A transfer case is a component used for taking power from the transmission, and sending it to the 4-wheel, or all-wheel drive system. Without the use of a transfer case also known as a transfer box there would be no way to get the front tires to have power in a rear wheel drive vehicle.
Transfer cases are classified as married or independent. A married transfer case is bolted directly to the transmission. Some transfer cases classified as married are part of the same housing as the transmission. The independent transfer case is not part of or connected to the transmission instead it is bolted to the transmission output shaft. In this configuration a driveshaft travels from the transfer case to the front and rear differentials. Married transfer cases are the most common in cars whereas most pickups and SUVs use an independent transfer case.
A typical transfer case is operated by engaging a gear with a chain, this chain then delivers power to the front differential in a rear wheel drive vehicle. Some transfer cases use gears to engage instead of a chain, however, gear driven is much heavier and louder than a chain driven system. It is not uncommon for people into extreme off roading to change the chain out for a gear to increase the strength a gear can handle over a chain. The main disadvantage to a gear driven transfer case is that the gears weigh more than the chain driven style.
Transfer cases are available in two types, manual and electronic. With a manual transfer case in order to place the vehicle into 4-High the vehicle should not be moving at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour. In order to switch to 4-Low the vehicle must not be moving and the transmission should be placed in neutral. Changing from high to low in a manual transfer case is accomplished through the use of a lever similar to a transmission shifter. With an automatic transfer case a transfer case motor and vacuum operated front hubs engage and disengage the different gears with the push of a button. In order to switch to 4-Low is it best to have the vehicle at a stop to prevent transfer case damage.
Sports cars that are equipped with a transfer case do not typically offer the ability to select different gears as they are most often all the time all-wheel drive. It is still the same process as a standard transfer case but the gears are set up to allow for greater speeds while still providing torque to all four wheels.
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