Jeep Wrangler JK: How to Repair Transfer Case Shift Linkage

One of the weak points of the Jeep JK Wrangler is the transfer case shift linkage. Learn how to fix it for good.By Jeffrey Smith – November 24, 2015
Contributors: 4WheelingAstronomer

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

One of the biggest complaints among Jeep JK owners is the inferior engineering and manufacturing that Jeep used in making the transfer case shift linkage. While this appears to be a trivial thing at first glance, this shift linkage will go out without warning and at the worst possible time. This will leave the driver either stuck in 2WD, 4WD or not moving at all and stuck in neutral. While there is no warning given as to when the linkage is going to fail, you can be prepared by learning ahead of time how to fix it and be rather quick about it. The great news is that this is a very cheap and easy fix to do on your own; however, a professional is going to charge you a pretty penny to do what you can easily do in your own garage. Save yourself a good deal of cash and learn how to do this fix yourself and avoid those hefty professional invoices.

Materials Needed

  • Torx wrench and T30 bits
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Pliers (if needed)

You will most likely only need to remove the center console, but to be sure, crawl under your Jeep and look for the linkage at the transfer case to make sure it is intact down below. The problems almost always occur at the shifter under the console.

Step 1 – Remove the console cover

  • Using a Torx wrench, remove the four T30 bolts that secure the console cover at the 2WD-4WD shifter.
  • Pull up on the hand brake as far as it will possibly go. You will have some difficulties getting the console cover up and over the emergency brake if the handle is not pulled up as far as it will go.
  • Remove the transfer shifter knob by simultaneously twisting and pulling up on the knob.
  • Pop off the panel in front of the shifter on the lower dash. There are two retaining clips that hold it in place. Take care with these that you don’t snap them.

Figure 1. There are two T30 bolts on either side of the console cover. Remove all four.

Figure 2. Remove transfer case shifter knob by turning and pulling up at the same time.

  • Figure 3. Open and remove the lower dash cover plate in front of the gear shift.
  • Use a flat head screwdriver to pop up the gear shift rubber boot from the bottom. Push the rubber boot into the cavity opened up when you removed the dash panel.
  • Remove the top center black console cover to expose the wiring harness for the rear power windows.
  • Disconnect the wiring harness.
  • Remove the rest of the console unit by sliding it up and over the emergency brake handle. If you can’t clear it, try pulling up further on the brake handle.

Figure 4. Use a flat head screwdriver to pry up the bottom of the gear shift boot.

Related Discussions

Jeep Wrangler JK: How to Replace Front and Rear Driveshafts

Swapping out your front and rear driveshafts is a great job for the weekend DIYer.By Jeffrey Smith – November 20, 2015

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

If your JK is starting to make a clunking noise when you shift from reverse to drive, or you have noticed a strong vibration or squeaking noise when you are driving, these are signs that your driveshaft may need to be replaced. Besides the OEM driveshafts, there are numerous aftermarket brands that you can use. Just be sure to get the correct fitment for your Jeep and give yourself plenty of time for the job. It is not too difficult to do on your own, but you will need some specialized tools to do the job. Many specialized tools can be rented or borrowed from your local auto parts store. While this job is easy enough for a novice DIYer, it can be a real bear to execute because of pieces that don’t want to come apart. You will definitely want to have some PB Blaster or WD-40 on hand and plenty of it. Bring along a bucket of patience and give yourself plenty of time, so you can save yourself a considerable amount of cash from having a professional do this job for you.

Materials Needed

  • 3/8 or 1/2 inch drive ratchet and 8mm socket, plus a large sized assortment
  • Torque wrench
  • Large hammer (preferably a rubber mallet)
  • Silicon
  • Locktite
  • Jack and jack stands or lift
  • PB Blaster or WD-40

Steps 2 to 8 illustrate the process for removing and installing the front driveshaft, while 9 to 12 are for the rear driveshaft replacement.

