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Think you have a problem with the transfer case of your vehicle?
Wondering whether can you drive with a broken transfer case? Don’t worry, there’s an answer for all of that.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about a broken transfer case and how you can tell when the transfer case needs to be replaced.
Knowing how to fix these problems and how to spot them right away will teach you when you shouldn’t drive.
If you rely too much on a four-wheel drive, knowing this information will come in handy.
What Is A Transfer Case?
As you might know, four-wheel drive is not always running. In fact, only the back wheels drive the car as the front wheels move freely.
For the four-wheel-drive system to work as you drive, you must press a single button to switch to the four-wheel drive.
But as reliable as the four-wheel-drive system might be, you shouldn’t always have it on.
So, how does the system work? Well, with the help of a transfer case, you can switch back and forth from four-wheel drive to second-wheel drive. Without the transfer case, you wouldn’t be able to use the four-wheel system.
DIY Guide: How To Fix 3 Common Issues On The Transfer Case
Can’t seem to find the culprit that is causing the four-wheel drive to malfunction?
Well, we’ve made a list of some of the most common problems that might cause the vehicle to work poorly when going down the road.
That being said, here are the most common problems that might cause the transfer case to work poorly:
01. Fluid Leak
If you’ve been driving with a broken transfer case, you’ve probably noticed how hard it is to switch to four-wheel drive and how poorly the car performs.
If that’s the case, there’s probably an oil leak coming from the transfer case.
Inside the transfer case, you can find a seal that keeps the transmission fluid from getting inside.
However, when this little seal does not work anymore, this fluid will get where it’s not needed. This could damage the transfer case.
So, how can you tell when the seal inside the transfer case has gone bad? Here are a few steps to take:
- Jack up the vehicle using a floor jack and jack stands
- Crawl underneath the car and find the transmission case
- Place a container just underneath the fill plugs
- Go ahead and pull the fill plugs
If liquid comes out, it means the seal inside the transmission is no longer working, hence why the transmission fluid is coming out.
The only way to fix this annoying issue is by replacing the seal inside the transfer case. Below, we explain how to do so.
What You’ll Need
Before you get started, we suggest using the following tools for this job:
- A floor jack and jack stands—for this process, you must jack up the vehicle as it’ll make the job a lot easier
- An impact gun—there are a couple of bolts on the driveshaft you must remove before you can install the new seal
- A hammer—removing the seal is somewhat hard if you’ve never done it before. Thus, we suggest using a hammer to add that extra strength you need
- A rag—when you pull out the seal, you must wipe off all the residue inside
- RTV and oil—to help it seal, you should consider using both RTV and oil. It’s the safest and most reliable way to install a seal
- 2-inch PCV cap—some people like to use a PCV cap when installing a new seal. It makes it a lot easier when installing the seal. Feel free to skip this one as you can get by without it just fine
- A marker—you need some sort of way to know where everything goes
Raise The Car
We suggest jacking up the truck every time you need to work on the transfer case;
it just makes everything more manageable since you can easily reach anything you need to work on when you’re underneath the vehicle.
- Jack up the vehicle and then get underneath the car
- From there, you want to put the truck in neutral so you can turn the driveshaft
- Now go ahead and draw a line on the driveshaft so you know where it goes. Without it, you might have a hard time putting it back on
And that’s it for the first part. You can skip the drawing part. But it wouldn’t hurt to draw a simple line.
Remove The Drive Shaft
Here, we will remove the driveshaft. We will also do some cleaning. The cleaning part is necessary as you always want to clean the inside of the seal when you install a new one.
- Now go ahead and use the impact gun to remove the bolts holding the driveshaft. Once you’ve removed the driveshaft, you want to pull the seal out. With the help of a screwdriver, you’ll be able to remove the seal
- Put the screwdriver on the backside of the seal, and then tap the screwdriver using a hammer. Now clean all the bulk that has built up on the inside
Install The New Seal
In this section, we’ll be setting the new seal up. Follow these steps to install the seal on your vehicle:
- Add some oil to the rubber part that goes inside the transfer case, and then add some RTV to the metal part.
- Next, put the 2-inch PCV cap on the new seal. This way, you’ll be able to fit the new seal. From there, you want to put seal inside and hit it with a hammer until you’ve got it inside
- And finally, put the driveshaft back on
Would you like to watch a video that covers all the steps we just went through? If so, here is an excellent video that goes through everything you need to know:
02. Small Holes On The Transfer Case
What does a broken transfer case sound like? A transfer case should never make any noise.
If you can hear a rattling or humming noise coming from the transfer case, there might be something wrong with it.
