By on September 15, 2017

20-2014-jeep-cherokee-chrome-grille

Lucky is the new car buyer who isn’t saddled with a trip to the dealer for recall work within the first few years of ownership. The modern age provides us with a great many wonderful things — avocadoes year-round, transmission cogs we can count on all 10 fingers, UberEATS — but it hasn’t turned the average vehicle into a paragon of reliability.

Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a recall for 323,400 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokees, as well as 2015 Renegades, Chrysler 200s, and Ram ProMasters. FCA threw the 2018 Fiat 500X in there for good measure. The problem stemmed from the automaker’s finicky nine-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to insufficient crimps in the transmission sensor cluster’s wire harness (and the subsequent trouble code sent to the vehicle’s diagnostic system), some owners suddenly found their Jeep, Chrysler or Ram coasting along in neutral — a default position — instead of drive. Can’t have that.

The recall — a minor fix — didn’t seem like a big deal. The vehicles would normally be drivable (for a time, anyway) after the engine was shut off and turned back on again, making a trip to the nearest certified FCA dealership relatively trouble-free. For one Cherokee owner, however, the repair work stood to cost him $2,000 more than what he paid for the vehicle.

Our story begins far north of any reader’s hometown, in the small, treeless city of Iqaluit, Nunavut — a settlement on Baffin Island in Canada’s Arctic.

John Fawcett, upon discovering his wife Sandra was pregnant, set out to purchase his first vehicle. Child-rearing in a place where the record wind chill stands at a nippy minus 86 Fahrenheit could be unpleasant without a (block heater-equipped) car. So, with all-weather traction being in high demand in the high arctic, he decided on a 2014 Jeep Cherokee, for which he negotiated a $22,000 bank loan. Fast-forward to this August.

While driving around the town of 7,800 people, Fawcett’s Cherokee suddenly shifted into neutral. The issue didn’t resolve itself. After a tow to a local garage, the mechanic informed Fawcett that he didn’t have the proper diagnostic equipment, so it was off to Google for an answer. Unfortunately, Google delivered some bad news.

Transport Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, had four recalls out on the Cherokee, one of which concerned the shifty transmission. New to the car-owning game, Fawcett took the news with aplomb.

“I didn’t feel like a sucker,” Fawcett told Canada’s National Post newspaper. “The recall was on Transport Canada’s website, and so I accepted that my car needed a bit of work — and that Chrysler was responsible for doing this work. That is kind of what I thought.”

Iqaluit, Image: Flickr

It certainly was the automaker’s responsibility to hand over a freshly fixed vehicle. Sadly, after contacting FCA public relations staff, Fawcett also learned it was his responsibility to get the Cherokee to the nearest certified FCA dealer. Anyone with access to Google Maps will instantly see the problem here. Iqaluit sits on a barren Arctic island with no road connection to the mainland. Even then, a driver would find themselves stranded, as no roads lead into, or out of, the vast territory of Nunavut. Greenland is closer than the nearest highway.

To have his vehicle serviced by Fiat Chrysler, Fawcett would have to load his Cherokee into a converted Boeing 737 and fly to Ottawa, some three hours and 15 minutes by air to the south.

The cost of living the jet-set lifestyle in your Jeep? $24,000 return. A ship could lug his Cherokee to a dealership for a third of the cost, but the trip would take from August until the spring ice pack breakup next year.

“In my mind, I’d just been told by Chrysler that what I had was a $22,000 paper weight that nobody was going to fix,” Fawcett said. “I was very upset.”

Iqaluit may not have much in the way of roads or foliage, but it does have wireless. Sick of paying for pricey taxis and left with few good options, Fawcett took to harassing the automaker on Twitter, then formed a petition calling on all northerners to boycott FCA products. What followed was a “promising” phone call from a sympathetic-sounding FCA representative named Jessica.

The National Post confirmed Thursday that FCA, Fawcett, and his local garage have struck an agreement. The automaker will fly a certified mechanic to Iqaluit, where winter is closing in fast, to fix that wiring harness and get Fawcett’s life back in gear.

[Images: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles; Northern Pix/Flickr]

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71 Comments on “Freaky Friday: When Your Free Jeep Cherokee Recall Costs $24,000...”


  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Good for John. I’m glad to hear they’re going to fix it. Once it’s fixed, he needs to dump that turkey.

    If there’s no dealer anywhere near Iqaluit, how did he get the car there to begin with?

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      Shipped in slowly via boat, I imagine?

      That’d be how pretty much all the cars and anything “not worth flying in on a jet” gets there.

      (Hey, at least he doesn’t live in Alert!)

