Service Shifter—What it means and how to identify a bad shifter

Jeep, the American sweetheart known for its reliability, is not perfect after all. Jeep has been plagued with many problems, one of which is the service shifter issue. Shifters allow for gearing change and communicate with the ECU or TCM to do this.

However, when the shifter is bad, it sends wrong information to the ECU, leading to many malfunctions. So, if you’re getting a Jeep, you may want to know about this shifter issue. This includes what the service shifter is, how to know the shifter is bad, and how to fix it. Not knowing these puts you at higher risk of an accident.

service shifter jeep

What does service shifter mean on jeep?

The service shifter on Jeep is a warning message that pops up on the Jeep dashboard telling you that your Jeep’s shifter is due for maintenance. It could be that the wiring or shifter bezel is bad. Other times, it could be the fuse or your shifter system is outdated.

When this message pops up, you may not necessarily attend to it immediately. However, if you’re using certain models like the 2014-2015 Jeep Cherokee, you may want to stop driving immediately until you fix the issues.

In these models, shifter issues often result in accidents. Many of these models were recalled, with some owners even filing lawsuits regarding these failures. Remember, this message can pop up in any Jeep model. So, if you’re asking, what does service shifter mean on a Dodge Charger, or what does service shifter mean on Ram 1500? It’s still the same as what is explained above.

How do I know if my shifter assembly is bad?

A bad shifter assembly will lead to many car malfunctions, which will become very visible when driving. Here are signs to know your shifter assembly is bad.

Illumination of the service shifter lights

One of the most common ways to spot a bad shifter is the service shifter light turning on. The light will pop if any components connected or working with the shifter assembly are bad. This may include the shifter bezel, fuse, wiring, or even the brake switch light. It could also be out-of-date shifter software.

But is the service shifter dangerous? While in some cases, you can drive with it until you fix what’s causing the light to turn on, in other cases, it may be very dangerous to drive with it. In some models, when this light is turned on, your vehicle might drive in the wrong direction and sometimes roll when parked on an incline.

In fact, these models have been recalled over the years. Check your technical service bulletin to be sure of your car’s recall status. Driving in such cars is too risky. Hopefully, this has answered those asking can you drive with service shifter light on?

Difficulty changing gears

A bad shifter assembly may lead to difficulty moving out of park or even shifting gears generally. When this occurs, it’s most likely that the shifter itself is bad. Whether you’re using the Jeep manual shifter or automatic, you may need to diagnose it properly and replace it if necessary.

Car rolling away when on incline.

Issues with the shifter often lead to cars rolling away on incline, even if the vehicle is placed in park. In some cases, you may not be able to put the vehicle in park, which puts you at risk of the vehicle rolling away on sloppy grounds.

Car not responding to input.

If you ever want to find out whether your shifter is bad, it shouldn’t be this, as the chances of getting into an accident are high. A malfunctioning shifter may cause your car not to move in the direction you don’t want. Particularly, the vehicle will start driving towards the right side of the road.

Here, you can’t even slow down; it will look like you have no control over your vehicle. In this case, deactivating the cruise control should help you gain control of the car. However, because the issue is caused by faulty cruise control, it won’t work. The vehicle acts like it’s locked in cruise control.

In such situations, your gear shifter light will pop together with other lights, such as the engine, passenger seat belt, and gas cap lights. If you’re lucky enough, it takes you offroad and bumps into a tree, the car might stop. However, your airbag might fail to activate, putting you at risk of hitting your head against the windshield or anything else when the car finally stops.

Jeeps with cruise control issues have been recalled, so you may want to check if your model is among them. You can visit the Jeep official website or contact a certified dealer for more information on your Jeep shifter recall status.

Service shifter light fixing

Any fault within the shifter system will lead to the illumination of the service shifter light. Generally, the fastest way to turn it off is fixing the shifter issue causing the lights to turn on or just doing a reset.

It is often recommended to first take your car to a professional for proper diagnosis. This is to know the root cause and be sure if it’s something you can do yourself, as there are issues only professionals can fix. However, here’s how to fix service shifter in Jeep Cherokee and other models.

Start with your technical bulletin.

Your vehicle’s technical bulletin, usually sent to dealer technicians, contains information about specific vehicle issues and ways to solve them.  They provide a step-by-step procedure, making it easy for mechanics to fix the issue.

You may try getting the bulletin so it guides you on how to fix service shifter if you ever want to do it yourself. You can find the technical bulletin on the NHTSA website. But it’s worth noting that these bulletins are written with technicians in mind. So, if you can’t understand it, going through it might prove futile.

Replace blown fuses

When fuses are blown or damaged, they often cause the shifter light to illuminate. Replacing damaged fuses should eliminate the service shifter light if the fuse is the problem.

Update your shifter software.

Outdated Jeep shifter software could also trigger the shifter light to come on. After updating your Jeep’s software, the light should disappear if that is the issue.

Replace damaged or inferior shifter.

Sometimes, the reason the service shifter in Jeep Cherokee or any model appears could be the shifter itself. Try checking if the shifter is of low quality, broken, or feels stuck. If broken, replacing it should fix the issue.

Fix faulty wiring or wiring harness.

