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What Model Is My Jeep Wrangler? Vin Decoder

What Model Is My Jeep Wrangler? Vin Decoder

With their unique combination of rugged styling and robust performance on the highway or off-road, Jeep Wranglers have been one of the most popular SUVs for the past several decades. Through the years a number of Jeep Wrangler models have been rolled out and things have gotten to the point where it is a challenge to know which model you own. Is there a way to figure this out by yourself?

Knowing a Jeep Wrangler’s year of manufacture can help determine which model it is as certain versions were offered during specific time periods, for example, JKs were available from 2007 through 2018. There are also telltale differences in their body styling and driving features.

Figuring out which model Jeep Wrangler you own can be tricky business. Wranglers have been rolling off assembly lines for over 30 years while under different corporate ownership. But with a little bit of detective work and a sharp eye for detail, you can identify which model Wrangler is sitting on your driveway. Here’s how.

What Model Is My Jeep Wrangler?

The very first Jeep Wrangler officially rolled off the assembly line in 1987 and in the thirty-plus years since, there have been no less than six variations released, each with its own unique two-letter designation. In chronological order by production year, they are:

  • Model YJ (1987 – 1996)
  • Model TJ (1997 – 2006)
  • Model LJ (Limited Edition)
  • Model JK (2007 – 2018)
  • Model JL (2018 – Current)
  • Model JT (2020 – Current)

With so many different Wrangler models out there, including four in the last decade alone, differentiating between them can be a challenge. Fortunately, there are some tricks for telling them apart, starting with their vehicle identification numbers.

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What the VIN Numbers Mean – VIN Decoder

A vehicle identification number, VIN for short, is a 17-character alphanumeric code that is assigned to each vehicle produced by an automaker.

No two VINs are the same and they are often referred to as fingerprints for cars, trucks, and SUVs. Although VINs may appear to be nothing more than random strings of letters and numbers, there is actually very important information that is encoded in them.

For instance, every manufacturer includes each vehicle’s country of origin and the specific assembly plant in the VIN. In the case of Jeep Wranglers, the VINs that are assigned to each vehicle contain a host of valuable information, including the model year, the trim level, and engine specifications.

By checking the vehicle identification number you can also find the answer to that all-too-elusive question: what model is my Jeep Wrangler? In order to determine this information, it will be necessary to decipher your vehicle’s VIN to obtain the model year.

From this, you should be able to identify whether your Wrangler is a YJ, TJ, JK, or JL. Here are a few examples:

  • The model year for Wrangler YJs is contained in the 10th character of the VIN and the letter code represents the year (for example, H is 1987, J is 1988, K is 1989, and so on)
  • Wrangler TJs also utilize the 10th character to indicate the model year but use letters and numbers (for example, X is 1999, Y is 2000, but 1 is used for 2001, 2 is 2002, and so on)
  • The 10th VIN character for Wrangler JKs begin with numbers (e.g., 7 for the model year 2007) but then progresses to letters (A for 2010 and up to J for 2018)

Jeep Wrangler JLs began in the model year 2018 (overlapping with model JK for one year) and the 5th, 6th, and 7th positions of JL VINs correspond to the body type, drive position, and the series. The first two letters are always JX followed by another letter.

What Do Jeep JK and JL Mean?

The JK and JL designations represent the two most recent versions of the Jeep Wrangler. The JK model was sold from 2007 through 2018 while the JL is the newer model and has been sold from 2018 until now.

Interestingly, there was one year of overlap between the JK and JL models (2018) when they were offered concurrently and this has been the cause of much model identification confusion.

While there may be speculation as to what the actual letters stand for, the JK and JL tags simply represent different generations of the Jeep Wrangler with the JL representing the current model as indicated by the alphabetical sequence of its letters.

What some Jeep enthusiasts may find confusing about the two-letter model identifiers is that the CJ model from the Wrangler’s early years did apparently stand for Civilian Jeep, perhaps to distinguish it from a military version.

How Do I Know if My Jeep Is a JK or JL?

For most people, the differences between a JK and JL Jeep Wrangler may appear to be subtle and easy to overlook but to a trained eye, they can be clear as day.

Here’s a great video walk-through comparing the two with more info below:

Here are some of the telltale ways to determine whether your Jeep is a JK or a JL:

Front Styling

Looking head-on at a JK and JL sitting side by side reveals a few key differences in the front-end styling that may be all you need to tell one model apart from the other:

  • The front grill on a JK has a chrome Jeep emblem positioned top-center while the newer JL model does not
  • The headlights on a JL encroach on the adjacent grill vents, pushing in slight indentations while on a JK the headlights are set apart from the vents
  • On a JL, turn signal indicator lights are incorporated into the front fenders

If these characteristics are too subtle there are additional ways to differentiate a JK from a JL.

Side styling

A few other key details can be observed when viewing a JK and a JL from the side:

  • On a Wrangler JL, there is a vent directly behind the front fender on each side of the vehicle
  • The door handles on a JK have a thumb-operated button for opening the doors whereas the door handles on a JL are pull-to-open

If these features were not enough to identify Wrangler JKs and JLs there are yet more ways to tell them apart.

Rear Styling

Should you find yourself stopped behind a Jeep Wrangler in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you may be in a prime position to exercise a few additional techniques for determining whether it is a JK or JL:

  • The tail lights on a JL are squarish with the reverse light in the direct center while a JK’s brake lights are more rectangular with the reverse light positioned at the bottom
  • Like the cabin doors, the rear door on a JK has a thumb-operated button while the JL has a pull-to-open handle

Taken together, there are a number of ways to tell a Jeep Wrangler JK apart from a JL, and identifying which model you have can become second nature once you familiarize yourself with a few key features.

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The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most popular SUVs on (and off) the road today. With so many models that have been offered through the years knowing which particular variation you have parked on your driveway can be a bit of a challenge. (source:

But by knowing where to look and what to look for, you can spot the differences between the different model Wranglers and know with certainty which one you own.

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