Step 1 – Jack up your Jeep

Make sure you are parking on a flat, level surface and jack up your Jeep. Starting from either end, use a hydraulic floor jack and raise it high enough to place a couple of jack stands in the proper positions. Repeat for the other end. Always makes sure you are using the approved lifting as well as jack stand points, and never work under your Jeep without using jack stands if you do not have access to a lift.

Figure 1. Always work under your Jeep with jack stands in place.

Step 2 – Remove transfer case skid plate

There are four bolts that hold the skid plate onto the frame. Remove the four bolts, and make sure to have control of the plate when you are removing the last bolt to prevent the skid plate from dropping and getting damaged.

Figure 2. Remove the four bolts mounting the skid plate in place and set the plate aside.

Step 3 – Remove forward driveshaft from flange

Remove the eight 8mm bolts that hold the driveshaft to the flange. You’ll probably only be able to remove four or five of them at first, and then move the Jeep forward or backward to turn the driveshaft in order to get easier access to the remaining bolts.

Figure 3. The eight 8mm bolts may be pretty difficult to remove without turning the driveshaft.

Step 4 – Remove driveshaft from axle flange

Once you have removed the eight bolts from the driveshaft and flange, move to the opposite end of the shaft. There are four bolts holding the shaft to the flange on this end, married up to the axle. Remove these four bolts and get ready for some hard work.

Figure 4. On this end of the driveshaft, there are only four bolts to remove from the flange.

Step 5 – Beat the driveshaft into submission

This part of the process is the most difficult and for good reason. You will need to take the biggest hammer or mallet that you can get your hands on and beat the tar out of the end of the driveshaft at the flange. The transfer case end usually comes off much easier than the axle end. You may want to prep the shafts the night before your work with PB Blaster or WD-40 and let it soak overnight.

If you look at the backside of the flange, you’ll see some smell, un-threaded holes. These holes allow for the entry of a strong punch and when inserted, beat the back end of it with your hammer. This is one method to get separation between the shaft and the flange. In the end, it is just going to take a lot of elbow grease and patience to get this thing off. Another method may be easier, but it does involve a special tool. You may be able to borrow or rent a driveshaft puller from your local auto parts store. Follow the directions with the tool or ask the counter person for help and, hopefully, your driveshaft will come out much easier. Many folks seem to prefer the brute force method of removing driveshafts.

Figure 5. If you are lucky, a few heavy blows with a big mallet will be enough to knock the shaft free from the flanges.

Step 6 – Remove the flange from either end

An air gun will greatly help in facilitating the removal of the center nut from each flange, otherwise, you will need to wrench on it pretty hard while keeping it stationary. Remove this center nut and the flange will come right off, but it may need some persuasion with your big hammer. The same process works on both the axle end and the transfer case end.

Jeep Wrangler JK: How to Change Differential Fluid

If you have a 4WD Wrangler, changing out the differential oil is a must and it is much easier than changing out your engine oil.By Jeffrey Smith – November 17, 2015
Contributors: wayoflife

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

If you have a 4WD Jeep Wrangler, you should be aware that changing the differential oil is part of your routine maintenance for your vehicle. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this has to be done by a professional or at the dealership. Unfortunately, differential oil is a bit pricey compared to regular engine oil; however, the dealership may charge up to three times as much as you can find it on your own at just about any auto parts store. You will also be charged a small fortune in labor costs for a job that shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to do yourself. Changing the differential oil is about as easy as any job you can do on your Jeep. You don’t need any skills or special tools at all, and you will be pleasantly shocked at just how much money you will save by doing this on your own. The most difficult aspect of this job in fact is simply deciding which brand to use and whether or not to go with traditional Dino or a synthetic.