  • avatar
    ash78

    You may be hardcore enough to live on an arctic island. You may be brave enough to drive an FCA vehicle without ready access to a dealership.

    But man, b*tching on Twitter to get your way? That’s UNIVERSAL!

    All in all, seems like a reasonable solution. It’s a shame it took all that work, but another part of me says “cry me a frozen river.” It’s like buying a Tesla for 90% of North Americans. You’re not going to be near a shop once you get home — albeit this is an extreme example.

  • avatar
    WalterRohrl

    So…the recall is not costing him a single red cent after all? Sure, it was a bit of a hassle and frankly something that should have been discussed at time of purchase but it sounds like it was resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. In addition, FCA wasn’t proposing to charge him $24k to begin with in any case, that choice of transport would have been the owner’s prerogative.

    Mr. Healey – THIS is exactly what people talk about when they complain about your website’s clickbait.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Agreed. I only clicked because I thought that FCA was trying to force him to buy another Jeep rather than fix his current one, or something to that effect. That would’ve been interesting, and could’ve made for a good discussion.

      Instead, we have:

      Guy lives in isolated place, buys car, car has an issue, he has trouble getting it fixed, but in the end, did get it fixed at no cost.

      Wow, had me on the edge of my seat! I haven’t been this enthralled by a story since hearing about my neighbor buying a jug of expired milk by accident!

      Also, is anyone else sick of these “When…” idiotic memes?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        I clicked because I read nearly all the TTAC articles. I’m retired and don’t have much better to do at night. What is this “clickbait” of which you speak?

        Do you scan headers and only read articles featuring skulduggery and such? Are you guys like those rubberneckers who slow down traffic when I’m trying to make it to my tee time?

        I quickly saw the merit in the article, a warning tale to people living in the farthest reaches of civilization, far from the conveniences of living smack-dab in the middle of the swirling maelstrom of everyday life. I didn’t seek or expect to find a sordid tale of treachery perpetrated by Sergio and his espresso-swilling minions.

        Why would anyone be disappointed in a tale well-told of the vicissitudes of living far from the madding crowd?

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Every now and then, TTAC tries to become Jalopnik. Recently, they’re trying real hard.

      While sometimes entertaining, Jalopnik has no credibility as a source of information. Is that what TTAC wants to be? If so, need to change the name.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I come here to feel better about my car choices, since I would never ever consider any FCA product (ever), and so I rejoice and drink up the schadenfreuede that some stupid schmuck what lives on an iceberg decides to buy a transportation applicance from the most clueless entity still allowed to peddle cars on the continent and then later whines to the interwebs about how shitty it is, and that clueless entity breaks down and still services him. Glory to the internets!

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    This does pose an interesting question for the B&B…given the parameters, what should he have purchased?

    • 0 avatar
      ash78

      A Jeep ur-Cherokee :D

      Toyota Hilux.

      Any GM Pickup or SUV.

      The list could go on and on, with the one he actually picked down at the bottom, right between a Ghibli and a Miata.

      • 0 avatar
        thegamper

        That’s not really true. Lots of people drive Cherokees, probably trouble free for the most part. He would be in near the same situation even if the vehicle were drivable, no way to get to a dealer, even if it were a Toyota or Honda, both of which have had recalls I’m fairly certain. I think the issue here is that the Chrysler phone tech in India or the Philippines need to be given instructions on how to handle special circumstances. I suspect the third world phone jockeys of your favorite automakers read from a script as well. Even call centers in the US might not be able to handle properly. I’m not a Chrysler fan, but if the message had gotten to the right person, the shame from a twitterstorm might not have been necessary, we will never know.

    • 0 avatar
      Stanley Steamer

      A slightly used Toyota 4 runner.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        This. Buying a modern Chrysler without a dealer nearby ranks among some of the dumber things a person can do. I’d want something stupid-reliable and stupid-easy to work on that either I could wrench on myself or a local mechanic could. A Toyota based on some flavor of Land Cruiser is an easy default choice. Or else something old enough (including any number of jeep or Chrysler SUVs/trucks) that is simple to work on with limited resources.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          Huh, a quick Google search shows that even the mighty 4Runner is the subject of recalls, including a recent one (also affecting Land Cruiser) for airbags that deploy for no reason.

