My 05 Escape AWD was just diagnosed with a bad Power Take-Off Unit (PTO) which I think is the same as the transfer case. It sends power to the rear wheels. It moans and whines above 20mph. the dealer estimated $1600 to replace it. There are just 60k miles on it and I'm surprised by this failure and price tag.
I'm looking for your advice. Can this be fixed or patched up some cheaper way? I pulled out the fuse for 4WD and it is running in 2-wheel mode, but still moaning. What if I just leave it like this? The dealer said it would get worse until something ominous happens. (don't they always?) I wonder why it happened. Is this a common issue? I read tire wear matters to the stress on this PTO box but I rotate them every 10k. Never towed anything.
$1600 makes me feel like moaning and whining myself.
I'd get another diagnostic. These transmissions don't have 'PTO'. The transfer case mounts on the end of the transmission and then the transfer case directs power to either axle as it sees fit.
At 60K you should have changed the transfer case fluid at least once. It doesn't hold much fluid, and has to be changed regularly (every 30K - that's when I change my Tcase fluid). It should state all fluid changes in the owners manual.
If you've always taken the vehicle for service at the dealer, I'd question them about this, as if they overlooked a fluid change, that you might have even paid for but they never did it (techs forget just as often as the rest of us when filling out paper work).
AWD transfer cases have a centre differential to allow some wheel slip while driving on pavement, so the axles don't bind up. As long as you don't 'lock' the system it shouldn't cause any problems. The computer controlled AWD cars, such as AUDI for example, are a riot once one tire wears faster than the others, as the only solution is to replace all four, or you'll have massive ABS and drive-ability problems. The tire with the least amount of traction will spin regularly and burn out the clutch pack faster. Ford's system isn't this advanced to notice. You could easily run tires that are up to 1" larger or smaller in diameter on either axle, just as long as you don't lock the system together while on pavement (very loose surfaces only!). If you look more closely, the spare tire is actually smaller than the regular road tire. Obviously manufacturers wouldn't use a smaller tire if the driver was expected to easily put 100miles or more on it.
You are right in making sure the tires are properly rotated and at the same pressure (a decrease of 10psi can shorten a tire by up to 0.5" depending on side/load capacity). Most transfer cases are overbuilt for the job they were designed for. I'm sure the Escape transfer case could easily be bolted up to a high torque V8 engine and last forever. As an example, the one in my Durango (Dodge) can safely handle up to 1400lb ft of torque. The one in my old GMC K1500 could handle 1200lb ft from the factory.
If anything, take the vehicle to another shop, or two, for another opinion on the matter. Axle (gears in the differential case) have a tendency to whine if they're about to go. I would imagine the Escape has a rear pinion of sorts, that might even be the culprit. My E-250 work van had a gear whine at only 54,000kms (31K), turned out the pinion was so badly worn, the ring gear wasn't aligned properly and had started chewing it up. Crazy.
If it is leaking, you should notice oil caked on/around the area. Also, I wouldn't believe Ford that the fluid is good for 150K! There might be 1-2 quarts at MOST in there. I'd drain it at regular intervals. You might get 100K out of synthetic, but even thats pushing it unless you never drive over 55mph where heat isn't that much of an issue.
Ford might call it 'PTO' because they don't want to scare people of having a 'transfer case' as it might give them the wrong idea to the drivetype. Most select and full time systems state 'transfer case' because it effectively sends power to one, or both axles at the same time, whereas the Escape's newer system is totally computerized and is considered 'on demand'. I suppose if I was a ditzy blonde and saw the word "transfer case" in my manual, I'd have the big one? ah well. As long as Ford doesn't start calling it the 'PTO' on the F series trucks! They'll lose a lot of hard-core truck guys, especially since they can't connect anything to it, which is what a PTO is for - Power Take Off.
I found the transfer case was a bit low. I topped it off with about 8 oz, but it didn't do anything. And the whining is getting louder. My own mechanic has come to the same conclusion - the PTO/Transfer case needs to be replaced. Now I evaluate used or rebuilt. Anyone have an opionion or source they recommend?
If you can find a used unit with low mileage (ie, salvage yard) that'd be the way I'd go. It'll cost 50% less to get a used unit, than to remove, rebuild and reinstall the current one. You can also sell your bad unit as a core to a place for rebuild as well, or trade it in for some $$ off the unit at a salvage yard, providing they do that.
I found one locally for $290. My mechanic installed it for about $650.
All quiet now! The broken one was filled with what looked like grey toothpaste. Thick with worn metal. I still wonder how that happened. Maybe it was in the first 25k when it was a rental car.
Geeze, an inexpensive part it wasn't! At least the noise is gone. If the gear oil/trans fluid in the case is that thick, then I'm sure whoever sealed the unit put too much RTV sealant on it. Too much RTV can squeeze it's way inside the unit, and eventually it'll break down into the oil. The magnet in the case obviously doesn't do any good with keeping RTV dust/pieces out of the case. When I change the fluid in my axles (my transfer case has a drain & fill hole so I don't dare open it up (too many bolts)), I use a thin bead of RTV and place it more toward the outer edge so very little will be able to get absorbed into the oil down the road.
2005 Mazda Tribute with same problem and resolution. The mechanic at Canadian Tire took out the oil drain plug, saw the magnet covered in grey sludge and quietly told me to find a good transmission shop. $450 to pull it out and split the cases to reveal a horrendous mess of chipped gear teeth. Another $850 for a good, used replacement and putting it back together with a new drive shaft and some other minor fixes. Kudos to The Transmission Depot in Toronto - they handled my concerns very well.
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