The Jeep Grand Cherokee was launched back in 1993 when the first iteration was unveiled. Since then, it has remained as one of the most popular Jeeps ever made in its many years till today. Yet, this popularity has the unintended side effect of amplifying the frequency and publicity around Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. It’s not just the grandest of Cherokees as well, as several other Jeep models have suffered similar issues. So, are their gearboxes really that terrible?
Well, let’s dive into this subject a bit further to investigate all the Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems that you need to look out for. We’ll then take a good look over some of the model years of the Grand Cherokee that you should absolutely avoid like the plague. Additionally, we’ll also get into some of the decently reliable Grand Cherokees that might be worthy of a purchase. That is, without having to worry too much about gearbox issues or otherwise. So, let’s begin…
What Are The Worst Model Years For Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems?
To get a better idea of what we’re looking at, we’ll be referencing data from CarComplaints.com. From here, we can get a better understanding of Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems, as well as other reliability and maintenance issues. And boy, do we have a lot of them. At the time of writing, there are 11,194 complaints filed by users and the NHTSA for all Jeep models. Among them, the Grand Cherokee takes the lion’s share with over 3,079 complaints – the highest of the lot.
To compare, CarComplaints.com has its PainRank scoring system, which analyses complaints for a given model across all its model years. Moreover, it bases its ranking depending on how significant the issue is, how often it crops up, how expensive it may be to repair, the mileage of when the issue starts to appear, the age of the vehicle, and so on. With this proprietary leader-board in place, CarComplaints.com ranks the Grand Cherokee in solid last place among the Jeep family.
They’ve cited supremely poor unreliability, with serious problems that could appear quite frequently. On top of that, these woes are costly and complex to fix. The Jeep Grand Cherokee has numerous major concerns. Some examples include the infamous “death wobble“, electrical faults, defects with the window regulator, emissions issues, and so on. Above all else, we have Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. These three models years are the ones you should avoid the most…
2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee
When it comes to Jeep Cherokee transmission problems, the 2015 model year peaks the list for years that you’d want to avoid. Drivetrain-related complaints – which includes the transmission – are at the very top of everyone’s minds for this model year. In the very worst-case scenario, more than a few owners had no choice but to replace the entire gearbox and then footing a very large bill.
A few of the odd experiences involve rough shifting, or a grinding sound or sensation while shifting. Plus, the automatic gearbox might even choose to shift gears on its own regardless of what speed you’re on. Several other common symptoms of an ailing Jeep gearbox are a whining noise coming from the transmission or the unpleasant vibrations.
But no doubt, letting the gearbox have a mind of its own is beyond awful. The gears will either shift too early or too late while driving with no actual merit behind it. As a result, you’ll feel performance drops, weird vibrations, the car lurching forwards and back, as well as noises and that grinding feeling. It can prove dangerous too, as it becomes hard to control and regulate the vehicle’s speed.
These issues can appear early on in its lifecycle, with it happening to some cars with less than 12,000 miles on the clock. The cost of fixing this isn’t cheap, and it can rise as high up as $7,500. The 2015 Grand Cherokee also had an issue with a faulty automatic transmission control module. Owners think that their vehicle is in ‘park’, when it’s actually not. Over 800,000 vehicles were recalled.
2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee
While not as bad as the 2015 model year, its predecessor is just as terrible. The volume of 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems is almost endless. In some cases, the gearbox may exhibit faults even with mileage as little as 10,000 miles. A few owners have noted that when putting it in ‘reverse’, the gearbox would automatically shift itself back into ‘drive’.
As you can imagine, this is less than ideal, which may lead to deadly accidents. There are other issues as well, such as not being able to shift between 7th and 8th gears. Furthermore, the first four gears can shift pretty rough at times. Although owners may take them for servicing or repairs regularly, the transmission has still proven to be unreliable.
That’s even after five or more trips to the workshop. The 2014 model year of the Grand Cherokee has the distinction of having been recalled 14 times. This includes that same defect where the gearbox would not stay in ‘park’. It made headlines in the news, which followed the unfortunate deaths of Star Trek actor, Anton Yelchin, and among others as their Jeeps rolled away into them.
