2021 Jeep Cherokee Problems and Top Complaints – Is Your Car A Lemon?

Electrical system, engine, powertrain, airbag, and brake issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones | Reviewer: Sergei Lemberg

While the 2021 Jeep Cherokee is smaller than its Grand sibling, customers still enjoy riding around in this 4×4. The automaker labels it “the most capable midsize sport-utility vehicle (SUV).” But owners experiencing powertrain, engine, electrical, and other problems are questioning its capabilities. Those whose airbags have failed or have experienced loss of motive power are highly critical of its safety features.

Click on other model year to view more problems:  2019   2020

Most Common Problems

The most common problems owners of the 2021 Jeep Cherokee are complaining about relate to the powertrain, engine, and electrical system. From complaints issued to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other reliable sources, including Lemberg Law, it is clear that airbags and brakes are also problematic.

Many of the powertrain, engine, and electrical system complaints are related and filed under two or three of these categories. But major issues that owners highlight include faulty transmissions and power transfer units (PTUs), automatic start-stop failures, a lack of motive power, and problems with engine control units.

Brake issues relate mostly to the emergency brakes, although there are also reports of brakes failing. Airbag problems all relate to one or more airbags not deploying, commonly resulting in injuries, some serious.

Other components and systems that are implicated in complaints include forward collision avoidance, suspension, the fuel/propulsion system, exterior lighting, lane departure, latches/locks/linkages, seat belts, steering, tires, and visibility.

There are also two recalls that have resulted from problems with the powertrain and suspension.

Recalls

The two recalls issued for 2021 Jeep Cherokee vehicles don’t affect any other model years or Jeeps.

The first, NHTSA Campaign Number 20V657000 was issued in October 2020. A suspension issue, it warns that 698 Jeep Cherokee Latitude and Limited vehicles may be affected. The problem is that one or both of the front lower control arms may fracture while driving. This can result in a loss of steering control, which increases the risk of a crash, which would happen without prior warning.

The second, NHTSA Campaign Number 21V310000 was issued in May 2021. A total of 18,800 2021 Cheerokees could be affected. This problem is a result of transmission oil cooler hoses not having been correctly cured. Where this is the case, transmission fluid might leak, which increases the risk of fire.

2021 Jeep Cherokee Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Power Train
17
17
Electrical System
13
13
Engine
13
13
Unknown Or Other
10
10
Service Brakes
8
8
Air Bags
7
7
Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
4
4
Suspension
4
4
Fuel/propulsion System
3
3
Steering
2
2

Engine Problems

A potent engine is what all thrill seekers are looking for, but it’s more important that the motor is reliable. When PTUs and transmissions are defective and engines shut down, drivers have every right to demand the automaker take action.

An owner from Texas states in an NHTSA complaint that while driving in a residential area, the car “kept sputtering.” Also, the RPM gauge kept going up and down when he pressed on the gas pedal. Eventually the engine and battery light came on and the car shut down. This was the second it had happened.

There are also multiple complaints about faulty engine control modules (ECMs). You can read some of these in our comments section below.

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Stalling and Loss of Motive Power

As an owner from Michigan states in an NHTSA complaint, power loss while driving “poses a safety hazard.” His vehicle “lost power and shifted into neutral while accelerating into traffic.” The second time it happened, he was driving at highway speeds when the car “spontaneously lost power and shifted into neutral while in traffic.” It was repaired both times, but the problem recurred again and was at the dealership at the time of the complaint, which states there is no warning when this happens.

An owner from Pennsylvania lost motive power while driving at 65 mph, the contact felt that the vehicle had lost motive power. There was a message to “Park and Restart the vehicle.” The owner was able to pull over and restart the vehicle, and take it to the dealer who said it needed a software update.

After stalling on the road while stopped in the center lane and trying to take a left turn, an owner from Texas complained to the NHTSA. “It was completely dead, no warning indicators or signals. Both (the) dashboard and radio screens were blank.” Also, the key was locked and he couldn’t take it out. “Everything came back to normal after about 15 minutes and I was able to drive it home. Our safety was at risk since it happened in the middle of the road.” At the time of the complaint the dealer hadn’t done any diagnostics.

Automatic Stop-Start Failures

A typical complaint about this problem states that the “automatic stop-start that activates when you are at a stop light” either gives an error or it shuts the car down. It states that the error messages have occurred on about a third of “my driving trips.” And twice  “it has totally shut off the vehicle leading to all sorts of dash error lights coming on, requiring the vehicle to be put in Park to restart the engine.” The dealer service diagnosed a “faulty hood open sensor.”

