A vehicle’s transfer case is responsible for passing on power produced by the engine to each and every wheel via the rear and front axles. Transfer cases are located on every tire and vehicle with the all-wheel drive (AWD)feature. The transmission is powered by an engine which is then passed on to the vehicle’s transfer case. Thereafter, transfer cases transmit this generated power out of the output shaf through gears, hydraulics, or chains.
The chain transfers power to both the rear and front drive shafts; power is delivered to the rear and front axles. There are many distinct settings for AWD and 4WD vehicles, each utilizing unique transfer cases. So, what causes leakage in a transfer case?
This discusses a few of the very popular factors responsible for a transfer case leak as well as tips and guidelines on this problem can be fixed. It also examines some signs and symptoms when there is a transfer case leak.
What’s a Transfer Case?
A gearbox connected to the engine’s rear side of a 4WD vehicle is known as the transfer case. Its function is to transfer power straight from the vehicle’s engine to each and every wheel of the vehicle, rather than just two wheels.
Two gear sets make up the transfer case. The first is attached to the engine, while the second is to the vehicle’s axles. The first set of gears rotates at a varying speed from the second gear set. The variation in the rotating speed is what creates power, and this power, in turn, is responsible for turning the wheels.
The quantity of power delivered to every axle may vary based on the amount of traction required. For instance, if a wheel starts slipping, more power will be transferred to the remaining three wheels to put the vehicle under control and prevent it from stopping.
A transfer case may also be utilized in shifting a vehicle with the 4WD feature running on two-wheel to the actual four wheels. To do this, simply engage or disengage the vehicle’s front axle. The effect of this action is that engaging the axle at the front sends power to all four wheels of the vehicle. While disengaging the front axle means power is sent just to the wheels at the back only.
A lot of transfer cases work automatically. Although, a few models from the past may still require a manual engagement or disengagement of either the rear or front axle from the driver.
What Causes a Leak in Transfer Cases?
A leakage in a transfer case may occur due to a couple of reasons, which usually require different ways and techniques to fix them. While the origin of leakages in transfer cases usually does not pose big problems for the vehicle and can be fixed with ease. However, other leaks tend to be more complex to fix them.
Among the very popular causes of a leak in transfer cases include the following:
Leak in the Output Shaft Shield of the Transfer Case.
Transfer cases are built having output shaft coverings or seals which guide against fluid loss in the output shaft with such seal. However, as time goes on, these seals start drying out, which makes them brittle. When they get brittle, fluid starts to leak from the seals, and over time, the leakage becomes even more severe because the condition of the seals continues to deteriorate. This type of leak is usually detected when oil starts to pour out of a particular output shaft. In the Alternative, the leaking seal will look wet, like it is soaked.
Uncommon circumstances may see the internal components of a transfer case progressively wear out, resulting in oil leaking. This can be very common among high-distance and overused transfer cases. This problem usually comes when one of the output or input shaft bearings is overused. This excessive usage damages the seal, protecting oil leakage faster than normal, leading to varying degrees of oil leakage. If one tries to stop an initial leak by replacing the damaged seal with a new one, but after some time, the new seal starts leaking around the same place as the previous one, it is most likely that the problem is a worn internal bearing.
The drive train components of a vehicle depend a lot on all U-joints working as they ought to so binding does not occur. If the drive line u-joints start seizing or they get worn to a point where they start making the drive line vibrate, it usually leads to the transfer case and differential leaks. This continuous vibration starts affecting the input or output shaft seal and reduces its ability to hold fluid, leading to fluid leaks. In order to fix this problem, the damaged U -joint has to be replaced, as this will prevent the newly fixed seal from suffering a similar fate to the previous one.
Damaged Housing Gasket
It is possible to separate many transfer cases with a
the centralized seam can be found close to the biggest part of the transfer case’s housing. Separating a transfer case makes it possible to look at the drive gears, transfer case chain, and some other internal properties. A unique housing gasket seals both halves of the housing. As time goes on, this kind of gasket usually loses quality and gets compromised to a point where fluid is able to bypass the gasket. In this situation, it becomes a necessity to change the gasket inside the vehicle’s transfer case by simply opening it.
Many transfer cases are built having drain and fill plugs. The fill plug of a transfer case can be found just above the central line of the transfer case housing. Meanwhile, a lot of times, one will find thr drain plug lying at the base of the t-case housing. If one of the fills or drain plugs becomes loose for whatever reason, a specific quantity of fluid will find its way through the loose space. Notwithstanding the fact that this sounds like a rather basic principle, loose plugs in a transfer case can cause more leakages, unlike what one would ordinarily think of.
Can a Leaking Transfer Case Cause Damage to a Car?
A leaking transfer case could cause real problems for a vehicle as it gives a chance for fluid to find its way out. This escape means the fluid in the case is lost, making it impossible for lubrication to occur. When there is no lubrication, gears and components start grinding against one another. This contact between gears will eventually result in transfer case failure.
Also, a leakage in transfer cases opens space for dirt and water to find a way into the system. Without a doubt, this can cause problems for the gears as well as other components.
Upon noticing a leak, it is of great importance to fix it without much delay. A professional mechanic should not find it difficult to replace the seal or gasket responsible for the leak.
How Can One Know When a Transfer Case Ought to Be Changed?
A lot of signs may come up as an indication that a transfer case may need a replacement. A popular sign is when the wheels start to lose power. This may occur as a result of bearing or gear problems.
Another popular indication is when a grinding sound is heard when shifting to 4WD from the two-wheel drive. This shows that the gears have gone bad and need a replacement.
