We Broke Our Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk Off-Roading, and It Cost $7,000 to Fix

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 02 service bay scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk | photo by Mike Hanley

One thing we wanted to do when we purchased our Best SUV of 2023, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, was to put its Trail Rated off-road capability to the test as an owner might. We had that opportunity early in our vehicle ownership when we attended a Jeep Jamboree event at the Badlands Off Road Park in Attica, Ind., which is just a two-and-a-half-hour drive from’s Chicago headquarters. We also brought a Jeep Wrangler 4xe to see how the two off-road-capable vehicles tackled the various terrain.

Related: 2023 Jeep Wrangler 4xe Rubicon Vs. 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk: Which Wheels Better?

At the event, we joined the entry-level run group, which numbered around 10 Jeeps including our trail guide, but the trails we took still had their share of challenging terrain and obstacles. After two days of off-roading, we left the event impressed by our Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk’s performance. While it wasn’t able to do everything the Wrangler 4xe Rubicon could, it conquered many of the same off-road challenges, and we found that pretty impressive for an SUV that offers luxury levels of driving refinement and interior quality. The Grand Cherokee 4xe picked up some scratches, scuffs and a dent in its lower front bumper during our off-road adventure, but it otherwise appeared fine afterward, and our staff drove home to Chicago with no other issues.

Little did we know the repair saga that lay ahead of us.

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More (Damage) Than Meets the Eye

It all started when a steering system warning appeared in the instrument cluster on the Fourth of July, 2023. We were about a month removed from the Jeep Jamboree at that point, and Chicago had recently been drenched in heavy rains, so we initially wondered if it was a result of that deluge. The Jeep still drove fine, so we brought it to a nearby dealer for their assessment. What we got back was a whole lot more than we bargained for — to the tune of nearly $10,000 before taxes.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 03 interior instrument panel scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk | photo by Mike Hanley

The dealer said the bumper cover, steering rack and axle-beam front crossmember all needed to be replaced at a cost of $1,872.11, $4,059.93 and $3,651.90, respectively. The dealer also said a four-wheel alignment would be needed, which added $139.95 to the estimate. While we already knew the front bumper cover was a bit banged up from the Jamboree, we were surprised the dealer recommended replacing the steering rack and crossmember. We asked if we could come to the dealer and take a look at things ourselves, and they were happy to accommodate us.

With the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk on a lift, we were able to see the true extent of its off-roading scars. There were extensive scrapes on the underside of the Jeep — some on steel skid plates that did their jobs, others on aluminum pieces looking a little worse for wear — but the damage we were most concerned about was to the aluminum front crossmember the dealer had mentioned in its repair estimate: There was a visible crack in one of its welds.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 06 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 05 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 08 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 07 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 06 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 05 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 08 undercarraige scaled jpg jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 07 undercarraige scaled jpg

The Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk has steel skid plates in front of and behind this area of the front crossmember, but they didn’t protect this portion of it; you can see in the photo below how the crossmember has been deformed slightly. The service technician also said there were two diagnostic trouble codes present: P29BB-00 for coolant heater performance and C1593-00 for steering-torque-sensing circuit.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 04 undercarraige scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk front crossmember | photo by Mike Hanley

The near-$10,000 repair estimate seemed like a lot to us, so we paid the dealer a $199 diagnostic fee (essentially one hour of labor) and decided to get a second opinion from another dealership. The initial estimate from the second dealer was as surprising as the one from the first — but because it was as low as the first one was high.

The Second Opinion

When scheduling our appointment at the second dealership, we asked for an estimate to fix the dented lower front bumper and to address the steering system warning in the instrument panel. On Aug. 3, our service advisor called back and said they could pop out the bumper for us, and that the steering system warning was due to a frayed wire they’d repair for us. They also performed a recall related to the Jeep’s integrated charging module and ordered a front-passenger side window to address a snowflake pattern identified in a technical service bulletin that had appeared on it. Total cost for this service: $50.

It’s worth noting this dealership knew the Jeep was owned by at this point. Whether from our license plate, the Jeep’s vehicle identification number or something else, the service advisor knew immediately who owned the Grand Cherokee 4xe when it was entered in the dealer’s computer system. We normally don’t divulge who owns the car to avoid the possibility of special treatment, but it wasn’t an option this time.

The second dealer didn’t notice the crack in the crossmember weld, and when we brought it to their attention, they initially referred us to a body shop — which then referred us back to the dealer because they weren’t equipped to handle a repair like this. Once that was sorted out, the dealership gave us an estimate for the remaining issues, which totaled $7,270.76 — $6,215 for the front crossmember, $191 for the front bumper cover, $649 for a radiator support frame and $215.76 in taxes.

