of the Jeep Wrangler that has made its fandom quite enduring. That being said, amongst the many different flavors of Wrangler, the YJ and the TJ are as distinct from each other as any other generations of Wrangler could get. To be the true Wrangler expert, we have outlined the many visible, and invisible differences, between these two makes of Wranglers.


YJ Wrangler Suspension

First off, let’s talk about the YJ. This was the first Wrangler model to be made after the rise in popularity of the original CJ Jeeps, being sold from 1986 to 1995. In addition to being the first Jeep to be sold under the name Wrangler, it also began to broaden its prospective customer base by tweaking its ride and frame to drive more smoothly and function better on the pavement. This model was brought about because of the lackluster success of the CJ-7 Jeep. While still a capable vehicle, the CJ-7 lacked all of the creature comforts that were becoming the norm at the time. The YJ was a big effort to push the Jeep into the mainstream, and by many degrees, it was successful.

The TJ is the sequel to the YJ and the second-ever Wrangler model to be sold. It was produced from 1996 to 2006. Visually, the TJ took a step back, borrowing many of the design cues of the original CJ Jeep, returning to the old circular headlights and traditional windshield wipers. 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. Besides these few performance improvements, the TJ really did just begin as a YJ in different clothes. While the later TJs from 2003-2006 began to diverge farther from the YJ, up until that point, they both shared some of the same engine options, transmissions, and axles.

The TJ also marked the genesis of one of the most competent stock off-roading rigs out there, the TJ Rubicon. This trim level has been held through every successive line of Jeep Wranglers, even on the Jeep Gladiator pick-up as well. The first Rubicon was released in 2003, when the TJ began to seriously diverge from the YJ. There are a variety of trim options on the YJ Wrangler, but they primarily differ in terms of interior amenities and design options. One of the more popular trim levels of the YJ, for example, is the Sahara, which came with better seats, a stereo with a cassette player, and bumper-mounted fog lamps.


TJ and YJ Exterior Comparison

These are probably two of the easiest Wrangler models to differentiate. The square headlights of the YJ are a dead giveaway. These are one of the more controversial design choices of the YJ Wrangler. This single design choice has warranted enough ire that in some Jeep circles the YJ is known as either the "Yuppy Jeep" or, more succinctly, a "Wrongler." There are additional exterior differences, however. The grille of any Wrangler is the standard method for telling apart any two types of Wrangler. On the YJ, the grille slots are a bit taller than the TJ, and the grille has a slight bend to it. The turn signal lights on the YJ are located directly beneath the headlights, while they are located to the left and right of the headlights on the TJ. Finally, the windshield wipers on the YJ rest right on the windshield as opposed to laying flat by the hood. The hood of the YJ also has a distinct shape. Unlike the TJ, it more aggressively tapers toward the grille.

TJ and YJ Grille Comparison

YJ vs TJ Wrangler: Engine Options

Considering the YJ was released nearly a decade before the TJ, the available engine options are nearly entirely different. That being said, performance is only important to a degree for Wranglers. One look at a Jeep’s blocky design will tell you they aren’t made for speed. Naturally, the TJ performs better than the YJ both on road and off, but not by a measure that completely invalidates the YJ’s capabilities. For both of these models, there are only gasoline- powered engines available, as the first diesel-powered Wrangler was the JK.

The transition from YJ to TJ was a bit slow at first, with the TJ carrying over the 2.5-liter straight 4 and the 4-liter inline 6 engines at first, eventually replacing them in 2002 for the DOHC 2.4-liter. That being said, the engines from the YJ were tuned to perform better on the TJ.

