Service Shifter Jeep Cherokee: What Does It Mean and How to Fix It When Lighting?

The Jeep Cherokee is a compact crossover SUV with a nine-speed ZF automatic transmission. Nevertheless, the service shifter warning light tends to come on after a few thousand miles. If yours is showing this message, I’ll help you understand what’s a service shifter Jeep Cherokee and how to fix it.

When your Jeep Cherokee has a service shifter light, the vehicle’s shifter needs servicing. The fuses may need to be replaced, the car’s software may need to be updated, or the shifter requires replacement. 

Let’s see what to do when you get a service shifter light on a Jeep Cherokee. 

Service shifter jeep cherokee

What’s The Meaning of “Service Shifter?” 

service shifter warning light
The service shifter warning light means that the shifter requires servicing.
Credit: giuliaforums.com

The service shifter warning light means that the shifter requires servicing. It usually indicates a fault in the wiring or a bad shifter in a vehicle. Therefore, the system has detected a problem within the car, and you need to take it to a professional mechanic to get it examined. 

Most of the time, it’s an electrical connection or wiring issue which shows that the transmission or engine is failing to get a signal that the shifter is not in the expected position. A technician will determine whether your vehicle has a broken or loose wire going into the connection. They will also see if the wiring harness is routed correctly and securely. 

What Does Service Shifter Mean On A Jeep Cherokee?

The service shifter on a Jeep Cherokee
The service shifter on a Jeep Cherokee means that the shifter should undergo maintenance by your dealership.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

The service shifter on a Jeep Cherokee means that the shifter should undergo maintenance by your dealership. Often, the fuses need replacing, but sometimes, the entire shifter needs to be replaced. However, some Jeeps only require updating the software, and the light clears without further problems. 

When the service shifter warning light comes on, it’s good to visit the dealership or schedule an appointment with a qualified mechanic. While some mechanics have already encountered this problem, others have never heard of it, so diagnosing it becomes complicated. Hence, it’s best to identify a mechanic who’s come across the warning light so that they can hopefully find a solution. 

How Serious If I Drive My Jeep Cherokee When The Service Shifter Turns On?

A service shifter light can leave you asking whether or not it’s a serious safety issue or you can continue driving. Most drivers have found that the service shifter light is a nuisance rather than an emergency. Unless you’re driving a 2014 – 2015 Jeep Cherokee, you can go on driving when the service shifter light comes on. 

This is because on a 2014 – 2015 KL, the service shifter warning light can be a serious issue owing to the shifter’s electronic functionality. Thus, it’s best to have the vehicle checked out as soon as possible. There’s no need to have the car towed on other Jeep Cherokees. Nonetheless, please don’t take the car on long trips or off-road drives until the Jeep is repaired.  

Can I Fix This Problem By Myself?

Yes, you can diagnose and fix the service shifter warning light at home. You will need to use an OBD2 scanner to get the trouble codes and then go ahead with the recommended repairs. 

After determining the meaning of the light, new parts are required, including the shifter itself, if it’s the one that needs replacing. Sometimes, the shifter light does not turn off after applying the recommended fix. In this case, it’s best to consult a mechanic to know the next course of action.

How To Scan The Service Shifter Problem (Step By Step)

The service shifter may appear at random. It can stay on and sometimes off after you turn off the vehicle. Please use a diagnostic scanner to know the exact shifter problem on your Jeep Cherokee. After which, proceed with any necessary repairs within your range.

how to scan the service shifter problem
To scan the service shifter problem, you have to hook up a scan tool first.

Step 1: Hook Up A Scan Tool 

The first thing is to connect a diagnostics scanner to know what the warning light is all about. The scanning device connects to the car through the OBD2 port using an OBD2 cable. Depending on the year, the OBD2 port in a Jeep Cherokee is found under the dash or steering wheel.

In earlier Jeep Cherokee models like 2015 vehicles, diagnosing the shifter light often showed that the shifter is at fault and will need replacing. In 2017 and later Jeep Cherokees, the scanner may throw off some diagnostic trouble codes.

These trouble codes include P1C86 and U1465. The P1C86 code means that the shifter assembly will need changing.

The possible causes of the light are:

  • The Electronic Shift Module harness connectors
  • Shift lever bezel assembly
  • Electronic Shift Module service error 

Step 2: Remove Shift Lifter Assembly Bezel 

The next step is to inspect the Electronic Shift Module (ESM) connectors for proper installation. 

Step 3: Disconnect ESM Connectors 

Unplug all the ESM harness connectors. Look for damaged connector locks, corrosion, signs of water intrusion, weather seal damage, bent or pushed back terminals, and discolored connectors due to overheating. 

The module inside the bezel breaks down over time, and the wires short out. When you identify a problem with the harness connectors, you’ll have successfully scanned and diagnosed the service shifter light. 

However, you cannot replace the module alone. The entire bezel will need to be replaced, as you’ll see in the next section. 

Step 4: Identify The Meaning of a U165 Code

If you get a U165 code instead of a P1686 code, you have problems with a faulty ESM, shorted ESM harness, and poor electrical connection. Nevertheless, this code lists a faulty Transmission Control Module (TCM) as a possible cause of the service shifter light. 

Step 5: Perform A Visual Inspection 

Go through steps one to three in this section to identify if you have problems with the ESM. To this end, inspect the wiring harness and connectors. Also, look for damaged components and broken, pushed out, corroded, or bent connector pins. 

If none of the connectors is damaged, a faulty Transmission Control Module could be causing the service shifter light. Hence, have it checked out by a professional mechanic or dealership. 

