Steering, engine, powertrain, brake, and electrical system issues are among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners
When it comes to high-quality SUVs, few are as recognizable as the 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee. While the automaker claims that this model has “is crafted to exceed expectations,” many customers are quick to argue. They are complaining about major power steering issues, many relating to the electrical system, problems with the engine and powertrain, and a range of brake and brake system failures.
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Most Common Problems
The 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee comes in 10 trim levels with different capabilities. Additionally, this model year heralds the launch of the all-new 3-row Jeep Grand Cherokee L. In a media release dated January 7, 2021, Stellantis, the multi-national company that owns Jeep, boasts about the many features the 2021 Grand Cherokee has. It says it offers the most safety features in its class in addition to luxury, legendary 4×4 capability, and advanced technologies.
But complaints from consumers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are constantly increasing, with many focusing on serious safety issues. Complaints sometimes identify the model Grand Cherokee they own, while others don’t. Most that do name the model, say they own the new Grand Cherokee L.
The first 2021 Grand Cherokees were available in the U.S. in late 2020, but the new Grand Cherokee L only arrived in showrooms in mid-year 2021. This probably explains why only 3 consumers lodged complaints with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2020, 50 in 2021, and 110 in 2022. By February 14, 2023, there were a total of 170 complaints.
Without a doubt, the biggest bugbear is steering, with at least 59 complaints lodged between March 30, 2021, and January 9, 2023. Most of these relate to power steering failures that Jeep is unable to fix. There are nearly as many complaints listed as electrical system problems, but well over half of these combine steering, engine, and powertrain issues. Exterior lighting is also causing problems, as is the braking system.
Additionally, other components and systems linked to complaints are airbags, back-over prevention, forward collision avoidance, the fuel/propulsion system, lane departure, seats, structure, suspension, and vehicle speed control. Visibility also features, with cracking windshields and sunroofs that explode and/or shatter dominating complaints.
2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee Complaint Summary
|Number of Complaints
|Unknown Or Other
|Forward Collision Avoidance: Automatic Emergency Braking
|Lane Departure: Warning
Power Steering Failures
The first complaint to the NHTSA about power steering failures was in March 2021, and they have been escalating ever since. As recently as January 9, 2023, there was a complaint from an owner in Washington who said that the power steering “completely failed” while driving down “a steep icy hill.” It happened twice and, according to the complaint, the local dealership repaired the vehicle both times. “The vehicle is extremely hard to control without power steering and could have easily caused an accident.”
Some dealers are unable to identify a problem when this happens. Some try recharging the batteries, which doesn’t help. Many dealers say they can fix it with software, but when they try, customers say it fails. Others admit they don’t have a fix for the problem. There is no feedback from the Washington owner in terms of remedy and whether the second repair lasted.
The theme of the complaints is fairly constant, though it varies a little in terms of description. Typically, owners say that the power steering fails or simply stops working. Often the driver gets an error message, “power steering unavailable, service required.” Many of the vehicles need to be towed to a dealership for help that, it emerges, cannot be provided.
Is The Power Steering Problem a Fatal Flaw?
A Grand Cherokee L owner from Maryland thinks that it may be a fatal flaw, especially if the vehicle is driven at high speeds or if the power steering fails unexpectedly. His car had 658 miles on the clock when it “suddenly did not have power steering.” He had warmed up the car and driven 1.5 miles to the store without incident. “Upon returning to the car, as I backed out of the parking spot, I noticed the power steering icon was lit on the dash and a warning message appeared saying power steering unavailable service required.” Steering was difficult to manage, but he was able to keep going and was waiting to see the dealer.
An owner from Virginia states in a complaint to the NHTSA that it seems Jeep will only fix the problem “when someone dies.” After lots of non-stop electrical issues with the Jeep, “I lost control of the power steering wheel while driving. It had an error message on the main dashboard, ‘power steering currently unavailable, service required’. Luckily I was pulling out of a parking lot and was only going (a) few miles an hour and I was able to stop. If I was going highway speed (I’m) not sure if I (would be) here typing this.”
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Complaints the Dealers Don’t or Can’t Help
Some dealers do try to fix the problem, but generally, nothing works. Dealers tried to repair the steering problem of a Jeep belonging to someone in California 12 times!
