Jeep Cherokee is one of the oldest names in the Jeep stable. Though the vehicle hasn’t always been the exact same over the years, jeep has proved reducing things under the Cherokee nameplate since 1974. It’s also the source of another popular vehicle in their lineup the Jeep Grand Cherokee. Originally that was just going to be a trim level of the Cherokee, but it was spun off into its own model. Suffice it to say that the Jeep Cherokee has been one of the most popular Jeep models, if not the most popular of all time.
Despite the popularity of the Jeep, or maybe as a side effect of it, it’s not always a vehicle without faults. No auto manufacturer can make a perfect car for over 40 years. Jeep is no different. The Cherokee has had its fair share of issues since 1974, and transmission problems have been at the forefront of their major issues, especially in more recent years.
The 2020 Recall
Fiat Chrysler issued a recall for 67,248 Jeep Cherokees that were produced between 2014 and 2017. This is related to a transmission issue that could cause the vehicle to roll away when you had it in park. Their temporary solution was to recommend that drivers always keep the parking brake on their vehicle. This is separate from the other transmission recalls that have affected the same model years.
The 2019 Recall
In July of 2019 Jeep issued a recall for 81,165 Cherokee SUVs. The recall affected the 2014 model of the vehicle. The problem was related to a software issue that caused the transmission to shift into neutral without warning. If your vehicle shifts into neutral when you didn’t plan on that happening, you’re going to suffer a loss of power while you’re driving. That can also end up causing some serious accidents. That’s what led to the recall.
This particular recall was only for the 2014 Cherokee with a 3.2 L V6 engine. Apparently there had been no crashes specifically related to this issue, but the potential was there for serious problems. If your vehicle is affected by the recall, you can take it to a dealer and the transmission software would be updated for free.
The 2016 Recall
There was another recall issue related to the transmission back in 2016. This affected both 2014 and 2015 models of the Jeep Cherokee. In total, 329,540 vehicles were recalled in this round Though not all of them are Jeep models, as some Chrysler and Fiat models were included. All of them had the same transmission problem, however.
ZF 9-Speed Automatic Transmission
The same recall for the same year of Jeep Cherokee happened in 2016. In fact, there’s been issues for the entire six years since the 2014 Jeep Cherokee debuted with the ZF 9-speed automatic transmission.
The transmission was part of the new generation of Jeep Cherokee vehicles, but unfortunately it was giving Jeep problems even before the vehicle debuted. In fact, they delayed the launch of the Jeep Cherokee by several weeks because there were transmission calibration issues that they were aware of in 2013.
Even though the delay was meant to fix issues, obviously it didn’t work and since that time numerous issues have propped up. There have been 11 software upgrades issued since the 2014 Jeep Cherokee debuted, and obviously it still has not fixed the problem fully.
The Jeep Cherokee and 2014 was actually the first vehicle to hit the market with the ZF 9-speed automatic transmission. The company that made the transmission Has continually claimed that it’s only a software issue and not a mechanical issue that has caused this transmission to fail so often. The problem with that is it probably doesn’t matter to most drivers why the transmission keeps failing, it’s just the fact that it does keep failing.
At least one driver reported problems with their ZF 9 speed transmission making their car undrivable. Apparently, it would not go in reverse, all their warning lights were illuminated, and the car was stuck in 3rd gear. That’s the level of failure that this transmission would get too.
2014 Jeep Cherokee Transmission Complaints
If you head to CarComplaints.com, you will see that from 2014 through 2016 there are countless complaints that were issued for the Jeep Cherokee and its transmission problems. While the official word from most complaints, and in the recall, is that the potential existed for transmission to shift unexpectedly into neutral, many drivers had more issues than that to deal with. Here’s a rundown of some of the complaints drivers had with their 2014 Jeep Cherokee transmission:
- Shifting Roughly: By far the biggest issue people reported with their 2014 Jeep Cherokee was that the shifting was rough. That’s a vague term, but most people characterized it as just what you might think. When they were driving the shifting seemed to be difficult or it would slip gears. The car would jerk and lurch as it shifted. The entire Jeep would vibrate and shutter as he attempted to accelerate, struggling to find the correct gear. Even after the many software updates that were issued, this was still a prevalent problem. In fact, it got worse for some drivers after they had a software update that was supposed to fix the problem.
- Dead Transmission: While some drivers experienced transmission that was just extremely rough and jerky, that gave them a lot of problems trying to move at all, others experienced complete transmission failure. Some drivers reported that the transmission died while they were in the driveway, they could simply not get the vehicle started again so it had to be towed into the shop to get fixed. This was not something that happened after extended mileage either. Some drivers reported it at under 70,000 miles. One even reported it under 20,000 miles.
