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Common Jeep Cherokee Transfer Case Problems (With Fix)

Jeep Cherokee has a transfer case attached to its transmission that connects the vehicle’s rear and front drive axles. The trabsfer case is responsible for providing the different operation modes. Sometimes, the the transfer case poses some challeges to the driver. What are the most common Jeep Cherokee transfer case problems?

The common problems with the Jeep Cherokee transfer case include:

  1. Damaged or worn-out seals and bearings
  2. Improper installation of transfer case
  3. Excessive wear and tear of the transfer case
  4. Transfer case chain stretch
  5. Accidental damage
  6. Broken Linkage
  7. Low fluid levels
  8. Issue with Vacuum

In this article, I will summarize the most common reported Jeep Cherokee transfer case issues and how you can fix them.

Contents show

What is a Transfer Case?

One of the essential components of the 4WD system is the transfer case. It helps send the engine’s power to the front and rear axles of the vehicle.

In addition, the transfer case allows the vehicle to shift between the two wheel and four wheel drive in the automatic and manual transmissions of the vehicle.

The transfer case helps distribute the torque between the axles and is useful in driving in off-roading conditions. Different types of transfer cases can be used by the vehicle providing various benefits to the 4WD system.

The transfer case is beneficial in improving the vehicle’s traction and stability, increasing the vehicle’s power, and offering better fuel adjustment.

Transfer Case and Its Types:

There are two main types of the transfer case:

  1. Four-wheel drive transfer case
  2.  All-wheel drive transfer case

Four-Wheel Drive (4WD) Transfer Case:

A four-wheel drive transfer case is made for the 4WD system. It helps send power to both axles of the vehicle and allows the vehicle to switch between two and four-wheel drive.

A four-wheel drive transfer case is one of the most common types and allows all four wheels to drive the vehicle. It is ideal for off-roading and is efficient in highway mode.

All-Wheel Drive Transfer Case:

This transfer case is similar to the four-wheel drive but is designed to offer power to all four wheels at the same time. Therefore, this transfer case is perfect for icy or slippery terrains.

This transfer case is seen in vehicles having an AWD system that provides power to all four wheels. In addition, it allows the vehicle to switch the mode between 2WD and AWD.

Common Problems With the Transfer Case of Jeep Cherokee:

Let’s find out the most common transfer case problems of Jeep Cherokee:

1. Damaged or Worn-Out Seals and Bearings:

There is a specific life span of the mechanical components of Jeep, including seals, gaskets, and bearings. Unfortunately, these components are prone to damage after that specific life span and lead to a bad transfer case.

2. Improper Installation of Transfer Case:

The improper installation of transfer cases can cause a variety of issues. These issues include damage to the drivetrain, transmission, and other components.

Therefore, it is advisable to seek help from a qualified technician to ensure the proper installation of the transfer case in the vehicle.

3. Excessive Wear and Tear of the Transfer Case:

It is a common issue that transfer cases are more prone to wear and tear when used over time. This excessive wear and tear can damage the unit leading to a bad transfer case.

4. Issue with Transfer Case Chain:

The chain puts stress on the transfer case. The chain stretch results in unusual sounds and hinders the vehicle from running fast in 4WD.

To solve this problem, you must repair the transfer case or get a new one.

5. Overheating of the Vehicle:

Too much heat for the transfer case can fail the mechanical components of the Jeep, including the seals, bearings, and gaskets. This damage can cause various issues, including a bad transfer case.

6. Accidental Damage of the Vehicle:

The transfer case can sometimes go bad due to accidental damage too.

The Jeep Cherokee's transfer case housing is made of soft metal magnesium. If the unit gets hit by a blunt object, it's easy for the outer shell to become too damaged. 

A crack in the casing means the Jeep could have a significant fluid leak and will likely make it unusable. If your casing cracks, you’ll need to swap out the whole transfer case.

7. Broken Linkage:

If the linkage becomes bent or broken, the transfer case may be unable to switch into and out of 4WD. 

Check for any broken or bent linkage under the Jeep if the transfer case faces any shifting issues. You can use auto part stores, junkyards, and other off-road stores to find your needed parts.

8. Issue of Corrosion and Rusting:

The transfer case can also face the issue of corrosion and rusting. The corroded unit cannot transfer the power properly, creating various issues to your Jeep.

9. Low Fluid Levels: 

Lower fluid level in the transfer case is one of the significant issues for going bad in the transfer case. There is a special lubricant for the transfer case of automatic transmissions having gear oil and fluid. The lower levels of the lubricant and fluids can cause limited action in the transfer case.

