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

Engine, electrical and steering issues among the top complaints received by the NHTSA from vehicle owners

Updated on Author: Brian Jones

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People who own Jeep vehicles are looking for an off-road model with plenty of style. That’s exactly what was expected with the release of the 2021 Jeep Wrangler, especially with the promise that customers can “get dirty faster.” However, getting dirty seems to come from making numerous repairs to the engine, steering and visibility.

Click on other model year to view more problems: 2019  2020  2022  2023

Most Common Problems

2021 Jeep Wrangler owners have been having huge problems with their vehicles. From formal complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it is clear that engine, electrical system, and steering issues are more common than anything else. Visibility problems also rank high.

Many of the engine problems 2021 Wrangler owners report relate to vehicles with manual transmissions that are fitted with a clutch pressure plate that may overheat. There is a recall in effect to rectify this problem and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) ordered a stop sale for affected vehicles in February 2021.

Another serious engine problem that seems to be related to the electrical system causes Jeeps to randomly shut down on the road. Complaints about this issue are filed with the NHTSA under several categories, Engine, Electrical System, and Unknown or Other. They describe how drivers have been stuck in the middle of busy roads and on freeways after shutting down. Some refer to dashboard warning messages that refer to the service charging system and an engine fault.

Steering problems include complaints of a loss of power steering and other serious safety issues. Many drivers say that the car starts to drift badly and they experience a severe wobble. A recent complaint to the NHTSA states that the “Manufacturer has had this problem for 3 years and vehicles keep coming from the factory with the wrong bolt installed.” He refers to a “death wobble” which he says “almost killed my family while on the Interstate.”

There are several visibility problems too, from malfunctioning windshield defrosters to rear wipers that don’t work properly. There are also complaints that windshields have cracked and windshield seals have broken causing water leaks.

2021 Jeep Wrangler Complaint Summary

Complaint CategoryNumber of Complaints
Steering
178
178
Electrical System
148
148
Engine
125
125
Suspension
120
120
Power Train
84
84
Unknown Or Other
76
76
Fuel/propulsion System
49
49
Vehicle Speed Control
20
20
Fuel System, Gasoline
18
18
Wheels
16
16

Engine Problems

Behind every good vehicle is a potent engine that provides power and acceleration that’s reliable. However, this Wrangler doesn’t seem to have the level of durability people desire.

Read this NHTSA complaint. “Vehicle is brand new and the Check Engine Light came on only after 300 miles. Dealer diagnosed the problem with O2 sensor failure and valve cover defect. The vehicle ran very rough and felt like it was about to stall. Search on JLwranglerforums.com shows there are others experiencing similar problems with less than 500 miles on the odometer.”

Who wants to pay top price for a new vehicle that is going to fail in less than 500 miles? Sadly, this isn’t the only major defect occurring. There has also been a major powertrain recall. NHTSA Campaign Number 21V028000 states that the clutch pressure plate could overheat. When this occurs, it can lead to a fracture or car fire. There could also be damage to other components nearby, which can result in losing the ability to drive. Instead of fixing the problem, Jeep has issued all dealerships to add software that reduces the capability of engine torque. Basically, the company is reducing the power to ensure the clutch pressure plate doesn’t overheat instead of replacing it with one that can hold up under the desired conditions. However, most customers don’t know this is the fix. They take their Jeep into the shop only to get it back with a little less oomph.

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Problems with the Engine & Electrical System

Problems of vehicles randomly shutting down on the road have elicited many complaints by 2021 Jeep Wrangler owners. Comments range from: “Major safety concern for a car to just shut down for no reason while driving down the street,” to “This car will kill me or kill others!!!! It’s unsafe!!!”

Most drivers report that they receive numerous error messages when their Jeep shuts down. These include charge system errors that indicate it is, at least in part, an electrical issue. Some say they get a service transmission and/or engine fault error message.

One complaint to the NHTSA states: “At the dealer they determined from the codes that the transmission control unit had shut off the engine control unit. Otherwise nothing could be determined as being wrong with the vehicle. Seeing all the other complaints of similar incidents involving Wranglers I think there is bad software code in the vehicle’s control systems.”

