Jeep Owners Say A Recall Ruined Their 4WD, Chrysler Says 'Coincidence'

About a year ago, Chrysler issued "Recall N23" to sort a software problem on the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Jeep Commander. But a group of vocal owners claim their SUVs lost low-range as a result of the "fix," and have been battling Chrysler Corporate over it for months.

Chrysler determined that some 2005-2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee and 2006-2010 Jeep Commander SUVs had been randomly shifting into neutral when stopped, causing them to roll away and wreak havoc in parking lots.

Chrysler reported that a total of 295,246 vehicles were affected, and a recall was issued on May 7, 2013.

Recall N23 involved reprogramming the Final Drive Controller Module (FDCM) in affected vehicles with Quadra-Drive II and Quadra-Trac II four-wheel drive systems. Chrysler said that would fix the problem, and it did.

The repair itself seems fairly straight forward: just a few clicks with a keyboard supposedly ensured the transfer case won't drop out of gear on its own.

But some owners who had taken their dealers up on the free N23 "reflash" soon reported a new problem: when they tried to put their Jeeps into low-range gears, nothing happened. The only response drivers got was an ominous "SERVICE 4WD SYSTEM" light.

A lot of those owners are convinced the low-range problem is connected to what Jeep techs did in the N23 repair, so last summer the issue was brought to JeepForum.com. The thread there has since erupted into a 176-page rally point for Grand Cherokee and Commander owners who have fallen victim of the same issue.

The thread is still active, and getting a little vitriolic. People are reporting going to all kinds of drastic measures from refusing the recall to replacing their reflashed FDCMs with pre-recalled ones from junk yards.

So there's obviously a contingent of individuals who are unsatisfied with what Jeep did during the warranty repair and how the company is handling the fallout. A JeepForum survey puts the total number of owners who believe the recall repair wrecked their "4-low" capabilities at "144" as of this writing but complaints have popped up elsewhere as well, like here on Jeep's Facebook page.

When enough people shook their fists at Chrysler, the company looked into the problem and has responded thusly:

"Chrysler Group is assuming the cost of repairs, on a case-by-case basis, for certain customers who observed warning lights in their instrument clusters following completion of a recall-related software update. However, the update has no bearing on the root cause of the warning-light activation.

Chrysler Group engineers developed the software update, which prevents an inadvertent transfer-case shift and also enables diagnosis of a pre-existing electrical fault that was previously undetectable."

That last line is particularly interesting— if the reflash improves the Jeep's self-diagnostic abilities, the warning lights could just be showing up for issues the SUVs had before going in for the N23 recall.

This hasn't satisfied most owners on the forums. People are still reporting long, drawn-out conflicts with service managers, trips back-and-fourth to their dealerships, and general frustration with their Jeeps still being broken after the N23 recall reflash was performed.

As of a few days ago, some have are even started throwing around the idea of getting a class-action lawsuit going against Chrysler over this.

But the company's Engineering & Powertrain Media Relations Manager Eric Mayne is maintaining that negative experiences are not the norm. He says:

"The number of vehicles that have exhibited the electrical fault represents a fraction of the recall population. There is no cause-effect relationship between the issue and the recall remedy. Nevertheless, Chrysler Group takes seriously its commitment to customer service. Accordingly, we are considering reimbursement on a case-by-case basis."

I can only imagine how frustrated I'd be if I got my Jeep back "worse than I'd left it" after getting preventative maintenance done, and the owners making noise over this incident are clearly unsatisfied with how Chrysler is willing to make up for it. But I'm not sure what the Pentastar could really be expected to do besides look at everybody's affected rig on a case-by-case scenario, which they claim to be doing.

I hope people on both sides of the situation will take this opportunity to jump in and lay out their argument, and maybe we can get everyone on the same page.

Image: Robert Brockmann/Flickr