Driving with the top down in a Jeep Wrangler on a warm summer day can be an amazing experience. However, when the temperature really starts to climb, you may find yourself wondering – do Jeep Wranglers have air conditioning?
The short answer is yes, all new Jeep Wrangler models come equipped with A/C as a standard feature. However, this hasn’t always been the case. Older Wranglers often lacked air conditioning, leaving drivers hot, sweaty, and longing for a breeze.
In this in-depth article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about air conditioning in Jeep Wranglers. We’ll look at what years air conditioning became standard, which trim packages include it, how to add A/C to older models, and tips for staying cool in your open-air Jeep.
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When Did Jeep Start Offering Air Conditioning?
Unlike most other vehicles, air conditioning was not commonplace in Wranglers for many years. Here’s a quick history of when Jeep began offering factory installed air conditioning:
- 1987 – 1991 – No air conditioning was available at all directly from Jeep during these years. Owners had to install an aftermarket A/C system if they wanted to cool their Wrangler.
- 1992 – 2002 – Air conditioning became an option starting in 1992 but was still not standard. It was only included on higher trim packages like the Sahara during these years.
- 2003 – This was the first model year where air conditioning became a standard feature across all Wrangler trim levels.
So if you have a post-2003 Wrangler, you can rest assured knowing that A/C will be blowing cold air on hot days. But if your Jeep is a 1992 or older, you may need to look into adding an aftermarket air conditioning kit to get some cool relief behind the wheel.
Which Jeep Wrangler Trims Have Air Conditioning?
As mentioned above, since 2003 air conditioning has been included as a standard feature on all new Wranglers sold. This means every trim package – from the affordable Sport to the luxurious High Altitude – comes equipped with A/C straight from the factory.
Here’s a quick look at the newest Jeep Wrangler trims and the air conditioning systems they feature:
- Wrangler Sport – The entry-level Sport trim comes standard with air conditioning, providing cool air even in the base model Wrangler.
- Wrangler Willys Sport – The Willys Sport is a special edition Wrangler that adds upgraded off-road components. But it still comes with the standard Sport air conditioning system.
- Wrangler Sport Altitude – This trim package builds off the Sport with additional luxury features. Air conditioning is one of many standard features that help make long summer drives more comfortable.
- Wrangler Sahara – Known for being more focused on comfort, the Sahara trim comes well-equipped with upgraded leather seats and air conditioning.
- Wrangler Rubicon – While built for off-road performance, the Rubicon still provides plenty of on-road amenities like cold A/C.
- Wrangler High Altitude – As the top luxury trim, the High Altitude features leather seats, an upgraded Alpine sound system, and effective air conditioning.
So when choosing which Jeep Wrangler model is right for you, don’t worry about missing out on air conditioning. Every trim, from the most basic to luxurious, will come with effective A/C installed.
Adding Air Conditioning to Older Jeeps
If you have an older Wrangler that was built before air conditioning was standard, all is not lost. Several reputable aftermarket companies offer air conditioning kits that can be installed on older Jeeps to provide some cool relief.
Some of the most popular retrofit AC kits include:
- Procharger Intercooler Systems – Procharger is one of the biggest names in aftermarket air conditioning kits. Their systems start around $1,500 and use an efficient intercooler design for maximum temperature reduction.
- Vintage Air Gen IV – Vintage Air has been producing aftermarket air conditioning systems since 1976. Their Gen IV system is specially engineered to integrate seamlessly with older Jeeps.
- Cool Air Vintage Air – This shop focuses specifically on air conditioning for older Jeeps and Chrysler vehicles. For Wranglers, they recommend their $1,695 Vintage Air kit for easy DIY install.
- JEGS Climate Control – For a lower budget A/C kit, the JEGS system starts under $1,000. It works great but requires more custom fabrication to install.
Installing one of these kits takes some mechanical skill and typically around 8-10 hours for a professional to complete. But once finished, you can finally have ice cold air in your classic Jeep through even the hottest summer days.