When an owner from Virginia had issues with the stop-start function not working the diagnosis was different. “The mechanic says a new battery will resolve this issue.”

Problems with the Powertrain

There are numerous complaints about faulty transmission and driveshaft issues. Additionally, many complaints highlight power transfer unit (PTU) defects. Many are also regarded as electrical system issues.

An owner from New Mexico experienced a total powertrain failure. “My 2021 Jeep’s powertrain unit broke and damaged other connecting parts.” This happened “while driving on a highway using cruise control causing a complete loss of power. The Cherokee had only 5,696 miles on the clock at the time.

An owner from Maryland experienced drivetrain failure while driving at 65 mph on a straight highway. “Suddenly there was no power going to the wheels. There were no vehicle warning lights or sounds. Stepping on the gas pedal resulted in a whining noise. Because the engine was still running I had control over the steering and brakes. After stopping the vehicle on the shoulder of the road I put the vehicle in park. I then attempted (unsuccessfully) to travel forward.”  He had the Cherokee, which he had purchased a month before and which had only 14,100 miles, towed to the dealership.

Transmission Failures

An owner from Virginia states that the Cherokee was running hot and it “smelled of hot metal and fluids. When moving the transmission from Park to Drive nothing would happen. Pressing the accelerator caused the engine to rev, then it would lurch into Drive. Same thing would happen going into reverse. Moving down the road there would be a clunking noise as you accelerated or slowed down. The car seemed like something was slowing it down , like dragging brakes. This was intermittent for some time and then got worse.” The dealership was able to replicate the problem and tried a software fix. It didn’t work, and they “concluded the transmission was so damaged it had to be replaced, which they did under warranty, at 36,000 miles.”

In a complaint listed as a joint powertrain, electrical system, and exterior lighting issue, an owner from New York describes numerous failures. First the car stalled, then the clutch got stuck and he couldn’t shift out of gear. After keeping the vehicle for more than two months, the dealership couldn’t trace an electrical problem and replaced the transmission. Less than a month later, the car stalled again and radio, blinkers, and brake lights stopped working. This time the dealer kept the car for about a week and reset the alerts. The issue with malfunctioning alerts recurred, and after nearly two months, they said they couldn’t identify a cause. “I am terrified to drive the car as nothing was fixed and (it’s) very unsafe.”

An owner from Arizona complains that the transmission in his Cherokee is slipping. He noticed the problem when the car wouldn’t accelerate on the interstate. The dealership “ran some codes” and told the owner nothing was wrong.

Defective PTUs

There are many complaints about defective PTUs attached to the side of the transmission. For example, when an owner from Indiana took his car to the dealer’s service department he was told “the power transfer unit was bad and the vehicle was unsafe to drive.” After three weeks they did a software update, which didn’t help.

In June 2023, a 2021 Cherokee owner with 50k on the clock experienced a PTU failure that caused a loss of power to the wheels while crossing a highway. The dealership replaced the PTU and driveshaft, which is also connected to the transmission. But they said it was also defective and suggested turning off “the Jeep’s ability to transfer power from front to back until they got a new part.” This meant safety features, including front collision avoidance, were also turned off. Aware that when the PTU failed it “tore up the driveshaft,” the owner was worried about a grinding sound in the replacement unit. The transmission also felt as if it was slipping and the car started losing power.

The owner took the vehicle back to the dealer because it “is still having drive issues along with new electrical ones and I am in danger of it losing power or transmission when crossing a highway.” That’s when he found out from the dealer that “many of the new PTUs are defective. I am surprised a dealership would send a customer back out in a vehicle they knew wouldn’t be safe and had a failed part.”

An owner from Arizona also experienced a PTU failure in June 2023. The unit was replaced, but it also failed. This happened two more times. When the fourth new PTU failed, the manufacturer was unable to do the repair because “the part to do the repair was unavailable.”

Airbag Problems

Airbags are designed to prevent injury in the event of a crash. But too many 2021 Cherokee owners are finding that this isn’t the case.

An owner from Ohio states that another driver ran a red light and t-boned his Cherokee. “All of his airbags went off, none of mine deployed.” He hit the steering wheel hard with his chest and arms and the dash with his knees and feet. This resulted in “concussion and a bunch of bruising and strains.”

A driver from a different part of Ohio was driving a rented 2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude when he lost control of the SUV. He was traveling at about 70 mph and had a head-on collision. All the airbags deployed except for those on the driver’s side. The collision resulted in a mild concussion, hematoma on his legs, and bruising on his chest, abdomen, and face that required medical treatment.

