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YJ, TJ Or JK Wrangler? How To Identify Your Jeep

If you have ever wondered how to quickly distinguish visually between the three different Jeep Wrangler models YJ, TJ, and JK, then this article is for you.

Jeep YJ Wrangler: Square Headlights

The YJ Wrangler (1987-1995), the first of the Wrangler lineup, was produced in 1987 to replace the Civilian Jeep (CJ), and rolled off the production line in Ohio where the original Willys were created for WWll. The most distinguishing visual attribute about the YJs is the shape of their headlights. Jeeps, from the start (dating all the way back to WWII), had up to this point always used round headlights, until AMC changed that by designing rectangular headlights for the YJ Wrangler. Since the TJ and JK Wrangler models, in contrast, both use round headlamps, the YJ is easy to identify by this feature… Special models offered for the YJ include the Laredo, Sahara, Islander, and the Renegade.

Jeep TJ Wrangler: Round Headlights

The TJ Wrangler (1996 – 2006) is the second generation Jeep Wrangler model. The TJ regained it’s Willys Jeep heritage with the reintroduction of round headlamps. The look of the new TJ Wrangler did not really offer many modifications to the body style other than small changes like wider seats, turn signals on the front fenders, and a factory hardtop option, so the best way to compare the two models is still by the headlight shape. Special models offered for the TJ include the Sport and the Sahara.

Jeep JK Wrangler: Just Bigger

The JK Wrangler (2007 – 2010) is the one member of the Jeep Wrangler family that really visually stands on its own. The JK is a much larger jeep in height, weight, length and overall bulk. Like the TJ, the JK model does use round headlamps, but also includes a Four Door version, 18″ tires, 6 speed transmission and a new transfer case, among other distinguishing features. Overall, the simplest way to tell a JK apart is by the sheer road space it occupies. If you still aren’t sure, then take look at the turn signals – on the JK, the turn signals are on the side, as opposed to the TJ Wrangler’s, which are forward-facing. Special models offered for the JK include the Sahara, Rubicon and X.

Whether it’s the rectangular headlights of the YJ’s, the round headlamps of the TJ, or the sheer size of the JK, you know you are looking at some of the toughest (and most fun to drive) vehicles in driveways and offroad trails across America. When in doubt, use this very short and simple explanation to quickly distinguish between the Jeep Wrangler YJ, TJ, and JK. Now you can really annoy your wife (or husband) by constantly pointing them out on road trips!