Can You Drive With a Broken Transfer Case?

A transfer case is an essential part of your car. It is more important than you think. Sometimes you might know how to replace or repair the transfer case.

But most of the time, people don’t take this issue seriously. They continue to drive the car with a bad transfer case. Most people don’t understand the risk behind this.

That is why today, we are trying to answer the following question. Can you drive with a broken transfer case? Before we do that, we need to talk about the transfer case.


Importance of the transfer case

“To understand the transfer case, you need to know about four-wheel drive and two-wheel drive. In four-wheel driving, all four wheels are powered by the engine. If the engine provides power to two wheels simultaneously, it is called a two-wheel drive.”

As you know, most of the time, we use the two-wheel driving method. But, whenever you want, you can switch to four-wheel driving with a single button. Right?

This switching system works smoothly with the help of a transfer case. Without a transfer case, you won’t be able to change to four-wheel driving.

RELATED: How To Engage 4-Wheel Drive GMC Sierra

What are the symptoms of a broken transfer case?

Usually, a transfer case has a long lifespan. But nothing lasts forever. So, here are signs of a bad transfer case.

Shifting Issues

It is the most common sign of a broken transfer case. The problem occurs due to leakage or low fluid levels due to internal failure of your transfer case.

If you are having trouble shifting gears, you should check your car’s transfer case immediately. However, before you make your decision, always double-check, as it could also be something else.

Unable to stay in 4WD drive

Are you unable to use the four-wheel system for a long time?

If so, that means your transfer case is not working correctly. It might change to a two-wheel system automatically. If this problem occurs regularly, you’ll need to hire a specialist to fix this.

4WD won’t disengage or engage

“There are many reasons for this 4WD system issue. It could be a fault in the shifting mechanism or a flaw in the control system. It is also possible that this situation is occurring due to a broken transfer case.”

RELATED: Chevy 4WD Troubleshooting

Fluid puddles around the transfer case

If you can see a fluid puddle around the transfer case, that could mean only one thing. There is a leakage somewhere. So, try to identify that and fix the issue as soon as possible.

Strange grinding, humming noises, or growling

If your car produces unusual noises, it could be related to a broken transfer case. You should never ignore these kinds of sounds, as they could signify a big problem. So, you must fix the issue immediately.

What are the reasons for a bad transfer case?

There are many reasons for a bad transfer case. If you can avoid these causes, you can use your transfer case for a long time.

  • Low fluid capacity

If the transfer case is low on fluids, it will break down quickly. Make sure that there are no leaks in the transfer case.

  • Lack of regular maintenance

It will help if you act according to the service intervals of your vehicle. Make sure you change transfer case fluids regularly.

  • Regular tear and wear

With time, you will need to repair your car. It is the same case for the transfer case too.

Common issues related to transfer cases and how to fix them

In this section, we’ll talk about the three most common issues of the transfer case. These issues are straightforward to fix, and you don’t need any professional help.

So, before finding out if can you drive with a broken transfer case, we’ll first talk about the most common issues and how to fix them. Here are some of the most common symptoms of a broken transfer case.

Fluid Leak

“Driving with a broken transfer case will affect your cars’ performance considerably. If there is oil leakage in the transfer case, you should check the transfer case seal. This seal prevents the oil from getting inside of the transfer case.”

However, if somehow this seal gets damaged, the fluid will get inside the transfer case. This could lead to severe issues. So, how can you identify a broken seal?

Here is a simple method to help you find if the seal is broken or not.

  • Use the jack stands and a floor jack to jack up your vehicle.
  • Find the transfer case.
  • Place a small container under the fill plugs.
  • Pull the fill plugs.

When you pull the fill plugs, if any liquid or oil comes out, that means the seal is broken. To fix this problem, you need to replace the seal.

How to replace a broken seal?

Before starting the process, you’ll need some tools. Don’t start the replacement process if you don’t have these specific tools.


  • Jack stands, and a floor jack
  • An impact gun
  • A hammer
  • A rag
  • Oil and RTV
  • 2-inch PCV cap
  • A marker
Step 1 – Raise your vehicle

Whenever you need to check on the transfer case, it is better to jack up the vehicle. So, first, jack up the car using jack stands and a floor jack.

Then, get under the car. Make sure to put the car on neutral. Now, turn the driveshaft. Make sure to draw a simple line on the driveshaft. That way, you won’t get confused when you put it back.

Step 2 – Removing driveshaft

Now, use the impact gun to remove the driveshaft’s bolts. After removing the bolts, you can easily remove the driveshaft.

Then pull out the seal using a screwdriver. Now, clean the inside of the seal. To do this, you’ll need a hammer and a screwdriver. Use the hammer to tap on the screwdriver; that way, you can easily separate the bulk from the seal.

Step 3 – Installing a new seal

Before installing the new seal, apply some oil and RTV to the necessary parts. For rubber parts, use oil, and for the metal parts, use RTV.