The transfer case in your Jeep Cherokee requires automatic transmission fluid (ATF), while gear-driven cases use gear oil.

I recommend using Dexron-Mercon only and keeping an eye on the fluid level periodically. It not only lubricates the operations of the transfer case, but it also cools it off.

The lower fluid levels tend to the leakage of the unit, which causes the fluid to escape from the vehicle. Therefore, it is advisable to check the evidence of leakage if your vehicle’s fluid levels are lower than usual.

Causes of Low Fluid Levels:

Different causes can create leaks in the case, including worn-out output and input shaft seals, cracked case gaskets, and improper drain plug gaskets.

Irregular maintenance can cause a leak in the case, and fluid is lost. Therefore, it is advisable to maintain the Jeep time to time to avoid such problems.

10. Issue with Vacuum:

The four-wheel drive on some Cherokee models is actuated by vacuum pressure while the case is shifted into 4×4 mode. 

If the vacuum chamber is worn out and broken, the Jeeps won’t be able to turn on four-wheel drive. 

Check the lines that run between the case and the front axle regularly, especially if you spend most of your time off-road.

11. Tire Issues:

It has been noted that the owners of the Jeep Cherokee are more prone to replace their front tires instead of the rear tires. In addition, a bad transfer case arises due to an issue with the tire size.

The small or large tires on the front and rear sides of the vehicle and old tires can cause problems. In addition, improper tire size creates problems for vehicles traveling on rough terrain like deep mud and snow. In such a situation, the transfer case engages the clutch discs for compensating the inequality of tires.

Maintaining an overall uniform tire size on the vehicle’s wheels is better. You can check the tire size and pressure to ensure that all of them are at the same level.

It is better to change the tires when they start showing symptoms of wear and tear. Replacing the tires is much more economical than replacing the whole transfer case.

Symptoms Indicating a Bad Transfer Case:

The symptoms that include a fault in transfer case in your Jeep Cherokee are as follows:

  1. Trouble in shifting the gears
  2. Problems while staying in the 4WD mode
  3. Unusual noise created by the vehicle
  4. Engagement and disengagement issues
  5. Leakage of fluids in the transfer case
  6. Automatic transmission warning light

1. Trouble in Shifting the Gears:

If you face trouble shifting the gears, this symptom might indicate a bad Jeep Cherokee transfer case. The difficulty in shifting the gears is due to the lack of fluid in the transfer case. The low fluid levels cause the gears to grind, and incorrect fluid levels can make the gears slip.

The gears become incapable of meshing properly during shifting, which makes it extremely difficult for the car to move. This is due to a lack of power or slippage between the gears, which can cause the gear shift difficult, causing a transfer case problem.

2. Problems while Staying in the 4WD Mode:

If a user faces an issue with the 4WD mode of the vehicle, it can be due to the failure of the internal transfer case. The vehicle can automatically switch between the two 4WD modes when the transfer case works properly.

The transfer case sends power to all four wheels of the vehicle. When the transfer case doesn’t work correctly, it switches the vehicle between the two modes.

The slipping mode of 4WD can cause the vehicle to lose control. It is a dangerous act for riders who drive on slippery roads and surfaces.

3. Unusual Noise Created by the Vehicle:

The unusual noise from the transfer case indicates the internal transfer case damage. Taking the vehicle for servicing is recommended to avoid such a situation, as negligence can cause serious problems.

There is various reason behind the production of unusual noises, including the lack of fluid and low levels of fluids, worn-out bearing, and bent shafts.

These problems can grind the gears and lead to bearings’ failure. This is the main reason for the annoying noise in the vehicle.

4. 4WD Engagement and Disengagement Issues:

The 4WD engagement and disengagement issue can also lead to a bad transfer case. The 4WD engages and disengages quickly when the system is properly working. The 4WD system acts up due to problems with the transfer case.

The problems include the engagement and disengagement of the 4WD system at the wrong time.

These problems can cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle resulting in an accident. Therefore, fixing the transfer case problem for a safe ride is essential.

5. Leakage of Fluids in the Transfer Case:

Another significant symptom of a bad transfer case is the leakage of fluids under the transfer case. The fluid in the transfer case leaks from the unit’s accessories, like seals, gaskets, and bearings, which can cause serious damage.

There is a problem with the seals and gaskets of the transfer case if you notice any fluid leak.

There are different causes of these issues, including the decrease in fuel efficiency, overheating of the vehicle, and damage to the drivetrain. Therefore, it is better to fix the fluid leak issue as soon as possible.

Common Jeep Cherokee Transfer Case Problems

6. Automatic Transmission Warning Light:

Another issue with the transfer case is that the automatic transmission warning light stays ON in the vehicle. When there is an issue with the fluid level in the vehicle or a hindrance for the transfer case for transferring the power to the transmission, this leads to the light coming on.

