Transfer cases form a major part of the drivetrain of vehicles with rear-wheel, all-wheel, or front-wheel drive functionalities. This component transfers power from the transmission to the front and rear axles for maximum traction on wet or icy terrain.
In general, these vehicle parts are highly durable and can last between 150,000 and 200,000 miles (which exceeds the lifespan of some vehicles). However, a transfer case’s longevity depends on variables like regular maintenance and limited abuse.
In any case, transfer cases are not immune to damage and the need for replacement. In this article, we will discuss five telltale signs that indicate it’s time to change your truck’s transfer case.
Under normal circumstances, a vehicle’s performance transfer case does not make any noise. It will produce sound only when there is an issue. If you suddenly hear any weird noises coming from the transfer case, including grinding, squeaking, or clicking, do not take them lightly.
Unusual noises like those mentioned above are often a sign of a bigger problem. They may be produced due to worn-out transfer case components like gears or bearings. This symptom of a failing transfer case is among the most common and earliest signs to watch out for.
A transfer case is a self-contained unit having a separate transmission fluid. Therefore, it must not be confused with engine fluid. If you observe any fluid leaks underneath the transfer case unit, the issue could be related to a poor seal or something within the casing.
This is especially true of high-performance specialty trucks used for drilling wells. Fluid leaks will eventually stop providing adequate lubrication for the parts within the transfer case. When it comes to four-wheel drive specialty trucks, this will stop functionality altogether.
This symptom means an inevitable transfer case replacement. As per Cotta, specialty trucks require heavy-duty transfer cases with up to 800 HP and 22,000 lb.-ft. of torque input. Matching power equipment requirements with the new transfer case will ensure lifetime longevity.
Difficulty Engaging/Disengaging the 4WD Mode
Healthy truck transfer cases will be able to switch between the 2WD and 4WD modes without any difficulty. In fact, the change will be almost instantaneous. In case you find it challenging to switch between the two modes, it could be a sign of a faulty transfer case.
Even delayed engagement or disengagement points towards a hidden problem. For instance – you could be enjoying a smooth drive when unexpectedly, the transfer case shifts to a low-range gear or gets stuck. This calls for a transfer case check and if needed, replacement.
This symptom is also related to the one mentioned above, albeit it indicates a more advanced-stage issue. In other words, the transfer case will start emitting an unpleasant, burning smell as it reaches critical levels of fluid.
A burnt metal-like odor from the transfer case indicates that it is struggling hard to provide lubrication. As a result, its internal parts are grinding against each other which produces an unpleasant odor. Once this symptom has appeared, the problem can quickly escalate to complete transfer case failure.
Never ignore any unpleasant odors from the transfer case, and get it checked as soon as possible.
Rough Gear Changes
A transfer case works perfectly well with both manual and automatic transmissions. However, a faulty transfer case unit will make gear changes a tough battle. The issue will persist regardless of the transmission you use.
If you find it difficult to shift gears easily, the underlying problem may be a need for transfer case fluid. Moreover, it may also be a result of slippage between the gears.
As we draw to a close, let’s understand some reasons why a transfer case unit may fail to function optimally. Some of the common reasons include overheating of the casing, poor repairs, overstressing, low fluid or pressure, age or rust-related issues, and worn-out gaskets or seals.
The worldwide transfer case market is growing at a CAGR of 11.1%. Though transfer cases must last a lifetime, the reality is that we often live under less-than-ideal circumstances. If you observe any of the signs mentioned in this article, get your vehicle’s transfer case checked without any delays.