An owner from Texas also had a head-on collision. The airbags didn’t deploy and the driver-side seat belt didn’t retract. This driver sustained injuries on his chest after hitting the steering wheel and he had bruises/swelling on his right foot. He went to a nearby hospital for medical attention. The driver of the other car was transported to hospital by ambulance.

Another driver states that while driving down a highway, a vehicle pulled out in front of him. There was nothing he could do except “hit the brakes.” But the airbags didn’t deploy on either the passenger side or the driver side. There was serious damage to the front end of the Jeep, but no-one was injured. “Thankfully no one was killed.”

Brake Issues

Stopping the SUV should be a paramount concern to drivers and automakers alike. But complaints to Lemberg Law and the NHTSA show that 2021 Cherokee owners are reporting serious problems with the brakes. “While putting on new tire valve caps, an owner from New Jersey noticed a drip of something wet on the inside of one of the rims. “It smelled like brake fluid. I took the car to the dealership for inspection. I was told that I couldn’t drive the car, that the caliper was leaking brake fluid, and that it would take about 6 days to order and replace the caliper. If gone undetected, the defective leaking caliper could have resulted in brake failure. There was no warning lamp to indicate an issue.”

An owner from Arizona was about to start towing his RV when the emergency brake engaged automatically. “I burned up my two rear Jeep tires and could have been worse had not a nice guy stopped me and said your tires are on fire! I have a 38 ft Alpine, so didn’t realize the pull! Luckily I only had to replace my 2 rear tires and one sensor that melted! $450. Since then I watch for this dangerous auto feature and it has engaged on its own again a few times, not always, but occasionally.

An owner from Maryland also reports problems with the emergency brake, which activated when he stepped on the gas after stopping. He had to turn the car off and then on again before it would disengage. The dealership “claimed they’d never heard of these incidents happening.”

The parking brake in a Cherokee in Virginia kept engaging while being driven. The owner was also getting forward collision service and lane assist service messages. “It’s gonna cost us $1k to repair.”

Your Lemon Law Legal Rights

If you are experiencing serious problems with your 2021 Jeep Cherokee that affect your use and/or the value of the vehicle, you might have bought a lemon. If you think you have, you are welcome to contact Lemberg Law and we will assess your problems free of charge. The law makes Jeep pay legal fees, which is why you don’t have to pay.

Furthermore, every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. You might be one of them.

Brian Jones

About the Author:

Brian Jones spent more than 30 years working as an ASE Certified Master Tech and Parts Specialist at multiple dealerships. Brian has become an authority in the industry, traveling across the country to consult for car dealerships and contributing his expertise as a writer for several major automotive publications. In his spare time, Brian enjoys working on pickup trucks, muscle cars, Jeeps and anything related to motorsports.

See more posts from Brian Jones
11 COMMENTS
  • Kenneth N

    My 2021 Jeep Cherokee Lux has gone through 3 batteries in less than three years. The dealer has had in 3 times and Chrysler was involved and basically told me they could not find anything wrong with the electrical system. 3 batteries in three years is excessive as far as I am concerned.
    I disengage the start /stop feature each time I drive the jeep. Chrysler basically blew me off. I have had 4 jeeps prior to this Cherokee and this will be my last Chrysler product.
    Ken

  • Vanetta

    Faulty start/stop issues my shut off completely at stop light almost causing a rear end collision from someone hitting me in the back, and transmission possibly slipping, and vehicle will not start when ignition is in the start position and when I place the ignition switch back to the turn off position my truck will start on its own.

  • Richard K

    Right now, My 2021 Jeep Cherokee Lat Lux 4×4 is at 19, 801 miles. Won’t start when you press the start/stop and brake. Usually starts after a couple times but if not, I press the remote start on my fob and the brake and then it starts. Prob the microswitch in the brake. But also too, when I start it someday, and it doesn’t cut on, it resets my time and everything lights up. I had the same issue with my 2016 Nissan Sentra. The microswitch had to be replaced. 150 bucks. Not bad for parts and labor. But the guys at Shelor in Christiansburg, VA called me after I gave it to them to fix overnight that it could of been a mouse that chewed a wire. What a bunch of hicks. No. I explained to them what had happened and now they are charging my battery because they found low voltage outputs. Like don’t bs me. I was an Electrician in the Navy for 17 yrs you uneducated dumbasses.

  • CKA

    2021 Jeep Cherokee Latitude less than 12k miles in the shop getting the ecm replaced. Before this issue, had to replace battery with only 6k miles due to bad cell. Android Auto issues as well. Seems like this was not the best year model of Jeep to purchase.

