Considering 2004 Jeep Liberty 4x4

My GF’s SUV has one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel. She’s been looking and is considering a 2004 Jeep Liberty 4x4. The price is $6600. The vehicle has about 130K on it, and is in pretty good shape. I’ve test driven it and it tracks true, accelerates and shifts well, 4WD works, and all options seem to work. The dealer says they flushed the radiator and changed the oil, and looking at the fluids bears this out. The transmission fluid is clean and does not smell burnt. The engine is nice and quiet and is responsive and peppy. It is a one-owner vehicle and has not ever been wrecked.

My main qualm is that when I pulled the oil dipstick to check the oil, there was a burnt-in streak of black from the bottom of the dipstick to almost the full mark. Looking under the oil cap reveals some crud, but it’s hard to tell if the engine has any sludge since the fill is not in the valve cover. This to me indicates that the prior owner was lax on checking the oil or changing it on time. Unfortunately there is no oil pressure gauge, just an idiot light. The engine is a 3.7L V6.

Any thoughts? Would you buy this vehicle?

Libertys do have their advantage. They are decent off road. But they have an archaic motor and not the best over all reliability. If it’s to be a daily driver, NO. If it’s a second car perhaps. It doesn’t look like the oil was changed that frequently. If you do consider it, have it gone over by a mechanic to check overall motor condition. It may be typical of these older motors to accumulate sludge. Another reason to avoid them if that’s the case. IMO, 130K and $6600 for a 4wd only work if it’s a seldom used plow truck.

The 3.7L V6 in the Liberty isn’t to be confused with the (old) 4.0L straight six that was used in the Cherokees, Wranglers, etc. The 3.7 has only been around since about 2001.

For what it’s worth, I think the Liberty is a great vehicle. The possible oil issue deserves its due attention.

A Chain Is Only As Strong As Its Weakest Link.
A Used Car Is Only As Strong As The Condition Of Its Links And The Engine Is The Most Important Link.

130,000 miles is quite a few. I’ve purchased used cars with that number of miles, but not ones that I have reservations concerning the care and feeding of the powerplant.

Lots of used cars have that tracking straight ahead feeling.

Your intuition is working well. There are other Jeeps out there. I’d find one with a little better maintenance history, especially at that price range and that mileage.

"My GF’s SUV has one foot in the grave and one on a banana peel"
One can certainly jump out of the frying pan and into the fire.

You and your girlfriend have a big advantage over some car shoppers. Her current vehicle is still working while you’re shopping. Hang in there.


This is a part time 4WD vehicle and you cannot use 4WD unless you are on dirt or a slippery surface. Using part time 4WD on dry pavement will damage the drive train and cause erratic handling.

Also, part time 4WD is a difficult thing to maintain. If you aren’t using this vehicle for off road fun, you are a wasting your money.

My work car is a 2003 liberty, only 32k, I cannot say I love this car, it is fine, but I think I would look for something else if I were buying a vehicle for myself. It kind of goes back to bonding with a car, and I have only had it for 2 months, but I still love the 93 f250, and felt good with the 94 gmc pickup, but the jeep is like meeting a friend that has a wonderful pit bull, I will be nice to it but worried in the back of my mind if it will bite me, sure I love the heated seats and sunroof, maybe we have to spend more time together, but I’ll tell ya my old f250 truck, I sit in it and drive it from time to time and feel the love. I like the jeep very much, but dear jeep is a cold harsh mistress. Drive it and see if you like it and it likes you, if so good deal!

@PhillipNeuman: Why would you say that part time 4WD is difficult to maintain? You engage it when you need it (when it’s slippery out), and turn it off when you don’t, for better mileage and less wear on the parts. Her old SUV also had part time 4WD and required no maintenance other than an occasional transfer case fluid change. It’s one of the few things that actually still works right on her old vehicle. I’m well aware of the wheel hop and potential for accelerated wear using it on dry pavement having owned a 4WD truck before.

If anything, I’d consider it preferable to AWD, and it’s a little more forgiving of tires that aren’t perfectly matched.

CCC…you are correct. The 3.7 is a replacement for the really old straight six. In reality though, it is a chopped of version of the older 4.7 v8. It still uses just 2 valves per cylinder and in the Liberty, it is in comparison, lethargic, rough running and delivers just 16 mpg over all. Of all comparable size 6 cylinders made by the major manufacturers in similar models, it is on the very low end of hp and torque for it’s displacement delivering in some cases more than 50 fewer hp.It may not seem archaic compared to 6 cylinder motors Chrysler used, but it is to the rest of the motor world regardless of when it first appeared. Some 4cyl makes perform better.

IMO, the liberty is a good all round vehicle, but only if you intend using it off road as one of it’s uses, especially with the part time system and 130 k miles. If you don’t, there are better choices. I like thr Barkydog discription; especially since someone else is doing is the maintenance.

They should have taken that dipstick and shined it up with a little steel wool…

Update: We took the vehicle to an independent mechanic and had it thoroughly checked over. Additional items found:

-oil leak, probably from the valve covers.
-High and low pressure power steering hoses leaking at the fittings
-Transfer case seal leaking

I’m of the mind to avoid it, but if the dealer will have the items corrected or take enough money off the asking price for us to get the items fixed, it still may be worth purchasing. All of these items are nickel and dime repairs except for possibly the transfer case seal(s)

What do you guys think?

Broken window regulators are a common problem on liberties.

BTW " It still uses just 2 valves per cylinder and in the Liberty", how many valves per cylinder do most 2004 trucks have? Two and a half?

Nevada_543. If the liberty were competing with trucks with 6 liter motors, and had one itself, that would be acceptable. It isn’t and breathing, horsepower and economy in smaller motors it competes with unsuccessfully is part of the game they still aren’t playing with the 3.7 L in 2011. I don’t believe they are considered a truck.

Dagosa, The deleted comment recommended the Xtera, it may be a better vehicle but it had 2 valves per cylinder in 2004, 30 less horsepower with its natually aspirated V6 and an EPA rating of 14 mpg city. I don’t agree that Chrysler’s 3.7 liter was an “archaic” engine, variable valve timing would have been an improvement but you can’t have everthing on a budget.

Nevada…you make a good point; got me there on the Xterra. IMO, that is archaic too in performance by today’s standards, which is my point. Nissan has improved their motor, Jeep still as of 2011, has not. I agree that the Jeep is a good budget compromise for what it does. It is reasonably priced as a Cherokee replacement. It tows 5k and is steller off road. That appeals to me personally where parts of the road I live on are often referred to by names like “goat path” and the " Ho Chi Minh" trail. Even with, it’s archaic motor.

Guys, I agree that the engine doesn’t make as much power and lacks the refinement of even the 3.5L in my 1994. But this is middle of the line Jeep, not an upscale SUV like a Land Rover. (which are a waste of time in my opinion anyway) It appears to be fairly stout as far as reliability goes, and my GF drives her vehicles gently anyway. Neck-snapping performance isn’t what she’s looking for. In the Jeep, with its truck-like ride and being purposed as a go-anywhere vehicle, the coarseness of the engine is barely noticeable.

I appreciate everyone’s comments. They echo my feelings about the vehicle as well. She had it for the weekend, and I have to admit it has some charm. It kind of grows on you. And while it won’t win any races, it is peppy and responsive. Today we will see if the dealer will fix the items we found wrong with it or drop the price. If neither occurs to our satisfaction, we’ll be walking away. She found another Liberty from a private owner in a color she likes better anyway. Having done some searching, I’d say these are a little hard to find. People don’t seem to get rid of them. They must have something going for them.