Transfer Case Switch Buyer’s Guide
- A transfer case switch lets you electrically shift from a two-wheel to a four-wheel drive and vice versa on the fly.
- In addition to normal wear and tear, there are also other factors that could damage the transfer case switch long before the end of its service life. These include corrosion and dirt and debris contamination.
- The price of a replacement transfer case switch may vary according to the brand of the product you’re getting as well as your vehicle’s year, make, and model. OE replacement transfer case switches will typically cost you anywhere between $20 and $80.
- CarParts.com makes it easier for you to find a replacement unit that meets the specifications of your vehicle. You just have to plug in your vehicle’s year, make, and model into our website’s built-in vehicle selector to narrow down your search results to all compatible units.
Your vehicle’s 4x4 drivetrain is capable of transmitting torque to all four of its wheels, allowing you to enjoy increased traction and stability. This capability comes in handy for off-roading environments, as well as for driving through adverse weather conditions like heavy snow and rain. The ability to switch from two-wheel to four-wheel drive is made possible by your vehicle’s transfer case.
Having a transfer case is what sets four-wheel drive vehicles apart from their two-wheel drive counterparts. This assembly is made up of numerous components that are responsible for delivering engine power to the front and/or rear differentials. One of the fundamental parts of the transfer case assembly is the transfer case switch.
What does a transfer case switch do?
The transfer case switch makes it easier for you to engage and disengage your vehicle’s four-wheel drive capability. Unlike older vehicles, wherein you’d have to get off your ride and lock the wheel hubs by hand to enable the four-wheel drive, automobiles nowadays are equipped with a transfer case switch to let you electrically shift from a two-wheel to a four-wheel drive and vice versa on the fly.
Mechanically operated transfer cases also include this component, although it’s not used for controlling the drivetrain. Instead, a transfer case switch in a mechanically operated assembly simply illuminates the light on the dashboard to let you know if your vehicle’s four-wheel drive capability is engaged or not.
Just like every other automotive component, your vehicle’s transfer case switch is bound to become worn out over time, especially if it’s constantly put to use when you go off-roading. In addition to normal wear and tear, there are also other factors that could damage this component long before the end of its service life. One of these is dirt and debris contamination, which can cause the electrical connections to come loose or interrupt its flow of electricity. Corrosion is also another common culprit behind a damaged transfer case switch.
What happens with a bad transfer case switch?
There are several transfer case problems that you may encounter when its switch is no longer functioning properly, such as:
Stuck transfer case
A faulty switch can cause the transfer case to be stuck in one gear, preventing you from using the wheel drive that’s suitable for the road conditions that you’re driving in. A stuck transfer case that does not engage the four-wheel drive could put your safety at risk, especially if you’ll be driving on terrains that require better traction.
On the other hand, if a transfer case that’s stuck on the four-wheel drive setting is driven over dry pavement, it could put too much stress on the drivetrain and lead to more serious vehicular problems that require more costly repairs.
Transmission shifts roughly
The transfer case is designed to shift gears seamlessly to ensure a smooth ride, so difficulties when switching gears is a sure sign that there’s something wrong with the assembly. One of the potential culprits behind this problem is a faulty electrical switch that keeps the gears from shifting completely.
Illuminated 4WD malfunction light
Vehicles that are equipped with a four-wheel drivetrain also come with several indicator lights on the dashboard to let the driver know which transfer case setting is being used and if the assembly is working properly. If your vehicle’s computer detects that there’s something wrong with how the transfer case switch functions, it will trigger the Service 4WD light to alert you of the potential issue.
Illuminated check engine light
Unusual readings from a damaged transfer case switch may trigger the Check Engine light on your dashboard. This also sends a diagnostic code to the powertrain computer module, which a technician will scan to determine if the warning light is indeed triggered by a faulty switch.
Transfer Case Switch Replacement
A malfunctioning transfer case switch is one of the most common causes of transfer case failure in four-wheel drives. There are many ways that your mechanic can diagnose this issue. One of the first things they usually check is the voltage input and output of the switch. They may also inspect the connectors and wirings for signs of corrosion and loose connections.
While a vehicle with a damaged transfer case switch is still drivable, its transmission will likely not function correctly. This will make your ride difficult to control, especially when you have to change gears or engage the four-wheel drive.
It may also put your vehicle at risk of further damage to the transfer case and drivetrain, which could result in costly repairs. Hence, it’s best to have a bad transfer case switch replaced before you attempt to bring your vehicle back on the road. Fortunately, replacing this component won’t cost you too much time and money.
How much does a replacement transfer case switch cost?
The price of a replacement transfer case switch may vary according to the brand of the product you’re getting as well as your vehicle’s year, make, and model. OE replacement transfer case switches will typically cost you anywhere between $20 and $80. They are sold individually and are available in different terminal types and connector quantities.
They also feature a direct-fit design for a quick and hassle-free installation. All replacement transfer case switches offered by CarParts.com come with a warranty coverage that ranges from 1 year to a lifetime, depending on the brand.
Finding the Right Fit
As with any auto part, compatibility is important when it comes to choosing a replacement transfer case switch. If you’re not sure what type of switch to buy, you may refer to your vehicle owner’s manual or your car manufacturer’s website for the specifications of its transfer case components.
Once you have all the information you need, browse through our wide selection of replacement transfer case switches. CarParts.com makes it even easier for you to find a replacement unit that meets the specifications of your vehicle. You just have to plug in your vehicle’s year, make, and model into our website’s built-in vehicle selector to narrow down your search results to all compatible units.
How to Replace a Broken Transfer Case Switch
One of the parts that differentiate four-wheel drive vehicles from their two-wheel drive counterparts is the transfer case. Found at the bottom of four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, the transfer case engages and disengages the four-wheel drive capability of the car. The transfer case is controlled via the transfer case switch, and if the switch malfunctions you won't be able to shift your car into four-wheel drive. A broken transfer case switch might cause the service 4WD message in your vehicle's dashboard to light up, but if you are having difficulty getting your transmission to shift to four-wheel drive then you need to get the transfer case and transfer case switch inspected and replaced if needed.
Difficulty level: Moderate
- Socket set
- Jack stand
Step 1: Using the jack, raise the rear end of your vehicle. Slide the jack stands under the rear frame and lower the vehicle in place.
Step 2: Pop open the hood and detach the negative battery cable using your socket wrench.
Step 3: Go to the rear end of your vehicle and look for the transfer box. You can check your car's user manual to find out where the transfer box is located.
Step 4: Remove the electrical connections, shift lever, and vacuum lines that connect to the transfer case.
Step 5: Carefully remove the bolts that hold the transfer box in place. Once the bolts are removed, you should now be able to gain access to the transfer case switch.
Step 6: Unplug the wiring harness from the back of the switch. Once the harness is detached, carefully pull the switch out.
Step 7: Attach the new switch onto the transfer box and reattach the harness.
Step 8: Replace and tighten the bolts on the transfer box. Reattach the electrical connections, vacuum lines and shift lever and the battery cable.
Step 9: Lower and remove the jack stands from the rear of the vehicle and start the engine. Check if the transfer case switch is working properly.