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Bad Transfer Case Symptoms: All That You Need to Know

Bad Transfer Case Symptoms

Bad transfer case symptoms include gear shifting troubles, issues with engaging and disengaging the four-wheel drive, weird greasy puddles under the vehicle, grinding noises, and 4WD warning light illumination. 

The transfer case plays a major role in your vehicle, which is responsible for transferring the engine’s power evenly across your vehicle's wheel.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

While the transfer case is not expected to get damaged early, there might be some situations where you have to deal with a problem in your vehicle's transfer case affecting the overall engagement of the drivetrain.

This article provides you with a detailed list of potential symptoms to keep an eye for indicating any issues with the transfer case. Aside from the bad transfer case symptoms, we will also provide you with a rough idea about the expected costs for fixing the transfer case and additional related information that might be useful, especially for new drivers. 

What is a transfer case? 

The transfer case is responsible for transferring the power received from the engine to all four wheels in your vehicle. Depending on the drivetrain configuration, the transfer case can look different.

The simplest form of transfer cases is usually associated with a four-wheel drive. On the other hand, the more complex system comes with the active 4-wheel drive in more modern vehicles.

Depending on the configuration of the drivetrain system, the transfer case might come with either chain, hydraulics, or years to transfer the power.

Symptoms of a bad transfer case 

Although the transfer case is expected to last as much as your vehicle's now transfer case at earlier stages.

There are certain symptoms you can keep an eye and ear for to tell you when the transfer case is getting worse, including:  

  • Problems with the gear shifting 

The first and most obvious symptom indicating a bad transfer case is having issues when shifting gears. Keep in mind that troubles in shifting gears can happen to do plenty of reasons, and before assuming that the problem is coming from a bad transfer case, you need to do your due diligence and check for other minor symptoms.

For instance, it might be a simple issue in the linkage or probably some low fluid in your vehicle system.

Another thing to consider is checking how you need to shift gears in your system and your specific vehicle by referring to your vehicle's owner’s manual. For example, there are some circumstances where you need to do an initial step before switching into a certain gear. One good example in certain vehicles is when shifting to four-low; In that case, you need to put your vehicle into neutral first before attempting to switch or change the gears. 

Remember that he shows that shifting gears can look different depending on your vehicle's transfer case controlling system. For example, if your car controls the transfer case using a body computer, you'll notice different symptoms than another car that depends on electrically switched power to control the transfer case. 

  • Issues with remaining in 4-wheel drive 

Once your vehicle's transfer case goes bad, you might notice that the car keeps popping out of the four-wheel-drive system. Although the problem might be related to the transfer case, it might also be an issue with the drive shaft or the differential you need to check.

Thus, before seeing that the main culprit is coming from a bad transfer case, you need to have a professional mechanic inspect the vehicle and pinpoint the problem accurately. 

  • Problems with engaging and disengaging the four-wheel-drive 

Like the problem where your vehicle keeps popping out of the four-wheel drive, you might also have difficulties engaging or disengaging this component.

Again, the problem might also be related to other issues related to the axles or probably the electrical system, and it might come from a bad transfer case. 

  • Greasy puddles under the transfer case 

In some severe scenarios, you might notice some greasy puddles underneath your vehicle coming from some leak from the transfer case.

Since fluid leaks can happen from a long list of problems in your vehicle, you might need to take a closer look and confirm that this leak is coming from a faulty transfer case. To do so, you can Jack up your vehicle and look somewhere under the transmission or the axle assembly.

In some scenarios, the leak is not going to be very severe, which means that you won't notice it unless you're at the late stages of issues in your transfer case.

Keep in mind that leaks in more modern vehicles take a longer time to show than any vehicles associated with a manual transmission. Thus, even if you confirm that there is no visual leak under the transfer case, you still need to inspect the car and have a professional mechanic pinpoint the actual problem. 

  • Hearing some weird humming, growling, and grinding noises 

According to automotive experts, any weird noises coming from your vehicle might indicate that bigger problems are getting close.

While hearing grinding or humming noises might come from many problems, a bad transfer case might be the culprit.

Bad transfer cases might make these noises because of many mechanical problems, low fluids oil color bathroom, damaged hears; if you were to fix this humming noise, you need to expect the chain. About chain might cause a hole in the top portion of your vehicle's transfer case, which causes the year's weird noises.

To repair the problem, you need to purchase some of the commonly used rebuild kits that allow you to replace the chain and change the front portion of your transfer case, which was damaged. 

Keep in mind that fixing such a problem should not be done by yourself because it needs a certain level of mechanical skill sets that a professional mechanic must do; otherwise, you will introduce major problems with your vehicle, which might cost you thousands of dollars. 

