A Jeep’s frame is the main supporting structure for your car, so it stands to reason that you’d assume your beloved car is headed for the scrap yard when your mechanic tells you its current frame has reached the end of its life.
However, this isn’t always the case. You have the option of completely replacing your Jeeps frame with a brand new or used one, but before you do this, there are some important things you should know.
Replacing a Jeep’s frame is no small task, so we’ve listed eight things you need to know about this process before giving your car such an extensive upgrade. We’ll cover important details such as how much Jeep frame replacement costs, what this process entails, how to decide if it’s necessary, and more.
A Frame Replacement is Not the Same as Frame Repairs
First things first, let’s go over briefly what a Jeep frame replacement means and how this differs from a simple frame repair. This might seem incredibly obvious that the two aren’t the same, but it’s important to discuss the gravity of a complete frame replacement and what this means for your car versus a simple repair.
A frame replacement means the entire frame of your vehicle needs to be replaced. To do this, a mechanic will turn off your Jeeps battery, drain all of its fluids, and disconnect everything that’s attached to its current frame (ex., steering shaft, body mounts, brake lines, etc.). The body of the Jeep with then be lifted off the frame, the Jeeps axles, engine, and drivetrain will be removed, and then everything is lowered and reinstalled onto a new frame.
This differs widely from a simple frame repair, where the mechanic will mend or replace small sections along the frame that are bent, chipping, damaged, or require a layer of paint or rust removal treatment. These repairs are much cheaper, easier, and quicker to perform than a complete frame replacement that could take anywhere from 20-40 hours total to complete.
Here’s an awesome video showing a Jeep frame repair:
Not the Ideal DIY Job for Your Jeep
If you’re extremely attached to your Jeep and were concerned a non-salvageable frame was going to be the end of your car, you’ll be glad to hear that a vast number of skilled mechanics and technicians can install a brand new or used frame onto your Jeep with little issue.
Of course, this comes at a cost, and so, some Jeep owners might be wondering if they can just perform this job themselves. If you ask us, the answer is a resounding no.
Replacing the frame on a Jeep is a labor-intensive and monumental task for any one individual. It also requires a significant amount of mechanical knowledge of motorized vehicles, as a vast number of the Jeeps components need to be safely disconnected and reinstalled. Combine all that with the fact that heavy-duty and specialized tools are required for this task, and you’ll quickly see why this isn’t a good DIY project for you to start in your home garage.
Even if you believe you have the knowledge and expertise to safely disconnect your Jeep’s body and components from its frame and properly reinstall everything, you still need the means to separate the body from the frame in the first place. Jacking your Jeep up isn’t going to do you any good here.
Instead, you’ll need a forklift or ceiling hoist. At the very least, you’ll need a team of extremely strong individuals to help you lift the body off and back onto the Jeep’s frame.
In the end, you’ll only put the integrity of all your Jeep’s working components at greater risk by attempting to perform this colossal task yourself, and if your motivation for this was to save money on labor through a professional service, you’ll quickly learn how little this actually saves you compared to the cost of parts.
Costs Average $5,000-$35,000
This is undoubtedly the most important factor any Jeep owner needs to consider when they hear their car needs its frame replaced. As far as car repairs or replacements go, a frame replacement is by far one of the priciest things you can do and can quickly cost more than your Jeep is even worth.
On average, Jeep owners can spend anywhere from $5,000 to $35,000 replacing their frame, and this range isn’t even including the Jeep model that costs the most for a complete frame replacement.
Now, if you avid DIYers are thinking most of that is all from paying mechanics for labor (which can cost $25 and $100 per hour), you’ll be surprised to hear that the majority of it is actually from the cost of a new or used frame, construction of replacement parts, preparation of the vehicle, and any finishes or paintwork you agree to (or is necessary).
- Preparation for your Jeep usually entails cleaning it, which might require blasting components to remove rust and to hook it up to specialized equipment.
- Mechanics will then remove several bolts and various other pieces as they disconnect components from the frame, some of which will have to be completely replaced after removal.
And then, of course, comes the cost of your Jeep’s new frame. It stands to reason that the newer your Jeep model, the more expensive its frame will be, and brand new frames will always be more expensive than used frames.
However, if you have an older Jeep model collectors deem vintage, you’ll find you’re paying a hefty price for a replacement frame.
You’ll also want to consider that getting your Jeep’s frame replaced might expose a series of other issues hiding underneath your Jeep that will need attention, either immediately or in the near future.
The five to six number figure you get from the combination of these factors means a frame restoration isn’t something you should agree to impulsively. You’ll want to heavily weigh your Jeep’s value against the cost of this procedure to see how economically worthwhile it is for you.
The Jeep FSJ Wagoneer and Cherokee are the Cheapest Models to Restore
We recognize that having your Jeep restored is vastly different than having its frame replaced (although this is often a step in the restoration process), but if the model overall is cheap to restore, then you can conclude the cost of its frame will be pretty cheap as well.
If you’re looking to replace the frame on the two cheapest Jeep models ever created, you’ll need to find an FSJ Wagoneer or Jeep Cherokee, preferably in their older models (1962-1991). These classic cars only cost about $500-$1000 to acquire and, depending on their condition, can cost little more than that to repair and restore.
