Bad Transfer Case: 6 Things You Need to Know

A bad transfer case can cause many unwanted car troubles. Fortunately, there are many signs of a bad transfer case that car owners can look out for. By being aware of what causes a bad transfer case and how to repair it, you can protect your vehicle from further damage.


In this article, we will look at bad transfer case sounds and symptoms, as well as what to expect if you need a transfer case replacement or repair. 

What is a Transfer Case

A transfer case is a crucial component of vehicles that are all-wheel drive and four-wheel drive. The role of the transfer case in these vehicles is to transfer power to the front and rear wheels. It is powered by the transmission output shaft and is part of the drivetrain. Different types of vehicles use different types of transfer cases, and you may even see a transfer case in an off-road vehicle.

How Transfer Case Work

The transfer case works by splitting up the engine torque. Rather than sending the power just to the front or rear wheels of the vehicle, the transfer case sends power to both the front and back wheel axils. Vehicles that are continually in all-wheel drive have the simplest type of transfer case, whereas those that have different drive modes have a more complex transfer case.


Transfer case problems are often caused by natural wear and tear with time, leaks, or a lack of consistent maintenance. It is crucial that you keep up with servicing your transfer case and transmission to keep everything operating properly.

Bad Transfer Case Symptoms

If you are wondering if your vehicle is experiencing a bad transfer case, there are some clear signs you can look for. It is important to note that symptoms of transmission failure can be similar to the symptoms of a bad transfer case. If you are actually experiencing transmission failure, you will want to visit a transmission shop to ensure that you do not need a transmission rebuild or repair instead.


Some symptoms of transfer case failure are: 


Trouble Shifting Gears

One of the main symptoms of transfer case failure is trouble shifting gears. If shifting gears has become more difficult in your vehicle, fluid may be leaking from the transfer case. This causes a loss of fluid pressure that makes the shift to higher or lower gears harder. 


Odd Noises

Noise from transfer case is a sign that you may have vehicle problems. Whining, growling, and humming are all bad transfer case sounds. This may come from a fluid leak or a mechanical problem like damaged gears.


Difficulty Staying in 4WD

Another symptom other than noise from transfer case is the vehicle jumping in and out of four-wheel drive. This may be due to worn-out parts in the transfer case or a broken seal allowing fluid to leak.


4WD Warning Light Illuminates

Warning lights are the clearest sign something is wrong with your car. Anytime a warning light illuminates in your vehicle, you will want to visit a local transmission repair shop as soon as possible. This can keep you safe and protect your car from further damage.


4WD Won’t Engage or Disengage

Four-wheel drive failing to engage or disengage is one symptom of a bad transfer case. However, be aware that this could also be caused by a faulty shift mechanism or other mechanical issues with the car. 


Fluid Leaks Under Transfer Case

If you can see fluid under a transfer case, this is a sign that there is a fluid leak somewhere in the transfer case. This may cause a loss of fluid pressure, so you’ll want to have the leak fixed as soon as possible.

How to Fix a Bad Transfer Case

To repair a bad transfer case, you must replace the damaged parts of it. Then, you will need to replace the seals and add fresh fluid. However, sometimes the transfer case is beyond repair. In this situation, you will need the transfer case to be replaced.


If you are wondering can bad transfer case damage transmission, the answer is yes, sometimes. Both are part of the drivetrain, and in the case of a serious transfer case failure damage to the transmission and other parts of the vehicle may occur.

How S&S Transmission Can Help

Now that you know what bad transfer case sounds and symptoms to look out for, you can be ready to repair your transfer case as soon as something is wrong. The transfer case is a crucial part of all-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles. Visit a transmission rebuild shop to repair your transfer case or have it inspected to ensure that it is working properly.