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee
More of the Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems in the 2011 model year are similar to the ones in 2014 and 2015. That said, the 2011 Grand Cherokee had multiples of other complaints aside from the gearbox. Some superseded it in seriousness, such as defects with the electrics, as well as the engine. Both are quite serious and catastrophically expensive to fix.
Nevertheless, the transmissions back in 2011 are still as riddled with faults as it was in later model years. Several owners had their gearboxes repaired numerous times. Yet, it can still stop working, as well as grinding and shifting roughly. One owner complained that their 2011 Grand Cherokee can’t shift into second gear, which is certainly troublesome at the very least.
Which Model Years Are The Most Sketchy For Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems?
Okay, so we’ve covered earlier on the worst model years that you should avoid to not have to worry your heart out over Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. On the bright side, it can only get better from here. Now, we’ll be showing you some of the (slightly) better ones to spring for. Mind you, we’ll still classify them as “sketchy”, owing to the oft high possibility of the gearbox suffering problems or complete failure. But its reliability is improved from before, nonetheless.
These aren’t as bad, but we’d still recommend that you have a mechanic be by your side if you’re thinking of buying one. A pre-purchase inspection is highly recommended, and you need to consider taking an in-depth look at its service history. Check to make sure any and all recalls are followed through, and it’s gone a clean and diligent maintenance schedule…
2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems remained a thorny issue even as late as 2017. The most frequent complaints can be filed under the case where the gearbox won’t shift properly. It could appear with mileage as little as just 7,600 miles on the odometer too, so you’ll have to be careful. Among the symptoms noted by owners, the gearbox routinely slips gears.
A familiar pattern from the past, a few drivers had trouble getting past second gear. This would pose a serious threat to your safety while driving at high speeds. Apart from the impossibility of moving beyond first gear, getting it to downshift back to a halt might prove difficult. On top of all this, the transmission might grind its gears or lurch and jerk about when shifting.
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
This will be a short one, but the 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems are repeated from the previous model year. As we mentioned, the 2015MY Grand Cherokee is an abomination when it comes to the reliability and dependability of its gearbox. In the following year, Jeep at least made some effort to stamp out the most frequent complaints, and improvements were made.
Come 2016, the issues are mostly similar as in 2015. However, it’s thankfully not as apocalyptic as it was before, and is less problematic overall. The issues remain, such as rough shifting, grinding, lurching, and having the gearbox choose gears seemingly at random. That said, there’s a slightly lower chance that you’ll need to replace the gearbox. Overall, be cautious.
2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee
The 2013 model year is an all-rounder when it comes to unreliability. Thus, the spate of 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems is hardly the only thing you need to worry about. To be more specific, some of the gearbox complaints revolve around the transmission control unit module, or TCU. This is the computer brain that electronically manages the gearbox’s actuation.
In the 2013 model year, there have been concerns with the transmission not shifting when you need it to. Sometimes, the car itself would stall in the middle of the road, or may not start up at all. This can occur with relatively low mileage of around 75,000 miles. Other small annoyances have been repeated before and after the 2013 model year. As a whole, it’s not as bad as others.
2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee
A repetition once more, the 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems won’t trouble you too much. However, some of these irritations are substantial enough in their seriousness that you might not want to consider one if you can avoid it. Most particularly, there have been problems with the gears downshifting on their own while driving.
2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Electrical faults are the most pressing issue with the 2010 model year. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t distract us from the Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems, which are numerous enough on their own. There was a recall issued concerning the possibility of a rollaway when the vehicle is shifted into neutral. A little under 300,000 cars were recalled, including the Grand Cherokee.
What Are Some Of The Best Model Years With The Fewest Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems?
