What is a transfer case? | Ford Explorer Forums - Serious Explorations

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What is a transfer case?


New Member
February 26, 2003
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City, State
Chicago, IL
Year, Model & Trim Level
1998 Eddie Baur Explorer
I just talked to my Ford Service Repair Center and the guy is telling me that there is internal damage to my transfer case which is causing the rattling sound I am hearing in my front driver's side wheel well area.

I am confused. The guy says the transfer case is in the back of my truck and is attached to my transmission and said it will continue to cause significant damage if I continue to drive it. Says the repair will be $1,200!

I am an unemployed Mom with no means to pay for this. Does this sound like an accurate price? I realize it is high due to dealer labor rates but is this outrageously high? Where would you take this for repair?

I am so sorry this got so long. So upset over this quote.

98 Ford Explorer

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the transfer case is a device that splits the power coming from the transmission into going two different paths... I do not think this is what the problem on your truck is... Sounds like you may have a bad brake component or a wheel bearing/hub issue... also, the transfercase is only if you have a 4x4 vehicle.....

Well, the dealer guy was right about it being attached to your transmission. Your transfer case is what seperates a 2wd from a 4wd. A transmission puts out one driveshaft to the rear axle. A transfer case puts out two driveshafts, one for the front and one for the back.

If the sound is obviously from the front right side, it is not your transfer case. But often, noises from under an automobile are hard to pinpoint where the noise is actually coming from. I have heard (and known) some horrible dealer techs, but I wouldn't think one would tell you your t-case is going when it really wasn't, but I guess it could happen.

If I were you, I would take it to another dealer or an independent shop and get another opinion of the problem. If it is a noise in the t-case, it is very easy to find with the truck on a lift.

And yes, 1200 is a bit steep for a t-case and install. If you deal with an independent shop, they may be able to beat that price with a used or reman t-case. I would imagine that a new or "ford" reman t-case would be pretty expensive.


Transfer case splits the power front and rear. Its mounted behind the transmission.

You may want to take it to another shop for a 2nd opinion since the amount of money is large.

If you dont need 4wd , you may be able to remnove the front driveshaft depending on whats wrong, and depending on the case you have. Something to explore.

Specifically what did the service writer say was wrong. If he/she didnt- ask them what exactly was causing the problem.

Thanks for your replies....how critical is it that I get this fixed?

Since it is a large amount of $, I feel like I can't fix this right this minute. What would happen if I continue to drive it for a month or two as is until I save up this $.

Also, forgot to mention, it has been making the rattling noise in the left front wheel well area for a few months already.

98 Ford Exlorer - Eddie Bauer Edition

You definately need to take you Explorer to another mechanic. It sounds like the one you talked to is trying to pull a fast one.

It's really sad that a woman still can't get an honest answer when it comes to getting her car fixed. The same crap happens to my sister all the time. Makes me want to go down to the dealer and club someone over the head.

Um, so the rattling comes from both sides? first post says drivers side wheel well... but then the 2nd post says it's been doin it in the pass side for a few months? I take it both sides now make the noise, but you've let the pass side go, and now that you hear it on the drivers side, you're addressing the problem? Just tryin for some clarificaion :) Doesn't sounds like a t-case problem, and that they were trying to take you for a ride. Are you actually in Chicago or the burbs? I'm out in the west burbs and might know some places.

Sorry about the confusion but post 1) says drivers side and post 2) says left side meaning my left side while in the car. So I am still talking about the same noise on the drivers side only.

I agree with a previous post about it being difficult to pinpoint the noise location from inside of the vehicle. But it definitely sounds like it is coming from the drivers side. I almost feel as though I can feel it in the pedals. It occurs when I am slowing accelerating after coming to a stop.

I hope this is helpful, rather than more confusing.


Sorry....should read "slowly accelerating". Once I am at full speed, the noise is gone.

is it me, or does that seem like a TOD clutch problem? what speeds does this happen at? and I think, if you can do with out the use of four wheel drive for a while, that removing the front driveshaft will take a lot of strain off the front out put if that is what the problem is, and that is relativley simple, plus it may mae diagnosing the problem a little easier

I agree - Remove the front driveshaft for now

If your Explorer is AWD (switch positions marked something like: AUTO - 4high - 4low), then removing the front driveshaft (very easy job) would remove strain on both the tranfer case and all the front drivetrain components. If you want to defer major repairs, this might help for a little while.

To find a mechanic in my town, I called several 4X4 accessory shops and asked their opinion on a good driveline shop. Two shops in Las Vegas were consistently recommended, so I went there, with good results.

For an electric-shift transfer case on my '96 4WD (not AWD), a factory remanufactured unit was $1400 installed. Some folks on this board told me that is too high, but I called a lot of shops, and most were even higher. Ford Dealer wanted $2400 - no thanks.

So, bottom line: remove the front driveshaft and see if the noise clears up. You might get lucky, and running without the front shaft should not damage the vehicle in any way (I think - someone correct me if that's wrong).

Re: I agree - Remove the front driveshaft for now

Originally posted by funcrew
(switch positions marked something like: AUTO - 4high - 4low)

This is not AWD this is Control Trac which is a 4WD transfer case.

This is in the form of questions for those who know to help the lady out:

1. If the T-case has internal damage (lack of lube, bearings, gears etc.), will simply disconnecting the front drive shaft make any difference?

2. As an inexpensive fix (disabling 4WD), will a 2WD output shaft and extension housing fit without modifying the driveshaft? Is the VSS the same? I can't tell from the diagrams how the splined 2WD output shaft connects vs. the 4 bolt yoke on the transfer case.

3. Could she have someone open the T-case and remove everything except the shaft, bearings, pump and anything that is needed to hold them in place? This would essentially make the T-case a pass through for 2WD only. (Which is what it does most of the time anyway.) This assumes the damage is to the shift/lockup mechanism or gears. Bad bearings or pump would have to be replaced. (BTW, what does the pump output lubricate anyway? Is most of the lubrication from chain splash?)

It would cost only labor ($0 if she has a mechanically inclined friend) and gaskets/seals. Would be much cheaper than replacement or full rebuild.

Hmmm, wasn't there a recall or TSB for something like that, where the GEM wasn't properly programmed, causing the Xfer case to be noisy and jerky?? Check out the following threads on this issue. Dead Link Removed. Dead Link Removed.

I would also take a look at the thread telling you how to make the truck a 2WD. Look Dead Link Removed . This tells you how to inexpensively make the truck 2wd by just cutting a wire and putting in a switch. Total cost is about $5.