  • Problems with illuminating 4-wheel drive warning lights 

Your vehicle uses warning lights to communicate with you and inform you that there is some internal problem. While some of these problems might be linked to minor issues, there are situations where they can be linked to significant problems resulting in catastrophic outcomes.

Therefore, it is recommended that you never ignore any warning light, including those coming from a four-wheel-drive issue. You will notice that on your vehicle's dashboard, it is saying “service 4-wheel drive.” Although the problem might be related to any faulty component within your 4-wheel drive system, a bad transfer case might be the culprit.

Your professional mechanic will use certain toolsets to help him scan the errors and determine the real root of the problem to confirm whether it's coming from a bad transfer case or not.

What causes the transfer case to go bad? 

As we already mentioned, the transfer case should last as long as your vehicle's overall lifetime. However, some factors might shorten the lifetime of you are vehicle transfer case earlier.

One good example is low fluid due to leaks problems or probably some wear and tear prematurely along with lack of maintenance. 

That's why we always recommend that you maintain all regular means at the right time to prevent dealing with major problems. We also recommend That you ensure that any fluid in your vehicle, including the transfer case fluid, is at the right level.

Once you detect hello fluid, you need to top it off immediately and never delay it till the next oil change unless you need some assistance in topping off this certain fluid. 

Can a bad transfer case damage the transmission? 

Since the transfer case works closely with the transmission, a lot of people reach out to us wondering whether about transfer case causes any significant issues to the transmission or not.

It's not very rare to deal with major problems in your vehicle's transmission due to a problem with a bad or faulty transfer case which means that whenever you are dealing with transfer case system symptom, you must take it seriously and visit the nearest repair shop to get the problem resolved as soon as possible. 

It's also important to note that if you're driving a Ford truck, there have been some instances with the transfer case putting the vehicle on the four-wheel drive, especially when driving on the highway speeds. As a result, drivers of Ford trucks had to deal with catastrophic results after these situations. Therefore, it is recommended that you look at your vehicle's VIN and confirm whether it's coming from a Ford dealership or not to inspect the problem further. 

How much does it cost to fix about transfer case? 

Unfortunately, fixing a bad transfer case is not a cheap job, and it might cost you between $2389 and $2500. This price does not include any labor costs, which might be around $500.

Keep in mind that labor cost depends heavily on the repair shop you choose, which means that it can get higher if you decide to go with the dealership and be much lower if you go with a small repair shop.

Although you can save a lot on labor costs by going to a small repair shop, many people driving modern vehicles prefer to visit their brand dealership to ensure high quality. Sometimes if the mechanic does not have a certain skill set level, he might introduce major problems that might cost you thousands of dollars.

Therefore, automotive experts recommend that you balance the amount of money you want to save versus the quality you are looking for, which depends heavily on the type of repair you want to perform.  

Is it worth fixing the transfer case in your vehicle? 

This is one of the most common questions we always receive about transfer case repair costs. The answer to this question depends heavily on your own circumstances and your vehicle's value.

The first step in answering this question is evaluating and calculating the total value for all possible repair costs, including other costs associated with even regular maintenance.

Once you have a total number, the next step is to compare it to your vehicle's overall value.

Notice that your vehicle's value will not increase significantly by performing these repairs and correspond to these repairs' costs. They might not be worth fixing this vehicle.

Similarly, if you notice that repair costs are getting close to 75% or more from the value of your vehicle, it is always not recommended to fix this car, and instead, you should sell it to any potential buyer.

If you're looking to sell your vehicle with a faulty transfer case, you could always reach out to Cash Cars Buyer. Cash Cars Buyer is one of the fewest companies that accept your vehicle even if it has major problems in the transfer case and other problems in the transmission itself.


Having a working transfer case is a must in your vehicle to ensure your safety and maintain your vehicle's regular performance.

Although the transfer case is supposed to last if your vehicle's lifetime, there are some instances where you must deal with a damaged transfer case requiring very high repair costs.

This article provided you with all potential symptoms to look for, indicating that the transfer case is going bad 

If you realize that repair costs are getting overwhelming, it might be the right time now to sell this car to Cash Cars Buyer, who will pay you the top dollars for this vehicle along with free towing. 

Our instant cash quotes represent the maximum value your vehicle can make around your areas. 

Since we are a 24-hour car removal company, we can remove your vehicle weekends, evenings, and same day if that works for you!

To learn more about our process and our team, you can reach out to us by giving us a call at 866-924-4608 or visit our home page click on the free instant online offer

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