8 Reasons Why Jeep Cherokees Overheat


Why Do Jeep Cherokees Overheat?

For many decades we have adored our Jeeps. The Cherokees are one of the original SUVs to hit the market. They’re roomy, comfortable, useful – and long-lasting.

But, while they may run for well over 100,000 miles, that does not mean that you won’t have problems throughout the life of the vehicle. One major complaint of the Cherokee is that they have a nasty habit of overheating. 

Why Do Jeep Cherokees Overheat?

Why Do Jeep Cherokees Overheat? The top 9 reasons for a Jeep Cherokee overheating are:

  1. Thermostat
  2. Coolant leak/no coolant
  3. Radiator
  4. Hoses and belts
  5. Oil change
  6. Fuses 
  7. Water pump
  8. Catalytic converter
  9. Head gasket

They, like the other Jeep models, can be driven far into the high mileage category. Why is your Cherokee such a hot head?

Let’s take a look at the leading causes of overheating.

The Diagnosis

Are you handy under the hood? As with most things, it probably will be cheaper if you are able to fix your vehicle yourself. Most times, the labor can be more expensive than the parts themselves.

Pay yourself the $75 an hour and roll up your sleeves because most of the following parts can be replaced or repaired by the eager and willing.

1. Thermostat 

Mention to any wise mechanic that you are having some overheating issues with your Jeep Cherokee, and their first response will most likely be to check the thermostat. A thermostat regulates how much coolant the radiator is receiving as the vehicle’s temperature rises.

A common problem with thermostats is that they can get stuck. When a thermostat is stuck, the valve is either continuously closed or open. In either case, it needs to be replaced immediately. 

When the thermostat is stuck open, the vehicle will be getting too much coolant. On the other hand, if it is stuck in the closed position, the radiator will not be getting any coolant at all.

If you do end up replacing the thermostat, make sure the new part is an exact match to your make and model of Cherokee. Installing a thermostat made for a different vehicle could cause major damages, as each one is calibrated for a specific automobile.

2. Coolant Leaks 

We know that coolant is the fluid that flows through the radiator and reduces the temperature. In a healthy functioning vehicle, the coolant would dramatically help to prevent the vehicle from overheating.

First of all, before we go on a mission to find leaks – have you topped off your coolant/antifreeze lately?

Though it may be a common routine maintenance item, not everyone regularly checks their coolant. 

If the reservoir is empty or very low, you might just need to take a trip to the local parts store and pick up a gallon of high-quality coolant to fix your problem. Wouldn’t that be great?

Great that you caught it before it did major damage. It is not recommended to run a vehicle without coolant because many other costly parts of the engine could fail.

Not everyone is that lucky, though. The cause of an empty coolant reservoir can mean leaks. The most obvious leak would be in the reservoir itself. They are made of plastic that can corrode or crack over time.

3. Radiator 

An overheating vehicle often has a root cause of issues with the radiator. Thankfully, most of the time, you only need to replace parts of the radiator and not the entire thing.

It could possibly just be an internal clog or external blockage with debris in the fins of the radiator.

Radiator fans can go bad over time, causing the vehicle to overheat due to no cooling coming from a bad fan. Or, you may just have to check the fan’s fuse to fix the problem.

Could your overheating problem be solved with a simple fuse replacement? Possibly.

The Cherokees that have a fuse powered fan to cool off the motor will overheat if the fuse blows the fan will not kick on and do its job to bring down the temperature of the motor.

If there is a leaky radiator issue, you could remedy this with a stop-leak fluid product. There could also be a leak in the hose. Thankfully hoses are often simple to replace and quite affordable.

If it comes down to a total replacement, don’t delay making an appointment with your mechanic. Continuing to drive a vehicle with a bad radiator risks causing bigger damage.

4. Belts and Hoses

There are several belts that may cause overheating just by being loose or worn out. Similarly, hoses can deteriorate or become loose.

Belts like the serpentine belt may wear out. When it wears out, your water pump will not be able to do its job if water cannot be pumped in to cool the engine and radiator.

Hoses such as the radiator hose can become loose, in which case you will only need to tighten or replace the clamp. If the hose is old and worn out, it shouldn’t be an expensive repair.

5. Oil

If you are dedicated to your regular oil changes, you may not need to worry about this step. But if you have been neglecting getting/giving a proper oil change for quite some time, especially if you have been driving the vehicle while it is overheating.

An oil change could be just the thing your Cherokee needs to chill out. Draining old oil, and refilling it with fresh oil, plus changing the oil filter will make it run better. But if the oil level is too low, you will definitely experience overheating.

6. Water Pump

Your water pump is like the heart of your vehicle because it pumps coolant through the motor, through the veins of your vehicle(hoses), and to the radiator. It is a belt-driven part, so checking your belts at this time is a good idea, too.

  • High pitched whining noises.
  • Coolant leaking.
  • Steam coming from under the hood (radiator.)

When replacing your water pump, it is also a good idea to flush and refill your coolant. A gallon of coolant is cheap, so starting fresh won’t cost you a ton. But it will help to boost the vehicle’s performance after an episode of overheating. Replacing a water pump is often a few hundred dollars, and unfortunately is not a job for most of us home mechanics.

7. Head Gasket

Fortunately (and unfortunately?), a blown head gasket can be painfully obvious. And the signs can be hard to miss. Things to look for that point to this costly repair: 

  • Possible engine knocking sound
  • Excessive white smoke coming from the exhaust pipe
  • Coolant leaks from the exhaust gasket, or constant  low coolant levels with no leaking
  • Overheating under the hood 

Use extreme caution when opening the hood of an overheating car. Wear all the protective gear to avoid getting steam burns or hot fluid burns, plus gloves for hot surfaces.

It’s best to let the vehicle cool down for at least an hour before working on it, when possible.

8. Catalytic Converter 

Why Do Jeep Cherokees Overheat?

We saved the most expensive fix for last. Unfortunately replacing a catalytic converter is not a job for most weekend warrior mechanics. This repair can cost several thousand dollars.

For some, it can be a repair they are not willing to get done. Especially for older Cherokees that may not be worth that much to them.

If you’ve gone through the list and have not yet fixed the overheating issue it is time to get the catalytic converter looked at by a professional. What are the signs of a bad catalytic converter?

  • Dark smoke coming from the exhaust pipe.
  • A strong sulfur like smell.
  • Overheating under the hood.
  • Loss of power during acceleration.

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Kern Campbell

I've had a passion for four-wheel-drive vehicles since I was a kid riding in the back seat of my Grandfather's Jeep Grand Wagoneer. I have owned a lot of vehicles over the years. They each have their pros and cons and I look forward to sharing my knowledge with you so you can find the vehicle that's just right for your needs.

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