For instance, If you’ve recently noticed anything wrong with the four-wheel-drive, it could be the transfer case.
One of the most common things that could cause the transfer case to malfunction is pinholes on the transfer case.
Inside the transfer case, there is a fluid pump that continually moves.
If that were to happen, it would eventually wear out the back of the case. So, to fix this issue, you have to replace the half case.
As a reference: most of the time, the holes can found on top of the transfer case. You might spend some time before you find the little culprit.
If you have some time on hands and feel as though you could replace the case half on your own, follow these steps:
What You’ll Need
For this job, you’re going to need a couple of tools. These tools will allow you to pull the transfer case out and install the new case half. That said, here is what you need:
- Flathead screwdriver—there is this one tab you need to release, which is why you want the screwdriver
- Pry Bars—when you’ve pulled the transfer case out, you need pry bars to take the case half out
- A floor jack and jack stands—as always, the best way to raise a vehicle is by using a floor jack and jack stands
- A hammer—using a hammer is super useful if you need extra strength to pull something out, which is what you’ll be doing
- A bucket—when you remove the fill plugs, some liquid might come out of it. So, to avoid making a mess, you need a bucket
- A 19mm, 18mm, 10mm wrench or impact gun—this goes without saying, but if you want to remove the bolts holding the transfer case, you must use a wrench
- 15mm socket—there is a bolt-on the transfer case that needs a 15mm socket
Raise The Vehicle
This is the first section on how to replace the case half. To do this, you first have to pull the transfer case out.
- The first thing you want to do is raise the vehicle and then crawl underneath the car.
- Next, you want to head over to the transfer case of your vehicle. From there, you need to place a bucket underneath the fill plugs. This way, they won’t make a mess
Remove The Bolts
In this section, you’ll have to remove the bolts from the drive shaft. Once you’ve gotten that out of the way, you must remove the bolts from the transmission cross member.
- Start by removing the bolts from the driveshaft using the impact gun. But first, disconnect the battery, and put the vehicle in neutral. Once you’ve done that, proceed to pull it out
- Now, you want to remove the transmission cross member from the truck. You should remove the nuts that hold the transmission to the cross member and then the bolts on each side of the transmission
Remove The Front Drive Shaft
This section is a lot easier than the other ones, as you’ve made a lot of progress so far. There isn’t much left for you to do on the transfer case.
- Now that we have access to the front shaft, you want to use a wrench to take all the bolts out
- Next, you want to pull the transmission mount off. But first, you need to remove the bolts using the impact gun
Remove The Connector
The connector you’re about to remove operates the vehicle’s encoder motor, which allows you to switch from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive.
- You should now have access to the electrical connector, which you want to remove. Then, release the tab using a flathead screwdriver.
- Once you’ve removed the tab, you should be able to pull it out. If you’ve never disconnected it before, it might take some time before you can get it off
- And finally, you need to remove the tube and the nuts that are holding the transfer case together
Remove The Top Of Transfer Case
Here, we’ll do a little bit of tweaking before you can safely remove the transfer case.
- First and foremost, you want to remove the snap ring grommet from the transfer case
- Use a 19mm wrench to remove the output shaft speed sensor. From there, you want to remove the factory drain plugs using an 18mm wrench, just in case you haven’t done it already
- Next, you want to start removing all the bolts from the transfer case. You need a 10mm socket for that. And for the last bolt, you need a 15mm socket
- Now use pry bars to get in between the transfer case to pull it out. Once you’ve released the top, you want to place your flathead screwdriver inside the speed sensor hole and then slightly lift it up
- As you’re holding the screwdriver, use your pliers on the shaft snap ring. That should be enough for the top to come right off
Install The New Case Half
Now, you need to install the new case half. For a safe and quick installation, please follow the following steps:
- Place the new case over the main shaft and align it on the dowels. Make sure it’s squishing down properly when you’ve aligned it on the dowels.
- Now, you want to tap on the case using a hammer. Like before, use both the flathead screwdriver and the pliers to lock the new case half. Next, you must reinstall all the case bolts as well as the brackets
- Once you’ve tightened the bolts down, go ahead and reinstall the drain plugs. After that, replace the speed sensor
- Please make sure the bearing has been correctly installed before installing the output shaft snap ring grommet
And that’s it; you’ve done it. All you need to do now is install the transfer case.
As you can see, this is somewhat of a challenging job. If you were to do this, we’d suggest calling a friend or someone willing to help you out.
03. Encoder Motor Ring
What is one of the most common symptoms of a broken transfer case?
