Buying a used Wrangler JK/JKU: Rubi or Sport?

Someone posted in an FB group indicating they were going to buy a 2012-or-later Wrangler and asking whether they should get the Rubicon or the Sport. Well, my comment was longish (surprise, surprise), so I thought I would reproduce it here.

I bought a Rubi new in 2014. It was my daily for five years, and was wheeled hard. Now it is a trail queen, and will, eventually, be a trailer queen (my truck is now my daily).

Pros of the Rubi:

  • Electronically controlled lockers and swaybar disconnect.
  • Beefier rear axle and tube; beefier front axle (the front tube is sort of a 37, it’s a shaved 44, not as tough as the rear, tougher than a 30).

Cons of the Rubi:

  1. Price.
  2. The wires for the lockers can be ripped off by branches if one is cavalier about them and replacing the sensor and actuator is a huge PITA (I am less cavalier now :->).
  3. The swaybar disconnect needs regular maintenance (remove, disassemble, clean, grease but not too much) if ever exposed to water, dust, etc., which it will be if you wheel it all.
  4. The SmartBar component that controls the swaybar has NO protection against water or dust intrusion and the harder you wheel the more likely it will fail, eventually, taking your canbus with it - the Christmas Tree display is, uh, surprising. It’s $2500 to replace. I replaced the entire thing with a Heilweig heavy duty and have been disconnected since June, no problems anywhere.

How to choose? It comes down to two factors:

  • how mechanically inclined you are, and
  • how soon you want to get to hard wheeling.

Less of the former and more of the latter == Rubicon.

More of the former and less of the latter == Sport (save money now, upgrade as you discover your wheeling style).

Final note: If you are serious about buying a used Rubi, take it for a test drive, get it onto gravel or dirt, put it in 4Hi, drive around a bit, shift back to 2WD, then back to 4Hi, make sure that is smooth and easy. Stop, put it in neutral, shift into 4Lo, drive some more, and try the lockers (one click is rear, two is front, three is both (? not sure, I always go by the indicator lights) and the disconnect (the lockers and disconnect only work in 4Lo at less than 40kph).

Make sure everything works, including all the indicators. (Try using any of the lockers or swaybar in 4Hi or in 2WD: The indicators should be flash, showing that the component is unavailable.)

If any of these tests fail, run away. Or ask for a deep, deep discount.