The Jeep Cherokee is one of the most iconic and recognizable small SUVs on the road. Originally launched in 1974 and now in its fourth generation, the Cherokee combines off-road capability, cargo space, and everyday functionality into one adventurous package.
But is the Jeep Cherokee reliable?
The short answer is…it depends. Reliability varies quite a bit between model years. Some owners sing the Cherokee’s praises for years of trouble-free operation, while others describe nothing but problems.
In this 3,000+ word guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Jeep Cherokee reliability:
- Common problems by model year
- Repair costs and expensive issues
- How different generations and engine options compare
- Owner reviews on positives & negatives
- Pros vs cons when choosing the Cherokee
- And if newer models have improved
Let’s take an in-depth look under the hood…
Table of Contents
An Overview of Jeep Cherokee Reliability Issues
The Jeep Cherokee has had its share of reliability problems over the years, ranging from minor annoyances to serious mechanical defects.
2014 and 2015 models seem to have the worst track record, with widespread issues involving the transmission, electrical components, and check engine light coming on repeatedly.
- The 2014 Cherokee was an all-new model year, so some bugs were expected as Jeep worked out issues on their new 9-speed automatic transmission. But problems persisted into 2015 models as well.
Earlier third-gen models from 2001 to 2007 also have below average reliability marks, with the exception of the 2005 model year. These years had issues with the engine overheating, leaky transfer cases, and failed wheel bearings.
In the Cherokee’s second generation from 1993 to 2001, the 2000 model year was a low point, requiring expensive transmission rebuilds. Earlier years had sludging oil issues the caused engine damage over time.
Thankfully, not all years were so problematic. The best years for Jeep Cherokee reliability include 1996, 2001, 2009, and 2019. These models had fewer mechanical issues reported by owners.
What Owners are Saying About Jeep Cherokee Reliability
You can glean a lot about real world reliability from owner reviews. Here’s a sampling of some troubling themes from Cherokee owners, as well as a few positive reports:
Negative Owner Reviews
- “Check engine light is always on due to emission sensor failures”
- “Stalling and hesitation with the 9-speed transmission”
- “Rear liftgate sensors fail repeatedly”
- “AC stopped working, cost $1,800 just to recharge and fix leaks”
- “Oil consumption is ridiculous on my 2014”
Positive Owner Reviews
- “175,000 miles and still runs great despite salt exposure”
- “No major issues to report, very solid and comfortable”
- “This Jeep can handle anything I throw at it off-road”
- “Excellent vehicle to own in cold and snowy weather”
So while the horror stories might grab headlines, there are Cherokee owners out there who enjoy driving their Jeeps for many years without too many headaches.
Jeep Cherokee Repair & Maintenance Costs
In addition to reliability concerns, the cost to maintain and repair a Jeep Cherokee can also take a big bite out of your wallet:
- Various consumer sites estimate the average annual repair cost is $615 for Cherokees. Compare that to around $400/year for a typical compact SUV.
- Cherokee vehicles from model years 2014, 2015, and 2018 had the highest repair bills reported to date.
- Costly issues can include computer PCM replacements ($1,000+), transmission rebuilds ($3,000+ for parts and labor), or replacing a failed infotainment screen ($1,500).
It’s essential to budget extra for repairs if you own one of the problematic model years. And extending your factory powertrain warranty to 7 or 10 years can hedge against expensive transmission or engine issues down the road.
Are Certain Jeep Cherokee Model Years More Reliable?
Like most vehicles, Jeep Cherokee reliability varies quite a bit depending on the model year you look at:
Best Model Years: 1996, 2001, 2005, 2009, 2019
Worst Model Years: 2000, 2014, 2015
Generational shifts in 2000, 2005, and 2014 brought out some “first year woes” in reliability:
- The 2000 model moved to a new Chrysler transaxle transmission, which proved highly problematic.
- In 2014, Jeep launched their all-new 9-speed gearbox, leading to persistent shifting and engagement issues.
- Chrysler also seems to have worked out most kinks after a redesign’s first two model years on the market.
So if you’re trying to buy a used Cherokee, it may be prudent to target low-mileage samples from the best model years while avoiding the trouble prone ones if possible.
The Most Common Jeep Cherokee Problems
Between customer complaints to the NHTSA and posts on Cherokee owner forums, a number of issues continue plaguing these Jeeps:
- Overheating – Bad radiators, water pumps, thermostats can lead to overheating, especially on inclines and in hot weather. Replacing cooling components runs $600+.
- Oil sludging – Insufficient oil changes causes thick sludge on 2.4L and 3.7L engines, reducing lubrication and damaging internal components if left unchecked. Low tension oil rings may also be to blame.
- Oil consumption – Excess oil burning is most common on 2014 models. Piston ring replacements run over $2,000 but may be covered under extended warranties.