How To Turn Off The Service Shifter Light

If you’ve taken the vehicle to a dealership and no problem was found, you can take a few steps to turn off the service shifter light. 

How to turn off the service shifter light
There are five ways to turn off the service shifter light.

1. Restarting the Vehicle

Your first option for turning off the service shifter light is the easiest one. All you need to do is stop the vehicle and then turn it back on if you’re driving. Restarting the car can reset everything and clear the shifter message. 

Typically, restarting the engine works if the light comes on when shifting from automatic to the manual transmission when driving on steep, rugged terrain. Thus, it happens wherever you need to use a manual transmission. Nonetheless, if restarting the vehicle does not turn off the warning light, it’s time to move on to the next solution. 

2. Unplugging The Battery 

Car battery
When you have a service shifter light, disconnecting the battery gets a Jeep’s modules into a stable configuration.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

When you have a service shifter light, disconnecting the battery gets a Jeep’s modules into a stable configuration. Unplug the negative first, then the positive, and then wait 30 minutes. To reconnect, reverse the steps, and the warning light should be gone. 

A warning light that goes off after unplugging the battery is usually accompanied by other warning lights such as service vehicle display, service 4WD drive, and service air suspension. 

To this end, you will also need a diagnostics code reader to clear the warning lights after disconnecting the battery. In this case, the ECU is not running properly due to low voltage. That’s why it’s throwing off lots of warning lights. Hence, unplugging the battery allows the computer system to receive the correct voltage. 

How to unplug the battery.

3. Changing The Oil 

oil câr
If restarting and unplugging the battery did not work, your Jeep probably needs an oil change or top-up.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

If restarting and unplugging the battery did not work, your Jeep probably needs an oil change or top-up. When the engine oil is low, parts of the engine do not get enough lubrication causing them to run hot. Consequently, the transmission can use its cooling system to help, causing the service shifter warning light. 

When you perform an oil change, all parts will start to function correctly and possibly turn off the service shifter light. 

Changing engine oil guide video.

4. Replacing The Wiring Of The Shifter 

A Jeep Cherokee having problems with the shifter’s wiring has a few symptoms. These issues can comprise your car’s driving performance and fuel economy. 

Some of the signs it will display include:

  • Erratic gear shifting
  • The shifter gets stuck in one gear 
  • Struggling with downshifting 
  • Trouble shifting to a higher gear

The Shift cable is the common culprit in the shifter’s wiring. This cable connects the shifter to the transmission shifting arm, and it’s anchored in two spots to keep the sleeve cable from moving. Consequently, the shifter can move the sleeve when shifting, which then adjusts the gear control arm, allowing it to change from first to second, third gear, etc. That’s why a broken shift cable can lead to erratic gear shifting. 

Fortunately, changing the shift cable is not a complicated process. But as I mentioned, the entire bezel needs replacement. 

How To:

  • Take out the bezel assembly.
  • With the shifter lever bezel assembly out, unplug the cable by pressing on the push tab. The new bezel will come with a new cable where one end goes into the module, and the other goes deep down on the engine control arm. 
  • Disconnect the cable from the shifter and engine control arm and plug in the new connector. After which, reassemble the harness and check the shifter for functionality. 

Once you have replaced the trim bezel, the service shifter light will go off.

How to replace the wiring of the shifter.

5. Replacing the Shifter 

The last action is to replace the shifter when all other things fail to clear the service shifter warning light. The warning could indicate a much bigger problem in the gear shifter. For this reason, you may find that your vehicle fails to automatically return to “PARK” when you shut off the engine. 

Other times, the car will not automatically engage the parking brake when you open the driver’s door with the engine running. In other cases, the service shifter light may be accompanied by difficult shifting. Also, the warning lights adjacent to the gear designations come on. 

A mechanic can successfully change the gear shifter and reset the computer. After which, the service shifter light will be gone. 

The way to replace the car shifter.

What Should I Do If The Light Is Still On?

The service shifter light is unique to Jeep Cherokees. So, you may find that even after taking it to the dealership for servicing, the light may persist. Unless your vehicle is under a recall (2014 Jeep Cherokee), it is safe to continue driving with the service shifter light on. 

If you’re not comfortable driving when the light is on, you may want to seek complete transmission servicing. Sometimes the transmission could be shifting on its own, but it appears as if the shifter has a problem. Servicing the transmission is usually free, but it can take a whole day. 

How Much Will It Cost To Fix It?

When you take your vehicle for service shifter light diagnosis and repair, the mechanic will attempt different things to turn it off. The technician will check the vehicle’s ECU for any indications or warnings of faulty technology. 

Then, they may replace the shifter’s wiring or the entire shifter. The average cost of serving the shifter in a Jeep Cherokee and its replacement is $400 – $1000. This price also covers the labor costs. 

Is the Service Shifter Covered Under Warranty On A Jeep Cherokee?

In many cases, the service shifter problem on Jeep Cherokee is not covered under any warranty. Most drivers assume it’s covered under the Powertrain warranty, but it’s not covered since it’s an electrical system. The Powertrain cover is for internal moving parts of the transmission and the engine. 

It means a service shifter repair costs will come out of your pocket. Nonetheless, it’s good to have a mechanic assess the necessary repairs and parts required. Then visit a dealership and see if a warranty can be applied depending on the cause of the service light and your Jeep’s year. 

Conclusion 

The service shifter Jeep Cherokee light can happen for various reasons. Please get to the bottom of it as soon as possible. While it’s a nuisance on some Jeep Cherokees, it can be a safety issue on others. Hence, don’t drive your Jeep Cherokee without understanding the service shifter light.  

Good luck, guys! 

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