How To Test Transfer Case Shift Motor Safely and Effectively

Learning how to test transfer case shift motor is something you can easily achieve with the proper instructions, even if you have yet to have any ideal expertise in car mechanics. This is a common issue faced by plenty of drivers, and it is good that the entire process of testing the motor and finding out the root issue is not very complicated.

How To Test Transfer Case Shift Motor

Since having a low reading in the transfer case shift motor can mean that there are issues with the core power or the related fuse, it is important to know how you can test the relevant motor and find out what is wrong so that you may take the right steps to fix it. In this complete post, we will walk you through the exact steps and techniques that you need to know to test your transfer case shift motor!

How Can You Test a Transfer Case Shift Motor Manually?

You can test a transfer case shift motor manually by first checking for symptoms. After that, you can use an OBDII scanner to diagnose it and remove the shifter knob. Then take a screwdriver to turn the ignition to the ON position.

1. Checking for Symptoms

This motor is controlled by the transfer case control module, which receives input from the driver through the transfer case shifter. It moves the gears inside the transfer case to establish the desired gear ratio, allowing the vehicle to operate in four-wheel-drive mode.

The symptoms of a problematic transfer case shift motor are usually easily identified, and one of these signs could be that you cannot get the vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system to operate.

Symptoms of Bad Transfer Case Shift Motor

Apart from this, you must keep an ear out for any unusual sounds, as issues in the transfer case and its related system might result in grinding noises or other similar sounds. If you cannot move your car left or right, which means it is having issues with general movement, this would be another sign of a problematic transfer case shift motor.

You also should pay close attention to any visual indications of damage or wear, such as frayed wires, broken connectors, or signs of corrosion. These signs may indicate larger underlying issues that need to be addressed. For example, frayed wires may result in a loss of connectivity, while broken connectors may prevent proper electrical flow. Furthermore, corrosion may contribute to rust buildup, which can cause the shift motor to become sluggish or unresponsive.

Finally, if you see that you are facing trouble when it came to shifting gears when you were previously able to carry out this task without a hitch, this would be another symptom. If you see these signs, it usually means that the shift motor must be fixed or even replaced.

2. Using a Scanner

Modern vehicles are equipped with a sophisticated diagnostic system that can detect and store fault codes related to transfer case shift motor issues. Using an On-Board Diagnostics II (OBD-II) scanner, you can read these codes and diagnose the underlying problem.

The OBD-II scanner can communicate with your vehicle’s computer system and retrieve the stored fault codes, which will help you identify the issue and take the necessary steps to resolve it. The fault codes can provide valuable information, such as which sensor or component is malfunctioning, allowing you to pinpoint the problem quickly.

Furthermore, OBD-II scanners can also perform live data readings, allowing you to monitor the performance of various vehicle systems in real time. This feature can help you identify potential issues before they eventually become more severe and expensive to fix and repair.

3. Removing the Shifter Knob

After diagnosing possible symptoms of a malfunctioning shift motor, the next step is then to check the shifter knob and shifter boot by removing them from inside the car.

Removing Shifter Knob of Transfer Case Shift Motor

This process requires a careful approach, as you need to handle the components with precision to avoid causing any further damage. Once you have removed the shifter knob and boot, you can view the shaft, an integral part of the shift motor assembly.

A critical area to inspect on the shifter shaft is its center, where you will find a small hole that contains a pin responsible for initiating the shift motor. This pin is crucial for the shift motor’s functioning and can cause issues if it is not properly working. Therefore, examining the pin for any signs of damage or wear that could interfere with its functionality is vital.

4. Using a Screwdriver

Once you have removed the wiring and can see the little hole in the shifter shaft, you need to get a screwdriver, preferably one that is small in size. If you do not possess a screwdriver, you can purchase one or use a similar tool as long as it gets the right work done. Besides this tool, you will require another person’s assistance, so it would be ideal to call a trusted friend or maybe a family member to help you.

Then you will need to take the screwdriver – or a similar tool – and use it to push down the small pin you can see in the hole. At the same time, the person helping you out will need to turn the key in the ignition until it is in the ON position. As soon as this is done, the transfer case will generally shift to the correct gear without a hitch, and you can move your car easily.

How Can You Test a Transfer Case Shift Motor Electronically?

You can test a transfer case shift motor electronically by removing the shift motor and testing the resistance between the leads. Once done, place the shift motor back. If it doesn’t work, it would be best to see a mechanic for the issue.

1. Removing the Shift Motor

The above sections walked you through the method of testing your vehicle’s transfer case shift motor through a manual procedure. Suppose you do not want to do it manually. In that case, you may do it electronically, following the proper instructions.

Removing Car Shift Motor

First, you must locate the negative cable of your vehicle’s battery. Disconnecting this cable is essential to ensure your safety and prevent any potential harm to the car. Before removing the negative cable, it is crucial to take the correct security measures to avoid mishaps.