          Toyota 4Runner # Of Recalls By Year

          2016 Toyota 4Runner-3

          2015 Toyota 4Runner-4

          2014 Toyota 4Runner-3

          2013 Toyota 4Runner-2

          2012 Toyota 4Runner-5

          2011 Toyota 4Runner-8

          2010 Toyota 4Runner-10

          2009 Toyota 4Runner-7

          2008 Toyota 4Runner-5

          2007 Toyota 4Runner-5

          2006 Toyota 4Runner-5

          2005 Toyota 4Runner-5

          2004 Toyota 4Runner-2

          2003 Toyota 4Runner-3

          2002 Toyota 4Runner-3

          2001 Toyota 4Runner-3

          2000 Toyota 4Runner-2

          1999 Toyota 4Runner-2

          1998 Toyota 4Runner-4

          1997 Toyota 4Runner-4

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            None of which seriously affected the mechanical function of the vehicle, as far as I’m aware. I’m speaking to what actually makes the vehicle up, what makes it run, and how it’s all built and put together. These KL Cherokees are the definition of disposable automobiles IMO. Overwrought technology, endless modules (and electrics in general) that FCA can’t be trusted to do right. While you’re furiously googling around for Toyota recalls, plug this into the search: “TIPM.” Fun reading for hours.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            “These KL Cherokees are the definition of disposable automobiles IMO.”

            I’ve had my issues with FCA products, but I wouldn’t take it that far.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            @gtemnykh I don’t disagree with you on the overall quality of the Cherokee, but honestly an airbag spontaneously going off is potentially a more serious issue than the transmission dropping into neutral.

        • 0 avatar
          EBFlex

          “Buying a modern Chrysler without a dealer nearby ranks among some of the dumber things a person can do.”

          I have 46,000+ miles on my Grand Cherokee (proper V8 and the best transmission made today) and have yet to have any sort of major issue. Hell I still have original wiper blades.

          So, you are completely wrong.

          • 0 avatar
            johnds

            We’re talking about the Cherokee. The 9 speed in that model has had a rocky start, and 3 years later im still hearing it shifts clunky, etc.

          • 0 avatar
            SpinnyD

            Call me when you get some real miles on the Jeep.

            – Toyota 4Runner owner with 300k+ miles and no major problems.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            ” – Toyota 4Runner owner with 300k+ miles and no major problems.”

            Meh, call me when your break in is done. I put over 300k on a Ford Bronco II with the only issue at the end being the syncro on 3rd Gear and 400k on a craptastic first gen Saturn with my only major expenses being a clutch job and keeping it full of oil at the end.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “So, you are completely wrong.”

            You could say “partially wrong,” but completely wrong? I think not.

            “I’ve had my issues with FCA products, but I wouldn’t take it that far.”

            I would lol

            I’d say FWD-based Chrysler/FCA tie-up products with the 9 speed autos are right up there with technologically/electronically-overwrought European cars for “ready for the pick and pull post warranty” factor. May as well lump in some recent GM offerings in there while I’m at it. My bro just dealt with yet another DI 2.4L Equinox with jumped timing (a total of 4 dealers threw parts at it including both fuel pumps, 4 new injectors, new ECM), it’s laughable. Also any Ford with the dry clutch DCT.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          So, I am guessing you want something from the 70’s that begins with FJ? You said “stupid-reliable and stupid-easy to work on”.

          Any recall work has to be done by a mechanic licensed by that brand.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Well, I wouldn’t go that retro, I’d point to just about anything up until the mid 2000s when the vast proliferation of black box modules, CANBUS communication, and emphasis on fuel economy at the expense of driveability and reliability began in haste. I was wrenching on my friend’s 2008 FJ Cruiser (4.0L, 6spd manual) and it was a very easy and straightforward thing to work on. That’s what I’m talking about.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      Chevy Caprice with winter tires.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      Sled Dog(s)

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @indi500fan – I’d say a V8 Chevy or Ford pickup.

      • 0 avatar
        Tele Vision

        When I was up North I had an FJ45 pickup. Nearly every other truck in Yellowknife was a Ford 1/2- or 3/4-ton 4X4. I was never made fun of but the guy with the Chevy certainly was. Everyone ran really tall ‘pizza-cutter’ tires and had enough spares in the bed to get anywhere. In one truck I saw four mounted spare tires; centre diff chains; a front differential; a rear axle; and a come-along.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      Something like a Toyota Rav4 or Chevy Equinox. Do they still make the old Patriot?

      This sounds like the plastic harness connector was beancounted until it didn’t hold the wires securely anymore.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      I saw some car program where the two hosts drove a Toyota pickup truck from England to the north pole. Answer: Toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      He should have gone around to local shops and figure out if any are authorized to perform warranty repairs for a particular brand. My quick Google search seemed to imply that one shop can service GM products. If that is true, a GM BOF SUV would have been his best bet.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      Look for it in Google Earth, then start looking at the photos. There’s an overwhelming number of GM and Ford full-size crew cabs. There are other SUVs that I can’t identify. Maybe Toyotas.

