When we look for a new car, we look for certain qualities that we associate with safety, durability, and longevity—these are the qualities that give us our money’s worth. Volvo cars include these qualities, as well as other important characteristics like luxury, accessibility, and power. Volvos have remained one of the standards in luxury performance vehicles without sacrificing accessibility and adaptability. Many Volvo drivers report that they’re happy with the quality of their vehicles; however, not all drivers have the same wonderful experience.

Just like all other vehicles, Volvos run into their fair share of problems—and some models more so than others. In certain Volvo models, transmission problems are common. Transmission issues are usually highly inconvenient and expensive to fix, which is why preventive care is the best option for most car owners. One such issue in Volvo cars is transfer case failure. If you’re not sure what a transfer case is or does, you’re not alone. In this article, we’ll go over what a transfer case does, the common reasons for and symptoms of its failure, and what you can do going forward with your Volvo to prevent transfer case failure.

What Is a Transfer Case and What Does it Do for Your Volvo?

A transfer case is included in the drivetrain of the car, which is responsible for delegating power to the wheels. In vehicles with multi-powered axles, such as FWD (four-wheel-drive) or AWD (all-wheel-drive) cars, the power that is generated by the transmission must be carried to the different axles efficiently, which is where the transfer case comes in. It is also responsible for accounting for and adjusting for the differences in the way the front and/or rear wheels turn. In Volvo cars the transfer case is especially important, as many of their vehicles are designed with a FWD or AWD transmission. When the transfer case fails, it will cause a noticeable decline in performance, if not affect the total drivability of the car.

Common Reasons for Failure

There are several common reasons why the transfer case in a Volvo, or any car for that matter, might fail, and it’s important that your automotive mechanic is able to determine the source of the problem to prevent it from occurring again. These are the two most common reasons for failure:

Increased Mileage

Of course, as cars age their parts become worn and in need of replacement. Older Volvos are especially at risk for their transfer case to fail, especially if they haven’t been properly maintained or inspected on a regular basis.

Shaft Seal Failure

The output shaft seal in the transfer case is what keeps the hydraulic fluid from leaking out. If the fluid leaks, then it will cause significant issues with gear-shifting and other transmission functions like switching into AWD.

Common Symptoms of Failure

The symptoms of transfer case failure are usually noticeable by the driver right away, and it’s important not to delay addressing the problem. Some of the most common symptoms of failure include:


As we mentioned before, when the output shaft seal fails it can cause hydraulic fluid to leak, but you might not be able to spot it beneath your car. A trained automotive specialist will be able to recognize it, however.

Trouble Gear-Shifting

Again, transfer case failure usually leads to gear-shifting issues, which is highly inconvenient and can be dangerous for drivers.

Grinding Noise

When hydraulic fluid is scarce due to a leak or other transmission issue, it usually causes audible symptoms, such as grinding noises, which will alert the driver that the parts are not adequately lubricated and are becoming more damaged as time goes on.

Why Hiring a Volvo Specialist is Important

The Volvo XC90 is the most common model with this type of transmission problem, and the Volvo experts here at Dell’s Service Center are qualified, experienced, and skilled at diagnosing and repairing such issues. Serving Volvo drivers from all over Green Bay, Manitowoc, and Sturgeon Bay, WI, we have a wide range of knowledge and experience working with all Volvo years and models. Hiring a Volvo specialist to handle performance issues, repairs, and ongoing maintenance is critical; it gives you and your car the best chance at longevity, durability, and reliability; all the things that you expect in your Volvo. If you’re experiencing any of the aforementioned troubling symptoms in your Volvo, please contact us at Dell’s right away to schedule an inspection.

* Red Volvo on Road image credit goes to: bortnikau.

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