When your Jeep Cherokee won’t start, figuring out why can feel overwhelming. This is especially true when you notice that it has power but still won’t start. While several things can cause this problem, many possible problems have distinct symptoms that can help you pinpoint why your Cherokee won’t start even though it has power.
If your Jeep Cherokee won’t start but has power, it’s most likely a bad starter, battery, or alternator. However, it could also be because one of the spark plugs is not firing, you have a bad start solenoid or relay, or the fuel pump is bad. It’s also common to run into a faulty ignition switch with the Jeep Cherokee.
Below you will find a thorough explanation of what could be causing your Jeep Cherokee not to start even though it has power. This information will help you narrow down the possible problems that you could have with your Cherokee. In addition, we will cover some of the most common Jeep Cherokee Problems.
Reasons Your Jeep Has Power but Won’t Start
If your Jeep has power, but the engine will not start, several things could be the cause. The most common causes of this problem are a weak battery or a bad starter. However, there are many other things it could be.
Spark Plug Issues
One thing that could prevent your Jeep Cherokee from starting is faulty spark plugs.
When you start your vehicle, the spark plugs are responsible for sending the required energy from the battery to the engine. Therefore, if one or more of the spark plugs is not firing, the engine may not be getting the power needed to ignite.
In most cases, a bad spark plug will trigger the check engine light. So, if your check engine light is on, you can use an OBD2 scanner to read the code.
If one of the spark plugs is bad, changing it will fix the problem. However, remember that if you change one, it’s best to replace all of them.
Starter and Alternator Issues
Starter and Altenator issues can also cause your Cherokee not to start. Both are essential to starting the engine, so if either one is going bad, it’s likely the issue.
If the starter is going bad, you may notice a clicking, whining, or grinding sound when you try to start the car. You may also see smoke coming from under the hood, which is a prominent sign of a bad starter.
The issue could be a bad alternator if you’ve experienced dim headlights or your battery dying frequently. In most cases, the battery light will be on if the alternator is going bad.
Starter Solenoid is Bad
Like the starter, a bad starter solenoid can also cause a clicking sound when you try to start your Jeep. This solenoid activates the starter motor, so it could also be the culprit if you seem to have a starter issue.
If the starter solenoid is the cause, you may notice that your Jeep will start sometimes but not others. However, the most distinct symptom is if the starter does not disengage when you release the key.
Issues with the starter solenoid can sometimes result from a bad fuse, which is much less expensive to replace than the solenoid.
Corroded Battery Terminal
Another simple issue that can prevent your Cherokee from starting is corroded battery terminals. If there is a decent amount of corrosion on the terminals, it can cause problems with the battery connection.
Simply clean the battery terminals with terminal cleaner and a stiff brush to fix this. If you don’t have terminal cleaner, you can use Coke as an alternative.
Bad Fuel Pump
If the fuel pump is bad, you may also have problems getting your vehicle to start. For the engine to ignite, the fuel pump must send enough gasoline to the engine.
When the fuel pump isn’t working correctly, the car will not start because it’s not getting enough fuel to ignite.
Bad Oxygen Sensor
If the fuel pump is working well, it could be that the engine is receiving a bad reading from the oxygen sensor. This sensor detects the fuel-air ratio so the engine can adjust as needed.
If the oxygen sensor goes bad, it may send false readings to the engine that keep it from starting.
A more common reason that the engine may not turn over is a bad battery. Without a sufficient supply of energy from the battery, the engine will not be able to ignite.
It’s also important to note that you shouldn’t rule the battery out if the lights, radio, and other electrical features are working. This is because starting the engine requires a much larger amount of charge than it takes to power these smaller things.
If your battery is bad, it can cause a number of issues, including:
- The car not starting
- A clicking noise when trying to start the car
- The engine is hesitant to start
- Dim or flickering lights
- Having to pat the gas to make the engine turn over
- Battery light
- Strong sulfur smell
If the battery is the problem, you should check to ensure that the contacts are not loose on the terminals. Additionally, it’s possible that charging the battery with a battery charger or jump-starting the car could resolve the issue.
However, if you find that you have to jumpstart the car frequently, you most likely need to replace the battery. To know for sure, you can test the battery yourself or have it tested.
Inadequate Keyfob Battery
If your Jeep Cherokee is push-to-start, it may fail to start if the keyfob battery is low. This is because vehicles that you start by pressing a button must be able to detect that the keyfob is inside the car before they will start.
On average, keyfob batteries will last between 3 and 4 years. So, it’s been several years since you replaced the battery, and it may be running low.
If the battery is low, your car may not be able to detect that the keyfob is inside the vehicle. You should see the “keyfob not detected” message if this is the case.
The only solution to this issue is to replace the battery. You can generally find a replacement battery for as low as $15.
The good news is, you can still start the car by using the keyfob to press the start button until you can replace it.
Negative Starter Relay
If you’ve checked all the potential causes above and have not found the solution, it may be an issue with the starter relay. The starter relay activates the starter solenoid, which activates the starter motor. So, if the start relay is bad, the starter will not be able to start the engine.