Another culprit that could cause the transfer case to fail is a damaged encoder motor.
However, sometimes, it might just be the ring inside the encoder motor, which is somewhat easy to replace and less expensive than replacing the whole encoder motor.
To replace the transfer case encoder motor ring, follow these steps:
What You’ll Need
Here are all the tools required for this job:
- A screwdriver—before you can gain access to the ring inside the encoder motor, you must remove a couple of screws
- An impact gun—using an impact gun to remove bolts is the easiest way available, which is why you want to use it
- A marker—before taking the ring off, you must draw a line so that you know where the ring goes
Remove The Encoder Motor From The Transfer Case
First and foremost, you must remove the encoder motor from the transfer case so that you can gain access to the encoder motor ring. That being said, here are the steps you must follow:
- Remove the bolts from the encoder motor using an impact gun. Once you’ve removed the encoder motor, we suggest placing it on a working table so that you can have an easier time working on it
Mark A Line On The Encoder Motor
When you have removed the encoder motor, you might notice there is a line just in the middle of it.
That line indicates that the encoder motor goes on only one way. If there is no line, we suggest drawing a line to make sure everything realigns.
- To gain access to the encoder motor ring, you must remove the screws holding the encoder motor together
- You should now see the encoder ring. As we said earlier, you must draw a line that indicates how the encoder motor goes. You don’t want to leave anything up for guesswork
- Now that you’ve drawn a line, you want to remove the gear above the ring encoder. But first, you must unplug the wire holding it
Install The New Ring
Here, we’ll install the new ring. Now that you’ve gone through the previous steps, this one should be a walk in the park. That said, follow these steps:
- Grab the old ring and pull it out. Next, take the replacement and make sure to fit it into place. You can tell how it goes by the tabs. The tabs should be able to fit just fine into the new ring
- When you’ve installed the new ring, you should hear a clicking sound. That means you got it right
- Now plug it back in. After that, make sure to line the gear back up. Also, make sure it is aligned according to the line you drew earlier
- Next, you must place the case back in. From there, make sure to tighten all the screws and bolts you took off
And that’s pretty much it for the installation. That should fix all the annoying issues you’ve been having so far.
If you want to watch a video on this topic, we suggest watching this one:
Broken Transfer Case Common Problems Replacement Cost
Don’t want to fix any of these previous problems on your own and figured it might be best to take it to the dealer?
Well, we got you. Nowadays, it doesn’t take much time to figure out how much money you should pay for something thanks to the internet.
Thus, we’ll briefly go over how much money you should pay for some of the most common problems regarding the transfer case.
Input Seal Replacement
One of the most common culprits that cause the transfer case to work poorly is a damaged input seal. Don’t worry, though. It happens quite often.
So, if you were to buy a new input seal replacement, you might find one for about $20.
Of course, that depends on the vehicle you drive. As for the labor cost, the average labor cost is about $500.
Transfer Case Half Replacement
If you’ve noticed pinholes on the case half, you must replace it as soon as possible if you want to prevent further damage to the transfer case.
The average cost for a transfer case half replacement is about $120. The labor cost is about $425.
Encoder Motor Ring Replacement
The average cost for a new encoder motor ring is about $40. And as for the labor cost, you should expect to pay about $450 all the way up to $800.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is there anything you’d like to know about transfer cases? If that’s the case, this section is for you. Here, you’ll find four common questions about transfer cases:
What happens when a transfer case goes bad?
If your transfer case is not working anymore, you won’t be able to use the four-wheel drive.
However, you might be able to drive in 2WD, but we do not suggest doing such a thing as it might be dangerous. Therefore, consider taking the vehicle to the dealer.
Can you drive on a bad transfer case?
Yes, you can drive with a bad transfer case. However, you won’t be able to drive in 4WD. So, avoid driving in bad weather.
How much does it cost to replace a transfer case?
Replacing a transfer case is incredibly expensive. If the transfer case is no longer working, you’re looking at a whopping $2,500 for a replacement. And the labor costs about $500.
What noise does a bad transfer case make?
If you hear grinding noise when you switch to 4WD, there is a high chance that there is something wrong with the transfer case.
So, can you drive with a broken transfer case? Yes, you can drive with a broken transfer case.
However, we’re against the idea of operating a car with a damaged transfer case. It is not safe, and you might cause further damage to the vehicle.
You can, however, still drive in 2WD. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t hurt to take the vehicle to the dealer to have it fixed.
And if you don’t feel like spending money to replace the transfer case or anything that might cause the transfer case to work poorly, you can always try out any of the methods we went through earlier.