Does Adding Air Conditioning Reduce Jeep Power?
One downside of adding air conditioning is that it can slightly reduce engine power. This is because the air conditioning compressor is run using a belt connected to the engine’s crankshaft.
So when you turn on the A/C, the compressor starts using energy that would otherwise go towards powering the wheels. The drag created reduces overall engine output by a small amount.
How much power loss does engaging the air conditioner cause? Here are some rough estimates:
- 2.5L 4-cylinder engine – Losses around 2-3 horsepower. Minimal impact since this engine is less powerful.
- 3.6L V6 engine – Losses around 5 horsepower. A slightly larger impact but only noticeable on steep inclines.
- 3.0L Turbo Diesel – Losses around 3-4 horsepower. Diesels have more low-end torque so the hit is small.
As you can see, while turning on the AC does sap a bit of a Jeep’s power, the reduction is very minor in most normal driving scenarios. The only time you may notice is when trying to accelerate uphill or make passes on the highway.
But for everyday driving, the incredibly small power loss is worth being able to drive comfortably on hot summer days. The Wrangler still has plenty of power to spare, even with cold air blasting.
Does the Soft Top Affect Air Conditioning Efficiency?
One of the signature features of the Jeep Wrangler is the removable soft top. Taking off the soft top allows you to enjoy open-air driving on nice days. But does driving with the soft top impact the effectiveness of the air conditioner?
Unfortunately, soft tops do allow more heat to enter the cabin compared to hard tops. The materials and seals simply don’t block sunshine and warm air as effectively.
However, there are a few modifications you can make to improve air conditioning performance with the soft top on:
- Insulate the Headliner – Adding insulation padding to the headliner prevents heat penetrating and keeps cool air contained.
- Weatherstrip the Windows – Sealing the window openings better prevents hot air intrusion for improved cooling.
- Upgrade to Heavy Duty Top – More expensive soft tops use thicker, multi-layered materials that insulate much better than the stock top.
But for the absolute best air conditioning experience, a hard top is ideal. Hard tops form an incredibly tight seal that keeps the cabin cool and resistant to outside heat sources.
So while the soft top affects cooling capacity somewhat, a few simple upgrades can go a long way towards making your A/C system more effective.
Tips for Staying Cool in a Jeep Wrangler
Beyond just having an air conditioning system in place, there are several smart strategies you can use to make your Jeep Wrangler more cool and comfortable in summer weather:
- Park in the Shade – Find shady parking spots whenever possible. This prevents the interior from heating up in the sun. Use windshield reflectors when no shade is available.
- Ventilate the Interior – Open the doors and lower the soft top a few minutes before driving to let hot air escape. Removing the doors also improves ventilation.
- Use Seat Covers and Sun Shades – Pre-cool the seats and steering wheel by covering them when parked. Reflective shades help block sun glare.
- Add Tinted Windows – Factory or aftermarket tinted windows reduce heat and glare from sunlight shining in.
- Travel with Extra Drinks/Snacks – Having cold beverages and chilled snacks on hand makes hot drives much more comfortable.
- Take a Portable Fan – Small battery or solar powered fans can provide welcome cooling airflow in a stationary Jeep.
- Install Heat Reflectors – Adhesive heat shields applied to the underside of the hood help prevent engine heat from entering the engine bay.
With the right combination of precautions, you can turn your Jeep into an oasis of coolness even in triple digit temperatures. Don’t let the summer heat keep you off the trails or out of your Wrangler!
Whether your Jeep Wrangler has air conditioning right from the factory or you end up installing an aftermarket system, staying cool while off-roading or cruising town in the summer is essential. Following this guide, any Jeep can be transformed into a chilled paradise on wheels during hot weather adventures.
So don’t sweat it – with the right information and upgrades, your Wrangler can keep you comfortable no matter how high the mercury rises. Stay cool out there, and enjoy the ride!