  • Roy J

    Purchased 2021 Cherokee Limited in Feb of 2022. April 6 of 2022 car would not start. Dead Battery, Disconnected the battery and charged it, Car started Dash went crazy, all kinds of errors and messages, shut the car off and restarted it, Took it to the dealer, Dealer Tested the system told me I need to drive the care more. July 24 2022, Car not starting, Charged it again, Took it to the dealer, again they test and charge the battery, FOUND NOTHING WRONG> July 27 2022 Dead Battery, car wont start.
    Charged it again Back to the dealer, Test the system, Charge the Battery, Found nothing definitive,
    August. August 19 2022, Dead Battery Repeat the charge take Dealer. It now seems Having a Dash Camera and Playing Music from a USB strains the battery. August 25 2022 Guess what, DEAD BATTERY, Charge and return to this dealer, By the way all the tests preformed takes 3 to 4 hours, OK back to the
    Dealer, Repeat Tests, Charge Battery. AUGUST 26 2022, DEAD FING BATTERY. back to the Dealer.
    Five hours later I am told OPPPS BATTERY DEAD< New battery put in, WOW I had been telling the Jeep Dealership the charging rates were from 12.2 volts to 14.2 Volts I even should them picture of the Dash taken while I was driving, NOVEMBER 12, 2022, DEAD F_—BATTERY, Same ***, charge it, Start it the Dash goes crazy with messages, Wipers come on, Transmission needs service, Engine racing at 1500 rpm, can not put it in gear, shut it off, restart, Things seem to be normal, Tomorrow Monday Back to the Dealer Chrystal Dodge Jeep, Brooksville, Florida. WTF IS WRONG WITH THIS CAR

  • Fayetteville N

    UPDATE: After they “fixed” the ECM issue. She picked the vehicle up and the very next day the ECM went haywire again. Against my advice she has decided to keep the vehicle. Which now has bubbles in the factory tint forming on the driver side window. The satellite radio cuts in and out as well.

  • LYNN C

    2 WRECKS NOW IN MY 2021 JEEP CHEROKKE LATITUDE PLUS 4WD, ONE WAS LAST YEAR ENVOLED IN A 6 CAR PILE UP, WAS HIT FROM THE SIDE. NO AIR BAGS DEPLOYED. ANOTHER WRECK JUST A WEEK AGO AND GUY RAN RED LIGHT AND HIT ME IN THE FRONT END AND I HIT HIM IN SIDE BACK DOOR AND NO AIR BAGS DEPLOYED AGAIN. SINCE HAVING THE VEHICLE TENN. TRIP LAST YEAR MY GPS WENT CRAZY AND HAD TO HAVE IT LOOKED AT WHILE IN TENN. DEALERSHIP. TRANSMISSION SLIPS EVERYDAY. THE RPM ESCALATE ONCE STRAIN ON HILL AND ENGINE IS IN FULL MOTION AT THIS POINT AND TRANSMISSION WILL NOT CHANGE GEARS.

  • Luis T

    Well, after just complaining about the forward collision warning with stop not computing and working properly on my 2021 jeep Cherokee latitude lux when testing this safety feature when just got it brand new on Dec.2021. As of today Jan,22.2022 with already 37K miles, this small cabin SUV has been just perfect. No issues of any kind with my Transmission, brakes, engine and electric system. Still working nice and smooth! Drove a couple of times 1500 miles back and forward from Georgia to El Paso,Tx. And driving work to Alabama twice a week 280 miles+. Amazing! PERFECT!

  • Fayetteville N

    Just happened to my friend on 14 Jan 2022. She had the brand new 2021 Jeep Cherokee for approximately 5 hours before everything went haywire. Before the incident it had 18 miles on the odometer when she left the “stealership”. She lives 5 miles give or take from there. When she drove 10 miles to pick up her daughter the dashboard lit up with every light on it. The car wouldn’t go into park. Would not turn off. Long story short, she was told it was still in ship mode. Then told that its the ECM(engine control module) and It will take a week for her to get car back because they don’t have the part.

  • Kimberly

    Just happened to me and I only have 6000 miles on mine. It’s the relay switch I’m told. Luckily they had the switch in stock.

  • Michelle G

    Woke up this morning to my 2021 Cherokee not starting with fob or app. When I went out o the Jeep and manually started it, every light for every code was sounding off, the emergency brake was locked and the engine kept shutting itself off then restart. So dissatisfied, purchased Oct 22/21 with 35km on it. Now has 3090km. Dealership is waiting for parts, says it’s a relay switch, I’m on a list, no idea at all of when this is going to be fixed!!

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