Materials Needed

  • 3/8″ drive ratchet with short extension (2-3″)
  • Catch pan for used oil
  • Brake cleaner
  • Shop rags
  • Torque wrench
  • One gallon of at least 75W-90
  • Fully synthetic or an additive with Dino oil (for limited slip differential setup)

Please dispose of used oil responsibly. Most quick lube stations will take in used oil and dispose of it for you at no cost.

Step 1 – Start with the front axle

You will not have to jack up or lift your Jeep for this job. The plugs should easily be within reach from the ground with plenty of clearance to work with. It is recommended that every other oil change, or if you have been running through deep water, to remove the differential cover plate and inspect and clean the gearing mechanisms. Otherwise, just draining and refilling the oil is all that is needed.

  • Using just the ratchet and extension without a socket, remove the fill plug from the differential cover.
  • The fill plug has a recessed square hole into which the end of the 3/8″ extension will fit.
  • Remove the fill plug, this will allow faster draining when the drain plug is removed.
  • Have your catch pan located underneath the differential and locate the drain plug on the bottom portion of the differential.
  • The drain plug has the same recessed square port for the ratchet extension.
  • Remove the lower drain plug and let all the oil drain out into the pan.

Step 2 – Inspect the drain bolt

The end of the drain bolt is magnetic in order to collect small metal shavings from normal wear and tear on the gears. If you find any large chunks attached, you need to remove the differential cover and inspect your gears. There is likely some damage. At the same time, you will also want to run a magnet through the pan with the old fluid to see if there are any large chunks of debris that came through the hole. This is an indication that you have some issues in the gears that you will need to have addressed and remedied. Before you replace the drain bolt, clean it up nicely with some brake cleaner and wipe it down with a rag.

Step 3 – Replace drain bolt and re-fill differential

  • After you have cleaned up the drain bolt, replace it and torque it to 25 ft/lbs per inch.
  • Add new gear oil to the fill hole.
  • With stock covers, you only need to fill it until it starts weeping out of the bottom of the fill hole (about 1.35 quarts).
  • Do not over-fill.
  • If you are using conventional Dino, you will need to add friction modifiers with the limited slip differentials.
  • If you are using purely synthetic gear oil, you need no additives.
  • Replace the fill plug and torque it to 25 ft/lbs, as well.

Step 4 – Repeat the process for rear differential

The process for draining and re-filling the rear differential is exactly the same with one minor difference. The rear axle will hold about one additional quart (2.375). Make sure to thoroughly check the drain plug as well as the used oil for any large chunks, and clean the drain plug as you did the front. Do not be concerned if the rear differential fluid is much darker and dirtier than the front, as this is quite normal.

Figure 5. The only difference with the rear from the front is that the rear hold more fluid.

Featured Video: Changing Jeep Wrangler Differential Fluid

Related Discussions

Jeep Wrangler JK: 4WD General Information

The Jeep Wrangler was specifically designed as an off-road vehicle. Learn a bit more about its 4WD capabilities and what you can do with it.By Bassem Girgis – November 11, 2015

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

The Jeep Wrangler is a tank of a car, which is designed to go off the road and go over almost anything. Of course, you can’t go off the road without using the 4WD system on it. Once you learn a bit more about the 4WD and how to use it, the world becomes much more reachable for you. With the Wrangler being one of the best off-road cars on the planet, you are simply over-paying if you don’t get to use its 4WD system. The 4WD is what activates all the wheels to help you gain more traction on rougher terrains. There is a technique of doing it, however. Read on to learn everything you need to know about your 4WD system.


The Jeep Wrangler has a transfer case between the front and the rear axles. This is designed to lock them all together when the 4WD is engaged, which provides a lot of traction to get you out of rough terrains.

Activating the 4WD allows you to carry heavier loads in your Jeep, due to the added traction you’ve created. However, it can’t be used for dry pavement.

Your 4WD lever gives you a few options: 2WD, 4WD Hi, and 4WD Lo. The 2WD is what you would use on your regular pavement drive. From there, as the terrain gets rougher, you can start switching to 4WD Hi, and finally when you’re doing the ultimate off-roading, switch to 4WD Lo.