In December 2021, an owner from Kentucky found the steering wheel of a 2021 Grand Cherokee with 2,000 miles on the clock difficult to turn. There was also “an unknown warning light.” The dealer diagnosed a problematic charging system that needed to be replaced. This was done, but the failure persisted.
A few months later, the same Kentucky owner lodged a second complaint with the NHTSA.”This vehicle has been in the repair shop a minimum of 10 times. Power steering goes out at times while driving. This vehicle falls into the Lemon Law. I have been unable to reach anyone at Jeep Headquarters to assist with resolving this buyback. No one has returned my calls.”
An owner from Florida was driving at 75 mph when just about everything failed. The “power steering assist, traction control, lane assist, emergency brake, backup assist, airbags, and check engine warning lights all illuminated and the vehicle failed to operate and function as needed.” Unable to steer properly and without functional brakes, the vehicle was towed to a dealer. “The mechanic was unable to diagnose the cause of the failure. The manufacturer was also notified of the failure but offered no assistance. The vehicle was not repaired.”
An owner from Texas took the Jeep to the dealer after getting the power steering unavailable message. The auxiliary battery was going below the voltage threshold. But, the complaint states, “They’ve changed this battery once already due to the same issue.” This “is about the 6th time I have taken it in. Chrysler lacks at figuring out what is wrong. They’ve gone through every wiring harness, everything.”
Engine and Powertrain Malfunctions
Complaints about the engine and powertrain overlap partially, including transmission issues. There are also several complaints that are listed in both categories. As mentioned elsewhere, complaints in these two categories also include steering, brake, and other problems. Deceleration and stalling are also a problem, and some complaints say they are unable to engage the gears.
Failed Motor Mounts
An owner from North Carolina states that the engine mounts have failed. “According to the FCA, they have a very large backorder on these parts, as this is an extremely common issue. Initially, they denied that the motor mounts were an issue. However, since the major back order, they have reversed that claim. They also stated the motor mounts would be at the dealership on the 13th of October. However, they now state that they have no date due to major backorders. They stated no recall was issued because it’s not a safety hazard!”
According to the complaint, many certified mechanics say it is a major safety hazard, and “it can result in the motor shifting and knocking parts out from under the vehicle, causing pieces to hit the vehicle itself or other vehicles on the highway. It will also cause major damage to the engine and other components under the hood of the vehicle.”
Faulty Transmission and Gears
Transmission issues range from the transmission slipping to stalling.
An owner from Tennessee found that the Jeep wouldn’t go when in gear. It was with the dealer twice within the first 5,000 miles and a new transmission was installed. Then after driving for another 5,000-6,000 miles it happened again and the vehicle needed another new transmission.
Transmissions “slamming into gears while attempting to accelerate” were the reason for an owner from Wisconsin’s complaint. It always happened when going uphill and was a safety issue. “I no longer feel safe pulling out into other traffic with this vehicle due to this situation coming on completely unexpectedly. There were no warning signals, alarms, or anything.”
An owner from New Hampshire had problems shifting into the upper gears. The dealership couldn’t diagnose the problem because the computer system didn’t show error codes. “FCA Stellantis refuses to acknowledge the problem and has told the dealerships to not pull the car in for any work unless they can show computer code failure or they will not compensate the shop for any warranty work. Jeep knows there are many issues involving this model including (the) engine shutting down while in motion.” Yet, the complaint continues, they “refuse to warn Jeep owners this particular model puts them at serious risk for injuries and death if (the) car fails while it’s being operated on freeways.”
This owner maintains that “the dealers are being forced to cover up for the manufacturer for a faulty, unsafe vehicle.”
Brake System Problems
Most of the complaints about the automatic emergency braking (AEB) system are filed as forward collision avoidance problems. A few are regarded by complainants as basic brake problems.
In addition to AEB complaints, there are complaints about the Park brake as well as the brake assist feature failing, sometimes with a message that says “emergency braking unavailable.” Some complaints say the brakes simply lock. There is also a complaint that the body control module failed, causing multiple failures including steering and brake failures.
