Auto Parts

Tips for Identifying a Faulty Transfer Case

3 Mins read

Many vehicles featuring AWD or 4WD have a transfer case. The transfer case is located adjacent to the transmission. The component is designed to harness and transfer power from the vehicle’s engine and distributes it to the rear and front wheels, giving excellent traction whenever needed. This is done in a number of driving conditions, including off-road driving, steep incline driving, and driving on icy, snowy, rainy, or muddy roads. The transfer cases can be manufactured as chain-driven or gear-driven. These often come as separate units but may also be integrated into the car’s transmission. In addition, transfer cases can come with manual shifting, electronic shifting, or automatic shifting, which does not require the input of a driver. This article will explore the characteristics of a faulty transfer case and related issues.

Signs of a Faulty Transfer Case

If a vehicle comes with a transfer case, it is essential to keep an eye on how it performs. A faulty transfer case will often display a number of signs when a vehicle is in motion. Here are some of the key signs to look out for that depict a faulty transfer case.

Weird Noises

When driving a vehicle or when it is started, strange noises might come from the transfer case or from beneath the vehicle. These noises include clicking, chattering, or grinding. When one notices such noises, it should raise the alarm about the vehicle’s transfer case. Therefore, car drivers need to approach a mechanic to have the vehicle diagnosed to prevent additional damage.

Difficulties Shifting Gears

A faulty transfer case can result in difficulties in shifting gears when driving. Unfortunately, this is common in both automatic and manual transmissions that use transfer cases. When one notices a sudden problem changing gears, stopping by a mechanic is a great idea.

Random Engaging or Disengaging of Four-Wheel Drive

There are cases where a vehicle will fail to keep its four-wheel drive active. A car can also engage its four-wheel drive option when it is not supposed to. These two scenarios might be an indicator of a severe mechanical problem with the transfer case. A faulty transfer case often messes up a vehicle’s four-wheel drive system, making it engage or disengage on its own.

Failing of a Transfer Case to Shift

A faulty transfer case will also fail to shift gears completely. The failure of the component to shift gears indicates that it is defective. It will either need to be replaced or fixed by a mechanic.

Fluid Leaks Beneath the Transfer Case

A faulty transfer case will often leak fluids. These fluids can be seen under the vehicle, beneath the transfer case. When one notices fluids under their car after parking it, it is essential to get the transfer case examined by a mechanic. In addition, it would be best if the vehicle is towed to the repair center rather than driving it. This will prevent further damage to it or other components of the vehicle.

The Smell of Something Burning

If one notices the smell of something burning from the bonnet area, it could be a sign of a faulty transfer case. A bad transfer case will result in low fluids, which in turn cause excess friction in moving parts. Friction results in excess heat, which can cause the fluids to burn. Therefore, when such a smell is noticed when driving, stopping at the nearest mechanic is essential to have the transfer case.

The Service 4WD or Check Engine Light Comes On

Another indicator of a faulty transfer case can be the lighting up of the 4WD or check engine light. A faulty transfer case often results in poor performance by a vehicle, especially the components directly linked to it. Therefore, when one sees these lights come on, it would be great to have the transfer case checked by a mechanic.


A transfer case is a critical component of vehicles that depend on it. They are essential in distributing power to the wheels. A faulty transfer case is a huge deal since the vehicle will lack the power to move, and it could also lead to additional damage to other critical components, such as the transmission and engine. The above-mentioned signs are critical in helping people notice a faulty transfer case in time. Therefore, a faulty transfer case should be repaired or replaced immediately.

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