Jeep has a mysterious appeal to the risk-averse

This photo provided by Stellantis North America shows the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Available in two-door or four-door configurations and with a number of capable trim levels, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the most off-road focused vehicles you can buy today. (Courtesy of Stellantis North America via AP)
This photo provided by Stellantis North America shows the 2021 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited. Available in two-door or four-door configurations and with a number of capable trim levels, the Jeep Wrangler is one of the most off-road focused vehicles you can buy today. (Courtesy of Stellantis North America via AP)

Credit: Uncredited

Credit: Uncredited

Dear Car Talk:

Have I lost my mind? I’m in love with the Jeep Wrangler. It makes no sense --poor mileage, lousy ratings in the consumer magazines -- and yet it’s the car I keep looking at. I’ve always been so practical getting the most reliable cars. And now I find myself in love with a Jeep. Please help me. -- Kathleen

Ray Magliozzi
Ray Magliozzi

RAY: I think you’ve just testified to why Jeep is still in business, Kathleen.

You’re right. By all objective measures -- unless you’re a mountain goat -- the Jeep Wrangler ranks near the bottom. It’s practically barbaric. And yet, they can’t seem to make Jeeps fast enough.

Jeep owners love that the styling and off-road capability of their cars scream “adventure.” And I think your subconscious is telling you that you need more adventure in your life, Kathleen. As you say, you’ve always played it safe. You’ve always bought the most practical and sensible cars.

Something inside of you is rebelling. Something inside of you wants to have an unplanned encounter on a dark, lonely road with a mysterious tow truck driver. And your chances of that increase exponentially in a Jeep.

I think you need to buy the Jeep, Kathleen. Maybe it’ll be a revelation to you, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t embrace your riskier side sooner? Maybe you’ll be inspired by your Jeep to do more adventurous things, meet new people and explore new places?

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Or maybe you’ll drive it for a couple of years, get tired of cracking your teeth every time you go over a pothole and go back to a Prius?

But there’s only one way to find out. And to be honest, in the big picture of life, this is a relatively low-risk experiment. In the worst-case scenario, if you drive it for a year or two and decide you’ve had enough, you can always sell it. Like I said, there are lots of people who want these things.

You’ll lose a little bit of money, but that’s all you’ll lose. And that’s not so bad. It’s not like you’re abandoning your family, cashing out your IRA and moving to Peru with your pool boy.

And if you buy a Jeep, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll find out if people who drive Jeeps really are having more fun. Or, if the grass is just less reliable on the other side of the fence. Enjoy, Kathleen.

No good answers in the case of GMC’s slipping transmission

Dear Car Talk:

I recently purchased a new 2020 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck. I have had GM products for over 50 years and am finally having problems.

My street has a slight incline. When I leave home in the morning and go uphill, my transmission slips quite a bit from first to second gear. This mostly happens when I first leave for the day. I don’t notice it later on.

I took it to the dealer three times. The first time, they said my truck computer needs to learn my driving habits and adjust accordingly (what?). The next time, they changed some module or something and said that should take care of it. It didn’t. Then, they said I have to drive another couple thousand miles for the computer to learn my driving habits again (what?).

The last time I took it in and told them I was not happy, they said they contacted the manufacturer or someone, and they were told that they know about the problem, and there is nothing they can do.

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First of all, have you heard any such thing, a transmission learning a person’s driving habits? I have always loved my GM cars and trucks, but what do I do about this? This truck cost me over $55,000, and I shouldn’t have this kind of trouble. Thanks. -- Mark

RAY: I’m going to steal that line “go drive it for a few thousand miles and then come back.” They were hoping you’d be abducted by aliens during that time, and they’d never see you again.

Actually, modern transmissions do adjust to individual driving habits. The transmission computer uses a kind of crude artificial intelligence to learn whether you’re a lead foot or a gentleman, and the shifts get adjusted, subtly, to accommodate your driving style. But the transmission doesn’t have to “learn” not to slip.

Here’s what we know about this transmission issue: When owners started complaining about “slipping” or slow shifts between first and second gear, GM discovered that there was a problem with a part called the “stator.” That’s not to be confused with the tall guy who pulls you over for doing 80 in a 65-mph zone.

The stator directs the flow of transmission fluid inside the torque converter. And if things aren’t directed properly, you can have shifting problems. So GM made a change to the stator so fluid wouldn’t drain out of it overnight. But then, owners started complaining about “harsh shifts” between first and second gear when the transmission was cold.

In the past, GM recommended a switch to a fully synthetic Mobil 1 transmission fluid, which they claim helps. But, after that, they gave up and switched to the answer you got; the mechanic’s shrug. Essentially, “they all do that.”

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So I’d ask them if they’d be willing to try changing your transmission fluid, being sure to use the recommended fluid (Mobil 1 Synthetic LV ATF HP). But if that doesn’t help, then you have a choice. You can either have a slipping problem or a harsh shifting problem.

If it were me, I’d take the slipping and leave it as is, because harsh shifts drive me nuts -- especially between first and second, which you feel every time you leave a traffic light. I don’t think either problem will affect the life of the transmission in a meaningful way, if that helps you feel any better.

Yeah, after spending $55,000, I didn’t think it would. Sorry, Mark.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.