The transfer case is an important part of your drivetrain which allows the vehicle to engage and disengage the four-wheel drive. Inside the transfer case, there are chains or gears which require a special gear oil to keep things running smoothly. A leak in the transfer case can lead to damage to these essential components.
Repairing a leak in the transfer case typically costs anywhere from $200 to $800. The price mainly depends on the source of the leak, your vehicle make and model, and where you take it for the repairs.
- How Much is it to Repair a Transfer Case Leak?
- Diagnosing a Transfer Case Leak
- Other Related Issues
- Transfer Case Maintenance
- The Bottom Line
How Much is it to Repair a Transfer Case Leak?
If your transfer case is leaking, the cost to repair it will primarily depend on the source of the leak. The leak could be coming from a failed seal or gasket, or some other issue inside the case.
If transmission fluid is leaking into the transfer case due to a failed input seal, it can cause damage to the internal components.
Another potential source of a leak is the output shaft seal, which is where the transfer case connects to the axle.
If this seal fails, the special lubricating fluid inside the transfer case can leak out, causing further damage due to overheating and friction.
Physical damage to the transfer case itself could cause holes or cracks, which could allow for the fluid inside the case to leak out. There are other reasons that may cause a fluid leak, but these are some of the most commonly associated with repairs.
Transfer Case Leak Repair Cost Estimate
|Failed Input Seal||$150-$500|
|Failed Output Shaft Seal||$200-$300|
|Holes or Cracks in Transfer Case||$450-$700|
|Transfer Case Replacement||$2,300-$2,750|
Diagnosing a Transfer Case Leak
A fluid leak in your vehicle’s transfer case can cause many larger issues and damage to the internal parts.
The ability to recognize a potential problem as soon as possible and diagnose the cause is essential to getting your vehicle back to top performance.
Many drivers may notice a bitter odor coming from under the hood that could potentially indicate a leak in the transfer case.
Once you bring your vehicle in to the shop, technicians will complete diagnostic tests to locate and resolve the leak. It typically involves removing and inspecting plugs, checking fluid levels, and replacing the plugs so that they fit snugly.
If the issue is a bad or damaged transfer case output shaft seal, you may notice some of the following signs and symptoms:
Difficulty shifting gears
If you have a fluid leak from a bad output shaft seal, the amount of fluid inside the transfer case and transmission may be reduced to the point where the internal components aren’t properly lubricated.
Fluid pressure loss can also make it harder to shift gears.
Difficulty going in and out of a four-wheel drive
If a leak causes fluid loss, the vehicle may not properly shift in and out of the four-wheel drive, or it may randomly jump in or out of 4WD. Low fluid levels can result in the internal components becoming damaged or wearing out prematurely.
Grinding sounds from underneath the engine
If the output shaft seal fails, you may begin to hear grinding noises coming from underneath the engine. The lack of fluid may cause metal-on-metal grinding. This can cause serious damage if it’s not addressed timely.
Visible fluid underneath the vehicle
A bad output shaft seal will often result in fluid making its way out and onto the ground underneath the vehicle. If you notice reddish-colored fluid underneath the vehicle, it may be a bad output shaft seal.
Transfer case output shaft seals are most likely to fail after the 85,000-mile mark. Most vehicles usually go much longer without needing to repair transfer case leaks, if at all.
Vehicles that have lifted suspension systems or where the driveline angle is modified are more at-risk for transfer case output shaft oil seal failure.
Other potential issues that could increase the chances of this problem include a worn drive shaft yoke, an output shaft bearing being worn out, or failing to keep up with scheduled maintenance.
Other Related Issues
If you notice reddish fluid leaking from underneath your vehicle it’s probably transmission fluid and you should bring your vehicle to a qualified service center to have it diagnosed as soon as possible.
A transmission fluid leak could cause major issues if it’s not addressed. The source of the leak could be in a few different areas, which can make the problem even more complicated.
In addition to the transfer case, there are a few other common areas where these leaks can occur.
Transmission Pan Gasket Leaks
If you look underneath your vehicle, you may be able to see the transmission pan. Around the pan, there are gaskets that seal it from leaking.
If the gasket wears out or if it wasn’t installed correctly it may slip out of place. If this occurs, there is a good chance that you’ll experience a leak from the transmission pan gasket.
Luckily, this is a simple repair that only involves replacing the impacted seals. On average, this repair costs between $325 and $415.
Torque Converter Leaks
The torque converter moves transmission fluid into the transmission. Leaks can occur from this point if the torque converter has a bad or fault seal or if the component itself becomes cracked.
There are also some bearings and gaskets in the torque converter that can leak if they get damaged.
If this is the cause of the fluid leak, it will typically require a more extensive repair. In most cases, the torque converter will be replaced if it’s leaking severely.
For most vehicles, it costs between $650 and $900 to replace a torque converter.
Transmission Cooling Lines Leaks
Transmission fluid runs in and out of the transmission through the cooling lines. During this process, the fluid cools down by releasing heat before running back into the transmission.
These lines can eventually wear down due to normal use, or they can sustain physical damage in some situations.
If the cooling lines begin leaking, they will need to be replaced as soon as possible. Not having this problem addressed can cause further damage to the engine or transmission.
Replacing the transmission cooling lines typically costs between $150 and $450.
Transfer Case Maintenance
A good way to catch potential problems and leaks early and prevent future damage is to keep up with the scheduled maintenance. Performing the necessary maintenance on your transfer case may save you money and resources in the long run.
Periodic maintenance on the transfer case may include draining the fluid and replacing it with the appropriate amount of fresh fluid. At that time, the service technician will also check specifically for leaks and any physical damage.
Without the right amount of fluid and fluid that’s clean and of good quality, the transfer case may not be able to cool and lubricate the various components properly.
If the additives in the fluid aren’t doing their job to protect the internal gears, chains, bearings, and other components, it could cause further damage to the transfer case.
In addition, the fluid can become contaminated by metal shavings and bits of material from the clutch. Because there’s no filtering system in the transfer case, these contaminants can cause further damage if the fluid isn’t maintained properly.
How often this needs to be completed will depend on your specific situation and how often you drive your vehicle, use your four-wheel drive, and your driving conditions.
The Bottom Line
A leak in your transfer case may present as visible pools of red fluid underneath the vehicle, erratic shifting in and out of the four-wheel drive, or unusual sounds coming from underneath your engine.
The source of the leak could be from any one of several different areas. The good news is that most vehicles will not experience this issue.
If you do discover a leak in your transfer case, chances are that it will be able to be repaired fairly easily at any reputable garage. Most people will be able to have the work done for anywhere between $200 and $800.
The best thing to do in this case is to take your vehicle to have it diagnosed as soon as possible. If you can, get several estimates and consider the price, warranty offered, and shop’s reputation.
In some cases, it may be better for you to pay a little bit more for the work if it includes a better warranty on the parts and labor.
On the other hand, you may be more interested in getting the best deal for the repairs, especially if your vehicle isn’t worth too much and you don’t want to make a large repair investment.
Remember, you’ll likely pay much more at a dealership versus a local garage or transmission shop. The good news is that the labor charges shouldn’t be too high because the repairs shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours.
Getting multiple estimates will help ensure that you get the best value for the cost.