The valuable lesson I learned when I embraced Jeep culture

By Chris Tropea
Jul 12, 2023 | Jeep, Wrangler, Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Culture | Posted in Columns | Never miss an article

Photograph Courtesy Jeep

I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t understand all the hype of daily driving a Jeep. To me, it seems that most Wranglers–and now Gladiators and Broncos–are subject to a life of pavement driving and the occasional trip to the beach or a gravel road even though they’re better suited for off-road trails.

However, after spending the weekend with some friends and riding around in their four-door JL Wrangler, I can’t help but appreciate the culture that the Jeep community has built.

In a world where the internet makes fun of any car built that isn’t exactly what someone thinks it should be, Jeep people seem to appreciate and accept all levels of builds.

It almost seemed exhausting at how many “Jeep Waves” we experienced. It didn’t matter if it was completely stock, a lifted rig with big tires, or just one with tons of stickers on it, everyone was waving. It seems like if you have a Jeep, you’re part of the club, no questions asked.

Want another example? Have you ever looked at a Jeep and wondered, “Why do they have so many rubber ducks?”

Well, I learned that is part of a ritual called Ducking or Duck Duck Jeep. From what I have been told, many Jeep owners carry rubber ducks, and when they see a Jeep that they like, it is customary to leave a rubber duck on the driver’s door handle.

Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking and I think the same thing: That’s kind of silly. But how cool is it that a whole community of people supports each other? I think it’s awesome, and maybe we should take note.

I am not saying we should all run out and buy some rubber ducks and start handing them out, but before you go bashing someone’s build or writing off a car because you drive a different brand or prefer a different setup, take a second for another look. Sure, that person may not have modified their car in the same way you have, but maybe they are just getting into cars and they are looking for a community to build that joy of cars with.

It’s easy to go to the local car meet with friends and judge, but why shouldn’t we be more like Jeeps and work on building that community and bringing everyone in car culture together, no matter what they drive?

So, maybe next time you go to a cars and coffee, talk to the person with the base-model Civic covered in stickers and invite them to an autocross. You might be the one to show them it’s easier than they thought to do race car stuff. You might even find a new friend, too.

Either way, just remember that we all love having fun with cars, so even if you don’t understand stance, lifted trucks or the “Jeep Wave,” we all have that one thing in common.

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DirtyBird222 PowerDork
7/12/23 8:52 a.m.

I used to long for a Wrangler as a teenager. A straight six, manual, Renegade was what my heart desired. I'd still take one; however, current Jeep culture is just too much. My ex-father-in-law bought one and within weeks had so many rubber ducks on his dash, it was a hazard for driving. Then the angry eyes, a lift, big off-road tires, etc. This guy doesn't know what a dirt road looks like but it won't stop him and anytime I see him, he makes comparisons to how his Jeep is better on trails than my Raptor. It's consumed him. He's lost now. He's a Jeeple. 

But for real, their community is huge and accepting, which is great. You can make the most tacky and ridiculous modifications to your Wrangler and the community will still back you. 

And the ones that actually take their Jeeps off road are always super helpful. I got my 01 Sequoia stuck in some Texas mud that was the consistency of thick cake batter. Countless people drove by the alternate route without stopping to help. A crew of Wrangler bros stopped, winched me out, and wouldn't accept money or beers for their help. They just said to return the favor one day to anyone in need. 

bobzilla MegaDork
7/12/23 9:00 a.m.

Make sure you have good walking shoes?


Olemiss540 Dork
7/12/23 9:02 a.m.

No different than spoiler'ed/aero'ed up cars that never see a track. Jeep life parallel's GRM life in many ways. Just a bunch of idiot car folks doing what they enjoy regardless of if they ever get stuck in any offroad situations. Atleast they share love better than any other car culture out there. 

I love my basic stock older jeep for cruising beach roads with the kids. Give all the ducks away I get (cant stand them on the dash) but admit to waving at too many passerbys now. Although its like boat culture in that manner so I am used to it since I am the captain of a 22' yacht. 

Life is too short to be worried about what others think and not to spread the love IMO.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
7/12/23 9:23 a.m.

I have owned an XJ for years and actually drive it off road. I don't get the rubber duck reference. 

DirtyBird222 PowerDork
7/12/23 9:41 a.m.
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) said:

I have owned an XJ for years and actually drive it off road. I don't get the rubber duck reference. 

One of my co-workers is an insufferable human being. He is a retired Military Police, has the haircut of a cop that is 125% guaranteed to give you a ticket if he pulls you over, and he drives a Gladiator. He also leaves his windows down or doors off everyday and has stated his hatred for the ducks. We have been placing ducks on his dash every week for months now and he thinks it's other Jeep people in the area. Ah the joy it brings. 

Steve_Jones SuperDork
7/12/23 9:54 a.m.

In reply to DirtyBird222 :

They sell these, just sayin'

Puddy46 Reader
7/12/23 10:45 a.m.

There is little in life that compares to a top down doors off cruise in a Wrangler.  It's a great way to just enjoy the day.  And since its built like a brick, you dont have to worry about speeding tickets.  

It's funny how some people dont realize how capable a stock Jeep actually is.  Last weekend my brother and I went out on a short trail ride with the local Jeep club.  I had my TJ, he had his old CJ.  We were by far the most stock jeeps there and kept up just fine, and we had a blast doing it.  

Scotty Con Queso
Scotty Con Queso UltraDork
7/12/23 10:51 a.m.

In reply to Puddy46 :

A stock Jeep is a lot like a stock Miata - awesome as is.  Most have been ruined by scoundrels at this point.  Jeeps and Miatas that is.

I don't get the rubber duck thing but it brings some people happiness and has no affect on me so carry on.  Do your thing and have fun.   

Steve_Jones SuperDork
7/12/23 10:54 a.m.
Puddy46 said:

There is little in life that compares to a top down doors off cruise in a Wrangler.  It's a great way to just enjoy the day.  And since its built like a brick, you dont have to worry about speeding tickets. 

I have a 600HP Gladiator, speeds just fine.  That being said, 80 in a brick is 80 in a brick, it's probably faster than you want to be going anyway.

ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter)
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) Dork
7/12/23 10:59 a.m.

I love the automotive hobby and culture and all the subcultures that spin out of it, including Jeep culture.  I think of Jeeps a lot like Miatas... basically an open-source platform to tweak or modify to the owner's needs and desires.  Very cool that manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers support these types of vehicles.

There are some differences that I've observed among my friends.  Miata people I know tend to be true enthusiasts, and care little about how other people perceive their vehicle.  They may even relish the idea that others may think the car they drive is "uncool", it's almost a badge of honor.  Jeep people I know tend to be dilettantes, the most superficial poseriest posers of all the posers, know little to nothing about cars, have no desire to use their Jeep for any type of motorsports activity, and buy Jeeps specifically because they want to be perceived a certain way.  "Upgrades" are mostly for bragging rights or cosmetics and often make the performance of the vehicle worse for their actual use case.  I know there plenty of clapped-out Miatas and highly developed offroad Jeeps out there and that this is painting with a broad brush, but one of these cultures attracts me and the other repels me.

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