Servicing the 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango

April 7, 2011

Last year, the Chrysler Corporation exhibits at the Detroit Auto Show were just plain sad. There were no new product offerings, and the only “Concept Vehicle” didn’t even have a name. The whole thing reminded me of a funeral. This year’s show could not have been more different. The atmosphere was upbeat and almost every vehicle on display was either all new or significantly updated.

The crown jewel in the Chrysler display was the all new Jeep Grand Cherokee (photo 1) and its sister vehicle the Dodge Durango (photo 2). So far, every review that I’ve seen has had nothing but praise for both vehicles. That’s really not such a surprise since the basic platform that both vehicles ride on is essentially the same platform as the new Mercedes M-Series vehicles. This vehicle was in the “pipeline” before Mercedes and Chrysler separated in 2007 and benefits from the engineering expertise of Mercedes and Chrysler as well as Fiat, the new owner of the Chrysler brand.

I had the one shown in this article for three days and had an absolute ball with it. The only negative impression that I got while driving it was from a very sour looking guy in a tiny “Smart Car” in the other lane at the drive-up teller at my bank. If looks could kill, I wouldn’t be here to write this article. I wonder what he would have thought if he knew that both his vehicle and the one that I was in were engineered by the same company?

“Keyless Go” Ignition

The new Grand Cherokee and Durango both come standard with the new “Keyless Go” system. This system uses a proximity transponder system that allows the user to lock and unlock the doors as well as to start and drive the vehicle without ever having to take the fob out of their pocket or purse.

The heart of the system is a new FOBIK (Photo 3) that is virtually identical visually to the older FOBIK with the exception of this cryptic symbol (Photo 4) on the tip of the device. So far, I have not found out what the symbol stands for other than it is an identifier of a FOBIK with proximity capabilities. Some locksmiths have already started referring to this new FOBIK as a “Type-2” Fobik, but to the best of my knowledge, Chrysler just refers to it as the “Keyless Go” Fobik.

I found the Keyless Go system to be a very clever way of introducing new technology with virtually no learning curve for new users. The system can be used just like the older FOBIK system if the owner chooses, or the owner can choose to use the new features if he or she wants. Even the installation of the pushbutton start is left up to the owner.

When the vehicle is delivered, the pushbutton module for the ignition (Photo 5) is packaged in a plastic bag inside the glove compartment. At the time of delivery, the new owner is supposed to be briefed on its usage so he or she can decide whether to use a pushbutton ignition. The pushbutton module snaps easily into and out of the ignition assembly without the use of any tools other than your fingertips. Photo 6 shows the pushbutton module about to be inserted, and photo 7 shows the dash after the pushbutton has been inserted. Once installed, the user can start and stop the engine by pushing the button as long as a correctly programmed FOBIK is in range of the system. As a safety measure, the user must also have the brake pedal depressed before the vehicle can be started.

If the user chooses not to use the pushbutton, the vehicle is started in the normal fashion by inserting the FOBIK into the socket in the dash and then turning it like a key. Like other FOBIK vehicles, a FOBIK Hybrid key, sometimes known as a “Pod-Key” such as the one shown in photo 8, can be programmed into the vehicle if desired, assuming that you have the proper equipment and software.

Since my vehicle was a rental, it did not have the pushbutton module installed. (It was “hidden” in the spare tire compartment along with the owner’s manual.) I quickly learned that I could press in on the center of the FOBIK socket with my finger to start the car as long as I had the FOBIK in the vehicle and my foot on the brake.   Being a practical joker at heart, I had great fun with my friends with this trick!

As standard equipment, there are only two locks on the entire vehicle - the driver’s side door lock and the glove compartment lock. Some trim packages also include locking compartments in the rear section of the vehicle.

As with a standard FOBIK, an emergency key is hidden inside the FOBIK and this key is intended for use only if the battery has failed. The door lock has seven tumblers in positions 2 – 8. Since there is no ignition lock, cut number one on the key is not used. However, if you get a code for the vehicle, it will include all eight cuts.

Unlocking the Grand Cherokee and Durango

The Grand Cherokee and the Durango both use vertical linkage rods on all doors. The upper end of the linkage on the front door is well shielded, but the lower end is exposed. As you will see shortly, the inner skin of the door is essentially one large molded composite part that holds all of the door mechanisms in place. The upper portion of the inside lock control linkage rod is shielded by this plate, but the lower portion makes a ninety degree bend toward the rear of the vehicle and extends horizontally below the plate and can be attacked with the Tech-Train 1003 tool.

Like most new vehicles, the Grand Cherokee and the Durango use multi-layer weatherstripping, so you will need to use a shim like the one I’m using in photo 10 to protect the lower layers of the weatherstripping as you insert your wedge. This vehicle also uses laminated glass, so you will also want to avoid contacting the bottom edge of the glass with your tool while you are working inside the door. The Chrysler Corporation has announced that it will change to laminated glass windows across the board by the 2012 model year.