Another lengthy complaint gives more detail, highlighting how dangerous this malfunction is.

What About Problems with the 2021 Wrangler 4xe?

The 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe is a first-generation vehicle with 3 modes of operation:

  1. Hybrid, where the powertrain uses the battery power first, adding propulsion from the turbocharged engine when the battery reaches a “minimum state of charge.”
  2. Electric, where the powertrain operates on zero-emission electric power until the battery reaches the minimum charge.
  3. eSave, which prioritizes propulsion from the engine, saving the battery charge for later use.

There are two widespread problems affecting this Jeep. One is that the powertrain, which combines electric motors and a turbo engine, randomly shuts off while driving. The other is some kind of malfunction with the electric/hybrid mode that results in cabin heating and cooling error messages plus an inability to function in electric mode.

Owners complain about other error messages too. For instance, some Jeeps display a ‘Service Hybrid Electric System Error’ and won’t start, and others get a ‘Service Charging Error’ message that is followed by the electrical system failing. There are also reports of the ‘Check Engine’ light coming on after cars have been charged, with the problem being diagnosed as the hybrid battery.

Engine/Motor Shut Down Problems

The random engine/motor shut-down issue is well documented in complaints issued by consumers to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). There are also numerous complaints and discussions on 4xe Forums.

As a result of escalating experiences, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), which is part of Stellantis, issued a safety recall in November 2022. This is expected to launch during the first quarter of 2023, probably in mid-January.

The recall affects certain 2021 through 2023 model year (MY) Jeep Wrangler 4xe plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). According to the safety recall report, 62,909 vehicles with PHEV engines are affected. They were manufactured between September 2, 2020, when production of the 2021 MY began, and August 17, 2022, when the first 2023 MY vehicles were produced. Since mid-August, the company says it has utilized updated vehicle control software.

FCA acknowledges that these vehicles “may experience an engine shut down condition caused by diagnostic reactions to faults caused by loss of communication.” They also warn that this “may result in an unexpected loss of motive power while driving, which can cause a vehicle to crash without prior warning.” But they also say that the root cause of the problem is under investigation, and there is currently no remedy available. Nevertheless, the safety recall report states that the remedy is “updated calibration software in the Transmission Control Module, Hybrid Control Processor and Auxiliary Hybrid Control Processor,” hinting at where the investigation is taking them.

Complaints

There are at least 20 complaints to the NHTSA about the 2021 Wrangler 4xe engine suddenly shutting down for no apparent reason. These are listed under several different categories including the electrical and fuel/propulsion systems, powertrain, engine, forward collision avoidance, and vehicle speed control. Some are listed as unknown or other.

But this number doesn’t properly reflect the problem.

The first four complaints were filed on June 7, August 5, and September 10 and 16, 2021. This is relevant, because the FCA opened its investigation into “2021-2023 MY Wrangler 4xe PHEVs for a loss of motive power” on September 8, 2021. They analyzed stall reports and vehicle history from September 2021 through October 2022. They state they know of:

  • 112 customer assistance records
  • 196 warranty claims
  • 65 field reports
  • 2 accidents and 1 injury related to the issue

The result was a voluntary safety recall. But, as stated above, FCA will only officially launch the recall in 2023. Their plan is to begin notifying owners on or about January 12, 2023. Meanwhile, drivers are experiencing chilling shutdowns, sometimes in the middle of the night on busy highways.

Dealers Don’t Have a Fix

“I bought a brand new Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 4xe in July 2021. Starting in December of 2021, and continuing to this day (March 11, 2022), I will periodically get an error message that says ‘Service Hybrid Electrical System’ and the car will either not start or shut off while it is in motion. I have contacted Jeep Cares and have been elevated to their customer retention group to continue to try to solve this issue.

“The dealer has been great at trying to fix the issue but they have admitted that they don’t know what it is or how to fix it and are relying on the national Jeep engineers to help try to fix it. Talking with the mechanics at the dealer they keep saying the national Jeep engineers are just guessing at this point on what the issue is and they don’t know what the issue is either.”