We were initially confused why their estimate for repairing the front crossmember was so much more than the first dealer’s, but they explained that the first dealer hadn’t included the cost of replacing the radiator support panel. The panel was bent, too, and replacing it is a labor-intensive job like the front crossmember replacement. The dealer had rolled the labor cost for all of the work — 22 hours’ worth — into the $6,215 crossmember estimate. After some parts delays due to the fall United Auto Workers strikes, we got our repaired Jeep back on Dec. 13, 2023, after paying a final bill of $7,068.10 — a bit lower than the estimate, but a still not-small chunk of change.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 11 undercarraige scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk radiator support frame | photo by Mike Hanley

We were glad to have our Jeep back after being without it for five months while we figured out the appropriate repair route and then had the repairs performed, but we weren’t finished yet.

Even More Damage

Shortly after getting the Grand Cherokee 4xe back, one of our editors noticed it wasn’t tracking straight at highway speeds, so we brought it back to the dealership. The service department said the camber was off and a control-arm bushing was cracked. They later said the bushings were torn and one of the front lower control arms was actually bent. We can only surmise this damage also happened at the Jamboree even though no drivability issues were reported on the drive home from the event.

The dealer replaced both front lower control arms as a courtesy since they said these issues should have been identified when the Jeep was first in for repairs. Our service advisor said the out-of-pocket cost for this additional work, had we had to pay for it, would have been an extra $2,500. While they were at it, the dealer took care of a recall related to the backup camera and replaced the winter-themed front-passenger window we had brought to their attention earlier on.

What About New-Vehicle Warranty and Insurance Coverage?

Vehicle warranties have a lot of fine print that’s important to understand — and can mean the difference between something being covered and you paying for it yourself. When it came to our Jeep’s damage, the warranty booklet made it fairly clear: Jeep wasn’t responsible.

“Your warranties do not cover conditions resulting from anything impacting the vehicle,” according to the Incidental and Consequential Damages Not Covered section of the booklet. “This includes cracks and chips in glass, scratches and chips in painted surfaces, or damage from collision.”

We did pursue a claim with our insurance company for the damage but had no luck on that front. Our provider denied our claim since the damage happened at what it considered a “competition” event. It seems like a stretch to us to categorize a Jeep Jamboree this way; the only competition is between you and the obstacles you’re attempting to traverse along the trail, but apparently, that’s enough. If you plan on off-roading and are looking for some extra peace of mind, you should consider purchasing an off-road insurance policy.

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What Does Jeep Say About All of This?

We were a little shocked, to say the least, that our Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk sustained this much damage on the entry-level trails at the Badlands Jeep Jamboree — especially since the brand touts that the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk crossed the Rubicon Trail. So we sent Jeep photos of the damaged front crossmember for its assessment. This is part of what a Jeep spokesperson said in an emailed reply:

“The damage shown here is not indicative of what we’ve experienced over thousands of miles of off-road testing. We can only conclude this damage is the result of a unique event that included a significant strike. Jeep Jamboree USA has no recollection of a significant strike of this magnitude during’s guided drive at the Attica, Ind., off-road park.”

We can’t say for sure what caused the front crossmember damage, but the most likely culprit was the obstacle the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk struggled with most: a slippery climb up into a tunnel that the Jeep wasn’t able to complete after multiple attempts.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 44 exterior offroad rear angle scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk | photo by Corey Watts

Would We Off-Road With the Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk Again?

We’d have to think long and hard before attempting even moderately challenging off-road terrain in the future, and we’d definitely get off-road insurance coverage if we did. While our editors were impressed with the Jeep’s off-road capability at the Jeep Jamboree and especially liked its ability to silently travel through the woods on electric power alone, our after-the-fact repair odyssey adds a big asterisk to our initial impressions. Aaron Bragman,’s Detroit Bureau Chief and one of the staffers who attended the Jeep Jamboree, said it well: The Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk can go off-road, it just might not survive going off-road unscathed.

We have the bill to prove it.

jeep grand cherokee trailhawk 4xe 2023 01 exterior front angle winter scaled jpg 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Trailhawk | photo by Christian Lantry’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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Mike Hanley has more than 20 years of experience reporting on the auto industry. His primary focus is new vehicles, and he's currently a Senior Road Test Editor overseeing expert car reviews and comparison tests. He previously managed Editorial content in the Research section. Email Mike Hanley

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