In theory, a Jeep is something you buy so you can drive anywhere your heart desires. Over the river and through the woods, across muddy bogs you find. But don't get too excited with your newfound freedom, lest you end up like one Jeep Gladiator owner who voided their truck's warranty by getting too exuberant in the mud—and is now considering legal action against Fiat Chrysler.
As outlined in a late December post on JeepGladiatorForum.com, user Gladiatrix bought a 2020 Gladiator Rubicon in July, and within days took it out for a test in the great outdoors. During said test, they "plowed through mud a bunch of times," splashing mud up onto the alternator, allegedly causing its failure. Gladiatrix took the truck to the nearest dealer, Russell Westbrook Jeep in Van Nuys, California, where a technician quoted at least $3,000 in repairs, encompassing the alternator, battery, radiator, and possibly more. Rather than pay up, Gladiatrix sought a second opinion from the (unspecified) dealer where they purchased the truck, which charged a deductible on the alternator but deemed other maintenance unnecessary.
Serious problems, however, began three months down the road, when the Gladiator's electronics started going haywire. First to fail was the center brake light, and thereafter came issues with the engine's stop-start system. Worst of all, though, was an issue with the rear axle locking on its own, which it sometimes did on onramps or the highway itself.
"I can't unlock them if I try," Gladiatrix wrote. "I ended up fishtailing on two separate occasions while getting onto the freeway on dry California pavement."
Gladiatrix returned to the dealer in November and was informed they needed an entirely new rear axle, plus two new batteries. They could not be replaced under warranty, however, due to a restriction placed on the warranty, suspected to have come from the dealer that quoted $3,000 in July. When called, said dealer denied having the power to enact such a restriction, though FCA allegedly later told Gladiatrix this dealer did in fact apply the restriction, and that the restriction won't be lifted because they were accused of having "submerged" their Jeep in the mud. Gladiatrix recalls their mud bath occurring in "less than a foot" of the stuff. As it can be seen below, they hit puddles hard enough to send mud higher than the Gladiator's roof, and surely into places mud was never meant to go.
Whether or not one foot was the limit of their mud play as claimed, their Jeep's failing electronics clearly show mud went places it wasn't meant to go. Rugged as they may be, Jeep Gladiators aren't invincible, and according to one lawsuit, the model may have sway bar disconnect modules prone to early failure from exposure to water, or hypothetically mud too. Sway bar disconnects aren't among Gladiatrix's problems, but it's no stretch to imagine what can kill an alternator can short-circuit other parts of a Gladiator too.
Whatever the case, this debacle shaping up to be an ugly battle between consumer, corporation, and dealer, none of whom want to swallow the cost of servicing a troublesome Gladiator, and none of whose whole stories we have heard. We've reached out to Fiat Chrysler for clarification on the Gladiator's factory warranty, as well as Gladiatrix for additional details on their side of the story, and we will update when we receive either.
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