2008 Ford Escape Transfer Case Repair- Pawlik Automotive Repair, Vancouver BC

2008 Ford Escape Transfer Case Repair

Mark: Hi, it's Mark Bossert here with Mr. Bernie Pawlik, Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver. We're talking about cars. How are you doing this morning, Bernie?

Bernie: Doing very well.

Mark: So, we're going to talk about a 2008 Ford Escape that had a transfer case problem. What was happening with this fine Ford vehicle?

Bernie: So the owner brought the vehicle to us. His complaint was there was a very loud noise while driving and some vibration under the vehicle. So that was the issue. And very noticeable when he drove it. Yeah, the kind of thing you don't want to drive very far.

Mark: And so what did you find and how did you diagnose it?

Bernie: Yeah, so for diagnosis, of course, we start with a road test to verify the client's concerns, which was very easy in this vehicle. And then we did a hoist inspection underneath and found that basically, I guess the best diagnostic tool we had in this case was a stethoscope and our ears. And there was a very loud noise coming from the transfer case. This unit's bolted to the side of the transaxle, the transmission, and basically transfers the ... It's an all-wheel drive, so it transfers the movement of the axles to the rear, as well as the front.

And a stethoscope certainly verified a lot of noise coming from inside the transfer case. We listened to other areas of the vehicle, and didn't really, nothing was too apparent. But the noise in the transfer case was so severe that, once we found it, it was pretty easy to confirm.

Mark: And so, doctor, why was the unit so noisy?

Bernie: Yeah, so basically when we took it apart, took it out, took it apart, there was some extremely badly-worn bearings, which is we suspected it would be. So badly worn, in fact, it was causing the gears to run on a strange angle. And that exacerbated the noise even further.

Actually, we can get into some pictures right now. 

So there's our 2008 Ford Escape. And here is a view of the, this is the transfer case unit removed from the transaxle of the vehicle. And a number of bolts removed here, as you can see. The unit's about to be taken apart for inspecting inside. And what we found, this is the sort of major issue. There's three shafts inside this unit. They all have bearings on either end of the shaft, and then this one here, you can see the cage, and you can see some of the rollers here.

But some of them are completely missing, so this bearing was worn so badly, it was just causing this shaft to just wobble back and forth. And, of course, with that level of wear, it was causing ... Of the bearing causing a horrendous noise, in and of itself. You can see here that a couple of gears where two of the gears mesh, and of course, with a bearing worn like that, these gears are not going to be running true to each other. And that causes noise, too. There's a lot of engineering that goes into building anything with gear, transfer cases, transmissions, to eliminate noise.

And if you drive a really old vehicle, like we're talking like 70 years old, back when they had straight cut gears, there was a lot of gear noise present in a vehicle. But nowadays, since then they've evolved, and there's no noise. But with a worn bearing like that, of course, that brings all the noise back. Another view of the inside. This is the other end of the ... This is the shaft actually put back in, and this is the other end of the shaft. You can see this bearing, the red arrow points, this bearing was disintegrating, as well.

The yellow arrow here just indicates a bearing that still looks at least together, probably badly-worn though. The gear oil inside this unit was just, it was absolutely hideous. It smelt awful, it was burnt. And the level was also low, too. Just a final shot here before we depart the pictures. This is the unit installed under the vehicle. You can see the exhaust system, the rear drive shaft is attached here, and then the axle shaft comes out to the right side of the vehicle here. So that's the unit bolted up to the transaxle under the car.

Mark: So what would cause these bearings to wear out in this kind of catastrophic fashion?

Bernie: Well, there's a few things. So first off, this is the first time we'd serviced this vehicle. It's 10 years old, we don't know anything about the repair and maintenance history. So it's entirely possible that the fluid had never been changed in the transfer case. That could cause it. 

Second of all, we found the fluid level was low, so a leak could have been present. It wasn't, like there was some oil on the case, but it wasn't covered in fresh leaks of oil, but the oil level was down so it's possible, it may have been running for a few years on a low oil level, which could cause the wear.

Third, it could be that just the bearing just started to wear out. I mean, these things happen. And of course, once the wear, it'll cause excessive heat, causes the fluid to burn. So even with good maintenance, things will still sometimes wear out. So one of three things, but obviously, if you keep your fluids changed on a regular basis, it's going to maximize the life of any component.

Mark: So how did you repair this transfer case?

Bernie: We actually got a good used unit and put that in. Parts are not readily available, the gears and things are not available. Bearings are certainly available and seals, so we could have possibly cleaned everything up, put new bearings in, and seals. But chances are, with this level of wear, there would be gear damage, and we never even cleaned it up to that point. We just decided, let's get a good used unit.

There was a lot of, we deal with reputable auto wreckers. One of the companies we deal with, they specialize in Fords. They had several of these on the shelf, so it tells me that it's not a really common problem, and this is the first one we've actually replaced. So they're fairly reliable, which makes for a good candidate for a used part.

Mark: And how are Ford Escapes for reliability?

Bernie: I'd put them in the fair category. I mean, there are a number of things that we do service on these vehicles. So certainly not as a reliable as say a CRV or a Toyota RAV4, which is in a similar category of SUV.

They're pretty good overall, but you'll expect to spend more money on repairs and maintenance, but less money to buy the vehicle. And by the way, it's the same as a Mazda Tribute. So either way, it's the same general vehicle.

Mark: So with these, basically with any of the perhaps ... Well, I guess with any vehicle, it's really important maintenance, but these ones might be even a little bit less tolerant of running with low fluids, or not having their fluids changed, is that fair?

Bernie: I think it's fair to say. But even a Toyota is actually one of the vehicles that's like least tolerant to lack of oil changes. For some reason, some vehicles and some engines seem to be able to handle more abuse than others. Now we're not talking about an engine here, but just overall general reliability. But the thing is, it's kind of a risk thing.

And as we've said on these podcasts, you can live off of French fries for a while, and you might live to be old. But chances are, if you avoid eating that kind of food all the time, you're going to be better. And it's the same with car maintenance. If you do the right things, it won't prevent everything from happening. But at least it'll minimize the chances.

Mark: So there you go. If you're looking for maintenance on your Ford Escape or other Ford products, the guys to see are Pawlik Automotive in Vancouver, 19-time winners of Best Auto Repair in Vancouver, as voted by their customers. You can reach them at 604-327-7112 to book your appointment. Please only call if you're in Vancouver. We can't diagnose products over the phone. We have to see it and there could be many things wrong, so if you're from out of town, call your local provider. If you're in Vancouver, give us a call to book your appointment. And thanks, Bernie. Thanks a lot.

Bernie: Thanks, Mark. Thanks for watching.

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