Cabin Heating and Cooling & Other Error Messages

There are numerous discussions on 4xe Forums about an error message, ‘Electric Mode Unavailable Cabin Heating and Cooling’. In November 2021, a member started a new thread asking if the issue had been solved. His particular problem was that after reaching 7,000 miles (4,648 electric and 2,352 gas), whenever he started his Jeep it would go straight to the internal combustion engine (ICE). Hitting the electric-only button produced the message, ‘Electric Mode Unavailable Cabin Heating or Cooling.’ Sometimes it would drive in electric-only mode for a couple of miles, and then ICE would kick back on.

He told the forum the Jeep is “effectively stuck in hybrid mode,” but without defaulting to using electric first and then gas. Instead, it goes straight to gas even though the vehicle is fully-charged. He tried everything he could think of, including increasing the oil temperature. He also called the dealership and reports that “they have no idea.”

What About FORM and Electric Coolant Heaters?

Another error people get is known as Fuel and Oil Refresh Mode (FORM). A member on a different forum maintains that FORM is caused by oil not getting hot enough to burn excess gas in the oil – not because of cold temperatures.

A 4xe forum member whose Jeep was stuck in FORM got ‘Oil Change Required’ messages. The oil life of his Jeep Wrangler 4xe had been at 48% when he got the message, but it quickly dropped to 0%. Changing the oil got him out of FORM. But the dealership said the problem was a faulty electric coolant heater (ECH), but didn’t have one in stock. Another member agreed, stating “I’ve noticed there are a lot of cases where a bad ECH leads to FORM.”

As recently as December 23, 2022, a 4xe member added to the discussion stating his ECH was replaced, but he still can’t run the heat without the engine starting.

“Even with the heat off it will always start the ICE. Once it starts it will never shut off ever. The only way I can temporarily get into electric mode is after it runs for a while I have to shut off the heat (if it was even on), turn off the vehicle, and open the door to make sure it fully shuts down. Then, when I restart it will now go into electric mode for a bit as long as the heat stays off. However, even with the heat off it will eventually turn the ICE back on. This happens even when it’s not that cold. So, basically I have a partially electric vehicle that can’t really be run on electric if it’s below 60 degrees. That can’t be by design. It has an electric heater for a reason!”

What Effect Does Temperature Have?

While there does appear to be a link to ambient temperature, the problem is not about having a warm or cool cabin. Rather, it prevents owners from using the electric driving mode.

Another member states: “My 4xe went into Cabin Heating and Cooling mode in October (2021) when the temp dropped below 50 for a few days and never came out. I escalated through my dealer and Jeep customer care and went back and forth for weeks.” Finally, Jeep made it clear to him that the electric motor in hybrid or electric only mode doesn’t work consistently under 50 degrees F. “The dealer said that the electric only mode is limited at temperatures below 50 degrees. The Star case technician said it is working like it should and when the weather changes we are going to see these kinds of changes on these vehicles.”

But the problem isn’t consistent and doesn’t happen to all Jeeps. Also, as yet another member points out. “Unfortunately, this has been an issue for me for the past two months and I don’t live in a cold climate. It doesn’t matter if it’s 80 or 40, it’s an issue every time.”

It’s a dilemma. A member from Northern California was told by Jeep Cares that “with the weather change, this is normal.” But he says, “I have had the vehicle up in Tahoe covered in 14 inches of snow (he has posted a pic to prove it) and the heater did just fine in electric mode. And last summer it did fine in electric mode on 105 degree days. I drove it (for) 7 months without ever seeing this message. Now I see this message with any climate control use at all, even on a 70 degree day.”

Problems with Visibility

When heading off-road, it’s essential that drivers have the visibility needed to see obstacles ahead. However, the visibility from this Wrangler is one of the biggest complaints.

Read what this user wrote on the NHTSA website. “When driving during a medium snow fall: the front windshield defroster is terrible! Even with the front defroster on high heat, and full defrost mode, the defroster only blows hot air onto the center portion of the windshield. The right and left sides of the windshield get no hot defrost air (no air whatsoever) and snow and ice builds up on the right ½ and left ½ of the windshield. This also causes heavy snow/ice buildup on the wiper blades. Terrible and dangerous windshield defroster design. Air comes out of the center defrost vents only. No air comes out of the windshield vents in front of the driver or passenger. Horrible and dangerous design which makes visibility while driving during a snowfall almost impossible.”