Common Jeep Cherokee Problems
Abnormal Electronic Shifting
One common Jeep Cherokee problem is abnormal shifting. Many Cherokee owners have reported their vehicles stalling suddenly because of the transmission shifting to neutral on its own.
The most common symptoms of this problem include:
- Rough shifting
- Abnormal noises from under the hood
- The car stalls but is still running
- Check engine light comes on
- The vehicle goes into limp mode
This issue is most common in 2014-2017 models. However, some have also experienced this issue in several of the newer models. In most cases, it occurs because of a software error that causes interferes with the control module.
An open recall for 2014 models offers a software update to fix the issue. Unfortunately, owners of other models will have to pay out of pocket to fix the problem. The cost of updating the transmission software ranges from $150 to $500.
It’s also common for the alternator to fail in the Jeep Cherokee. The alternator is responsible for charging the battery when the Jeep is running. When it fails, there are several things that you’ll notice.
Some common signs of a bad alternator include:
- The battery warning light comes on
- The car won’t start (may make a clicking noise)
- Electronics will become glitchy
- Slow engine start
- The vehicle stalls unexpectedly
- Dead battery
When the alternator fails, the electrical system will eventually shut down. However, most vehicles have a power reserve, so the only initial sign may be the battery light on the dash illuminating.
This problem is less common in newer Cherokee models. Instead, it is experienced most in models 2017 and older.
With labor costs included, the average cost to replace the alternator on a Jeep Cherokee is between $100 and $250. The part alone costs around $95.
Faulty Ignition Switch
The Jeep Cherokee also has a common problem with the ignition switch, which can have many of the same symptoms you could experience with a bad alternator.
The ignition switch is usually located just behind the lock cylinder (where you put your key). This is what activates the ignition system and enables the engine to start.
If the ignition switch is bad or going bad, you may notice the following symptoms:
- The battery drains quickly
- The engine will not start
- The vehicle shuts back off soon after you start it
- The vehicle stalls going down the road
- Certain things (like the air conditioner) will not come on
This problem can be difficult to diagnose. Additionally, it is a pretty complex repair. If you think your ignition switch is bad, it’s best to have a professional diagnose and replace the faulty ignition switch.
Stalling of the Engine
All of these common problems, along with others, have made engine stalling a common problem for the Jeep Cherokee as well. However, the fuel system and air intake system are often the cause of this problem in many cases.
Many Jeep Cherokee owners have reported frequent engine stalling. This problem has started at as low as 25,000 miles in some cases.
Because many different things can cause the problem, getting to the bottom of why your engine is stalling can be challenging at times. The most straightforward way to pinpoint the exact cause is by checking for error codes.
You will only be able to check these codes if the check engine light is on. Luckily, a majority of the problems that cause the engine to stall will illuminate the check engine light.
Proper Maintenance Tips
Many problems that Cherokee owners run into can be prevented or detected early if you consistently keep up with the maintenance.
Some of the most essential parts of maintaining your Jeep Cherokee include the following:
- Have the oil changed at the recommended mileage intervals. (Usually every 3,000 miles)
- Regularly check important fluid levels such as the oil, transmission, and brake fluid.
- Change your engine air filter at the intervals recommended by your maintenance schedule.
- Keep an eye on your brake pads to avoid excessive wear that can cause damage to your rotors.
- Check belts and hoses to make sure they are all secure and do not show signs of excessive wear and tear.
- Have your tires rotated regularly.
These things and other essential maintenance have specific mileage intervals for when they need to be done. You can find the specific maintenance schedule relevant to your vehicle in your manual.
How can you tell if your starter is bad or your battery?
You can tell whether the starter or battery is bad by looking for symptoms that are unique to each one. The most common way you can tell the issue is the battery is if the lights and other electronics do not come on. On the other hand, if you hear a whining noise when trying to start the car, it usually means the starter is bad.
Is it possible to jump-start a car with a bad starter?
It is not possible to jump-start a car that has a bad starter. This is because the if the starter motor isn’t working, it will not transfer the power to the engine. However, you may be able to start a car with a bad starter by tapping it with a hammer while someone else starts the car.
What are common problems with Jeep Cherokees?
The most common problems with the Jeep Cherokee are transmission problems, faulty ignition switches, and electrical problems. These problems can cause many complications with your Cherokee, including the engine not starting, the vehicle stalling, and various issues with the lights.
When you first consider the possible causes for why your Jeep Cherokee won’t start, the long list of possibilities can quickly get overwhelming. However, knowing the specific things your combination of symptoms points to can help you narrow it down.
If you haven’t found the solution to your problem, your local Jeep dealership or regular mechanic is a great place to go for help.
I’m William Guzenski, ASE certified master automobile technician & automotive expert. I love to attend race events and car shows throughout the country. I also loves to travel 40-foot motorhome, exploring abandoned mines and ghost towns. I’m currently building another car for Bonneville Salt Flats and will be campaigning a drag car at several events.