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Loud Noises and Other Symptoms of a Transfer Case Output Shaft Seal

Loud Noises and Other Symptoms of a Transfer Case Output Shaft Seal

You are taking your family out for a lovely drive in the country to watch the leaves change color. After traveling for miles, you shift to four-wheel drive as you turn onto a dirt road. Unfortunately, you hear a loud grinding noise and the car will not shift. There is a very good chance that there is something wrong with the transfer case inside of the transmission and if you don’t get it fixed, it can mean major problems for your car. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


What the Transfer Case Does in a Car

An automobile’s transfer case is the apparatus that enables power to be transferred to the rear wheels when the car is switched to 4 wheel drive. Almost all cars nowadays have front-wheel drive. However, you must have a transfer case to transmit energy to the back wheels. The prop shaft attaches to the engine and the back wheels of a vehicle. 


You put stress on a transfer case whenever you shift back and forth between two and four-wheel drive. The transfer case is supposed to last for the entire life of the vehicle, but there are many times when it does not. There are a few ways to tell if there is something wrong with your transfer case. 


A Grinding, Humming, or Growling Noise 

If your car is making strange noises, it is almost always indicative of a problem.  If you hear a noise every time the car changes speed, there is a good chance it is coming from the transfer case. The car may just be low on fluid or it may have a loose chain or bad bearings.

Gear Shifting Issues

If you are having difficulty shifting between gear ranges, there may be a problem with the transfer case. When fuel leaks because of a broken seal, it reduces the amount of fluid that is inside the transmission. The car will lose fluid pressure and that will make it hard to shift gears no matter what kind of transmission you have.

Gear shifting problems can also be caused by improper operation of the car. You should always carefully follow the instructions for operating the four-wheel drive in your car. Sometimes you must stop the car and shift into neutral, before shifting into a four-low. If you don’t follow the steps in your owner’s manual you may hear a grinding sound when you shift gears.

Difficulty Maintaining  4WD

You may find that your car’s four-wheel-drive constantly goes out. The issue might be caused by a number of reasons and a bad transfer case is one of them.

The 4 Wheel Drive does not Engage

A 4 wheel drive system may not engage for a number of reasons. There may be a faulty apparatus on the front axle. It may also be caused by a failure in the car’s electronic control system. The car’s transfer case failing to work properly is one of the many internal problems that can cause a 4 wheel drive not to engage.

There is a Puddle Directly Under the Location of the Transfer Case 

If there is a greasy puddle under the car, there has to be a leak somewhere in the vehicle. One of those places might be the transfer case. In order to find out if your transfer case is leaking, you will have to jack up your car and examine it. Remember to use two jacks and block the car when you do this. 

Verify that the leak is coming from the transfer case by jacking up your car and visually inspecting it. You will be able to see the case at the rear-end of the transmission or transaxle assembly.


4WD Warning Light Comes On

Many cars will display a “service four-wheel-drive” message (or something similar) on the dash whenever a problem arises in the system. Some cars will illuminate the 4WD continuously to let you know of the trouble. This warning could mean a faulty transfer case.


How does a transfer case go bad?

If your transfer case is leaking, it may fail due to the low fluid levels and that can cause the case to fail. If you do not take care of your car, that can cause the transfer case to go bad.  

It’s important to address fluid leaks immediately or else the car’s engine may experience internal transfer case damage. 

You must change the transfer case fluid regularly. You can find information on how to change the fluid in your owner’s manual.

There May be a Problem with the Output Seal Shaft

Every transfer case has an output shaft seal. Inside the case, you will find a series of gear reductions and chain drives that work in concert to supply power to the drive axles. This is basically what makes a car a four-wheel drive.

The transfer case output shaft attaches the case to the axle. The purpose of the output seal is to prevent fluid from leaking out of the transmission, where it connects to the transfer case. The seal also prevents fluid from leaking out of the front and rear output shafts to the differentials. This helps to keep the metal parts properly lubricated for long term use.

When seals leak, fluid gets out and is not able to properly lubricate the interior components of the transfer case. This will cause them to overheat and wear out. The transfer case won’t work and neither will the four-wheel drive.  When the transfer case output shaft seal fails, you may notice a few symptoms. You will need to have the shield replaced when this happens. 

