Jeep Wrangler Automatic Transmission Shifting Problems

There have been some customers that have experienced delayed shifting or shifting complications with their Jeep Wranglers. These occurrences are frustrating, but they may not be as serious as you might believe they are.

How long should a Jeep Wrangler Transmission last?

Normally the transmission on a Jeep Wrangler has a live expectancy of 120,000 to 180,000 miles. 

Jeep Wrangler Transmission Problem

The main problems with the Jeep Wrangler not shifting properly have been seen in the 42RE and the 42RE four-speed transmissions. The reviews from customers say that they had no warning and no indicator light illuminated on the dash panel.

What is Causing Jeep Wrangler Automatic Transmission Problems

A hand holding Jeep Automatic gear

There are actually a lot of reasons these problems could be occurring. The first thing to check if you have experienced this issue is the transmission fluid levels. Low levels of transmission fluid can cause a delay in shifting.

Service specialists recommend that you have the transmission fluid and filter in your Jeep Wrangler changed every 30,000 to 60,000 miles. If you do a lot of off-road or adventure driving, or if you tow a trailer on a regular basis then make certain you do your transmission service every 30,000 miles.

Another big reason why these delays happen is a transmission filter that is dirty. 

A pressure solenoid that has become stuck or is worn out will prevent the vehicle from having the accurate fluid pressure and that can cause shifting delays.

Wiring and sensor failure are other possible reasons why your transmission may be having shifting problems. To check for wiring or sensor failure the vehicle will need to be put on a code checking system to run for possible code malfunctions.

You can purchase an OBD code reader and test for transmissions codes at home, or you can take the vehicle to the dealership, or possibly an auto supply service store to have it ran for code malfunctions.

If you drive off-road and have been fording water there is a possibility you could have damaged your transmission. The normal Jeep Wrangler is supposed to be capable of fording water at depths of 19”. If you go through waters that are deeper than 19” then there is a chance you will do damage or that you will void your warranty.

How to Fix Jeep Wrangler Transmission Issues

A men is driving Jeep on a free road

Checking the fluid level and the condition of the transmission filter is the first thing you should do. Be sure that you look at your owner’s manual to determine the exact transmission fluid and filter your transmission uses.

Common Signs of Low Fluid Include:

  • The transmission may seem to occasionally get a surge of power
  • The transmission may shift gears erratically
  • The gears may slip
  • There may be a delay in the response time when you shift gears
  • Your transmission may overheat

Checking Your Fluid Level

  • Park the vehicle in the most level spot you can find. Do not park on a sloping driveway.
  • Make sure the vehicle is in the park and then set your parking brake.
  • Open the hood of the vehicle by pulling the hood release.
  • Locate the dipstick for the transmission fluid. Pull the dipstick out of the holder and using a clean cloth wipe any residue off of the stick.
  • Put the dipstick back into the holder and make sure it goes completely into the holder.
  • Remove the dipstick again and look at the level of fluid on the stick to determine if your transmission fluid is low. If the level is between the minimum and maximum indicator line the fluid level is appropriate. If the level is at the minimum level or lowers you need to add fluid.
  • If needed add fluid to the vehicle. You want to add no more than one quart at a time because it is just as bad, if not worse, to have too much fluid than it is to have too little.
  • Crank the vehicle and drive it around for about 20 minutes making sure to select all of your gears manually so the transmission goes through each gear.
  • Repeat the checking procedure to make certain your level is now between minimum and maximum.

Check the Shift Linkage

Before you panic and give up completely on your transmission you should check the shift linkage to determine if it is loose. This does happen, and if you do off-road or adventure driving it is even a greater possibility that this has occurred.

Raise the vehicle using a jack or lift. If you use a jack, make sure you check the wheels and place the vehicle on jack stands before you crawl under the vehicle. The jack stand will ensure that the vehicle does not fall while you are under it.

Look for the shift linkage and where it connects. If the linkage has any give or play in it then you will need to tighten it back up. The most common problem with a linkage like this is a loose connection.

Signs of Possible Severe Problems

antennax off road antenna in jeep rubicon

There are a few signs that will indicate that the transmission in your vehicle is having severe issues. When you have a vehicle that is showing symptoms of a severe transmission issue take it to a licensed mechanic or repair facility to be assessed.

Warning Signs

  • When going up an incline the Wrangler will struggle to climb the hill.
  • Visible smoke or the acrid smell of something burning are serious signs.
  • Puddles of transmission fluid in the area where the Jeep Wrangler was parked.
  • The sound of grinding when the gears are shifting.
  • Violent or jerky shifts

Warranty Issues

If the Jeep you are driving is still under the manufacturer warranty, then do not do any of the repair work yourself. Take the vehicle to the dealer where you purchased it and schedule a time for them to assess the possible problems.

If you remove anything or do any work yourself you can void your manufacturer warranty. The majority of issues that you might have with a Jeep that is still under warranty can be handled quickly with very little time or expense on your part.

You may have to prove that you have been doing proper maintenance on the transmission so it is recommended that you always take the vehicle to a reputable Jeep certified transmission place to get your fluids changed or filters changed. Then you will have documented proof of the maintenance schedule you have adhered to.

Check for Recalls

You will want to make sure that there have been no recalls on the make and model of Jeep that you have you can contact your dealer. They can answer all recall questions.

The manufacturer normally sends out a recall card to anyone who owns a vehicle that has a recall. If you have received such a card you should call your dealership immediately to schedule to have any repairs or checks done to your vehicle.

Final Word

The transmission problems with a vehicle may be due to poor maintenance, and they can be due to a fault in the equipment. The only true way to determine the exact nature of the fault is to take it to a mechanic that specializes in Jeep transmissions.

About Brendan Burnett

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