Upon noticing one or more of these signs, it becomes essential to have the transfer case inspected by a professional mechanic who should have no difficulty detecting what the issues are and the best possible ways to have them fixed.
How to Fix a Transfer Case Leakage?
If one is caught up in a situation like this, it is best to first check on the quantity of fluid remaining in the transfer case. If it has reduced, it becomes necessary to top up the fluid.
A transfer case fill plug is usually located by the side or behind the transfer case. As soon as the fluid is added, try to observe if there will be any leakage. If yes, then replacing any damaged seal may be the solution to this problem.
To change the output seal in the front area:
- Take out the drive shaft before loosening the plate, which keeps the seal steady.
- Put a new seal in place of the old one.
- Ensure a sealant is applied to the newly installed seal.
To change the output seal at the rear:
- Take out the drive shaft before unbolting the t-case behind the transmission.
- Immediately, move the case forward enough to allow access to the seal.
- Put a new seal in place of the old one.
- Ensure a sealant is applied to the newly installed seal. If an input shaft seal is a problem, then simply take out the t-case to allow one easily change the seal.
This can be more complex than changing output shaft seals; hence, it is best to seek the assistance of a professional mechanic if one is not assured of fixing the problem without help.
Once the seal replacement has been concluded, ensure the level of fluid is checked and, if need be, topped up. Ordinary, this should fix the problem.
How Can Transfer Case Leakage be Prevented?
If one faces problems related to a leaking transfer case, it is best to avoid them immediately rather than look for a solution later. The next paragraphs will mention some tips that can help keep a transfer case well-protected and sealed up.
A very good thing that should be done is making sure regular maintenance work and service are carried out on the t-case. This implies that the fluid should be changed frequently, and the appropriate fluid type recommended for the vehicle should be used. The gaskets and seals should also be checked from time to time to ensure they remain in proper working condition.
Another thing that can help to prevent leakages in transfer cases is to stop driving off-road or on bad roads. If one has no alternative to driving in conditions like this, make sure to drive slowly to reduce pressure on the transfer case to stop it from getting damaged quickly.
The best way to fix transfer case leaks is to have a professional mechanic inspect the case and fix them immediately. Not giving attention to a leak could damage the transfer case even further and lead to an absolute failure.
Transfer case leakage is quite a common problem; however, it can be avoided through proper maintenance and care. A transfer case can be kept in good working condition and shape by adhering to these directives, which is a good way to prevent transfer case leaks.
Frequently Asked Questions – Transfer Case Leaks
Why will a transfer case leak?
Transfer cases could leak as a result of different factors. Being a self-servicing unit, the transfer case works with its fluid. Therefore, leakages could be a result of a damaged seal or some problem with the transfer case itself. The seal of the output shaft remains a constituent of the t-case, which attaches the transfer case to the axle.
What is the cost of fixing a leaking transfer case?
On average, it will cost between $222 – $267 to replace an output shaft seal. The labor costs about $171 – $216, while buying parts costs $51. This price range excludes fees and taxes without also considering the vehicle’s brand or location in question
When seals get damaged, the 4WD feature on a vehicle will fail. Therefore, it is highly recommended that t-case fluids be replaced after the vehicle hits a distance of 30000 miles. While doing this, the seals should also be checked out for traces of wear or deterioration.
What happens when a transfer case is short of oil?
There may be problems switching gears. Dirty or Low fluid in a transfer case will affect the vehicle’s transmission function of switching gears. It will also lead to the vehicle not being able to engage its 4WD feature. Another consequence is loud sounds will be heard while driving. This noise can be attributed to the fact that as fluid is being lost, lubrication fails to occur, which means more friction occurs between the components of the t-case.
Can one drive with a case leak problem?
When seals leak, the transfer case loses its fluid, and proper lubrication will not occur inside it. This means as time goes on and the more, the more the is being driven, the internal components of the transfer case will become worn and start overheating. This can destroy the case and render it useless, meaning the vehicle’s 4WD feature cannot be used if the transfer case remains.
Can one drive if the vehicle’s transfer case is broken?
Professionals highly discourage driving a vehicle with a damaged transfer case because doing this has severe mechanical implications; one may make the case to a point where it can’t be repaired anymore. It is also possible to damage the transmission, axles, and drive shafts while doing this.
What Happens when one abandons leakage problems?
If a leakage problem is not attended to in time, the t-case eventually loses all its fluid and will be unable to perform at a top level. This could damage both the transmission and the engine. Also, driving with no working transfer case is a dangerous act.
Can problems with the transfer case lead to transmission issues?
There are known situations where terrible t-case failures have led to damaging other components of the vehicle, like the transmission. Therefore, it is best to resolve any problem that shows up without delaying for a long as this will minimize the damage and prevent further issues.
How long do transfer cases stay in good condition?
No specific duration or distance is attached to the t-case being in good condition. There are known instances where some do not last beyond 6,000 miles (which is a rare case) while some remain in good condition for more than 300000 miles. Adherence to maintenance guidelines and driver habits when driving are major determinants. This is why getting a good warranty is not to be taken with levity.
Conclusion – Transfer Case Leaks
Leaks in transfer cases are mostly a result of an issue with the seal or gasket. A problem with the t-case can also lead to loss of fluid. Fluid may start to leak out of the case should it get damaged.
When one notices a leak, fixing it without unnecessary delay is essential. A professional mechanic should have no difficulty replacing the seal or gasket responsible for the leak. Certain instances may necessitate changing the whole transfer case, although this is mostly done when severe damage has occurred.