Determining whether or not your vehicle needs a transfer case repair will be up to the repair professional at the automotive repair shop you select. Choosing well could save you money, inconvenience, and time. Ideally, deciding on a specialty shop like Wayne’s Transmissions is a good idea. While a general repair shop may be able to diagnose a drivetrain problem, the possibility of an incorrect diagnosis due to inexperience can end up costing you more in the long run.
How to know if your vehicle has a transfer case
Since you’ve decided to read this article, you probably already know your vehicle has a transfer case. Maybe you found out because your shop noticed an internal problem or leak and recommended transfer a case service or repair. You may also have decided to do some research to help you understand more about transfer case function and maintenance requirements. Whatever the reason you arrived at this page, congratulations are in order! Knowing more before you start spending is a good idea.
For SUVs, either front wheel or rear wheel drive may provide you with an option to engage the four-wheel drive automatically or manually. In each case, the engagement component is the transfer case. The purpose of a transfer case is to allow your front-wheel drive vehicle or your rear-wheel drive vehicle to engage the other two wheels to help pull or push your vehicle. It provides safer driving in mud, snow, or icy road conditions.
In older pick-up truck or utility vehicles, a manual shift lever engages the 4 x 4 option. Newer trucks have buttons on the dash in place of the manual lever. These dash buttons operate switches, solenoids, or other actuation components inside the transfer case.
Some vehicles like GM Chevrolet trucks have the option to select an “automatic” position. In this mode, the vehicle will detect wheel slippage and engage the transfer case automatically.
In summary, four-wheel drive vehicles have one of the following types of transfer cases:
- Manually shifted with lever
- Electronically shifted manually
- Automatically shifted
- Constant all-wheel drive
What you need to know about transfer case maintenance and service
The first thing to remember is that preventative maintenance, such as fluid change service, can save you money by significantly reducing the risk of an expensive major repair. While the cost of a transfer case service varies depending on the type of fluid or oil required, most run from $73 to $147.
Below are several reasons to service the transfer case by replacing the fluid or oil:
- Oil breaks down during normal driving
- Metal particles from normal wear of gear and clutch components circulate in the oil causing additional damage
- Transfer cases have no filter to catch particles in the oil
Transfer case oil levels should be checked with every engine oil change. Leaking from seals and metal surfaces results in low oil levels, which can lead to internal damage.
Check your owner manual for recommended maintenance and service intervals. The only maintenance procedure for transfer cases will be to replace the fluid with a drain and fill procedure.
Symptoms of Transfer Case problems
If you have ever driven a truck in four-wheel drive, you will have noted some additional noise. This is the result of more gears turning and the additional pressure or load on the drivetrain from adding two more drive wheels. Running in 2-wheel drive in a rear-wheel drive vehicle means the front driveshaft, axles, and differential will coast as there is no load on them. The converse is true in front-wheel drive vehicles. Shifting to four-wheel drive engages more gears to drive the additional 2 wheels and additional noise results.
If you are new to driving in 4-wheel drive, you may be surprised at the additional noise, but some increase is normal. If the noise level is excessive, it may signal a transfer case problem and may accompany one or more of the following symptoms:
- Burnt oil smell from overheated oil that vents and sprays on hot exhaust pipes
- Hot odor from low oil level causing gears to overheat
- Noise that is different than the normal noise heard with 4 x 4 operation
You can also have excessive noise with the 4 x 4 engaged if your front to rear tire sizes are not the same.
Transfer case repair vs. replacement
A transfer case contains gears, bearings, bushings, a chain, solenoids, switches, and seals. By themselves they are not very expensive. If one or several fail, it is likely that your best option would be to have Wayne’s Transmissions repair the transfer case. This involves removing the case, dis-assembling and inspecting all of the internal components, and replacing bad or worn parts.
Remember, if your vehicles transfer case has been well maintained with timely services as recommended, a repair will usually resolve the problem. Small leaks and minor breakage is usually less expensive to repair than transfer case replacement.
If leakage caused the transfer case to run low on fluid or if heavy loads resulted in overheating, a replacement will be your best option. By the time you add up the cost of all the bearings and gears, the price tag can easily exceed that of a replacement transfer case.
Transfer case repair can be expensive, so make sure to get an accurate diagnosis of the problem from a drivetrain and transmission specialist shop like Wayne’s Transmissions. We will give you an accurate diagnosis and a fair price to fix whatever your transfer case needs. Call today (208) 322-1236, request an appointment online, or visit us at our shop just south of Costco at 2687 S Cole Road in Boise ID 83709.