By on March 13, 2020

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon

Jeep is recalling 33,237 Wranglers and Gladiators equipped with manual transmissions because the clutch plate can overheat and fracture. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) recall report, the callback encompasses all Wranglers sold with a third pedal from the 2018-2020 model year, with the same being true for the 2020MY Gladiator.

The document suggests that an abundance of pressure could place the clutch plate in jeopardy, causing it to fracture and potentially break the transmission case. If the issue devolves to that point, Jeep says there’s a chance “heated debris” could contact ignition sources and cause a fire. Driving around with a snapped clutch plate won’t make for a smooth commute and will undoubtedly lead to additional damage the longer it’s left unaddressed.

Telltale signs that your vehicle may be about to have an issue include the always unpleasant burnt clutch smell and excessive or abnormal travel of the clutch pedal.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Vehicle Safety and Regulatory Compliance office launched an investigation last November. In the two months following, they apparently narrowed down the issue — noting at least one fire and extensive damage to another vehicle’s transmission. Testing indicated that the clutch pressure plate had reached 1,100 degrees Celsius, with additional tests showing the scenario was repeatable with help from the supplier.

FCA says it’s currently working on a fix and will begin notifying owners on April 22nd. Repair will be free of charge, with the manufacturer asking affected Jeep owners to keep their receipts. Any attempts to fix the clutch problem prior to the recall should also be covered.

[Image: FCA]

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34 Comments on “Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator Recalled Over Toasted Clutch...”


  • avatar
    R Henry

    “33,237 Wranglers and Gladiators equipped with manual transmissions”

    Wow! I had no idea Jeep sold so many three pedal vehicles. I find this gratifying.

    • 0 avatar
      Lex

      They’re selling surprisingly well. Had a chance to drive a friend’s brand new 2019 MY and it was refreshingly nice. Long shift throws reminiscent of the classics, the reverse lockout was also new to me. The rev hanging takes a little getting used to but overall pleasant

      • 0 avatar
        R Henry

        “The rev hanging takes a little getting used to but overall pleasant”

        I have experienced this on some computer controlled engines as well, and makes me long for the dark days of carburetors. Happily, my 2015 Mazda 6 with manual trans exhibits VERY little of this annoying behavior in normal operation.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Oh, hey, now we can figure out the manual take rate, more or less.

    GCBC has no Gladiator data, but it does have Wrangler data (combined with Unlimiteds).

    [EDIT: Read a columns wrong the first time.]

    2018-19 Wrangler sales were 468,074 units. Assume another 27,500 as a guess for first two months of 2020, and that’s 495,574 units.

    A take rate of 6.7% for manual transmissions.

    I’m honestly surprised they haven’t just canned the manual entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      Would any manufacturer willingly jettison 33,237 sales? Are the engineering and compliance costs for the manual option a good investment with a nearly 5% take rate?

      Not knowing the engineering costs associated with this option, nor the likelihood of whether of not those buyers would have made their purchase without the manual option, leaves us unqualified to even speculate. That said, manufacturers generally have a pretty good understanding of such things, and if the manual option is offered, you can bet that it makes financial sense for the manufacturer on theses models.

      • 0 avatar
        SD 328I

        You are assuming they all wouldn’t get the Wrangler if it didn’t have a manual?

        Sure, there are some who wouldn’t buy it because of that, but I would say an equally large number would still buy it if they had no choice.

        • 0 avatar
          R Henry

          I for estimation purposes, assume !/2 would buy anyway, and the other half wouldn’t. That leaves about 2.5% of the market, or 17,000 units sales lost.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          A large number of Wranglers sell because of the image of the vehicle. Offering a manual is part of that image.

          Follow that logic to it’s logical conclusion and you end up at “Why not just make it a crossover…it would sell in even larger numbers.”

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    How does one mess up a clutch?

    • 0 avatar
      Jon

      not enough practice???

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      My buddy fried the clutch on his new 2012 Audi S4 within a couple thousand km. He took it in, the dealer blamed him, he argued because he’s been driving manuals since he was a child, then a TSB was released shortly after about a manufacturing issue where something was installed incorrectly and it was repaired under warranty.

      I’m assuming there’s a technical issue like that if they’re recalling these Jeeps.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Bunch of people who have never driven a manual (because you really don’t see them anymore in 2020) get interested in Wranglers, read forums, and discover that if they buy the autobox they’ll be subject to constant online mockery. So they go buy a 5500-pound manual vehicle and try to teach themselves to drive it. What could go wrong?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “and discover that if they buy the autobox they’ll be subject to constant online mockery.”

      I’m not always the most secure person in the world, but I’m fully secure in my preference of being dirty, automatic-driving scum.

    • 0 avatar
      Art Vandelay

      Or, FCA just screwed up and speced a clutch not up to the job.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        I expect that is because the engineers didn’t anticipate how often “the job” would consist of the scenario in my comment above.

        • 0 avatar
          multicam

          Not exactly… I believe there is a problem with these manuals. The ones that get to the point of exploding are driven by people new to manuals- I’ve seen it on the forums already- they don’t recognize the symptoms (especially the clutch slipping), don’t take it in, and drive it till it explodes. But if there were no defect to begin with, it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. My old TJ had like three or four new drivers learn on it, years of abuse, and at like 65k miles still had plenty of life on the clutch. These new jeeps wouldn’t stand up to that (if they’re suffering from the issue).

