Electrical system, engine, powertrain, airbag, and brake issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
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.
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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.
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 Category||Number of Complaints|
|Unknown Or Other|
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking|
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.