Buying a Transfer Case Motor: Essential Do’s and Don’ts
A staple in vehicles with 4WD or AWD powertains, the transfer case motor is one of the many small motors scattered across the body of your car. But despite its relative obscurity, the transfer case motor plays a big role in how the transmission works. And once the motor burns out or malfunctions, it has to be replaced as soon as possible or else the car's transmission will not function properly or not at all.
When buying a new transfer case motor for your car, take note of these do's and don'ts
- DO make sure that the motor has the corresponding part number for your car. Transfer case motors are not manufactured equally, as they are specifically built to spec for a particular make and model. This is why a transfer case motor for a Ford pickup will not fit, let alone work, in an SUV made by Toyota. Because of this, transfer case numbers are issued with a unique part number, which is typically etched on the side of the motor. So before you buy a transfer case motor, make sure to cross reference it first with the maintenance manual and the part number etched in the old motor.
- DO make sure it meets quality control standards. Aside from OEM compliance, some of the standards you need to look for include that of the DOT and SAE.
- DO buy a motor that includes the wiring harness and connectors. Although you can use the one from your stock transfer case motor, the old harness may already be compromised and fail at a later time. Most motors nowadays come with harnesses at basically the same cost as those without, so there's really no reason not to get one.
- DON'T buy a motor without a warranty/guarantee. This should be standard for all replacement parts especially if you purchased them online.
- DON'T buy from a seller you don't trust. This is why it is preferable to purchase parts from a reputable big-box retailer rather than someone you met off Craigslist.
- DON'T use a motor that looks deformed or damaged. Keep in mind that your car's transmission and your road safety is on the line.
7 Steps to Replacing a Transfer Case Motor in Your Truck
Having problems with the transfer case? Chances are that the motor is burnt out and needs replacing. There really isn't much that you can do once the transfer case motor fails, but you can consider yourself lucky as replacing one is a lot easier than changing the entire transfer case. You can get the motor replaced in most auto parts stores, but if you have the skills and the tools on hand, you can also do the replacement yourself and save some cash.
The following is a step-by-step guide on replacing the transfer case motor:
Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate
- 3/4” socket set with deep well sockets
- Flathead screwdriver
- Floor jack or truck lift
- Narrow-tip tap or punch
Step 1: Switch off the engine and disconnect the battery. This will help avoid against a short circuit (and the ensuing shock) when handling the wiring harness of the transfer case motor.
Step 2: Lift up the truck with the floor jack or lift. Although this is not essential, but lifting the truck will provide additional space to access and remove the transfer case motor.
Step 3: Locate the motor. In most trucks, the transfer case motor is located behind the transfer case, which in turn is typically mounted at the back of the truck's transmission.
Step 4: Disconnect the wiring harness. The harness must be removed first before touching anything else with the transfer case and case motor. Take note that there are other components wired to the same harness, so you will need to remove these as well (take note of the color coding of the wires). Push the clip of the harness to detach it from its base, and use the tap or punch to disconnect the other wires connected to it.
Step 5: Remove the bolts from the motor. These are usually 4-8 10mmm bolts that hold the motor to the transfer case. A ratchet with an extension attachment should make short work of removing these bolts.
Step 6: Once the old motor has been detached, install the replacement. Make sure that the mounting points match up with the bolts holes and that the motor or bolts will not pinch the wires.
Step 7: Replace the wiring harness and reconnect the battery terminals. Verify if the truck's 4x4 function is working again. If not, recheck the motor and the wiring.