Transfer Case Lease?
August 2, 2008 11:27 PM   Subscribe

What is a transfer case leak?

We are thinking about buying a 1990 Range Rover to haul around artwork for my future business. It's listed at $1500 which is a bit above kbb value, but I plan on offering less because they state it has a transfer case leak. Can anyone tell me what that is and what sort of costs might be involved? Thank you!
posted by inquisitrix to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total)
A transfer case is a second transmission installed between the first transmission and the axles. It splits the engine power between front and rear axles on a four wheel drive vehicle.

There's a small shift lever in the car that shifts between two wheel and four wheel drive, it controls the transfer case.

Like most care stuff, this could be major or minor. Chances are a mechanic will need to remove the case to fix a leak, which takes time, which translates into cash.
posted by Marky at 11:37 PM on August 2, 2008

Upon preview, Marky explained it exactly right.
posted by sanka at 11:40 PM on August 2, 2008

Best answer: What Marky said. What's leaking out of the leak will be transmission oil, and if it leaks out faster than you top it up, the innards of the transfer case (which is mechanically very similar to a diff) will wear out. If you're very lucky, it's just a gasket gone hard. If you're unlucky, there's a crack in the actual case (maybe it was rammed into a big rock at some point). But the most likely thing in a car that's 18 years old is that the seals are worn, and the oil is leaking where the shafts go through the case. I can't think of a way to fix such a leak without removing at least part of the case. The best person to get a ballpark estimate of costs from is your friendly local independent mechanic.

I've always figured that $3000 is about the right amount to spend on a second hand car. In my experience, that's about what it will end up costing you to buy a $1500 car.

If your 18 year old Range Rover is a diesel model, make sure the engine isn't blowing any blue smoke. If the former owners were religious about engine oil and filter changes, it shouldn't be; well maintained diesels go for a very long time. If they weren't, the engine may well be on its last legs now, and it will cost you far more for a diesel engine rebuild than you're about to pay for the car.
posted by flabdablet at 12:21 AM on August 3, 2008

If it's in the US, it won't be diesel unless it was a grey market import, I think.

A small transfer case leak is no big deal, any more than if it dripped some oil off the bottom of the engine now and then or something. It's an old vehicle, and you just make sure to keep the fluids topped up (which means checking them a lot more frequently than on a new car with no leaks).

But if it is really leaking, where it makes big puddles and you can't keep it full, then you have something that needs to be fixed, and you will want to get a mechanic to give you a sense of what is going on — dried out old seals or something more awful?

I have found that some people selling cars err on the side of honesty, and a "transfer case leak" may mean just a tiny smudge of oil; others err on the other side and that "leak" may mean that there is a huge hole in the bottom of the transfer case. Don't assume that the description is accurate, in other words.
posted by Forktine at 6:49 AM on August 3, 2008

Oh lord, please don't buy that car.

I like Rovers, but on a good day those from the late 80s and early 90s are inexplicably unreliable.

$1,500? I hope you have another $3,000 in the bank to keep thing patched together and running over the next year. Rover mechs are expensive.

Buy an old Jeep Cherokee or something similar. You may still have mechanical problems, but you'll pay half as much to have them fixed.
posted by wfrgms at 9:30 AM on August 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

Supporting the threadjack... Don't buy a used Rover. Personal experience has shown that no matter how well maintained they are, they're still British.
posted by krisak at 3:18 PM on August 3, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, all - The person selling never called me, so I guess it was fate. I don't think I'd want to mess with the leak, either, from all that you have been saying. Thanks Again!
posted by inquisitrix at 6:48 AM on August 4, 2008

Holy shit, DON'T DO IT!

Yeah, a cherokee, or a japanese pickup with a camper shell, but never, ever a Rover!
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:46 AM on August 4, 2008

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