Wrangler YJ Engine Options
EngineHorsepowerTorque (lb.-ft.)
2.5 L AMC straight-four engine(fuel injected) 121 hp 135 lb-ft
2.5 L AMC straight-four engine (multi-port injection) 130 hp 139 lb-ft
4.2 L AMC straight-six engine 112 hp 210 lb-ft
4.0 L AMC straight-six engine 190 hp 220 lb-ft
Wrangler TJ Engine Options
EngineHorsepowerTorque (lb.-ft.)
2.4 L PowerTech I4 (Post-2003) 147 hp 165 lb-ft
2.5 L PowerTech I4 120 hp 140 lb-ft
4.0 L PowerTech I6 190 hp 235 lb-ft

One thing to be wary of is that these Wrangler models did change a fair amount through their lifespan. While they may all look the same, there can be some huge differences between two YJs and two TJs based on their specific year of creation. For example, any YJ made before 1993 would lack anti-lock brakes.

YJ and TJ Wrangler Transmissions and Gearing

There are a lot of transmission options on both the YJ and the TJ. Given the nature of Wrangler drivers, it’s basically assumed that each successive Jeep model will come with the option of a manual, as well as an automatic. As can be seen below, at this point in the Wrangler life cycle, the majority of transmissions available were indeed manual.

Wrangler YJ Transmission Options
TransmissionAutomatic or Manual
3-Speed TorqueFlite TF904 Automatic
3-Speed TorqueFlite TF999 Automatic
5-Speed Aisin AX-5 Manual
5-Speed Aisin AX-15 Manual
5-Speed Peugeot BA-10/5 Manual
Wrangler TJ Transmission Options
TransmissionAutomatic or Manual
3-Speed TorqueFlite 30RH Automatic
3-Speed TorqueFlite 32RH Automatic
4-Speed Ultradive 42RLE Automatic
5-Speed Aisin AX-5 Manual
5-Speed Aisin AX-15 Manual
5-Speed New Venture Gear NV3550 Manual
5-Speed New Venture Gear NV1500 Manual
6-Speed Chrysler NSG370 Manual

YJ and TJ Wrangler Dimensions

Overall, the sizes of the TJ and the YJ don't differ by that much.Because of the modularity of any Wrangler, the range of the dimensions of both the TJ and the YJ can deviate a bit. For example, a soft top will be quite a bit lighter than a hard top, and each engine and transmission option cause their own fluctuations in weight as well.

Dimension and Other Specs
Wheelbase 93.4" 93.4"
Length 151.9-153" 151.2-154.9"
Width 66" 68.3"
Height 69.6-72" 70.2-71.1"
Curb Weight 2,855-3,241 lbs. 3,092-3,857 lbs.


TJ Wrangler Fording River

The one thing that has never changed on the Wrangler it its off-roading capabilities. While they have gotten better over the years, stock Wranglers of all models can outperform most 4X4 vehicles on the trails.

A YJ came with a Dana 30 front axle and a Dana 35 on the rear, while the TJ came with a Dana 30 front axle and a Dana 35c in the rear. The TJ Rubicon came with the option of having Dana 44 front and rear axles. One of the more significant differences between the YJ and the TJ has to do with the frame and suspension. Compared to the YJ, the TJ’s frame was given a 100 percent increase in torsional stiffness. The frame was an additional 15 percent stiffer with an additional 8-inch lift. Even more important than that, the TJ used a four-corner quadra-coil suspension in lieu of the YJ's leaf springs.

Now that the JL is out on the market today, both the TJ and the YJ have become classics. Riding in a YJ is almost like listening to the early albums of a band you really like. Even though the Wrangler has changed over the years, the core of this vehicle remains the same. Since the Wrangler is meant to be customized, each base model is more of a Wrangler “preset” rather than an entirely different vehicle. Starting from a YJ, you could replace enough parts to where it could be basically identical to a JK. With that being said, YJs are cheaper than TJs, not only because of their age but also because they are seen as more of a fringe Wrangler model (people are really attached to those circular headlights.) All in all, the YJ is a great entry point into the Wrangler line if money is an issue, and since the Jeep aftermarket community is one of the absolute best, you will be able to easily fix and modify your Jeep to your liking.

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Sources: Jeep | Wranglertjforum | Four Wheeler Network

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