Since the light could also stem from a failing wiring harness or electronic module, fixing them might turn off the service shifter lights

Repair brake switch

While not the primary cause, you may need to check if the brake light switch is intact. When the switch is bad, it usually prevents the tail light from illuminating. However, a failing brake switch will turn on many lights on your dash. One of those lights is the service shifter light.

Do a reset

Sometimes, the light can pop on its own without any fault in the shifter assembly. In this case, all you may need to do is resetting the light, which can be done in several ways. To do this, shut the engine off and put it back on again. If this isn’t useful, unplug the battery for at least 30 minutes and plug it back in.

NOTE: If the light illuminating stems from a bad shifter, fuses, or outdated shifter software, have a professional fix them. While they look simple to handle, they are not. For example, issues like shifter software updates need specific tools to have it done; only professionals have them.

If you’re worried about cost, contact your dealership and fix it immediately, especially if your car is under any warranty. However, for the others that involve resetting the light, you can do them yourself. And if all effort to reset the light still fails, have your car taken to a mechanic or dealer immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions—FAQs

Is there a recall for the shifter of 2017 Jeep Cherokee?

Yes! Out of the four 2017 Jeep Cherokee recalls recorded by the NHTSA, two of them have to do with the shifter. The two recalls related to shifters issue include cruise control refusing to deactivate and splines breaking on power transfer units.

The cruise control issue affected 4,815,661 Jeeps.

But in the Jeep Cherokee, the 2015-2018 were mostly affected. The cruise controls in these years’ models often refuse to disengage. When a car keeps moving despite wanting to slow down, the chances of getting involved in an accident are higher, which was the case with these models.

Affecting over 67,248 units, all Jeep Cherokee 2014-2017 models featuring the 2-speed PTUS had their differential input spine losing teeth due to wear when working with the transmission output shaft. This often led to the loss of engine power to the front tires, making it impossible for the vehicle to be placed in park. When this happens, your Jeep could roll when parked on an incline

What is a KL Jeep Cherokee?

The KL Jeep Cherokee is the 5th generation Jeep Cherokee produced. Jeep Cherokee has seen many generations, and to differentiate each generation from the other, a  code consisting of two letters of the alphabet was added.

With a new generation comes a new letter. The KL is one of the many letters used in differentiating them. The 5th generation Jeep Cherokee is a midsize crossover SUV. And has been in production since 2014 and finally discontinued in 2023.

What is the recall on 2016 Jeep Cherokee service?

The 2016 Jeep Cherokee service shifter includes a defective wiring harness, causing the gear selector to lose its electrical power. Invariably causing the shifter to be stuck in the “park” or neural after turning off the engine. The wiring harness could start failing because it was not correctly tucked.

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee shifter recall involves 37,000 units of the Grand Cherokee SUVs. Vehicle owners were advised to use their parking brake when leaving their cars and were eventually contacted by Jeep to bring their vehicles for maintenance.

Why is the Jeep Cherokee being discontinued?

Jeep has discontinued the production of the Jeep Cherokee due to continuous low sales of the vehicle. Producing a car that people aren’t buying is a loss. This apparently was the issue with the Jeep Cherokee.

The announcement to discontinue its production came on February 28th, 2023, with an immediate shutting down of the Belvidere plant in Illinois, where the car was being produced. The Jeep Cherokee was in production for 49 years— 1974-2023.

What years did Jeep Cherokee have transmission problems?

Certain Jeep model jeeps have repeatedly been reported to have transmission issues.  This includes the 2014-2017 Jeep Cherokees. It’s reported that the input shafts, due to wear, often cut off power from the front wheels, resulting in the inability to put the vehicle in Park. When this happens, your car may roll off when parked on sloped roads.

Which jeeps have transmission issues?

Jeeps plagued with transmission issues include the Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Compass, Jeep Wrangler, and Jeep Renegade. Recalls were made for these cars, so you may want to check to ascertain your recall status by visiting the Jeep official website. You can also contact their dealers for more information.

How much is a service shifter for a Jeep Cherokee?

The shifter for a Jeep Cherokee costs between $200-$500, depending on the model and year. Try reaching your local dealer for a more accurate estimate for your specific model. If, however, you’re installing it at a mechanic, you may pay up to $400-$1000 since the labor fee is included.

The exact amount will depend on your Jeep model and year, as well as your location. For example, while the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee shifter replacement could cost $800, the 2014 Jeep Cherokee shift button replacement cost will be way less.

Final Words

The service shifter in Jeep is an issue that needs immediate action, especially for 2014-2015 models.  When you see the service light, have your car properly diagnosed to ascertain why the shifter is malfunctioning and causing the error message.

Issues with updating shifter software and shifter replacement should be left to professionals. They have the right tools and expertise to fix the issues. While others, like resetting the light via engine or battery, can be carried out by you, take your car to a professional immediately if you still can’t do it.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a certified mechanic with over a decade of experience in the mechanic garage, and he has over five years of experience in the writing industry. He started writing automotive articles to share his garage experience with car enthusiasts and armature mechanics. If he is not in the garage fixing challenging mechanical problems, he is writing automotive repair guides, buyer’s guides, and car and tools comparisons.

Recent Posts