The first vehicle with the Jeep name dates all the way back to 1945. Once a military vehicle, Jeep has become a standard for SUVs and off-road vehicles. Few other vehicles have achieved the level of fame that Jeep has. Think about it, when you say Jeep, you're describing a kind of vehicle not just the manufacturer. There aren't a lot of other vehicles that can make that claim. For all of Jeep’s popularity, it hasn't been without its problems over the years as well.
Jeep currently manufactures 6 different models of vehicles. This includes the Cherokee, the Grand Cherokee, the Wrangler, the Compass, the Renegade, and the Gladiator. As with any manufacturer, there have been model years that suffer from serious issues, especially those related to the Jeep’s transmission. Even though there have been Jeeps dating back to the 40s, we'll just focus on the models that are still in production today.
The Jeep Cherokee dates back to 1974, although there was a revamp in 1993 in which it became an SUV. Most years of the Jeep Cherokee have been fairly reliable with a pair of noticeable exceptions. The 2014 Jeep Cherokee was a terrible year for Jeep. Numerous drivers reported extensive problems with their transmission that range from small problems to very serious issues.
The most common problem reported by drivers was rough shifting that happened on average under 17,000 miles. Drivers had problems with their vehicles jerking and lunging as they tried to shift. In some cases, the jerking was so bad that the drive shaft ended up snapping as a result.
Many drivers also reported that the transmission died completely on them at under 30,000 miles. In terms of this happening, sometimes it would just be that drivers would put the key in the ignition and try to turn the vehicle on and it would simply be dead with no warning. More than one driver had to be towed to a mechanic as a result.
Among the range of other issues reported with a Jeep Cherokee transmission were a loss of power while driving, frequent stalling, the transmission simply not engaging, excessive vibration while accelerating, not being able to get past first gear, and the vehicle shifting into neutral on its own. This was in addition to things like grinding noises, and transmission fluid leaks.
A recall was announced for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee related to a problem with the transmission shifting unexpectedly into neutral. This affected just under 330,000 vehicles.
The 2015 Jeep Cherokee was about as bad as the 2014 in terms of transmission issues. Most drivers reported a problem with delayed shifting during acceleration that happened under 16,000 miles. This has lead to a number of accidents because the Jeep hesitates before accelerating, which has caused several drivers to be hit from behind as they were unable to either keep up with traffic or get out of the way of traffic. Some drivers reported taking the Jeep into the dealer to get fixed four or five different times and with no success in solving the problem.
Other serious issues include total transmission failure, rough shifting, grinding and clunking, and the transmission slipping gears unexpectedly. The same recall from 2014 applied to the 2015 model year related to the transmission shifting unexpectedly into neutral.
In 2016 there were some issues reported with transmission that were not nearly as bad as the previous two years, but still potentially problematic. Same issues with jerking and slipping transmission, lunging and hesitation popped up in the 2016 model. These were just far less frequent than they had been in the previous two years.
The 2019 Jeep Cherokee has also had more than its fair share of problems. Some drivers reported rough and hard shifting, problems with acceleration, hesitation and so on. There was also a recall issued for the 2019 model due to incorrect transmission calibration causing stall. That could increase the risk of a crash, although this recall was only issued for 86,000 vehicles. There is also a very small recall because of the potential transmission weld failure.
Jeep Grand Cherokee
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was originally meant to be a trim level of the Jeep Cherokee but became its own model and has been particularly successful. Most model years of the Jeep Grand Cherokee have been relatively free of issues related to transmission. That said, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee had a number of serious issues related to its transmission.
Shifting problems where the main issue with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee that happened on average around 10,000 miles. For some drivers this meant lurching and jumping while shifting, and for others it was more problematic. When they attempted to shift into reverse it would immediately go back into drive. That would be a very serious problem when you're attempting to back out of a parking space for instance and you start going forward instead of in reverse.
There were 15 different recalls issued for the 2014 model year of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. All of them were not related to the transmission of course, but there were some problems. Over 800,000 different models were recalled because of a problem with the transmission showing that the vehicle was in park when in fact it was not. Drivers would think that their transmission was in park and leave the vehicle, but the engine could still be running, and the parking brake was not engaged.
All things being equal this was a very unreliable model year for the Jeep Grand Cherokee and should definitely be avoided.
The 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee was also a problematic model year. Many drivers reported that their shifting was unreliable or that it would drop out of gear unexpectedly. On the flip side, some drivers would get stuck in gear and could not shift at all. This year was much less problematic than 2014, but still bad enough overall that you should consider avoiding this model year if you happen to see a Jeep Grand Cherokee from 2015 for sale.
