How Often Does My Car Need Transfer Case Fluid?

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We all know that we need to change the oil in our cars, but too often that stops at the engine oil. Now, before we go on, no we are not saying that you don’t need to change your oil (sorry about that). What we are saying is that engine oil is not the only lubricant in your vehicle that needs replacing from time to time.

We’re here today to talk about one of the unsung heroes of the various fluids needed to run a car safely and efficiently. Yes that’s right, thanks to, transfer case fluid will finally get its moment in the spotlight.

The first question though, is:

What is Transfer Case Fluid – Part One?

It’s a fair question to start with, not only because many people maybe don’t even know what transfer fluid is. In addition to that there is also the fact that quite a lot of cars don’t even need transfer case fluid at all.

So just what is this mysterious liquid?

Well, to answer that you first need to know what a transfer case it self actually is. You will only find a transfer case on a 4-wheel drive truck, SUV, pick up or van. That is because the transfer case is a key element of the drive train of these types of vehicles.

It is found at the rear of the vehicle, right at the back end of the vehicle transmission. Inside the transfer case you will find a complicated array of gears and axles that work to transfer power from the vehicle engine as it travels along the transmission and divert that power to the rear wheels.

It is therefore a very important component on any 4 wheel or all wheel drive vehicle because quite frankly, without a transfer case you don’t have a vehicle with power in all four wheels.

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What is Transfer Case Fluid – Part Deux?

Because the transfer case is full of moving parts, it also needs to be filled with plenty of lubricating fluid. This is transfer case fluid, and it serves a number of purposes.

  • It primarily job is to lubricate the moving parts found within the transfer case. It does this to ensure a maximum transference of power from the transmission to the rear wheels by minimizing friction between all the moving parts. This both prolongs the lifespan of the transfer case machinery and also increases your miles per gallon by reducing wasted energy.
  • Its secondary function is to the cool the moving parts of the transfer case. Again, this will increase mileage by reducing wasted energy, this time in the form of excess heat. It also helps to protect the inner workings of the transfer case, again from damage caused by excess heat.

How Often Does My Car Need Transfer Case Fluid Changed?

So now we know that the transfer case is a very important component along the drive train on an all wheel drive vehicle. We also know that the transfer case fluid found inside plays a key role in keeping this important component operating correctly.

So how can we look after it, and how often do we need to change the fluid? Well, unfortunately that depends on a number of factors, chief amongst them being the type and manufacturer of the vehicle you drive. We would certainly recommend you take a look through your vehicles operating manual or whatever other paperwork that came with the vehicle to the recommended mileage for a transfer fluid change on your vehicle.

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In a Toyota RAV4 for example, Toyota recommends checking and replacing the fluid every 15,000 miles. If you drive a Ford F150 truck on the other hand, then Ford recommend checking and replacing the fluid every 60,000 miles.

Why the big difference? No idea, but probably it has something to do with the transfer case mounted in the Ford being more efficient, and putting less wear and tear on the fluid. Either way, this really highlights the fact that you should find out the typical mileage range for whatever vehicle you own and drive.

Other Factors

In addition to sheer mileage there are a couple of other factors that can affect the lifespan of transfer case fluid, and require you to make more frequent changes – they are towing and off road driving.

  • Towing will place extra strain on the transfer case mechanism, simply because the vehicle is working harder to pull an additional load. If you use your truck or SUV to regularly tow a hitched load, then you should keep an eye on the transfer case fluid and be prepared to change it more regularly.
  • Off Road driving can also result in more frequent fluid changes being required. This is simply because the transfer case is mounted beneath vehicle with no protection. In off road driving it will therefore be exposed to all sorts of containments such as dust and mud on the road surface to being submerged as the vehicle passes through pools of water or fords rivers and streams. Some of these containments will work their way into the transfer case over time, diluting the transfer case fluid.
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How to Change Transfer Case Fluid

Luckily though it is very easy to change transfer fluid, and here is how you do it.

The first step it to get your car up into the air with your jack and then secured there with your jack stands.

  • Locate the transfer case on the vehicle. On a 4 wheel drive it will be found mounted to the left of center of the transmission.
  • On the transfer case, locate the drain plug – it will be found on the bottom of the case. To save making a mess, slide your oil drain pan underneath the vehicle before using a wrench or ratchet to open up and remove the plug. Grab a beer and let gravity do it’s share of the work.
  • When the case is drained, replace the plug and secure into place with your ratchet or wrench.
  • Next locate the filler plug, which will be mounted in one side of the case. Remove this next plug and, using a small funnel, pour in your new transfer case fluid.
  • Replace the filler plug, lower the vehicle to the ground and you’re done!


That’s about it folks, this one is short but sweet. If you drive a 4 wheel or all wheel drive vehicle, the transfer case is a relatively unknown but highly important component. The transfer case fluid is a key lubricant that is essential to keeping this component, and by extension your vehicle, operating correctly.

So make sure you use this guide to take care of your transfer case fluid, and it will take care of you.

Originally posted 2023-01-11 18:07:42.

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