Luckily, you’re not here for restoration prices (and a good thing, too, as they can easily match or far exceed frame replacement costs).
But still, knowing which models are the cheapest can help you immensely when replacing your current Jeep’s frame, especially if you don’t mind taking a decent used frame and know for certain one of these models has a frame that’s compatible with your own.
Certain Jeep Frames Are Interchangeable
Speaking of compatible frames, there’s another trick tons of Jeep owners and mechanics have up their sleeves when it comes to replacing parts, and that’s knowing which Jeep models have interchangeable parts with one another.
While Jeep frames certainly aren’t universal, there are a number of Jeep models that have frames you can interchange with models of earlier or later years, such as:
- All 1987-1995 Jeep Wrangler (YJ)
- All 1997-2002 Jeep Wrangler (TJ)
- All 2003-2006 Jeep Wrangler (TJ)
If you aren’t on the Jeep Wrangler bandwagon, you could ask your trusty mechanic if they know of any models with frames that will match your current Jeeps frame. Doing this could help you cut down costs significantly by purchasing a frame from an older model.
It can also help you find frames worth replacing if you have an older Jeep but want to replace the frame with one in much better shape. This might be hard to do if you’re looking for frames from Jeeps of the same year, but if you know the frame of a Jeep made ten years later is compatible, you have a much better shot of finding a frame replacement in optimal or even new condition.
Economic Alternative to Purchasing a New Car
Looking at a price like $35,000 might have you wondering why on Earth you’d replace your Jeep’s frame when you can simply scrap it and purchase a brand new car for the same, or even less. The answer is simple: sometimes it’s the more economically beneficial option.
There’s a reason the Jeep brand is still going strong today, and it’s because they’ve created some of the hardiest and most versatile cars ever driven. If your Jeep is relatively new and/or you’ve kept it in good shape, replacing the frame might be far cheaper than purchasing a new car.
- There are a number of reasons why your frame might need replacement (some of which we’ll cover shortly), but they don’t always mean that the rest of your Jeep’s components are in need of repairs.
- In fact, if you take good care of your Jeep, you might find the majority of its components are fine, and you really only need to replace the frame.
In that case, if you can find a used frame in decent condition or a new frame for cheap, you could get away with only spending a few thousand dollars on repairs. This still isn’t a cost to scoff at, but it’s far less than the $35,000+ you might have thought you’d be paying.
Another reason someone might opt to keep their old Jeep rather than purchase a new car is simply for comfort. If you know your Jeep is reliable and can handle the toughest of terrains and weather conditions, you might be reluctant to let it go for a new or used car you aren’t familiar with.
If the rest of your Jeep can function fine or only requires minimal repairs, it might be worthwhile to consider having the frame replaced and hanging on to the Jeep a little longer. After all, the sticker price isn’t the only measure of value in a car.
Frame Rot Is One of the Main Causes for Jeep Frame Replacement
If you’re wondering how your Jeep’s frame could have gotten so bad it now needs to be completely replaced, one of the most common culprits is a nasty thing known as frame rot.
From rot essentially means your Jeeps frame has rusted and corroded so extensively that it can no longer maintain its structural integrity. Typically, you’ll find a series of holes and cracks throughout the frame that has left is severely weakened and unable to support the weight of your Jeep’s body.
Another issue with frame rot is that multiple Jeep components are connected to the frame, and if the frame is too rotted, these components might fall off, causing additional replacement or repair costs.
The most unfortunate element of frame rot is that it is more or less preventable. Jeeps will always see some form of wear and tear over the years, but frame rust can be prevented or removed if you keep them clean and maintained.
The best way to prevent or reduce frame rusting is to wash your Jeep regularly, remove rust as it appears using a wire brush or scraper, and have the frame sprayed with a rust preventative or protective product. If you have the extra cash, you can have your frame professionally coated, sealed, and painted to ensure the metal underneath can’t rust.
Don’t Accept the Replacement Blindly: Find the Cause
Frame rot is a common reason for a complete frame replacement, and it’s usually pretty apparent visually that this is why your frame is so extensively damaged.
However, there are other reasons why a Jeep frame might have to go out of commission, and it’s important the owner learn why their frame needs to be replaced rather than blindly accepting this fact and having a replacement frame installed.
Frames might need to be replaced because they are severely bent or damaged, which could cause a series of other issues with your Jeeps components, especially when it comes to maneuverability and its alignment. Therefore, it is vital you learn the cause behind why your Jeep’s frame is bent or damaged so you can solve this issue as well. Otherwise, installing a brand new frame is only dooming it to the same fate as the last.
A bent or damaged frame doesn’t just happen on its own. Typically, the cause is some sort of accident or collision that has affected the frame along with other components, but if this isn’t the case for your Jeep, you’ll want to consult with a professional mechanic to find the real cause.
While it’s likely replacing a new frame on your Jeep will solve any issues caused by the bent or damaged frame, it is still important to check all connecting and nearby components to ensure the old frame hasn’t severely damaged them, as this will cause issues in the future and might make installing a new, straight frame difficult.