Once you have safely disconnected the negative cable, the next step is then to take away the shift motor entirely from the transfer case. This process requires extremely careful attention to detail, and following the manufacturer’s instructions is vital to ensure that you do not damage any small components during removal.

It is worth noting that electronic testing is a more advanced approach to diagnosing shift motor issues, and it is best suited for experienced mechanics or individuals with a technical background. Furthermore, electronic testing may require specialized equipment, such as a digital multimeter or an oscilloscope, to accurately measure the shift motor’s performance.

2. Testing the Resistance

After safely removing the shift motor from its place in the transfer case, the next step is to test the resistance established across the leads, usually located on the top of the shift motor. Testing resistance involves assessing the continuity between the two leads to determine if the shift motor functions correctly.

A correctly functioning shift motor typically has no continuity, indicating that the electrical circuit is incomplete. However, if you find that there is continuity across the leads, it means that the shift motor is broken or faulty and needs to be repaired or replaced.

To perform this test, you must apply 12 volts to the motor and assess the total amount of electric current being drawn. This information can help you determine the performance of the shift motor and whether it needs to be replaced.

It is worth noting that testing the resistance and continuity of the shift motor requires some technical knowledge and experience. Therefore, it is the best idea to seek the assistance of a trusted mechanic or technician if you still need assistance with how to proceed. Furthermore, following proper safety measures, such as wearing protective gloves and ensuring that the shift motor is adequately grounded, is essential to avoid potential hazards.

3. Putting the Shift Motor Back

Once you have made sure to test the resistance established with the shift motor leads, you will know whether something is truly the matter with this core component of your vehicle. After this is done thoroughly, you must open the transfer case and put the shift motor back inside accordingly.

Safely and Effectively Test Transfer Case Shift Motor

After placing the shift motor back in the transfer case, the next step is to reattach the negative battery cable to its original position. Make sure that the cable is very securely connected to avoid any potential hazards.

Once you have successfully reconnected the negative battery cable, you can start your vehicle and check if it starts smoothly. Pay attention to any uncommon sounds or vibrations which could indicate an underlying issue with the shift motor. Additionally, it is advisable to test the shift motor’s performance by shifting between different gears to ensure that it operates smoothly and without any further problems.

It is not usually an easy procedure when it comes to handling and testing a component as crucial and sensitive as the transfer case shift motor. Nevertheless, we have ensured that all the techniques and steps in the sections above are completely straightforward, thus enabling you to follow along without confusion and see whether there is something wrong with the vehicle’s motor or not.

4. Seeing a Mechanic

You can find the idea of fixing the transfer case shift motor on your own a bit too overwhelming. In that instance, you do not need to worry too much since there is a lot of professional help if you are looking for it. If your car engine is still not able to start, you might need to tow it to a repair shop, where the mechanic will then take care of it.

If something is wrong, it is likely that you find it challenging to fix the motor on your own. If you still need to gain experience in this subject, this can be the case. However, you will only be able to fix something if you have the necessary tools on hand. So, for the sake of safety, if there is any chance that you are not completely confident you can carry out the process all on your own, then it is best not to take the risk.

What Are the Steps for Safely and Effectively Testing a Transfer Case Shift Motor?

When it comes to testing a transfer case shift motor, it is crucial to follow a step-by-step process to ensure both safety and accuracy. To begin, consult a complete distributor testing guide for specific instructions tailored to your vehicle model. Confirm that the transfer case is in neutral and the vehicle is on a level surface. Next, perform a visual inspection of the shift motor’s wiring and connectors for any signs of damage or corrosion. Then, use a multimeter to test the voltage and resistance of the motor’s terminals. Finally, compare the results with the specifications provided in the testing guide to determine if the shift motor is functioning properly.


If you are currently going through any problems with your vehicle’s four-wheel-drive system, then there is a good enough chance that the root of the issue is being caused due to errors in the transfer case shift motor. It is crucial to know the proper method for testing this component so that you can finally identify whether or not there is something wrong with it, as you will have learned in the article above and have

the chance to check again with the following points:

  • Transfer case shift motor shifts gears in four-wheel drive vehicles, and it is controlled by the transfer case control module, which receives input from the driver.
  • Symptoms of a malfunctioning shift motor include difficulty shifting gears, abnormal noises, and the inability to get the four-wheel-drive system to operate.
  • The shift motor can be tested manually by checking for symptoms, using an OBD-II scanner, removing the shifter knob, and using a screwdriver.
  • The shift motor can be tested electronically by removing it, testing the resistance between the leads, and placing it back.
  • If there is any room for potential problems in the shift motor that could negatively impact your car’s overall health, then it is vital to take action as soon as possible so that the issue can be curbed before it can cause a larger issue.

After you have utilized the detailed techniques provided in the extensive guide above to test your transfer case shift motor, it will be ideal to get it fixed by a professional mechanic, or you can also do it yourself following the article’s instructions and get rid of the problem entirely!

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