The 2017 model year of the Jeep Grand Cherokee also had some limited transmission problems related to not being able to shift properly. Again, this was far less than either 2015 or 2014 experience, but it was still bad enough that you should be wary if you happen to see one for sale.
Compared to some other models, the Jeep Wrangler has been fairly reliable in terms of its transmission over the life of the vehicle. That's not to say it hasn't had any problems, and predictably the 2014 to 2015 model years were the worst overall. These issues were less prevalent than they had been in either the Cherokee or the Grand Cherokee, but they still existed in enough numbers that you should be leery of the vehicles. The 2014 Wrangler in particular had not just transmission problems but a host of other issues that make it worth avoiding. In terms of just transmission, many drivers reported problems with the vehicle making noises in neutral or shifting unintentionally.
The 2015 model year of the Jeep Wrangler also experienced very similar problems for a lot of drivers. These model years had problems with manual shift getting stuck in first, and severe vibration and shaking at random times.
The Jeep Compass has been mostly problem-free when it comes to transmission issues over the years. Unlike the Cherokee and the Grand Cherokee, 2014 and 2015 we're not bad years for the Jeep Compass at all. In fact, the 2012 Jeep Compass was probably the worst year for transmission issues and even that it was not particularly problematic at all.
Some drivers reported jerking on acceleration, or the transmission overheated over long distances. But this was a fairly limited phenomenon and not indicative of the general performance of the vehicle. Other model years had the same kind of issues that you could expect to find in any vehicle. They aren't significant enough to scare you off buying a Jeep Compass by any means if the transmission is what you're concerned about.
The Jeep Renegade has only been in production since 2014 for the 2015 model year. With that in mind, if you're looking at a used Jeep Renegade 2015 is probably the model year you want to avoid the most. Its first year was riddled with issues, not the least of which were problems with the transmission.
Many drivers reported issues with the 9-speed automatic transmission not shifting properly or surging and lurching as it attempted to shift gears.
The 2016 Jeep Renegade had some minor issues related to the transmission that weren't as bad as the previous model year. Most of these issues are related to hard shifting, not shifting properly, and an inability to shift into 9th gear. Some drivers complained that the transmission just stopped working while they were in the middle of driving. That led to deceleration on the road, and almost caused a few accidents.
The 2015 Jeep Renegade along with the 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee was part of a class action lawsuit against Chrysler for issues dealing with the transmission. According to the lawsuit, Chrysler and Jeep knowingly sold these models with defective transmissions in them. Chrysler agreed to settle the lawsuit in 2019 but people continue to have some serious issues with the transmission even beyond this.
As with the Cherokee and the Grand Cherokee, the 2015 Jeep Renegade was part of the recall that was issued relating to transmission unexpectedly shifting into neutral for some drivers.
The Jeep Gladiator is a very new model in the Jeep lineup. In fact, on the website, Jeep lists it as the brand-new Gladiator. There was an older model known as the Jeep Gladiator that was made in the 1960s through the 1980s. But the Gladiator that's on sale now has only been around since 2019. With that in mind, it hasn't really been in production long enough to have a number of serious issues related to it. There have been no real concerns reported relating to the Jeep Gladiator’s transmission.
The Bottom Line
Jeep has been producing reliable vehicles for the better part of a century now. You know a Jeep the moment you see when driving down the street, and that's a kind of name recognition that you can't buy. These vehicles are known for being tough, rugged, and good value for the money. As we've seen however there are some exceptions to the rule. Because of a bad 9-speed transmission there were a number of model years in which Jeep seem to grossly underperform.
Problems caused by Jeep’s faulty transmission that ended up leading to the lawsuit that they eventually settled were varied and very serious. because it was a problem of such magnitude that it took a class action lawsuit to deal with it, it serves as a good reminder that you need to avoid the 2014 and 2015 model years for Cherokee, Grand Cherokee, and Renegade. When you see these vehicles for sale it's going to be in your best interest to avoid them outright rather than roll the dice to see if there's any chance, you're going to get a reliable one.
That said, there are plenty of very reliable model years for different Jeep vehicles whether they are older or newer. If you're committed to getting a Jeep and you know it's the kind of vehicle you want, just make sure you take a mechanic that you trust with you to check one out. As we said, any vehicle can have issues and it's safer to get a new or used Jeep checked out just to be sure everything is on the up-and-up before you commit to paying for anything. The last thing you want to do is invest in a vehicle that turns out to be a lemon because the transmission keeps slipping gears or causing you to jerk and lurch when you're in traffic.
Most Jeeps are safe and reliable vehicles however, so as long as you're aware of which model years to avoid, you shouldn't have too many problems if you decide to invest in one.