Select Page

Our Car Situation

La Quinta, California: I think y'all know we tow a Jeep Cherokee. It's about six years old, and for the entire six years it has had an issue with the transmission. (It also has always had issues with the start/stop feature, but that's another blog post.) We will be driving down a road, and when the automatic transmission shifts up to a new gear, the car makes a huge clunking sound and the entire car lurches forward. It is so scary! It doesn't happen every time we drive the car, but if the car is being driven for even one hour, it will definitely happen at least once.

I have taken the car to dealers in Portland and Beaverton, Oregon. Several times. I have taken the car to two dealers in the Coachella Valley. Every time, I get the same story: we did a software update and the problem is solved. Except it isn't. The damn car still lurches and clunks. Jeep is aware of the issue and extended the transmission warranty to 100,000 miles. The last few times I have taken the car to the dealer to have the issue fixed, there has been no charge... which is certainly fair as they do not fix the lurching.

We hate this car. It has every bell and every whistle, is pretty, energy-efficient, tows easily, and we would love this car if only it weren't a POS.

The Jeep really flipped out Monday morning. DT was going to drive me to the grocer (I don't drive much), but when he went to start the car in our garage, it sputtered like the battery was dead. Odd. But on the second or third try, it started just fine. After finishing our errands, once again the car acted as if the battery power was low, but the engine started. Then all hell broke loose on our dash! SERVICE TRANSMISSION. SERVICE PARKING BRAKE. SERVICE PARK ASSIST. SERVICE ENGINE. SERVICE EVERYTHING! (The only thing that did need servicing was the air conditioning. Good thing: 108° outside. Other odd things were happening as well. The windscreen wipers were on. The heater was on. (The radio station did not change.) It was time to look around for hidden cameras. Is Candid Camera still a thing?

Since we were only across the street from our country club, we made the Executive Decision to drive the car home. When DT put the car in REVERSE, the transmission clunked like crazy. The light on the console next to the "R" (indicating the car was in reverse gear) started flashing. The car did reverse though, and it clunked again when shifted to DRIVE and the light next to the "D" on the console was flashing. We drove home in what we have now have learned is "limp" mode. Not sure if the mode is so-named because it is like someone walking with a limp in their leg, or another use of the word "limp" concerning a completely different body part.

Back at the ranch, I googled the issue and learned it could be from a dead/bad battery, or it could be the ECM (Electric Control Module). Or a bad battery could be causing the issue with the ECM. Either way, this is another known-issue with this model. There was a way to reset the ECM. We did it. We did it again. Nothing. Finally, we called the dealer and they said to bring it in... or they would tow it for us if it was still limping... or limp.

But first - wait for it - we had to go rent a car because I have been called to jury duty, and the dealer said it could take up to a week for the diagnosis and repair because they were slammed. Fun Civic Times.

The Jeep must had taken a Viagra overnight, because it behaved normally when Dave started the car yesterday morning. Yes, all the service lights were flashing, the wipers were wiping, the heater was on, and now a headlamp was out, but it drove normally, and the lights on the shift console were not flashing. Partial victory. We drove to the car rental place and DT waited in the parking lot - with the engine running - while I arranged a sedan rental for a week. Then we caravanned to the dealer, dropped-off the car and explained the issues. There were so many problems with the Jeep, our poor service writer didn't have enough character space on his software program to write it all down.

We were so surprised when our Jeep service writer called this afternoon to say our car had been completely repaired, when he had first estimated up to a week for the diagnosis. Not only had the ECM been reset, but the TCM (Transmission Control Module) had also been reset. We have a new headlamp and a new battery. The tech drove our car to Cleveland and back and found no issues.

Happy we will retrieve our car tomorrow, but am still 100% sure the lurching issue has not been fixed. Betcha. Betcha. Betcha.

As long as we (and by we, I mean me) are discussing auto issues, the brake repair on our motorhome in Eugene has turned from an easy brake pad replacement, to an awful cracked rotor, to an all-around everything-is-toast repair. Still projected to be three weeks out though, so that is a positive.

Lots of things are positive. We are healthy. Our car is limping back to usefulness. I can participate in one of America's best privileges - a jury. Hoping I never will need 12 people to decide my future, but will do my best for my fellow citizen, if chosen, while hoping I am not chosen with all my being. My only past jury duty situation (1990-ish) was so horrid (bad cop/good cop, wife-beating-cop being covered-up-by-fellow-cops). I didn't even want to know people like this exist.

They do.

Until my next update, I remain, your automotive correspondent.

4 thoughts

  1. Feel your pain. We traded off our 2015 Jeep Cherokee like yours a month ago for a 2021 Chevrolet Traverse High Country. It’s smaller than the new Tahoe, has 3 rows to seat grandchildren and staff, weighs about the same as the Jeep and is towable behind the Motorcoach. Much more comfortable, quieter ride, bigger gas tank, same mpg but is a little bigger and wider. Almost impossible nowadays to find a new car that is comfortable and towable.

  2. We tow a Jeep Liberty 2010
    It is smaller than a Cherokee…
    So far after 5 years…no problems at all!!
    Tows perfectly…
    If we had problems likr you have had….
    We would have replaced the tow vehicle for sure!!!
    Good luck…hope they fixed it!!!

  3. We feel your pain! With all the electronics, monitors and inter-related connections – cars today are closer cousins to computer networks than to ’68 Chevy’s!
    I’m sure you are already doing it…but you smart phone is your friend! (especially with “intermittent problems” ~ the bane of any mechanic!). Take photos, take videos. Document everything.
    That being said, it wouldn’t surprise me your latest round is tied to a dying battery. Car electronics are increasingly finicky about voltage drops and the high heat you’ve been experiencing is just the thing to push a marginal battery over the edge. Keep us posted! Sending good thoughts your way!

    1. Hondas and Toyotas, unlike Jeeps, are almost trouble free. I would never buy a Jeep!

Comments are closed.