- Multiple Fails: Many drivers experience transmission that seem to be utterly unfixable. As we stated, there were issues with rough shifting and transmission dying completely. In any of those cases you would take the vehicle into a mechanic to get it fixed. That’s what most people did, especially the ones who had it still under warranty. What made it so much worse for the 2014 model of the Jeep Cherokee was that even when this was done, the new transmission would have the same problem as the old transmission. Some people went through two, three, even more transmissions in the same vehicle over the course of a single year. The problem was essentially unfixable because the fix was just repeating the original problem. The software meant to fix the transmission was faulty, so they were replacing a broken part with a broken part.
2015 Jeep Cherokee Transmission Complaints
- Delayed Shifting: Many of the same issues from 2014 held over into 2015. The biggest issue that CarComplaints has logged as people experiencing delayed shifting. When they try to accelerate, it seems like the car is thinking before it actually gets around to doing it. That’s almost led to accidents as you can imagine the problems that would happen if you try to accelerate and your car takes a moment before it gets going.
- Random Shifting: The other frequently cited problem with the transmission in the 2015 Jeep Cherokee was that it would shift quite unexpectedly into a different gear. Many times, you’d be stopped at a stoplight and it dropped gear suddenly, or even while you’re in the middle of driving it would shift randomly. The recall issued was for the problem or shifting into neutral, but many drivers experienced shifting into first gear or other gears as well.
- No Acceleration: Because it’s the transmission was so difficult to get going and many of these vehicles, a number of drivers reported that getting moving after a stop for a light or stop sign was all but impossible. Even with your foot on the accelerator the car would slowly Lurch forward and take quite a long time to get into gear, assuming that happened at all.
2016 Jeep Cherokee Transmission Complaints
Many of the recalls issued for the Jeep Cherokee’s transmission problems affected the 2014 and the 2015 model years. 2016 was left out of this. Though there were several recalls issued for the 2016 model year, none of them were actually related to the transmission problems. Despite that, there were still a number of complaints from drivers relating to the transmission for this model year.
In 2016 there’s no doubt that there were fewer complaints related to the Jeep Cherokees transmission problems, but they were still one of the biggest issues with the model year, and they seem to be mostly ignored by Chrysler in terms of fixes that were available. That potentially makes it a worse situation than the 2014 and 2015 which at least had recalls issued and the fixes were put in place because the problem was known. It’s debatable whether or not you would have a better investment getting a 2016 Jeep over a 2014 or 2015 as a result.
- Hard Shifting: Many drivers of the 2016 Jeep Cherokee reported that the shifting problems begin to crop up around 30,000 miles. They were CPU updates that drivers could get from the dealers, but in many cases, this made the problem worse rather than better. As we stated before, there have been 11 software updates for the 2014 2015 model years of the Jeep Cherokee, which indicates that the software updates are not able to fix the problem so they have to keep coming out with new updates that are still unable to get the job done. The fact that years later they’re still issuing recalls for these vehicles shows their software fixes have not been adequate.
- Service Transmission Light: Service transmission light isn’t it to come on to let you know that there is a problem with the transmission. As with any warning light, you don’t want to see it but you’re thankful when it does show up to let you know that you have a problem that needs fixing. Many Jeep Cherokee drivers have reported that this light will come on unexpectedly and along with it comes the typical array of transmission issues. The inability to drive in high gear, the inability to shift gear, extremely rough shifting and more.
2019 Jeep Cherokee Transmission Complaints
Though the major issues with the Jeep Cherokee transmission affected the 2014 and 2015 model years, 2016 also followed suit. The problems were less prevalent in 2017 and 2018, however the 2019 model again presented issues with the transmission. This is in addition to bigger issues with the 2019 Jeep Cherokee related to engine problems. All things being equal, the 2019 Jeep Cherokee is considered a poor vehicle overall and you’d do well to avoid it if you’re interested and picking up a new Jeep.
- Rough Shifting: Even though the 2019 model was supposed to have been updated over previous years, the issue with rough shifting was still prevalent for many drivers in 2019.
- Rough Acceleration: This is a spin-off of the rough shifting issue, we’re by attempting to accelerate in your 2019 Jeep Cherokee would be met with stuttering and vibration as though the vehicle was having difficulty pulling it off.
- Calibration Recall: In late 2018, Fiat Chrysler recalled 86053 Jeep Cherokees from the 2019 model year due to a transmission calibration issue. There is some potential for the vehicle to stall while driving which could have led to a crash.
The Bottom Line
Even though Jeep has been making the Cherokee for so many years and it’s one of the most easily identifiable models that they produce, the fact is that since 2014 this model has had Far too many issues to make it worth investing in.
With numerous recalls, numerous software patches, and never-ending problems with the transmission, you should absolutely avoid the 2014 and 2015 model years of the Jeep Cherokee. 2019 is also proven to be a bad year, and 2016 had more than its fair share of issues as well.
If you’re set on a Jeep Cherokee, the best years in recent memory seemed to be 2017 and 2018, although they were still scattered reports of transmission problems for those years. Beyond that, anything from the previous generation performed much better overall as far as transmission goes.
There is little information about the 2020 model year of the Jeep Cherokee, so it may be worth looking into, but do your due diligence and research first as there is little to report so far but the previous years bad performance should make you worry.