- Cracked heads – Overheating can warp aluminum cylinder heads. Outright cracks are rare but more so on V6 Pentastar engines. Replacement heads cost upward of $2,000.
- Shuddering – The 9-speed automatic is rocked by harsh shift flares, bucking, and hesitation. Software updates attempt to smooth shifts with mixed results. Complete transmission replacements average around $4,000+.
- Hard downshifts – Delayed and firm downshifts plague earlier 4-speed automatics, especially in cold weather. Often traced to solenoid body valves sticking.
- Premature failures – Several owners faced complete transmission rebuilds or replacements under 100k miles on both auto and manual gearboxes. Costs easily exceed $5,000.
- Faulty power modules – TIPM (Totally Integrated Power Modules) can cause problems with fuel pumps, windows, alarm systems and more when they fail. Repairing versus replacing runs $900+.
- Sensor failures – Multiple sensor issues arise for oxygen sensors, crankshaft sensors, rear liftgate sensors that throw check engine lights. Diagnosis and replacement averages over $400.
- Radio touchscreens – Uconnect systems glitch out with blank screens and loss of climate and radio controls. Warranty extensions to 10 years may cover replacements at the dealership.
Other Common Repairs
- EGR valve replacements on diesel Cherokees running $1,200+
- Air conditioner leaks requiring $800 or more to fix
- Inoperative fuel pumps causing stalling or no start conditions
- Failed differentials resulting in $1,500+ repair bills
- Leaky transfer cases on AWD models that cost thousands to replace
- Warped brake rotors causing pulsation and glazing issues costing $350+ per axle to resurface or replace
The sheer variety of problems Jeep Cherokees exhibit make it hard to predict all possible repair costs owners will incur. But it pays to factor in a few thousand dollars per year to cover unexpected issues.
Jeep Cherokee Versus the Competition
The Cherokee competes with stalwart small SUVs like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape in the compact crossover segment. How does its reliability measure up?
Honda CR-V – The CR-V is renowned for great reliability with very few common issues. It bests the Cherokee hands down. Toyota RAV4 also shares this reputation.
Ford Escape – The Escape has had some engine, electrical and transmission problems on various model years. But overall consumer sites rate it moderately better for reliability than the Jeep.
Subaru Forester – Similarly rated for reliability, the Forester wins out for standard AWD capability similar to the Cherokee. Head gasket issues were previously common but have improved in recent years.
Nissan Rogue – The Rogue earns “below average” reliability scores due to CVT transmission problems and AC compressor failures. On par with lower rated Cherokee model years.
While few compact SUVs can really match its off-road mastery, the Cherokee clearly lags behind benchmarks like Honda and Toyota for longevity and avoiding mechanical issues.
Bottom Line: Is the Jeep Cherokee Reliable?
The Cherokee can be a very reliable vehicle when purchased from the right model year. But it still trails behind leading small SUVs from Honda, Toyota and Mazda overall for reliability:
- Excellent off-road capability
- Proven drivetrains when well-maintained
- Towing capacity up to 4,500 lbs
- Available self-leveling air suspension
- Diesel engine option
- Below average predicted reliability
- Numerous electrical gremlins and sensor issues
- Expensive transmission repairs common
- Concerning engine oil consumption on some models
- Complicated 4×4 systems with more to break
- Poor resale value compared to rivals
If you’re set on joining the “Jeep family” or need true off-road credentials, purchasing an extended factory warranty is highly recommended to hedge against expensive repair bills.
Target low-mileage Cherokees from “good” model years like 2005, 2009 and 2019. And be religious about maintenance and fixes to maximize longevity.
Is the Jeep Cherokee reliable?
Certain model years like 2005 and 2019 have proven reliable, while other years (2014-2015) score below average due to engine and transmission issues. When maintained well, Cherokees are reasonably dependable.
What Jeep Cherokee model year is the most reliable?
The best years for Jeep Cherokee reliability include 1996, 2001, 2005, 2009, and 2019. These models had the fewest mechanical and electrical issues reported by owners.
What typically breaks on a Jeep Cherokee?
Common issues involve the check engine light for sensor failures, oil consumption and piston rings, transmission replacements, electrical gremlins, AC compressor leaks, warped brake rotors, and more.
How many miles can a Jeep Cherokee last?
With proper maintenance and avoiding problematic model years, a Jeep Cherokee can feasibly last over 200,000 miles. But costly issues can arise, so factor in $600+ per year on average for repairs.
We hope this comprehensive guide gives you clarity on Jeep Cherokee reliability before your purchase. While some years fare better than others, it helps set proper expectations for maintenance costs and potential issues to watch out for. What has your Cherokee ownership experience been like? Let us know in the comments.