Why Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Won’t Move in Gear? Diagnosis

Have you ever experienced the pain of your Jeep Grand Cherokee not moving while in gear?

It’s as if you have no gas pedal and the world has frozen around you.

When your Jeep Grand Cherokee won’t move in gear, it could be a problem with the transmission. 

The Grand Cherokee features an automatic transmission that requires multiple hydraulic, mechanical, and electronic systems to work in harmony to get into gear.

And when one or more of these mechanisms goes wrong, it refuses to go into gear. 

Let’s look at the possible reasons why such disturbances occur so you can determine whether it needs a professional’s attention. 

Diagnosing the Causes of Jeep Grand Cherokee Shifting Problems

The easiest way to fix shifting problems is to check and restore the fluid level of your transmission.

In most cases, this will solve your problem. However, there are other reasons why it may persist. Let’s go over them further.

1. Low/Bad Transmission Fluid

Transmission fluid is essential to maintaining lubrication and cooling of the moving parts in your car.

So, a low transmission fluid level should be your first suspect when your Jeep doesn’t go into gear. 

Chances are your fluid is low or leaky, and it’s causing problems with your car’s gear transmission.

It’s also possible that the liquid thinned out or became dirty over time and needed replacement.

Your Cherokee’s transmission dipstick should be easy to locate. Look near the back of the engine, near the firewall.

Taking the fluid dipstick out, wiping it off, returning it, and pulling it out again will help you maintain it. 

And don’t forget to take note of the color, level, and smell of the fluid. If it’s low, add some liquid.

You should, however, take your car to a transmission specialist if you detect a burnt smell or dark colors.

2. Malfunctioning Shift Lock Release

Jeep Grand Cherokee features a shift interlock system as with any auto with an automatic transmission.

This system includes an electrically controlled solenoid, combined with the Park-Neutral safety switches and brake light that locks the shifter. Stepping on the brake pedal and turning on the ignition unlocks the shifter.

Either your shift interlock solenoid fails, or there’s a misadjustment of the brake light switch, your car won’t shift out of Park.

And it won’t even start when the Park-Neutral safety switch goes bad. 

You can try deactivating the interlock solenoid by depressing the shift lock release switch, which should be near the shifter.

However, you’ll need to call a tow truck if it doesn’t work.

3. Bad Torque Converter

There’s a chance that a bad torque converter is preventing your Grand Cherokee from moving in any of its automatic gears. The torque converter carries out the same function as the clutch master cylinder in vehicles with manual transmissions in automatic transmissions. 

Typically, this component fails because of problems related to substandard transmission maintenance.

The torque converter is seriously affected by low-quality transmission fluid, late transmission fluid changes, dirty transmission fluid filters, and ignoring all signs of jerks or abnormal noises.

A lousy torque converter can cause a car to become immobile and make noises when it starts.

Although your vehicle gradually stops making these noises after a while, it tends to stall while switching gears.

For torque converter repairs, it’s necessary to remove the whole transmission system, which is quite expensive.

4. Faulty Automatic Transmission Valve Body

Problems with the transmission’s valve body can also cause your Jeep to not move in any gear. 

The valve body is a sophisticated component and may fail through several routes. Dirty transmission fluid and the gradual degradation of the hydraulic channels can cause them to clog.

In addition to vibrating or stalling the car when changing gears, a malfunctioning valve body may also result in a bad valve spring.

Depending on how the component breaks, it can result in limp mode, transmission failure, and harsh or no shifts between gears.

Like the torque converter repair, a valve body repair also involves removing the transmission. Repairing the valve body is by far the most complicated procedure.

5. Electronic Sensor Failure

Most Jeep Grand Cherokees, especially the later makes, come with the most advanced computer system to control transmission. It should come as no surprise that these systems frequently fail.

So, if your vehicle doesn’t go into gear after you step on the gas pedal, it could often be that it doesn’t have a working electronic sensor. 

If that’s your case, reading the error code associated with the check engine light is the easiest way to diagnose this problem before you contact an expert.