Having sampled some of the worst when it comes to reliability, we can at least talk about the good ones. If you’re still in the market for a Grand Cherokee at this point, it’s a fantastic SUV. With that in mind, there are thankfully plenty of great examples of the Grand Cherokee whereby you may be able to avoid the most pressing Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. Hopefully, it may mark a turning point where Jeep is finally working things out to iron away all the kinks.
While these few model years that we’ve listed down below here aren’t completely free of gearbox defects, they’re not as prominent. Granted, most of them are relatively new, but you could at least be covered under a manufacturer’s warranty. In all, you can think about purchasing them without too many sleepless nights…
2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Remember when the 2017 model year inherited a lot of complaints about the gearbox? Well, it turns out that Jeep has made massive improvements in reliability for the 2018 model year. In summary, Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems aren’t a real concern here. Or at least, whatever issues that owners may have complained about, the gearbox doesn’t seem systemically defective.
2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee
As with the year before, the 2019 model year is another streak for a worry-free experience when it comes to Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. No significant annoyances have been noted as of yet by its relatively happy owners. This is even though it’s within the same generation of vehicles as the 2015 model year. The latter of which is to be avoided at all costs.
Jeep has thankfully taken some notes and made evolutionary changes. Whatever troubles that might crop up will more likely concern the electrics, engine, and miscellaneous other faults. If you’re all too concerned over gearbox-related problems that may drain your bank account, the 2019 model year ought to be a decent example. There’s nothing in abundance that would make you stay far away.
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Since it’s quite new, most owners won’t have done too many miles or have stressed the 2020 Grand Cherokee enough for reliability woes to appear. It’s also helped with pandemic lockdowns relegating most cars to drive no further than their driveways. But we could use it as an inspiration for Jeep – and would-be Jeep owners – to look forward to in regards to Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems.
Only a few complaints concerning the gearbox have appeared. Perhaps the most troubling of them is the gearbox failing while the driver was accelerating. This should be looked into, but when compared to the rest, it’s a small footnote to worry about. If you don’t want – and you shouldn’t have to – think too much about maintaining your transmission, the 2018 model year and up are the ones to go for.
What’s Causing All These Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems?
We’ve discovered thus far the symptoms that owners have reported for Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission problems. Nonetheless, we still haven’t uprooted the main causes for why this happens in the first place. So, let’s take a peek at the reasoning behind why the gearbox might behave in a certain way, which later leads to utter failure. By doing so, we may gauge a better understanding of how to troubleshoot them, one-by-one…
Low Transmission Fluid Level
Your gearbox needs transmission fluid to remain lubricated and cooled. Without it, the many metal components would make contact, resulting in serious internal damage within the gearbox. This can be attributed to increased friction and heat inside the gearbox. One of the most typical points of failure for gearboxes is an insufficient amount of transmission fluid. Otherwise, you may experience erratic shifting, delayed shifts, no shifting at all, grinding sounds, among others.
Faulty Torque Converter
The torque converter of an automatic transmission is similar to a mechanical clutch in manual cars. It connects the power source – this being the engine – to the driven load, which can then be accepted and moderated by the gearbox. If the torque converter wears out or fails, it can undoubtedly cause problems to appear. These include transmission slippage, as well as shuddering and overheating.
Worn Out Bands
Another component inside the gearbox that might fail is the transmission bands. These would wear out as they age, and could present difficulties for the gearbox when it does go out. Some examples include delayed shifting, being forced to shift only at higher RPMs, as well as harsh shifting. Even worse, failed transmission bands might even force you to drive without reverse gear or no gear at all.
The shifter module is what you interact with to select and change gears. These may be faulty, as is apparent with certain design flaws presented in Jeeps, and some other Chrysler vehicles at the time. Otherwise, the shifter cable connecting the module to the transmission might snap or break. In any case, it will result in the gearbox being stuck in gear, or it won’t be able to go into a selected gear.
Defective Valve Body
The valve body is a very complex component within your car’s transmission system. Mainly, its role is to divert the flow of transmission fluid where needed, for both lubrication and cooling. The valve body can wear out and fail. When it does, it can prompt your car to enter its limp-home mode or bring out a check engine light. If not, the gearbox might not shift at all, or it throws out very hard and rough shifts at you.