Now, connect the 2-inch PCV cap and the new seal. Then, place the seal inside of the transfer case and use the hammer to force it inside. Finally, fix the driveshaft tightly.


Sometimes, while driving, you may hear a humming or rattling noise from your transfer case. If so, you need to find out the problem as soon as possible.

“If the transfer case has small holes, it can cause these noises. Most of the time, these holes can be located on top of the case. So, to fix this, you’ll need to replace the damaged side of the transfer case. These pinholes are a principal reason for a broken transfer case.”

How to install the new case half?

For this, you’ll need some tools.


  • Flat screwdriver
  • Pry bars
  • Jack stands, and a floor jack
  • A hammer
  • A bucket
  • Impact gun or wrench
  • 15mm socket
Step 1 – Raise your vehicle

Using jack stands and a floor jack, raise your car. Then go under the car. Next, locate the transfer case, and place a bucket under the fill pings. That way, you will be able to collect any leaking liquid in the bucket.

Step 2 – Removing bolts

First, use the impact gun to remove the driveshaft’s bolts. Always remember to put the car on neutral and disconnect the battery. Then, remove the driveshaft.

Now, you should be able to locate the transmission cross member. Remove the bolts and nuts that hold the transmission.

Step 3 – Remove the front shaft

Remove the front driveshaft. You might need to use an impact gun and wrench to remove the bolts and nuts. Then, pull out the transmission mount.

Step 4 – Removing the connector

After removing the transmission mount, you can now remove the electrical connector. Use the flat screwdriver for this job.

If you could successfully open the tab using the flat screwdriver, pull out the electrical connector. It might take some time if you are a beginner. Finally, remove the nuts and the tube that is connected to the transfer case.

Step 5 – Removing the top half of the transfer case

First, remove the speed sensor using the 19mm wrench. Then, remove the factory drain plugs using an 18mm wrench.

After that, you can separate all the bolts and nuts from the transfer case. Use 10mm and 15mm sockets for this. Now with some effort, you can pull out the transfer case. You’ll need a flat screwdriver for this process.

Step 6 – Installing the new half case

Align the new case with the dowels. Make sure to push it down when aligned with the dowels. Now, use the hammer to force the new case half.

Now, reinstall all the case brackets and bolts. Then reinstall the drain plugs and speed sensor. After reinstalling the bearing, complete the job by installing the output shaft.

RELATED: How to Fix Your Car’s Speed Sensors

Damaged Encoder Motor

A damaged encoder motor is another factor that can be problematic to your transfer case. Sometimes you only need to replace the ring. Replacing the ring is very easy and less expensive than replacing the whole motor.

How to replace the encoder motor ring?

It is a very straightforward method. This process only requires three tools.


  • A screwdriver
  • An impact gun
  • A marker
Step 1 – Removing the encoder motor

Use the impact gun to remove the bolts that are holding the encoder motor. Now, place the motor on a table.

Step 2 – Removing the damaged ring

Remove all the screws for the encoder motor. Now you have access to the ring. Mark the damaged area of the ring using the maker.

This will help you nicely when you are installing the new ring. Then, unplug all the wires from the gear. Now you can remove the gear quickly.

Step 3 – Installing the new ring

First, pull out the old ring. Now place the new ring correctly inside the motor. If you have installed the new ring correctly, then you will hear a clicking sound.

Directly connect the wires and then reinstall the gear. Finally, place the case and tighten the bolts and screws properly.

Replacement cost

A broken transfer case repairing could be costly if you didn’t take care of it from early on. If your vehicle shows symptoms of a broken transfer case, you must act immediately.

Because if you let it go on for long, the damage could become worse. So, here are the costs for the three replacement methods that are mentioned above.

Cost for Seal Replacement

If you plan to replace the seal, it will cost you around $20 to buy a brand-new seal. But you should always consider the labor cost. Depending on your vehicle model, it will cost you about $500.

Cost for Transfer Case – Half Replacement

For half case, you might have to spend around $120. The labor cost is around $425.

Cost for Encoder Motor- Ring Replacement

For a ring, you might have to spend around $40. The labor cost is around $800. You may have to pay more if you are going to replace the encoder motor.


If you have more questions, this section will clarify them too.

1. What is the use of the transfer case in my car?

It helps you to switch between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive systems. If the transfer case is damaged, you’ll have a hard time using the four-wheel system.

2. Can I Drive with A Broken Transfer Case?

Yes, you can drive. But it is not recommended. This could damage your vehicle more.

3. How can I find out about broken transfer cases?

If you are experiencing shifting issues, strange noises, or being unable to stay in a 4WD drive, it could be due to a bad transfer case.

Final thoughts

You must be thinking that we still don’t have a clear answer to Can You Drive with A Broken Transfer Case.

No, we do have a clear answer. You can drive your vehicle with a broken transfer case. But it can damage your car further. You can use the 2WD system until the broken transfer case gets fixed.

“Always act fast if your vehicle shows any symptoms of a broken transfer case. Remember, the transfer case is a vital part of your car, so make sure you take care of it.”

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