It turns out that this isn’t the only visibility-related problem. According to Service Bulletin #S2008000180, the rear wipes also don’t park properly after operation. Basically, this rugged Wrangler is only meant to drive in sunny, warm conditions. It simply can’t handle an adventure the way it is supposed to. This Jeep SUV acts like the big, strong guy that can’t get out of bed when he has a cold.

Problems with “Loose Steering” & “Death Wobble”

If there’s been one problem that has haunted the Jeep lineup, it is the defective steering. Enthusiasts hoped that the 2021 Jeep Wrangler would be repaired, but it doesn’t appear that is the case.

Read one more NHTSA review. “The Jeep has excessive steering play and wanders in the lane. When traveling in a straight line, the vehicle requires constant and significant steering correction. This issue becomes more pronounced and dangerous at speeds above 60 mph. Two repair attempts have been made by Jeep [dealership], but the problem persists. This vehicle has the new black steering gear box and 840 miles. After the last repair attempt, the problem is worse, vehicle is now too dangerous to drive.”

This isn’t the first time that Jeep has encountered a steering or suspension issue. In fact, there have been massive lawsuits related to what’s called the “Death Wobble.” Jeep vehicles have become uncontrollable and caused many accidents. FCA continues to fight lawsuits and it seems that the 2021 Jeep Wrangler will be the next in line. Here are some of the current complaints:

Recalls

In March 2021, FCA notified 42,887 Jeep Wrangler and Jeep Gladiator consumers that their 2021 model vehicles had been recalled due to a powertrain issue. Following complaints, they discovered that the clutch pressure plate in certain manual transmission models may overheat, which might increase the risk of a fire.

They warned that overheating could damage other components and cause a loss of drive. It could also result in debris falling onto the road. All of this increased the risk of a crash.

hrysler asked owners to take their vehicles back to their dealers. The solution was that they could fit software that would reduce engine torque capability when the clutch assembly reached a temperature that could damage the inner pressure plate. This would be done at no cost to the owners.

According to NHTSA, FCA ordered a stop-sale from 25 February 2021 for vehicles affected by this fault.

While the number of recalls dropped from 2020-2021, two of the five sets of 2020 model recalls were also due to clutch pressure plates possibly overheating.

The NHTSA data indicates that this has been an issue for the 2018-2021 Jeep Wrangler models. Will it be any different for the 2022 model?

What Should You Do If Your 2021 Wrangler is a Lemon?

Think you have a lemon? Sit back and let the experts work on your lemon case at no cost to you. The law makes Jeep pay legal fees. You may be able to get your lemon out of your life. Every year, auto manufacturers buy back, replace or pay cash settlements to thousands of ‘lemon’ owners like you.

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.

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2 COMMENTS
  • Leah A

    Our Jeep is a 2021 Jeep wrangler rubicon and there is a bunch out there (like ours) that are having issues with the rear locker automatically locking. No real fix. The sensors for this switch is inside the gears and causing problems but again.. no idea how to fix. This group talks about it a lot!
    facebook.com/groups/948317151983478/?ref=share&mibextid=S66gvF

  • Chandra

    We bought a brand new 2021 Jeep Wrangler in Mar this year. We drove from Sugarland to Galveston one night and the next day morning I saw a flat tire and a crack in the windshield about 1” long.
    By afternoon the crack had spread to 8 inch long. So mind it, No Off road driving was done
    So we paid $275 for an authentic brand new 2021 Jeep windshield.
    The next day on our way to the airport an other small stone hit it and now we have a 12inch crack on our windshield. Obviously this is no STURDY vehicle, Its a lemon
    The tire and windshield being repaired in under 6 months???
    I have had 7 cars in the last 30years. None of them fared so poorly.
    I’m extremely disappointed with Jeep Quality. Never again will I buy a Jeep

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