For years, Jeep Wrangler owners have experienced leaks when it rains.
Every time it rains, your floorboards are puddled with water. The situation gets even worse when you’ve got floor mats in there soaked in water. Not to mention that it’s just difficult to figure out where all that water is coming from.
It is such an ordeal, right?
Let’s look at several reasons behind Jeep Wrangler water leaks when it rains. Is it your hardtop, doors, header seal, or cowl vent leaking?
Keep on reading to find out!
Jeep Wranglers Are Waterproof – Myth or Not
Jeep Wranglers are amazing vehicles and many people like them. But they’ve got flaws and one of the most common ones are leaks.
Contrary to your expectations, the Jeep Wrangler design is not entirely waterproof. You can say that the design is highly water-resistant.
According to some studies, this vehicle can withstand a significant amount of rain when you are driving at a slow pace. The interiors can also withstand light rains. But driving your Jeep into heavy rain could be a recipe for disaster for you.
So, Jeep Wranglers aren’t waterproof, but there are several tips and tricks you can employ to stop and even prevent leaks when driving in the rain.
Jeep Wrangler Water Leak When It Rains – Where to Look
Here are the different types of leaks you can experience in your Jeep Wrangler:
You’ve probably noticed after heavy rains when you start driving and braking, water would just come from the top corners of your vehicle.
It is the same experience on the driver’s side as well as the passenger side. And when you park your Jeep facing downhill, you are likely to get a puddle both on the passenger and driver side. So, the problem is somewhere on the hardtop.
Start by taking the freedom panel off and the driver side panels off.
Then take a look at the seal to check if there is any presence of water. If the freedom panel was leaking, the seal that attaches the freedom to the Jeep will be wet.
In most cases, the seals will trap water. Then the water will flow in the seals and collect at the edges. But in some cases, the edges and the drain hole that’s supposed to channel water downwards could be clogged. You can find so much gunk in there.
Once you are done with the freedom panel side, go ahead and check the tops of the doors. If the doors were leaking from the top, the weatherstripping will be wet. Also, you could find dirt in there that interferes with the structure of the seals.
Now examine the driver side panel for any leaks. The seals on the edges are the main culprits. They are likely clogged with dirt, affecting the seals’ ability to prevent water entry.
If you’ve got door leaks, then it is probably because of damaged door fit and weatherstripping rubber. Damaged a-pillar foam could also cause your Jeep Wrangler doors to leak.
Cowl Vent Leaks
Have you observed water leaking under your feet? This isn’t something new; it has happened to many Jeep Wrangler owners as well. The culprit is usually the cowl vent.
On the cowl vent, there is a drain that runs underneath the belly of your Jeep, and it normally gets clogged. The drain hole at the bottom of the vent is responsible for channeling water. When the drain hole gets clogged, rainwater leaks inside the dash and onto your feet.
Apart from Jeep Wrangler water leak when it rains, you can also get moisture in your Jeep Wrangler due to condensation.
You’ve probably had a moisture problem in the back of your Jeep Wrangler due to the buildup of condensation inside your cabin in winter. The hardtop roof would become totally covered with condensation within minutes of getting into the vehicle or after running the heater.
The condensation buildup would run towards the back when you are driving, dripping onto your back seat. The dripping water may flow backward towards where you keep your recovery gear near the tailgate.
You may fail to notice this occurrence until it’s too late when mildew and mold have grown. Cleaning the buildup can be a headache.
Drainage of a Jeep Wrangler
A Jeep Wrangler’s drainage system is made up of drain holes in the cowl, lower part of your windshield, under rocker or quarter panels, and at the base of doors.
When the drainage of your Jeep Wrangler is working as it should be, rainwater that sneaks behind the Jeep Wrangler’s skin will be disposed of properly. But, if the drain holes get clogged—as we have seen in our earlier discussion—rainwater will soak in the weatherstripping and seals and will eventually leak into the vehicle.
Drain holes get clogged over time, especially if you rarely check the weatherstripping, seals, and quarter panels for dirt buildup.