Bad Transfer Case or Transmission Problem?

Both the transfer case and the transmission are part of the vehicle’s drivetrain. Although they have very distinctive jobs the symptoms they exhibit when they fail are very similar to one another. If you are someone who likes to tinker with cars, this can be confusing.

It is best to have a professional check the vehicle out. if you think you have a transfer case problem, they will have the know-how to diagnose the cause.  

Can a Bad Transfer Case Damage a Vehicle’s Transmission?

There are some situations in which a calamitous transfer case failure can affect other parts of your vehicle, such as the transmission. It’s always a good idea to address any known issues with your vehicle When you discover them. Otherwise, you may have even more problems.

Detailed Functions of the Transfer Case

The transfer case has a few different functions. You will find it at the rear of the transmission. It is a bit like a second transmission. It gets its power from the transmission output shaft. There are two different kinds of transfer cases. 4WD and AWD.


4WD Transfer Case

You will find a 4WD transfer case at the rear of the transmission. It is powered by the transmission output shaft and operates much like a secondary transmission.

The majority of 4WD transfer cases have four settings: two-high, neutral, four-low, and four-high. The system is also known as a part-time 4 wheel drive.


When you want to change gears the system will work through a lever, engine vacuum, or onboard electronics.

AWD Transfer Case

AWD systems work by distributing power to all four wheels. The driver does not need to do anything to achieve this, it happens automatically. Vehicles with AWD systems have a transaxle rather than a transmission.


You will find the transfer case mounted on the side of the transaxle rather than the back. It doles out power to the rear differential as well as one of the front CV axles. It is also called a power transfer unit.


There are some vehicles that have a combined layout in which the transfer case is similar to that found in a 4WD vehicle. The main dissimilarity is that the transfer case doesn’t have gear ranges for the driver to select, instead, the operation is automatic. It is considered to be a full-time 4WD.



Getting Repairs Done 

You should never drive your car if it has a bad transfer case, but it is an especially bad idea to use the four-wheel drive. Repairs are not cheap. It cost between $2,389 and $2,500 to get a new transfer case. If you have to get such a repair,  you will have a couple of options of where to take your car. 


Taking Your Car to the Dealership

You can go to the dealership to get your transfer case replaced. They will charge you more than an auto body shop, but they will have all of the necessary parts on hand. They will also charge you by the job and not by the hour, so you will not be surprised by the final cost. The mechanic at the dealership will have a certificate in the make and model of your car and they are unlikely to make mistakes.


Taking Your Car to an Auto Body Shop

Most people prefer to take their car to an auto body shop. It will be much cheaper than going to a dealership and many chain shops have loyalty programs that offer things like free oil changes and low-cost tune-ups.


You can find a good auto body shop on the AAA website. They maintain a list of approved shops all over the country. Be sure to ask the mechanic if they are certified in your type of vehicle. You can also check out the shop’s reviews on Angie’s list or ask them for references.


Selling Your Car


The transfer case really should last for the lifetime of the vehicle. When it goes out, you may want to think about getting another car. If you do get a new vehicle, there are a few ways you can make a few bucks on the old one.


When you buy your new car, the dealership will offer you a trade-in allowance for the old one. They are unlikely to offer you very much. They rely on their customers to be too lazy to explore their options for selling junk cars.


You can sell the car online. There are many websites that will allow you to list your car online for a monthly fee. You will get to display a picture of your car along with its basic specs. It may take months to sell your car this way, as you will have a lot of competition. When you do get an interested buyer, you will have to take time out of your day to show them the car and they may decide not to buy it. 


Selling your car online can be potentially dangerous. Many criminals have found their victims on sites such as Craigslist. When you arrange to meet someone, it is best to meet them in a public place.


Sell Your Car to Us

Cash Cars Buyers can give you the very best price for your used car. All you have to do is fill out our simple form. We will ask you for your contact information as well as the make, model, year mileage, and VIN number of your car. We are primarily interested in cars manufactured after the year 2000. Although you will need the pink slip to trade a car in or sell it online, we can normally buy your car with no title.


When we receive your form, we will call you right back with an offer. If you accept our offer, we will make an appointment to pick it up. Our employee will arrive right on time, pay you in cash, and tow the vehicle away for free. It is just as easy as that.