Experts in transmissions can also determine if a sensor has failed and is causing your car not to shift into gear by using computerized diagnostic equipment.

6. Misaligned Gear

An out-of-alignment, broken, or stripped gear set will prevent it from engaging appropriately and prevent your Jeep from moving.

Wearing out gears, failing bearings, or leaky internal seals, or O-rings can cause your car’s gears to grind against each other, causing noise as well as depositing metal dust and chips that can damage other parts of the transmission.

You should always have the internal transmission repaired by a professional when this happens.

Also, have your mechanic thoroughly flush the transmission, the radiator cooler, and the valve body with solvent.

7. Severed Shift Linkage Wire

There’s no getting into gear if the gearshift knob in your Jeep can’t successfully communicate with the transmission beneath the car.

Although it’s rare, wires and cables can sometimes get severed from scraping against rough metal edges on the car frame. 

Regardless of what you do or how advanced a transmission system your Jeep may have, if you cut or break the linkage cable to your clutch or transmission, you won’t be able to put your car into gear.

The only way to solve this issue is to replace the damaged wires with brand new ones.

What to Do When Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Doesn’t Move?

If your Jeep refuses to move when you put it into gear, it may be one of the problems discussed above, or it may simply be an oversight.

Whichever the cause, it’s easy to get confused and panic. If you’re unsure what to do, try these options before calling a technician.

  • Ensure that the engine is running. Many cars run rather quietly, making you think they are running when they aren’t.
  • Make sure your parking brake is disengaged. Even when the car is in gear, the parking brake can prevent it from moving.
  • Consider starting in a different gear. Try both forward and reverse. It helps determine if the problem is with one single gear or the transmission as a whole.
  • Take a look at the lock clips, pins, or bolts holding the shifter assembly in place and whether they are firmly taut. Re-tighten them with the appropriate ratchet if they aren’t.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Automatic Transmission Replacement Cost

Thus far, it must have become clear to you that problems with gear shifting result from, more or less, faulty transmissions.

That’s why, when tired of constantly having to repair the transmission, many opt to replace it instead since a fresh installation can prevent any other potential complications that may tag along.

However, the proposition could prove to be costlier than you might think.

The starting cost of replacing a Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission can range from $2,500 to $3,500, and the price is subject to change from location to location.

You should also make sure to go to a dealer with the best warranty service.

Now, if you’re looking to cut down on the cost, you may want to consider rebuilding your existing transmission, which costs around $1500-$1800.

But it’s not a recommended option since most rebuilt transmissions end up malfunctioning again soon after.

Instead, you can consider remanufactured ones, costing anywhere between $1600 and $2000.

How to Prevent Future Jeep Grand Cherokee Gear Engagement Failures

Having a car on drive frequently aggressively will eventually lead to gear engagement failure sooner or later if you aren’t concerned with maintenance.

However, if you follow a few simple safety tips, you can keep those critical components in your Jeep in good working order for the longer term.

  • In winter, let the car warm up before accelerating. Use the first gear while the transmission isn’t warmed up to keep the engine speed low. 
  • You should shift the transmission into all modes before moving, remaining in each one for 5-10 seconds. In this way, all hydraulic channels will get oil.
  • Make sure the transmission oil is at the right level and quality. Transmission oil on Jeep Grand Cherokees needs to be changed every 37,000-62,000 miles or 60,000-100,000 kilometers.
  • Avoid towing other automobiles or trailers unless it’s an emergency or a short-distance trip. Your Jeep’s automatic transmission can only handle certain vehicle weights. With the increase in mass, the transmission’s structural elements often break down.
  • If the road is icy or slippery, do not drift.

Thoughts

When your Jeep Grand Cherokee won’t move in gear, the issue is likely to need the expertise of a mechanic who can make a few tweaks to solve the problem.

At worst, you may have to replace the transmission at worst, which is extremely rare.

Still, knowing what is happening behind the scenes when trying to track down a problem is always helpful.

Particularly, keeping track of the error codes can make it much easier for you or the technician to pinpoint the issue and act quickly.

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