Also, drain holes can get blocked when the Jeep is being repaired. Let’s say that in the course of replacing a cracked windshield of your Jeep Wrangler, the glazier inadvertently seals the drails holes.
If that’s the case, the rain will not be able to run off, but it will seep through openings and find its way into the Jeep under the dash.
Let’s say you get a leak after a body shop straightens the front of your Jeep following an accident. The mechanic may have failed to reinstall the shields over drain holes on the right and left sides of the cowl. Instead of rain running off through cowl drain, the water may seep into the Jeep Wrangler.
Did a leak develop soon after you had your Jeep Wrangler rustproofed? Maybe drain holes and darts in the door as well as quarter panels are clogged.
Jeep Wrangler Drain Plugs
Before we get into fixing and preventing leaks, let’s first learn how to locate drain plugs and how to use them in your Jeep.
Apart from leaks when it rains, you may be caught by an unexpected rainstorm when you remove your freedom panel for some fresh air. Jeep does include drain plugs in the floor for just that purpose.
You can also use them when you are hosing out the interior to clean things up a little bit.
Jeep Wrangler JL Drain Plugs Location
Start by removing the factory floor mat, which just unclips from the retention pins that are on the JL’s floor.
Next, you are going to have a small cutout in the factory carpeting. On the passenger side, it is located next to the retention pin that is closest to the door.
Remove the cutout and you will have access to the drain plug. Then all you have to do is get in there with your finger and pull the plug. It should come out very easily, but you could use a screwdriver if you want to.
Any water on the carpet should drain immediately after you pull out the plug from the drain hole.
There are a couple of differences in the cutout design of the JL when compared to the JK as well as other generations of the Wrangler.
In older models, the water was expected to run through the carpeting and find the hole. But the cutouts of the JL start from the carpeting. So, water just runs right through. You’ve got a similar cutout on the driver side.
Jeep Wrangler TJ Drain Plugs Location
Unlike the JL, which has cutouts in the floor carpet, the TJ doesn’t have any cutouts. So, you have to do a few things to get to the drain plugs.
Start by taking the floor mat out by unbuttoning it from the floor. Unfasten the button on the rear section of the carpet from the passenger side near the door. Then undo the second button under the passenger seat. Gently pull up the carpet without tearing it.
You should be able to see the plug on the passenger side. Just push down on the plug with your finger and then pull it out.
There is another drain plug on the rear side. Unbutton the carpet and gently lift it to expose the drain plug. Then push the plug with your finger and pull it out. You’ve got two more drain plugs, one on the driver side and the other one behind the driver seat.
Jeep Wrangler JK Drain Plugs Location
The Jeep Wrangler JK has 12 drain plugs.
You will find one in the storage compartment and one where the jack is located. You’ve also got drain plugs underneath each seat. There’s also a drain plug in each of the footwells of the rear seats and two drain plugs in the footwells of the passenger and driver side seats in the front.
You have to gently lift the carpet floor to access the drain plugs in the driver and passenger sides.
How to Diagnose Water Leaks Without Getting Into the Rain
Some Jeep Wranglers are very good at preventing light rain from leaking. But you can put it to a test and see if it can withstand constant exposure to falling water.
Suspended Water Hose
Suspending a water hose over your Jeep Wrangler with a showerhead-type attachment is a good way to put your Jeep to the test. This method will allow water to flow naturally over your Jeep. Let the water flow for about 20 minutes to find the root cause of the leaking problem.
If your Jeep cannot withstand constant exposure to water, such as heavy rains, then you will find evidence of leaks inside the vehicle after the 20-minute test.
Potential leaks include:
- Water leaking on the right front floor
- Water on the instrument panel
- Water leaking on the door panel
- Water leaking at the a-pillar and b-pillar roll bar
- Water leaking through the freedom panel and screw holes
How to Stop Your Jeep Wrangler From Leaking When It Rains
It’s evident that Jeep Wranglers are not entirely weatherproof. But there are a few things you can do to improve your Wrangler’s waterproof performance in the rain.