Insert one wedge forward of the inside lock button and then gently open a gap just large enough to insert your tool. The short end of the TT-1003 tool shown in photo 11 will be used to grasp and lift the lower portion of the linkage rod. While the rod is essentially vertical, the lower portion of the rod that is exposed inside the door bends horizontally to the rear and that is where we will be attacking it. The rod is exactly 11 ¼ inches below the upper edge of the weatherstripping, so I have placed a mark on the shaft of my tool at that point. Once the tool is inside the door, I will use the mark to position the tool.

In photo 12, I have inserted the tool into the door with the hook pointed forward and then lowered it until my mark is even with the top of the weatherstripping. I’m keeping the shaft of the tool about an inch forward of the inside lock button as I lower the tool. Once the tool is at the proper depth, I’ll rotate the tip of the tool to the inside and then slide the tool to the rear. When the shaft of the tool is in line with the inside lock button, it should contact the linkage and you’ll see the lock button move. If you don’t feel the linkage, probe carefully while watching the lock button until you locate the linkage.

Once you have located the linkage, lifting the tool will unlock the door as shown in photo 13. If you have any problems at this point, make sure that your tool is aligned with the lock button and at the proper depth and then try again.

Photo 14 was taken from inside the door, looking up at the tool as it contacts the horizontal portion of the linkage. Notice the bundle of wires just below the tool and the exposed bottom edge of the glass. If you look closely, you may be able to see the two layers of the laminated glass. Be very careful that you do not slip with your tool and hit that bottom edge. Unlike the tempered glass that we normally see on car windows, laminated glass can develop cracks that will “run” if the edge of the glass is chipped.

Making and Programming a Key

Making a mechanical key for the Grand Cherokee or the Durango is not much different than from any other late model Chrysler product. The door lock can be decoded with any of the decoder tools for the Chrysler 8-cut system such as the EZ Reader or the Kobra Reader. Many locksmiths also prefer the Chrysler 8-cut Determinator set for these vehicles. If all else fails, you can always disassemble the door as shown below and decode the lock manually.

Additional FOBIKs or FOBIK Hybrid keys can be programmed into the vehicle with the standard Chrysler onboard programming procedure if you have two working keys or FOBIKs to work with. The procedure is:

  1.  Insert a working FOBIK or FOBIK Hybrid key into the ignition and turn it on.
  2. After the security light has gone out, turn the ignition off and remove the key or FOBIK.
  3. Within 10 seconds, insert the second FOBIK or FOBIK Hybrid key and turn the ignition on.
  4. After the security light has gone out, turn the ignition off and remove the key or FOBIK.
  5.  Insert the new FOBIK or FOBIK Hybrid key and turn the ignition on and start the vehicle.
  6. A maximum of eight FOBIKs and / or FOBIK Hybrid keys can be programmed into the vehicle at any one time.

If you do not have two working FOBIKs or FOBIK Hybrids, then a diagnostic device is required. Programming the new “Keyless Go” system requires updated software, and all of the major manufacturers should have their updates available by the time of publication for this article.

In addition to the software, you will also need to obtain the “Immobilizer Code” (often referred to as the PIN Number) either from the dealer or another source. Some of the newer diagnostic devices include software to “pull” the immobilizer code directly from the vehicle’s computer. Regardless of how you program the vehicle, if you are programming a FOBIK, the remote functions of the FOBIK will be automatically programmed at the same time as the transponder.

Door Lock Removal

The small rubber covered button in the handle (Photo 15) is a part of the “Keyless Go” system. Pressing this button while the FOBIK is in range of the vehicle will lock or unlock the door. I discovered that it’s not absolutely necessary to press the button though. Simply touching the back side of the door handle with the FOBIK in range will also unlock the door. Unlike a lot of the new vehicles, this door lock cannot be removed without removing the door panel.

As shown in Photo 16, the door panel is secured to the door with 15 press-in upholstery clips, one 10mm bolt, one 7mm bolt, and a Philips head screw. After the screw and the bolts have been removed, the door panel is pried free of the door and lifted over the lip at the top of the door.

The 7mm bolt is located inside the hand-well near the center of the armrest (Photo 17). It is concealed behind a plastic cover that must be carefully pried open. There is a small opening at the edge of the cover that a screwdriver or Shrum tool can be inserted into to release the cover.

A piece of plastic trim located inside the handle assembly conceals the 10mm bolt and the Philips head screw. The trim can be removed by inserting an offset scribe or Shrum tool into the gap between the inside handle and the trim and gently prying. (Photo 18)

The 10mm bolt secures the door panel to the door itself and can be easily removed after the trim has been removed from the handle assembly. Notice in photo 19 that the bolt has had a blue thread locking compound applied to it to prevent it from working loose.