Brake Light Switch
In some cars, there’s a safety system that interconnects the brake light switch and the transmission. This is to prevent the car from shifting in and out of park when you’re actually stationary. It’s only here as most cars today have an electronic handbrake. However, if and when the brake light switch fails, it can prevent the transmission from shifting out of park entirely.
Low Battery Voltage
This is a particularly rare case with some gearboxes, but it’s nonetheless something to worry about with certain Jeeps. If the battery is unable to provide an ample amount of voltage, your transmission might be left stuck in its limp home mode. The reasoning is likely due to the car’s onboard computer informing the gearbox’s TCU that a fault has been diagnosed, and it’s thus preventing it from any wear and tear.
Your car has numerous electronic brains, such as the transmission control unit (TCU), engine control unit (ECU), or the powertrain control module (PCM). Should there be any software issues with either of these systems, it can send the wrong signals or instructions to its respective components. Thus, the gearbox might shift too late, or drop gears unexpectedly. It can be fixed by bringing your Jeep over to a dealership to have them install a software update or patch.
Speaking of electronics, all those computers communicate to various components around your car through wire harnesses. A damaged wire harness between the ECU, TCU, or PCM to the gearbox housing may cause the transmission to not receive the right – or any – electronic input. This may be why your transmission might not shift at all, or wouldn’t go into gear.
What Are The Most Common Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems?
So now that we’ve dived into the plausible causes of why your Jeep’s gearbox has gone haywire, let’s take a slight detour into its most common problems. More importantly, we’ll look at what’s the underlying cause that’s prompting them to appear…
Delayed Or Failed Gear Shift
Older Jeep models use a 42RE or 42RLE four-speed gearbox, which has a widespread problem with delayed or failed gearshifts. Usually, it might not even illuminate the check engine light. When this happens, your gearbox’s solenoid has likely gone awry. If the governor pressure solenoid is worn out or is stuck, it can’t maintain the right transmission fluid pressure.
It’s possible as well that a faulty sensor might result in incorrect readings on the solenoid position. Meanwhile, if the overdrive solenoid is worn, it’ll serve as a pressure accumulator that will engage the overdrive gear. In this scenario, your gearbox won’t be able to hold sufficient pressure for the transmission fluid to maintain operation.
Some of the more recent Jeeps had a 545RFE five-speed automatic. These too could develop issues such as failing to get into gear. Moreover, there may be a noticeable drop in gear engagement speed and smoothness. Here, we can blame a loose or disconnected transmission cooler filter. In turn, its failure means that gearshifts may be slow until there’s a build-up of adequate pressure.
Torque Converter Or Overdrive Issues
Once again, the 42RE or 42RLE transmissions that were introduced after 2000 can have sporadic torque converter clutch or overdrive engagement problems. At its core, this may trigger a check engine light to appear. Often, we can point the finger to a broken cover plate for causing this. The latter is what holds the pressure boost valve in place at the bottom of the valve body.
Its failure is a result of a poor design from the factory, where the retaining bracket that holds the lockup pumps could break off. As a consequence, it might throw up a P1740 error code if you’re hooking up an OBD diagnostics tool to your Jeep.
Aside from this, we may look towards a damaged input and output speed sensors on the gearbox. Or, it might also be due to a broken throttle position. Either way, it will provide incorrect readings, which may impact the performance and operations of the torque converter. Moving back to a previous point, a faulty governor pressure solenoid and its sensor may also be the cause.
Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Problems – Final Thoughts
The Grand Cherokee was designed as the flagship product of the Jeep family. As a complete package, it’s a great all-rounder SUV, made to be usable and practical both on- and off-road. Unfortunately, it has a great many reliability quirks, such as a poorly gearbox, that prevents it from getting a thumbs up from us. On the bright side, later model years of the Grand Cherokee aren’t as susceptible to the same transmission headaches as its earlier iterations.
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