2002 Jeep Liberty Limited
2002 Jeep Liberty Limited. Click image to enlarge

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By Chris Chase; photos by Grant Yoxon

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From the loins of Jeep – the company that pretty well invented the SUV as we know it today – came the Liberty, a compact SUV that followed in the footsteps of the venerable Cherokee.

The Liberty, also known to enthusiasts as the “KJ,” stepped into some mighty big shoes when it was introduced in 2001 as a new-for-2002 model.

Where the Liberty continued the Cherokee’s off-road tradition was in its drive systems. All Libertys were equipped with four-wheel-drive as well as low-range gearing for serious low-speed off-road slogging. The main concession the Liberty made to on-road comfort (to the chagrin of some Jeep enthusiasts, who feel solid axles are better suited to off-roading) was an independent front suspension in place of the Cherokee’s rudimentary solid front axle. The Liberty carried on with a solid rear axle, however.

The Liberty was available with two engines, both familiar to fans of Jeep’s parent company, DaimlerChrysler. A 2.4-litre DOHC four cylinder (150 hp) and a 3.7-litre DOHC V6 (210 hp) replaced the aging pushrod inline four- and six-cylinder engines that powered the Cherokee. The four-cylinder gas engine was dropped for 2006, and a four-cylinder turbodiesel appeared in 2005 and was offered through 2006 in CRD models, but it disappeared in 2007 in the face of stricter diesel exhaust emissions standards.

2002 Jeep Liberty Limited
2002 Jeep Liberty Limited. Click image to enlarge

In 2002, a four-cylinder Liberty achieved 11.9 L/100 km in city driving and 9.0 L/100 km on the highway, according to Natural Resources Canada’s fuel consumption guide, six-cylinder models were rated at 14.8/11.0 L/100 km (city/highway). By 2006, the V6-only Liberty was rated at 13.4/10.0 L/100 km. The 2006 Liberty CRD was rated at 10.9/8.5 L/100 km.

A five-speed manual was the base transmission until 2005, when it was supplanted by a six-speed stick with a shorter first-gear ratio. A four-speed auto was the optional gearbox in all years.

There’s a stalling problem with diesel models that appears to be related to the torque converter lockup function. There’s a recall out that deals with this matter.

There are a couple of different recalls related to lower ball joints in the front suspension that wear quickly. See this thread at LostKJs.com for a how-to on checking a Liberty’s lower ball joints for excessive wear. The upper joints are an issue in 2002 and 2003 models; a recall was issued for this as well.

2002 Jeep Liberty Limited
2002 Jeep Liberty Limited. Click image to enlarge

There’s an issue with some Liberty power window regulators (the mechanical assembly that actually makes the window go up and down). The same problem affects the Grand Cherokee, too; see this thread at JeepsUnlimited.com for more information.

A popping or creaking sound from the steering is likely linked to worn bushings around the bolts that fasten the steering rack to the frame.

A growl or vibration from the driveline could be universal joints in need of lubrication. Also, watch for problems where the front driveshafts fit into the differential; apparently, water can enter here and cause corrosion, which can lead to the constant velocity (CV) joints in the driveshafts going bad.

Consumer Reports’ data seems to back up these findings; the publication gives 2002-2005 Libertys an average used vehicle rating, while 2006 and 2007 models get a much worse than average rating.

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