Jeep has announced a recall of more than 30,000 Cherokee and Grand Cherokee models which will leave many of these cars unsuitable for towing. In the UK, the recall started at the end of September.

The recall is to strengthen the rear of the car, following reports in the US of an unusually high number of vehicle fires in the event of a rear impact. Under the recall, a cross beam is fitted to provide additional crash protection.

In some cases, this means a Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee will need to have an existing tow ball removed in order for the cross beam to be fitted. Once the cross beam is in place, it’s no longer possible to fit a towball to the car.

Cars affected are the Grand Cherokee built between 01/01/92 and 27/10/98, and the Cherokee built between 2002 and 2007 – both petrol and diesel models. Letters have been sent out to owners advising them of the recall. 

Jeep told us: “If a customer is concerned his or her vehicle is affected and they have not received a letter, they should contact Customer Service on 00800 3428 0000 option 3, and we can check and advise accordingly.”

Practical Caravan was alerted to the issue by reader John Gamble, who posted on our Facebook page: “Jeep Cherokee, previous tow vehicle, with only 55k miles. Advised, by Jeep, that our Cherokee is no longer fit to tow. No longer able to have a towbar fitted due to safety recall to have rear reinforcement structure fitted. JEEP NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.”

John isn’t alone in being angry that his tow car can no longer be used for the purpose for which he bought it. We’ve found a number of frustrated bloggers and disappointed comments on owners’ club forums.

The recall doesn’t spell the end of towing for all the affected owners, however. Some towballs may not have to be removed if, after inspection by a Jeep dealer, it is decided that the towball offers the safety benefits of the cross beam.

According to Jeep: “If a tow bar is already fitted to the vehicle it needs to be inspected to verify if it conforms to the certified clearance levels and/or the absence of sharp edges. If it does, the tow bar can be left in place.”

It’s not clear what proportion of towball-equipped Cherokees and Grand Cherokees meet the necessary standards. 

Some owners may be tempted to leave their cars as they are, even if their dealer advises the towball should be removed. However, this is something Jeep advises against: “If the tow bar does not meet the required specifications of this recall campaign, it should be removed and replaced by the certified rear impact bar. In cases where the tow bar is left in place the level of protection cannot be evaluated.”

The recall can be traced back to an investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the US, which asked Jeep to recall millions of vehicles. Jeep initially resisted this request. Ironically, when Jeep did take action in the US it did so by offering to fit all the affected cars with a Mopar tow bar, making all the vehicles suitable for towing.

However, Jeep tells us this solution can’t be applied in Britain: “The American type tow bar is not homologated for European use and we are therefore unable to offer this to our UK customers.”