Car System

What Transfer Case Do I Have? What Is It And How It Work?

Mike Cross
Updated Feb 16, 2022
What Transfer Case Do I Have

You’ve probably asked yourself “what transfer case do I have”? If you have no idea what a transfer case is, you’re not alone. In this article, you’ll learn about what a transfer case is, what purpose it serves, and be able to know which transfer case you have. The type of transfer case will depend upon the type of vehicle you have. Plus, you’ll need to know where the identification tag is or you can look it up online using your VIN number to know exactly what transfer case you have. Let’s begin by explaining what a transfer case is and how it works.


What Transfer Case Do I Have
What Transfer Case Do I Have?

What Is A Transfer Case?

The transfer case is a part of the drivetrain of four-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive, and other multiple powered axle vehicles. The purpose of the transfer case is transferring power from the transmission to the front and rear axles with the help of drive shafts. This also synchronizes the difference between the rotation of the front and rear wheels. It may contain one or more sets or low range gears for off-road use.

How Does A Transfer Case Work?

As mentioned, power is distributed to the front and rear axles via the transfer case. So, how to they work? The engine powers the transmission, which will send that power to the transfer case. It will send power from the output shaft through a chain or a set of gears. Then, torque will be sent to the front and rear driveshafts, which will then deliver power to the axles. Chains are a common method of powering the transfer case because it’s quieter and lighter than gears.

Chains are commonly found in most modern transfer cases. However, enthusiasts and off-roaders are more apt to use gears just because they’re more reliable and have the ability to handle greater amounts of torque compared to chain-driven transfer cases. In part-time 4WD systems when four-wheel-drive is not engaged, 100% of that power is being sent to the rear wheels. When four-wheel-drive is engaged, then the transfer case will equally distribute the power between the front and the rear, thus powering four wheels.

Transfer cases will work in coordination with the drive axles, driveshafts, differentials, transmission, and wheels in order to evenly disperse power. In transfer cases, there are two gear settings: high and low. For example, in a Jeep the lower gears will provide more torque at slower speeds. They are geared towards more intense off-road situations like hill or rock climbing. The high gears are for more basic off-road situations such as ice, dirt, and heavy rain.

If the powertrain control module (PCM) has received a data input signal indicating that the transfer case control system (TCCS) has detected a malfunction which requires malfunction indicator lamp (MIL) illumination

Part-Time vs Full-Time 4WD

There are two types of four-wheel drive systems: part-time and full-time. So what’s the difference between the two? Part-time four-wheel drive indicates that the vehicle will remain in two-wheel, rear-wheel drive in normal driving conditions. This will aid in the fuel economy in relation to full-time four-wheel drive and will also put less strain on the drivetrain. If you need four-wheel-drive, all you have to do is engage it.

Full-time four-wheel drive systems will operate with all four wheels all the time on both highways and paved roads. This will also have the low gear and high gear settings, but you can’t switch it to two-wheel drive because it’s a full-time 4WD system. Most of these systems will have several modes to choose from. These include, but are not limited to: 4-Hi and 4-Lo.

Identifying Your Transfer Case

Transfer cases often come in a variety of styles and specifications. This will also depend on your manufacturer, the year, and the make and model of your vehicle. Even with a model number, you still can have variations in the internal components that may result in a different transfer case. Also, you should take note of the assembly tag as well. There are two major types of tags:

Style A: In a Style A, the series of numbers (and in some instances letters) is the assembly number. For example, an assembly number can look like this: “xxxx-yyyy” (i.e.--2424-2560).

Style B: This is the “tab style” assembly tag. This type of tag will contain similar information like the Style A round tag. The difference is that there will be no clear line markings. For example, the assembly number will look like this: “xxxx-yy”

What if you don’t have access to the assembly tag? Or what if the tag itself is missing? An alternative way to identify and know what transfer case you have is simply looking up your VIN number. You can use your VIN number to look up your vehicle and find out what type of transfer case you have. Some of the car manufacturers will allow you to look up what your vehicle specifications are simply by using your VIN number.

When Is It Time To Get A New Transfer Case?

There’s going to come a time when you need to replace or repair your existing transfer case. One of the common signs is hearing noises each time you shift gears. Now, some noises may not mean anything. It could be a common occurrence, especially in colder months. To rule out any major problems, the first thing you need to do is check the transfer case fluid. If it’s low on fluid, chances are that’s what is causing the noise. If you have plenty of transfer case fluid and it’s making noises, it can be a different issue. Signs of a bad transfer case can depend on your type of vehicle. If you have any concerns regarding your transfer case, you should get it inspected as soon as possible.


If you need to know what transfer case you have, it’s as simple as looking at your ID tag. If that proves to be a challenge, you might alternatively consider using the VIN number on your vehicle. From their, you’ll be able to find out by way of your manufacturer which transfer case you have. You’ll also know about how your type of transfer case will function.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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3 comments on “What Transfer Case Do I Have? What Is It And How It Work?”

  1. With my truck, I have no idea what kind of transfer case I have. It would be a good idea to try and find out. That way, I can see about getting it serviced properly.

  2. I have my 2007 silverado jacked up front drive shaft off and rear diff fluid drain transf case guild drain truck in neutral I turned the rear drive shaft by hand only one rear wheel spins is that normal also when I spin the rear drive shaft I get a squeaking sound coming from my transfer case but that could be because there no fluid in it. There was pieces of metal in the rear dif fluid no big chunk but defanitly some little chips. So mabe somthing is broke in rer diff what brought all this on was a loud clunking noise and the truck grabbing could barley drive 10 miles hour cause seemed like drive shaft would break or whatever was catching would. Anyhow any ideas what to do oh also found rubber gasket of some sort in rear diff fluid when took cover off. thanks

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