Figure 1. Wrangler off the road.

How to Switch

Switching through the 4WD gears requires a certain technique. Don’t get into 4WD gear while you’re already on the hill, be sure to switch to 4WD before you get to the rough part.

Going into 4WD Hi can be engaged as the car is moving at any speed; however, again, don’t engage it while you’re already on the hill. Note that the lever won’t feel smooth, so you have to pull it harder than you would pull your regular transmission lever.

If you want to switch to 4WD Lo, whether you’re in 2WD or 4WD Hi, let the car coast until it is almost coming to a stop, then pull down on the lever hard; it’s common to hear a bit of a cringe.

To go back in gears, which you will eventually need to do to get your Jeep home, step on your clutch, or put your automatic transmission in neutral. Then let it coast until it is almost stopping completely, push the lever forward and put it back into the gear you want.

Figure 2. Wrangler 4WD lever.


Depending on how much off-roading you do, you will have to replace your front and rear deferential fluid between 15,000 and 30,000 miles. Always check for leaks, whether it is because you drive your Wrangler roughly off the road or because you’ve replaced the fluid recently. To check the fluid, you will have to open the drain bolt, which means you will have to top it off again after. Be consistent with your maintenance and replace the fluid earlier rather than later.

Figure 3. Front differential.

Related Discussions

Jeep Wrangler JK: 4WD Diagnostic Guide

The 4WD is what allows your Jeep Wrangler to be the ultimate off-road machine that it is. Learn how to diagnose it here.By Bassem Girgis – November 11, 2015

This article applies to the Jeep Wrangler JK (2007-Present).

The Jeep Wrangler is designed to be an absolute reliable beast off the road. In order for it to drive without getting stuck off-road, the 4WD system has to be working properly. The 4WD system, like the engine, requires regular maintenance. Ignoring it completely can cause it to fail. 4WD issues come in a variety of shapes and forms, so it is important to know how to diagnose it and not confuse it with another component. This guide will shine some light on your 4WD and what you can do to diagnose an issue that arises with it. Read on to learn how you can diagnose some of your Jeep Wrangler’s 4WD problems.

Material Needed

  • Flashlight

Step 1 – Check for a leak

There could be a leak.

One of the most common issues in the 4WD system in the Jeep Wrangler is a leaking differential. Whether it’s the front differential or the rear one, most of the time it doesn’t affect the driving feel, so it is something you should do as a regular maintenance. It could however affect the feel of your 4WD lever and cause a loud grinding noise when you shift. To check that, use your flashlight to look around the front and rear differential for any signs of wetness. The leak could be coming from the drain bolt or the main seal around the assembly. If the main seal is leaking, you will have to reseal it completely.

If the differentials aren’t leaking, proceed to Step 2.

Step 2 – Are you getting consistent grinding noise?

You could be misusing the 4WD.

Aside from grinding noise caused by low fluid in the differentials, you could get grinding noise by simply using the 4WD wrong. For instance, if you’re switching between 4WD gears and you do it slowly, it could cause grinding noise. You should switch between the gears fast. The bigger issue is if you use your 4WD on dry pavement. Doing so could cause damage to your Jeep. When you engaged the 4WD, all four wheels get locked together for ultimate traction. However, when you turn on hard pavement, the wheels will try to turn at different speeds, but the 4WD will prevent that, which could cause damage to various components and not just the 4WD.

If that’s not your problem, proceed to Step 3.

Step 3 – Is your 4WD lever not shifting?

It could be broken.

The 4WD lever is connected with a cable, when you pull the fancy lever, the cable moves the gears around. If your lever is stuck in place and you’ve tried everything to move it, it could mean your cable has broken. It is recommended you let a professional handle such case; however, if you plan on doing it yourself, you will need to remove the center console trim and follow the cable from the 4WD shifter to the transfer case.

Related Discussions