What Does Service Shifter Mean In My Jeep Cherokee?

Service shifter warning message

When a warning message pops up in your Jeep Cherokee, your heart may immediately sink. Even if you’ve done everything you need to prevent problems, the Service Shifter Jeep Cherokee message can show up. What should you do with this message and what does it mean?

We answer these questions and more in this article. Not only will we cover the top causes, but we don’t leave you hanging. You gain a few possible repairs as well. 

What Does The Service Shifter Message Mean On A Jeep Cherokee?

The Service Shifter warning indicates there is an issue with the shifter in your SUV and it’s time to get it serviced by a professional mechanic. It’s been a common problem with Cherokee models, with various causes leading to the malfunction. 

In most cases, this problem is not an emergency. You may be able to prolong the repair for a short time. However, if you drive some models, it’s considered dangerous. There have been multiple recalls and lawsuits related to the failure. Let’s take a closer look at what might be going on. 

Causes Of A Service Shifter Warning on Jeep Cherokee

If you see a Service Shifter warning message on your Jeep Cherokee’s dashboard, you may find that the shifter has gone bad. There’s also a chance that the software requires an update, the wiring to the shifter is bad or the brake light switch has failed. 

Either way, you can gain more understanding by looking at the causes in-depth.

1. Bad Shifter Electronics

shifter jeep grand cherokee

When the shifter light comes on, it could be because of the bezel around the shifter itself. If this part that surrounds the knob becomes warped or cracked, the system may not be able to communicate properly. 

There’s also the chance that the shifter needs to be replaced. A bad shifter can also lead to trouble moving out of Park or between gears.

2. Software Needs an Update

Modern vehicles run with the help of electronics and software. It’s akin to a computer system on a larger scale. Just like regular computers require updates from time to time, the car may also require an update. The difference is that today’s vehicles have multiple computers working together in harmony for the perfect ride. 

Sadly, these updates aren’t as easy to complete as they sound. You will need to take your vehicle to a dealership or shop with the appropriate tools, which we will talk more about in the next section. 

3. Bad Shifter Wiring

As an electronic system, you can guarantee there’s wiring involved. All of this wiring runs through the fuse box, which could be the heart of the issue.

A blown fuse can cause communication errors with the shifter. Additionally, any damaged wire or poor connection between the shifter and the computer can cause the same problems. 

4. Bad Brake Light Switch

A bad brake light switch isn’t the typical cause of the problem, but should still be mentioned. When the brake light switch malfunctions, the obvious issues are going to involve the light not illuminating in the back of the vehicle.

Some drivers also find that it causes warning lights on the screen. One of these warnings is the Service Shifter message. 

How To Fix The Service Shifter Message On A Jeep Cherokee

Realizing what’s causing the problem is only half of the steps. Once the issue has been identified, it’s time to take action. On some rare occurrences, you may be able to fix this yourself, such as with a blown fuse. Otherwise, you’ll probably need some more help to get the job done. 

Here are a few steps to consider after you’ve read through the factory service manual to gain a better understanding of your Jeep Cherokee. 

1. Look for Technical Service Bulletins and Recalls

recall letter

A technical service bulletin is a message written from the auto manufacturer to the dealership technicians. These bulletins provide a wealth of information because they tell the techs how to repair known problems. Some of them provide step-by-step directions, making it very simple for the household mechanic to complete some jobs.

One example you may find interesting is a Service shifter bulletin for Jeep you can find here.

You can find the technical service bulletins for your vehicle on the NHTSA website. You must punch in your model year and make to see what’s available. The trouble with reading some of the bulletins is that they are written with a professional technician in mind. If you don’t have this experience, you may be at a loss for what to do.

Additionally, the NHTSA provides recalls on vehicles. With the Jeep Cherokee models, some have some serious recalls that should be addressed immediately. For example, with the 2014 Jeep Cherokee, there are three incredibly dangerous powertrain recalls. Not only can the power transfer unit input splines break, leading to a loss of Drive, but a stuck transmission clutch can cause the same problem. There’s even a recall showing that the transmission may shift itself into Neutral. None of these are issues you want to play around with. 

2. Contact the Dealership for Warranties

If your vehicle isn’t that old, it may still be under the factory warranty. If so, whatever repairs are needed will be done at the expense of the automaker, with nothing to pay out of pocket. The trouble with factory warranties is that you can often wait a while for repairs. In some cases, the dealership may not provide a loaner vehicle while the SUV is done, which can be a real inconvenience.

Even if your vehicle has surpassed its life in the factory warranty, you may have signed up for an extended warranty that could provide coverage. These are often offered at the time you purchase your vehicle, but you can sign up any time that’s convenient for you. With a third-party car warranty, you can usually get service without going to the dealer, which may be better suited to your busy schedule. Just be careful when choosing what company to go with, as the Federal Trade Commission claims many people are scammed each year.  

3. Update Shifter Software

The Transmission Control Module (TCM) is responsible for controlling automatic transmissions. Various sensors report information back to this vital module, so adjustments can be made for the transmission to work as intended. Data is also provided from the Engine Control Unit (ECU) to calculate when gears should be shifted for the best ride comfort and fuel economy.

If the system fails, an update may help solve the problem. However, most people don’t have the equipment needed to update the software. Instead, you may have to visit a local dealership, which, again, puts you at the mercy of their schedule. It’s also not the cheapest fix to complete. 

4. Diagnose and Replace the Shifter

If the bezel around the shifter requires a replacement, you aren’t looking at a lot of money. You should also be able to perform this repair at home with some basic tools.

On the other hand, it’s not always easy to replace a shifter when it fails. You may find this a job better suited for a professional mechanic with better tools. After all, you don’t want to make the problem any worse by making a novice mistake. 

How much does it cost to replace a Jeep Cherokee shifter?

The cost to replace a Jeep Cherokee shifter depends on what year model you are looking at. On modern cars with electronic shifters, you can expect an average cost of between $300 and $800 to replace the shifter. If the shift cable on an older model is to blame, the average cost is $250 to $550. Larger software-related problems can cost even more and require the help of a professional. 

Do Jeep recalls expire?

Unlike a car warranty, there’s no expiration date on vehicle recalls. It doesn’t matter how old the vehicle is, FCA US LLC is responsible for repairing issues that are related to any outstanding campaign. If you purchased a used Jeep, you want to have an open recalls repaired for your safety. 

Is there a recall on my Jeep Cherokee?

On the NHTSA website, you can enter the VIN of your Jeep Cherokee to see what recalls are still open. If there are any to resolve, contact the dealership right away. If FCA knows you own a recalled vehicle, you should receive a notice of it in the mail when it’s first issued. Update your information with the local dealer to make sure you receive these notices. 

How long does a gear shifter last?

Most people never have to worry about the gear shifter cable or bezel failing. These are parts that are meant to last for the lifetime of a vehicle. However, Jeep Cherokee owners find the Service Shifter message often appears because of premature failure that requires replacement.

At the first sign of the Service Shifter Jeep Cherokee message, you should take action. There’s a high probability that it’s nothing to worry about, but also a slim chance that there’s a serious issue. If it’s the latter, we would hate to see anything happen to you while you are driving; it’s just not worth the risk.

If you have some mechanical knowledge and want to read through service bulletins, you may be able to figure out the issue on your own. Otherwise, it’s best to trust the Jeep to a qualified mechanic that understands this common fault. With it repaired, you can get back to driving without pesky warnings on the display anymore. 

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Categories: Troubleshooting, Warning Lights

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