Check and Clean Rubber Seals
As we have seen, seals are the main culprits as far as leaks are concerned. They tend to be a big problem for Jeep Wranglers with a freedom panel.
If you usually drive your Wrangler with the freedom panel removed, then your rubber seals are likely to be filled with dirt and gunk over time.
Use a detailer to get all the dirt out of the rubber seals. Make sure you get all the dirt out of the drain holes in the process and don’t forget to clean the gaskets.
You need to be as thorough as possible to not miss a spot or all your effort will be for nothing. Once you are done with the freedom panel part, go for the seals on the doors. Check and clean them as well.
Then you can rejuvenate the rubber with a heavy-duty silicone lubricant. The lubricant forms a protective layer that helps keep the rubber seals from aging and cracking. You should apply the lubricant to all rubber seals in your Jeep Wrangler.
Replace Worn Out Weatherstripping
If you’ve had your Jeep Wrangler for a few years, then it’s normal for the weatherstripping to start degrading.
The weatherstripping material usually dries out and starts cracking. When this happens, you will start to experience leaks even in light showers. Noise and vibrations will also increase inside your cabin. The rides will get uncomfortable, especially when you are caught in the rain in traffic. The most ideal solution is to replace the weatherstripping.
Removing the old seals should not be a problem. Just locate the point where the seals connect, and then grab and pull it out gently. If it is the first time the seals are being removed, then look out for pins holding the stock weatherstripping in place.
As we mentioned earlier, stock seals are usually held in place with pins or they fit into some kind of slots. So, consider getting seals that will install like the stock ones. Take note though that most conventional aftermarket seals come with adhesive.
Position and similarly align the new seals as the old ones. Use the provided pins or adhesive to hold the weatherstripping tightly in place.
For the top weatherstripping, you will have to remove the freedom panel. Then, detach all the seals and carefully install the new ones.
Check and Clean the Cowl Vent
Start by removing the windshield wipers of your Wrangler. You can take them off by sliding the little metal bit down and then pulling the wiper away from the windshield.
With the windshield wipers off, you are going to notice the visible screws that are holding the cowl in place. All you have to do is remove the screws, including the ones under the hood.
Close the hood and start pulling the cowl from one side, prying slowly and avoiding bending it. Switch to the other side and do the same thing to avoid bending the cowl.
Underneath the cowl, you will see a couple of different things. You’ve got your windshield wiper motor and cabin air intake. Everything should be clean to prevent clogging and leakages.
Make sure the drain is not clogged by leaves, debris, mud, or anything else. If the drain is clogged, then you will have to devise a way to unclog it. You can use a long pliable wire that will go through to push out any buildup. Once you are sure that the drain is clean, reinstall the cowl and wipers.
Is it common for a Jeep Wrangler to leak?
According to what Jeep Wrangler owners are saying in the Jeep community, almost every model leaks water in the rain. The leaks get even worse when the seals are worn out.
How do you dry a Jeep Wrangler after it rains?
Start by removing the mat and the carpet and place them in the sun to dry. Pull out the drain plugs to open the drain holes on the floor to channel the water out. Remove the freedom panel and place the Jeep Wrangler in the sun to dry the seats and the floor.
Can I waterproof my Jeep Wrangler?
Yes, you can improve the water-resistance of your Jeep Wrangler by cleaning dirty seals, replacing worn-out seals, and cleaning the cowl vent.
Can a soft-top go through a carwash?
No, you will have leaks all over. Try cleaning it by hand.
The Bottom Line
A Jeep Wrangler leaking water when it rains is not a new thing to those who own this amazing vehicle. It’s one of the challenges you’ve got to put up with during the rainy season.
You could experience hardtop, door, header seal, and cowl vent leaks among others. But you could improve the water-resistant performance of your vehicle by cleaning dirty seals, clogged seals, and blocked cowl vents. Also, consider replacing worn-out weatherstripping.