It is essential to seek help from a technician who is an expert in this issue of transmission warning lights which needs immediate attention.

This issue can damage the transmission and other associated components of the vehicle, so it is better to address this problem.

Diagnostic Code




Transfer Case Control System

MIL Lamp

How to Fix the Jeep Cherokee Transfer Case Problems and Clunking Sound (Troubleshooting):

The transfer case is one of the most vital parts of the 4WD system. It proposes the second transmission, which allows a vehicle to shift between the rear and four-wheel drive or on the high and low gearing.

Still, many problems can occur with the transfer case that can produce a clunking noise, indicating an issue of transmission fluid in the transfer case.

Here I will discuss about troubleshooting the issue of transfer case and clunking sound produced by it:


  • Make sure to engage the parking brake and turn off your vehicle. Transfer case is situated behind the transmission and is connected to a trans-axle which transfers the force to the front differential of vehicle.
  • It is advisable to inspect the transfer case to detect any kind of deformations in the vehicle or to detect any leakage.
  • You can seek help from mechanic if the transfer case is damaged. In case of leakage, you should fit a new gasket at that place.


  • Next comes the moment of inspecting the front differential and trans-axle. The front differential becomes damaged when axle pushes the transfer gear. It creates a clunking sound.
  • If trans-axle is damaged, it push the gears and clutch plate in the transfer case and cause the clunking noise. So check if that is the case for you.


  • In last step, turn and shift the vehicle to the rear-wheel drive. Listen the clunking noise during driving.
  • If still, you hear a clunking noise, the issue can be with the transfer clutch plate or central axle.
  • You can engage the 4H to observe the clunking noise. If still, the noise exists then it detects that gears are damaged and the option left is of replacing the transfer case.

Can You Drive Jeep With a Bad Transfer Case?

I don’t recommend this. If the transfer case is bad, it will cause your jeep to slip constantly. 

You may destroy the whole unit by driving with a bad transfer case. In addition, the driveshafts, transmission, and axles can also be severely damaged in this circumstance.

Transfer Case Replacement Cost:

The cost range for replacing the transfer case falls between $880-$1100. In addition, the labour cost would be around $350-$500. It is better to consult a qualified technician to get an accurate estimate for the vehicle.

The cost of a transfer case depends on the factors of the vehicle, like its model, severity of the damage, and demand for a new transmission.

Also Read:

Jeep Touch Screen Not Working-How to Fix?
Why Your Jeep Grand Cherokee Won’t Move in Gear- How to Fix?
12 Reasons Why Jeep Grand Cherokee Won’t Start- How to Fix
What Wheels Interchange with Jeep Grand Cherokee?
Jeep Grand Cherokee Power Liftgate Problems And Fix
How to Reset Jeep Grand Cherokee Warning Service?
8 Reasons Why Jeep Key Fob is Not Detected- 6 Tips to Fix
Jeep Grand Cherokee Transmission Over Temp Problems: How to Fix
GPS Not Working on Jeep Grand Cherokee: How to Fix?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Which is the main issue of concern with the Jeep Cherokee?

 Jeep Cherokee suffers from the problem of stuck gears, poor response from the throttle, and issues with coastling. This vehicle has also reported the problem of delayed down-shifting and erratic behavior. Such things cause an unexpected switch between gears.

How can a person detect a bad transfer case in the Jeep?

The following issues can detect a bad transfer case in the Jeep:

  • Problem with the shifting of gears
  •  Hard to handle the 4WD vehicle
  •  Fluid puddling and dis-engagement of 4WD
  •  Growl or humming noise of the vehicle
  •  Some other possible causes of lousy transfer case

How much cost is required to replace or transfer the case on the Jeep Cherokee?

It costs between $811 and $1000 to replace the transfer case shift motor in the Jeep Cherokee. Additional labor costs fall in between the range of $70-$90.

How much cost is required to fix the transfer case in Jeep Cherokee?

The average price needed to fix the transfer case in Jeep Cherokee falls in between the range of $900-$1000. Additional labor costs fall in between the range of $300-$400.

In which year did the transmission problems in Jeep Cherokee were detected?

The common issues with the transmission of Jeep Cherokee were detected in the years 2014 and 2015. The detected issues were related to the shifting of the vehicle.

Is it possible for a person to drive a Jeep with a bad transfer case?

It is not recommended to drive the Jeep with a bad transfer case. It is a mechanical error to drive with the bad transfer case and can destroy the Jeep’s drive shafts, transmissions, and axles.