    • 0 avatar
      TDIGuy

      When considering taking a job up there, I did a lot of research. IIRC there is a new car dealer that can get both Chevy and Ford trucks as well as do the service.
      However considering there are no roads outside the city, and the short distance to work, many just stick with ATVs and snowmobiles.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    – – –
    “In my mind, I’d just been told by Chrysler that what I had was a $22,000 paper weight that nobody was going to fix,” Fawcett said.
    – – –

    Join the club. That’s exactly what Chrysler told my father when his new $7500 1977 LeBaron dropped its transmission onto the freeway.

    So:

    a) he lives in the middle of nowhere, literally, where you can’t participate in society and all it has to offer

    b) he’s never heard of recalls

    c) he managed, without drama, to resolve the issue in a reasonable way.

    I’m sorry–why is this notable in any way, shape, or form?

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Why is it the responsibility of an automaker to accommodate someone that decides to live in BFE?

    FCA is not shirking its responsibility, it’s the owner that has decided to make it difficult for them to get the vehicle for service.

    But anyone that decides to live in such an isolated place could have done a little homework and put a greater premium on cars that have a good reputation for reliability.

    • 0 avatar
      brn

      Reputation for reliability? Nah. Everything is getting recalled nowadays. Do some homework and put a premium on cars that are locally serviceable. If not, expect and prepare for significant expense and delays.

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        ” Do some homework and put a premium on cars that are locally serviceable.”

        Absolutely.

        When someone asks you, “what car should I buy?” the answer is not “brown Miata wagon” or “Mustang!” or whatever it is you think you’d like to buy in ideal circumstances.

        The first question I always ask in response–be it about a car, computer, cell phone, whatever–is, “what’s your support mechanism?”

        I’d much rather he buy something inside his support mechanism. If he buys something on MY recommendation, guess what his support mechanism is…

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          With recalls and TSB campaigns etc I’d prefer not to buy a new car that doesn’t have a dealer in my my small city. Any brands not represented here are 130 miles minimum away.

          God bless the gentleman in the story but in his situation I’d likely buy the nicest used car I could find that the local indie mechanic was very familiar with.

      • 0 avatar
        whitworth

        Jeep and Chrysler are consistently at the bottom of almost every survey done regarding reliability. And it’s been that way for decades.

        I know everyone likes to believe all sorts of ridiculous conspiracy theories why their brand has a poor reputation, but even the the Chrysler/Fiat CEO has said they have really quality problems and need to do better.

        http://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/chrysler/2014/10/30/fiat-chrysler-consumer-reports-betts-marchionne/18176163/

  • avatar
    Stanley Steamer

    See I would have resolved the problem by buying the harness and installing it myself. But I can see the error of my obsolete old-fashioned ways, what with being able to push a few buttons and whine on the internet and all.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      That would be my fix too and I’m not old fashioned. However the procedure outlined on FCA website around 88 steps long and requires their special computer to update some software. Estimated time is nearly 4 shop hours! Honestly I think some glue would fix it. FCA documentation also notes that they think this will only effect 5% of vehicles.

      https://chrysler.oemdtc.com/144/s55-transmission-may-shift-unexpectedly-to-neutral-2014-2015-jeep-cherokee-2015-chrysler-200-jeep-renegade-ram-promaster

      • 0 avatar
        Compaq Deskpro

        Hopefully it’s for redundancy, changing the behavior so even if the wire does wiggle the computer won’t put the trans in a “I’m confused” state.

        • 0 avatar
          Flipper35

          In the old days they used to stay in 2nd gear, but that is when they only had a few to choose from and you could limp home in 2nd. In a nine speed they may have to choose 4th.

  • avatar

    When Aston Martin’s single biggest customer was the Sultan of Brunai, the company had a mechanic on call for him 24/7/365. They once flew out a mechanic with his big rolling toolchest all the way to Brunai, only to find out that the car that stopped working was simply out of fuel, ironic in light of how the Sultan’s wealth is based on petroleum.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    This whole thing sounds rather goofy. Iqaluit is extremely isolated and, from what I can gather, there’s not a whole lot of commercial businesses, much less ‘any’ new car dealers. With a population around 7,700 (and I don’t think the annual income is all that high), it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

    So, as others have wondered, what, exactly, are most of the people in Iqaluit driving? I’d say mostly snowmobiles (there is a snowmobile dealer) and sled dogs. And this guy did buy the Cherokee second hand. I’d say he’s quite lucky that FCA is accommodating him in the way they are. Frankly, I can’t say I’d have blamed them if they told him to take a flying leap.