          • 0 avatar

            Anecdote n-1
            I got over 300k on an OE BMW clutch. Said car was driven by 3 and 1 learned on it. Aslo one day where I came into a smoky parking garage and saw that at least one of the parking attendants lied when he said he could drive clutch.

            Five other cars, manual, 100 k+ on most, zero clutches replaced.

        • 0 avatar
          Art Vandelay

          I expect that is because the engineers didn’t anticipate how often “the job” would consist of the scenario in my comment above.

          So the engineers didn’t expect a vehicle like this…something with solid axles that as touted to be able to hit the rocks and is “trail rated” to see severe duty on the clutch? Never thought that maybe a driver may have to rock it out when stuck?

          Also, did a little reading on the failure modes here…this one is on Jeep. Good on them for reacting and fixing it though.

  • avatar
    EGSE

    Possibly tried to use the clutch like a torque converter. Bad things happen if you do. I think dal is right; this is an operator-caused failure.

    If they really fried the clutch then the flywheel also needs to be replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      multicam

      No… it’s not operator caused…

      It may be the operator’s fault for not ceasing to drive the jeep early enough when symptoms appear, but the root cause of the issue isn’t because of operator error. Letting it get to the point of exploding may- and only may- be the operator’s fault.

      • 0 avatar
        EGSE

        I think you are right. On first reading I missed where the supplier duplicated the failure.

        Worst case (1100 C.!!)they’re in for clutch, flywheel, rear mainseal, maybe oil pan gasket…….crank???

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    This gives the “save the manuals” campaign a bad name.

    33k clutch replacements will be expen$ive. Somebody went cheap on the design or the materials, and now FCA will pay.

    • 0 avatar
      SSJeep

      This is exactly what happened, and it is a huge ordeal for manual Jeep owners. The problem was traced to sub-standard friction plates that overheat and take the clutch mechanism with them, which then grenades the transmission gearbox.

      In some cases, the fuel line is overheated and/or pierced and the vehicle starts on fire. Seriously.

      Im not sure if this is a case of Chinesium or if its an oversight, but how someone could screw up a clutch this badly in this day and age is completely beyond me. Especially when the clutch is supposed to be built for offroad use.

      • 0 avatar
        dukeisduke

        I was guessing either a poor quality friction disc, or poor quality or under-spec’d diaphragm springs in the pressure plate (not allowing solid take-up).

    • 0 avatar
      EGSE

      For off-road what does a manual do better than a HD automatic other than (maybe) engine braking?

      Putting myself through school I drove both manual and automatic F-350 DRW with tool bodies pulling a backhoe on a trailer. With the manual I dreaded stopping on an upward incline. First was a granny gear topping out with the engine in valve float, then a hard pull on the stick to get into second before losing forward velocity. Lots of cussing didn’t help. With the auto it was step on the gas and go. Didn’t matter if it was on the jobsite or on the road…..the manual utterly sucked.

      I prefer a manual for my Civic DD but in pick-ups doing any real work it’s auto box all the way.

      • 0 avatar
        Art Vandelay

        Pretty much every modern manual has a “cheater” hill start feature though that will hold the brake for you so it wont roll back

        • 0 avatar
          EGSE

          Initial breakaway wasn’t an issue, it was doing a 1-2 shift in time to not stall the engine (there was a big gap between 1-2). The 4 spd MT in the one-tons took it’s time to spin up 2nd gear before it could lock to the shaft. The auto had no problems there and torque multiplication from the converter was a big advantage. Flat roads were OK for both.

          At the job mentioned in my post the crews got the MT trucks stuck on challenging soggy ground more often than the auto trucks (off-pavement, not “off-road” in the Jeep sense). The towing bills and lost time worked against the MT.

          Autos also have a higher towing capacity in today’s pick-ups. I don’t mourn the death of the MT in a truck.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Well, you will lose expertise in making things if you don’t make them

  • avatar
    Art Vandelay

    Is this a VW or a Jeep? I was a bit confused with all of the “no people just don’t know how to drive a manual right” talk…sounded alot like some of my interactions with Volkswagen in years past.

  • avatar

    Saw a Gladiator while walking past my local FCA store. It had just been taken off the transporter. On the window, in that grease pencil they use, was

    Do Not Trade
    and
    Send for up Trim.

    Clearly signs of success !

  • avatar
    silverfin

    Everyone who values reliability in a vehicle knows that Jeep Wranglers are junk and have a horrible reliability record. So the fact that they used substandard parts in the clutch plates is consistent with all the other failures of the Wrangler and should come as no surprise. I would like to have a vehicle with this capability but every time I mention this to someone they pull me aside and tell me their Jeep reliability horror stories. The MOAB edition was even said by one co-worker to mean “the mother of all bombs”. He now happily drives a Toyota Forerunner TRD. Sure wish the US would import the Suzuki Jimmny…I would live with its quirks and 100 HP knowing that it is well built in comparison to the Jeep and will not fall apart.

  • avatar
    gimmeamanual

    About 8000 miles on my OG-edition 2dr, soft top, manual, and no clutch issues yet. A low percent of these may be user error but “you’re doing it wrong” is not going to lead to a recall – there is a weakness in the system. I suspect many manual buyers are repeat Wrangler buyers and/or repeat manual buyers. I had to order mine, when I went buying last year there was only 1 2DR MT within 100 miles.

    I’m not worried. I’ll take a replacement of a wear item any day.

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