Jeep Grand Cherokee - Intermittently Won't Start

Hello! I have had a problem with my Jeep for several years, and I thought my puzzler might be a good contender for your show. I own a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and I have had intermittent starting problems for the past several years. Every once in a while, I get in my car and it just doesn’t start. It was very infrequent for 2-3 years, but recently it’s been happening a few times per month. I’ve been to dealerships and many mechanics and no one has been able to figure it out. I have noticed that it happens more often than not when I’ve parked with my wheels turned to the right, so I thought it might have to do with the steering column – however, sometimes it won’t start and then a few hours later it magically will. Often, I can get it to start by putting it in neutral and having someone push it back and forth a few times and then starting. I have had the key replaced, so I know it’s not that. My most recent diagnosis by a mechanic is that it’s a transmission issue – but this would be $800 to fix and the mechanic said it’s not 100%. What should I do!?

Automatic or manual?

Automatic. It’s not like it’s a problem with the engine not turning over – sometimes I just turn the key, and literally no sound/nothing happens. And then I could come back 2 hours later, and it starts perfectly.

Sounds like the starter or starter relay is becoming heat sensitive.
However, exactly what did your mechabic say? Neutral safety switch? If he did his troubleshooting right, he dhouls knwo.

The mechanic said something about the transmission range sensor needing to be replaced (which I think is the same thing as neutral safety switch?) I’m just concerned because his troubleshooting was more of a process of elimination based on what past mechanics have said and observed. I haven’t been able to get it to not start while at the mechanic, so the diagnosis isn’t 100% and he said that he can’t be completely sure that’s what it is. Heat sensitivity is an interesting thought. I’m just concerned because I am moving long-distance in about a week, and I need my car to be reliable - but I also don’t have $800 lying around for a solution to what may not be the problem!

Can you read a meter?
If the symptom is that the starter doesn’t turn the motor over, check when it’s acting up to see if there’s voltage to the starter when the key is in START. If there is, it’s the starter assembly.

If the symptom is that the starter turns the engine crankshaft but the cylinders don’t fire, than something in the spark circuitry is malfunctioning. I’m going to suggest an igniter or a crank sesnor, but I don’t know Jeeps so it’s a wild guess.

A $20 repair manual from the parts store should be a huge help.

Other thoughts are that a AutoZone may download any stored codes if there are any for free.

And then there’s the battery cables…both ends. Any corrosion? Good solid connections?

1 Like

Could well be the neutral safety switch. Try shifting to N from P a few times before starting.

More than likely the problem is with the transmission range switch. This is a multifunction switch. It tells the computer what gear the transmission is in, it turns on the back-up lights, and it prevents the starter from operating unless the transmission is in park or neutral.

As mentioned, the next time the engine won’t start leave the ignition switch on so the dash lights are on. Step on the brake pedal and shift the transmission into neutral and then try starting the engine. If the engine starts then the problem is with the transmission range switch.


Thanks for all the suggestions! @Tester, I tried the neutral starting and it worked. I decided to give it a go and have the mechanic replace the neutral safety switch.

Did you have any more problems with the intermittent starting problem? I’m having the same problem with my Jeep Cherokee and it’s leaving me awkwardly stranded in the darnest places.

Suggest you post this problem as a new topic, you’ll likely get more ideas that way.

Unbelievable fix. $3000 of work on nothing that was actually wrong. Just today turned the ignition switch half way to on. Waited a second then turned it all the way and now works every time. Craziness. I have been having this same problem for the last year and a half. It won’t start out of nowhere. Jump doesn’t work. $3000 later had new battery. Worked for a month. Same problem. New starter. Worked for a few months. Same problem. New starter relay fuse. Worked again. Stopped starting a few months later. They then replaced the ignition block and switch. Next day wouldn’t start. Repair guy came to the parking lot and I did a normal turn. He accidentally turned it the new way and now it works every time. I am so mad they fixed $3000 grand in repairs that weren’t actually broken.

Kyle P. What do you mean by half way on? Is it in the battery mode or when the “ding ding” sound start or end I have the same problem.
Waiting for at least two dings, without touching the gas pedal, sometimes work. However has not proved to be reliable.

I have the same intermittent starting problem, but mine won’t start in neutral either. If I wait a while then it starts right up. Clueless as to what to check, or what it could be. Any help pointing me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance

An immediate fix…take out the starter relay in the fuse box in your engine compartment and jump the the two terminals on the right…the two that are vertical…not any of the 3 horizontal knes… it will make sense when you see it LOL. I am having this issue as well. I thought it was the starter relay, but I replaced it and I am still having the same problem. I dont think it’s the neutral safety switch…putting it in neutral doesnt help. The starter, alternator, and battery are new. I do have other electrical issues…for instance, my horn doesnt work, but when this issue hapoens… the girn wirks… go figure lol. I am at a loss. I am about ready to just run some wires to a switch in the cab to start it. This Jeep is turning into a money pit.

Probably your CPS (Crankshaft Position Sensor.) They go bad on Jeeps. Intermittent starting, sometimes takes 20-100(+) tries to turn key and get it to crank. If I was in a hurry or had a passenger, it seemed to know and would take 5+ minutes turning key before it would crank and start! I joked it gave me ‘car-ple tunnel!’ People will swear it won’t start, but suddenly, it starts right up and drives fine. Other times, it would start normally with first turn of key! My Jeep would sometimes lose power while accelerating. I would pull over, turn key off and restart it and it would drive fine. When my Jeep would lose power while driving, if I didn’t pull over immediately, it would start smelling like burning wiring! I also noticed Jeep would ‘miss’ and my mileage was terrible! *If you drop your starter, you’ll have easy access to change the CPS. Otherwise, it’s a bear to access and you will need super long extension ratchets and several beers! Good Luck!

2020 jeep grand Cherokee 1400 miles intermittent start up. It happens at least onces or twice a week. Afraid that it will leave me stranded. Any suggestions?

Yes , use your warranty and don’t do anything yourself or have another shop mess with it. That might void your warranty. If your dealer can’t solve it the manual has contact numbers for corporate help.

Can you tell me if you got this fixed? I picked up my Jeep Grand Cherokee today and this happened. It’s the weekend and I can’t call til Monday so I was wondering if it worked out for you. Thanks.

Had a friend that went through that with her 2018, dealership after a year of troubles gave her a 2019.