The Phillips head screw secures the handle assembly to the door panel. Removing this screw will allow you to free the door panel from the handle assembly while removing the panel. If you do not remove this screw, you will have to disconnect the cable from the handle assembly. (Photo 20)

A control panel mounted in the forward portion of the armrest is held in place with a series of spring clips. It can be removed by carefully prying around the edges with a plastic door panel tool such as the one I’m using in photo 21.

After the control panel is free of the armrest, the wiring harness can be disconnected. The connector incorporates a locking feature that I had not encountered before. The red portion of the connector locks the release tab so that the connector cannot come loose accidently. This is similar to the CPA (Contact Position Assurance) connectors that GM has been using for some time, but the locking portion is held captive in the connector. (Photo 22)

After the red locking portion has been pulled up with an offset scribe or a Shrum tool (Photo 23), the release tab can be depressed to disconnect the two portions of the connector. When you reassemble the door, make sure that you re-engage this lock.

The door panel is now secured to the door with just the press-in upholstery clips. I always begin at the bottom of the door where there is better access and a smaller likelihood of damage. Here I’m using two plastic pry-bars to open a gap large enough for me to insert my door panel clip tool. Seeing the clip requires lying on your back and looking up into the gap with a flashlight, but placing the tool on the clip properly is important. Once two or three of the clips have been released, you can work your fingers between the door panel and the door and pull the rest of the clips free. (Photo 24)

As the door panel pulls free, you can work the handle assembly free of the panel. Make sure that the chrome handle shown in Photo 25 does not scrape against the door or the panel as you release it.

After the panel is free of the door, there will still be one small wiring connection that you will have to release. This connection is at the upper forward edge of the door panel and is shown by the blue arrow in photo 26. You will have to work your hand between the panel and the door to release this connection.

After the panel has been removed, you will discover that a molded composite panel almost completely conceals the inner workings of the door. The blue arrow in photo 27 indicates the opposite end of the electrical connector that I mentioned in the previous step. The green arrow indicates the snap-open access panel that you will have to use in order to reach inside the door and release the door lock. The red arrow shows a small snap-in cover that must be removed in order to insert a wrench to unbolt the door lock.

When you remove the small cover near the upper rear corner of the door, you will be able to see the two 10mm bolts that secure the lock into the door. These bolts also secure the outside trim over the door lock. (Photo 28) You will be able to insert a socket on an extension into the door through this opening in order to remove the two screws.

Photo 29 shows a view of the back side of the handle assembly and lock from the inside of the door. After the two bolts have been removed, the trim over the lock can be removed.

The access panel in photo 30 is held closed by a plastic catch, and can be opened without tools. Once the panel is open, you can get your arm inside the door and up to the back of the lock. If you drop any of the bolts, you can also fish them out with a magnet through this opening, like I did. If you have to close the door for any reason while you have the panel off, make sure to close this panel. If you try to close the door with the panel open, it will hit the car seat and possibly break the access panel.

After the two 10mm bolts have been removed, the handle assembly will pull free of the door far enough for you to work the lock out of the door. Before you can remove the lock, you will have to reach up inside the door and disconnect the linkage rod from the lock pawl by feel. (Photo 31)

Getting the lock free of the door is a little like working a puzzle, but eventually it will come out completely and then you can take it to the workbench for whatever service is necessary. The reassembly of the door is essentially the reverse of the disassembly. (Photo 32)

Servicing the Door Lock

There are no codes stamped on the lock, but the lock can be easily disassembled and decoded. The facecap is reusable so the job can be done quickly and easily. (Photo 33)

Six of the seven tumblers are easily visible through the drain hole in the lock, so it’s very easy to decode the lock visually if your goal is to make a key. After you have the six visible cuts correctly cut on a key, all you have to do is progress the one remaining cut until you have a working key. (Photo 34)

If you need to disassemble the lock, you will have to remove the lock pawl, which is held in place with an “E” clip. Make sure to mark the pawl before you remove it so that you can be sure to get it put back on correctly. (Photo 35) The pawl will fit on in two different ways, only one of which is correct.

The facecap can be removed without damage with a little careful prying around the base. Notice in photo 36 that the shutter assembly is captive in the front of the lock plug making the disassembly that much easier.

After the facecap has been removed, the plug will slide free of the housing. Notice the grease that is packed into the lock in photo 37. If you have to degrease the lock while servicing it, be sure to put new grease back into the lock when you reassemble it.

In photo 38, we have a properly cut key inserted into the lock. Note the vertical slots cut into the front of the lock plug. These slots provide a weak spot that will allow the face of the lock to shear in two if someone attempts to force the lock to turn with a screwdriver or other force tool.

All in all, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Dodge Durango are relatively easy to service. And, if you have the proper equipment, software, and FOBIKs or FOBIK Hybrid keys, you should be able to compete favorably with the dealer for replacement FOBIKs and lost keys. In addition, lockouts can be easily dealt with using equipment that you probably already have. Judging from the response of the automotive press, you will probably see a lot of these on the street sooner rather than later.