    As evidence of the isolation of this place, it appears that only this week Iqaluit got their first liquor store, which sold a full 10% of their yearly inventory in just four days. As one might expect, 60% of that was beer.

  • avatar
    tekdemon

    I don’t get it…if you’re going to live in the middle of nowhere why the hell would you purchase an FCA product then whine about it?! If you went to Antarctica with it nobody will come fix your car for you just because it’s in the middle of nowhere.
    If you wanna live in the middle of nowhere you either need to have the know how to do field repairs yourself, drive something they have support for, or buy a damned Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @tekdemon…For the most part I agree with your comment. However, a ” Land Cruiser ? If it the Land Cruiser breaks your in the same position as Mr Fawcett.

    I would guess that Mr Fawcett is a transplanted southern boy..No doubt doing something professional for big bucks…

    Most southerners choosing to work up there do it for the money…Day to day living is horrendously expensive. However a careful planner can save some cash, and then move back south.

    Buying an expensive vehicle, with no local support is not “careful planning”. The climate is too cold for the use off rust creating concoctions on the roads. For that matter, what roads ? ..A ten year old vehicle up there may have 10,000 miles on the odometer . There is simply no place to go.

    Where it I in that position ? I would buy a reliable Ford or Chevy truck, and sell it when I left .

    That all being said.. While I’m a proud Canadian, winters are harsh enough here in the G.T.A..I avoid pointing my car north anywhere from Halloween to Easter.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      ^This. A transplant and his young family lured to a desolate area by a high-paying job, only to find out that living expenses quickly ate up most of his big salary. Then, he wasn’t bright enough to buy a vehicle that could be repaired when it encountered a catastrophic issue so went whining to his Twitter account.

      My guess would be that the locals are getting quite the laugh at this goofball. He’s also probably managed to get into a situation (signed a contract) where he can’t extract himself easily to move back to civilization (and near an FCA dealer).

      Personally, I still think FCA should charge him for sending a mechanic with the part to install. It would cost him something, but nowhere near what it would have to ship his car to Ottawa for the recall repair.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        Yup…I know of at least two teachers, that signed one of those lucrative contracts. You either suck it up and honour your legal obligations and then bail.. Or your love it, and spend the rest of your life there.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      The Land Cruiser is like a piece of industrial equipment. It will last a long time, but it must be maintained. Some of that maintenance is intensive and if you don’t have dealer support you are on the hook for it. If you have the means, great. If you skip it though beware, it will bite you. Go buy one that the previous owner skimped on if you don’t believe me.

  • avatar
    redapple

    So. Let me get this down. I m a little slow.

    If I buy a new car and move to Mars. It’s (let say Honda) their responsibility to get to Mars to fix it?

    Really?

    NO F ING WAY ! You get it to the dealer.

    When did our thinking get so sloppy.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Gotta love how, because of where this fool chose to live, it’s being painted by TTAC and the fool himself as a Chrysler problem.

  • avatar
    geo

    It seems modern cars are being designed to be in close proximity with a dealer and to render traditional mechanic shops obsolete.

    This doesn’t only involve recalls or modular parts. What happens, for example, when the water pump dies on a Ford 3.5 and you have no access to a dealer? Or your PowerShift is rendering your new Focus undriveable? Only a dealer would have the expertise or tools to deal with this.

    The more reliable cars get the more unfixable they become.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Sure when they are brand new the only people with the special tools will be the dealer but give it a year or two so they are out of warranty and the independent shops will get the tools if there is enough demand. For the 3.5 water pump there are no special tools that I’m aware of and for the power shift it is just an alignment tool for the discs, not that far removed from the alignment tools that are included in the better quality clutch kits.

      So no cars are not getting more unfixable.

  • avatar
    mikey

    @.geo…True dat…i’ve been researching the mysteries of my EB Mustang. I think Ive grasped the concept of direct fuel injection, and little bit of Turbo technology.

    As an old school, former back yard wrencher, I have a tough time figuring out how 140 Cu.In. can deliver that much power.

    Maybe when I’m out of warranty the independent shops will catch up? For now, nobody but a Ford dealer/tech will touch it.

  • avatar
    dmoan

    I have a 2016 Cherokee it is pretty much a lemon and FCA is fighting at every step; no real game plan on to fix issues, stalling when I submit compandnts.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I don’t see why Chrysler couldn’t just send a wiring harness and instructions to the local mechanic. How hard can it be? But good on them for stepping up, even if it took a bit of Twittering.

    I see recalls as a good thing. In days past, automakers just swept this sort of thing under the rug unless it grew to the proportions of the Pinto or some such. I don’t think cars are worse, I think the automakers just have their feet held to the fire a LOT more.

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