An owner from California has experienced a forward collision system warning and message that the AEB is non-operative since taking possession of the new Jeep. The dealer has confirmed in writing “that systems are non-operative but they cannot fix (them) and do not know why. I was told that this is an issue on all Jeeps.” The complaint confirms that there is an open case with the manufacturer, but they won’t call back, “and when I call them (the) system states that I can leave a voicemail with my case worker, but then hangs up with no options to speak to anyone.”
An owner from Oklahoma was injured when the brakes locked up with the driver hitting the brakes. The seat belt caught the driver’s neck. A son in the back seat hit the driver’s seat “pretty hard” when the Jeep braked. Another son in the passenger seat hurt his stomach when the seat belt caught him.
Texas Owner Returns Jeep After Brake and Other Issues
Starting a complaint in dramatic fashion – “Last night, my BRAND NEW car (Jeep Grand Cherokee L Limited) tried to kill me” – an owner from Texas describes what happened when traveling at 40 mph the vehicle came to a dead stop. “All I could hear in the panic was screeching tires from cars trying not to hit me. The seatbelt also did not stop me and I was thrown into the steering wheel. My car has less than 900 miles on it.
“After a panic attack of epic proportions and a sleepless night, I immediately drove it to the dealership today.” But they couldn’t find anything wrong.” Adding to the anxiety, the owner hadn’t even made the first payment for the Jeep. “Trading it in, I will automatically lose $3100. If I don’t trade it in, I don’t think I would ever be able to get over the anxiety of driving it. Talk about a lose/lose situation. All I could think about is if I had been going faster and there had been more traffic, I could have killed someone including myself.”
Pulling into the dealership, “a kind salesman” said “I love your car.” The owner “proceeded to break down crying and hand him the keys and say you can keep it.”
Electrical System Issues
Most of the complaints about the electrical system are combined with other components including the engine, powertrain, steering, brakes, airbags, exterior lighting, structure, and suspension.
Several cite system problems that the forward collision system and navigation systems, as well as the Call SOS feature, don’t function. A complaint from an owner in Illinois states that the SUV won’t start after it’s been parked for more than 24 hours. Because the battery was constantly being drained, the dealer suggested replacing it. After 2 new batteries, the problem continues to recur.
One particularly alarming complaint about the electrical system is from an owner in Massachusetts whose brand-new 2021 Grand Cherokee caught fire. “I started my car with my factory-installed remote starter and 5 minutes later my car was engulfed in flames.”
An owner from Texas says the Grand Cherokee has “so many issues.” These range from CarPlay and the Start/Stop function not working to power steering becoming unavailable both at the start of a drive and during a drive. The complaint states that the battery under the passenger seat has expanded on the bottom, and the 4wd service light comes on randomly.
Problems with the Exterior Lighting
More than half of the complaints about exterior lighting are because the parts needed to repair a damaged tail light side marker assembly that has been recalled are not available. NHTSA Campaign Number 22V544000 dated July 28, 2022, warns that a damaged tail light side marker doesn’t illuminate, reducing vehicle visibility to other drivers. This increases the risk of a crash. The problem affects as many as 99,186 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2021-2022 Grand Cherokee L vehicles. Owners were notified in mid-September 2022, but nearly 5 months later, in February 2023, owners were still not able to access the recall repair.
This recall is the third of 3 recalls that affect exterior lighting. The first which was issued in October 2021 relates to difficulties in activating the headlight high beams. This reduces visibility and also increases the risk of a crash. It affects 7,082 2021 Grand Cherokee L vehicles that don’t have automatic high beams.
The second was issued in December 2021 and relates to headlights that cannot be operated. This also reduces visibility and increases the risk of a crash. This recall affects 36,929 2021 Grand Cherokee L models that are equipped with smart lighting models (SLMs).
The rest of the complaints are about the exterior problems that prompted the recalls.
What to do if your 2021 Grand Cherokee is a Lemon?
Whether your 2021 Jeep Grand Cherokee has power steering issues, problems with the automatic braking system, electrical system failures, engine, powertrain, or any other malfunctions, you have the right to take action. If you think you have a lemon, Lemberg Law can help you work out your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes the manufacturer, Stellantis, pay the legal fees.
Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners. If you’d like us to assess your problem, please phone our Helpline or fill out a contact form.