Ford F-150/F-250: Why Does My 4WD Make Noise?

The meshing gears of transfer cases and transmissions can occasionally be noisy. Excessive noise is a sign that something is going wrong and typically occurs with other symptoms. Running through these diagnostic steps should help you determine where your F-150 or F-250 Super Duty is giving you trouble.

By Brett Foote - November 14, 2014

This article applies to the Ford F-150 (2004-2014) and the F-250, F-350 Super Duty (2005-2014).

Transfer cases can be a little bit noisy when engaging, but they should be silent for the most part. Since it is a heavy part that requires some technical skills to fix, we recommend that most F-150 or F-250 owners have a shop do their bulk of their repairs. That said, there are some issues that can be fixed from the comfort of your driveway. We've got a few simple steps that will help to restore peace and quiet to your 4WD system.

Materials Needed

  • Socket or wrench set
  • Tire gauge
  • Air compressor
  • Jacks and jackstands

Step 1 - Check the tires

If your truck is pulsating or shudders in a straight line, you could have unequal tire pressures, unequal tire wear, or unmatched tire and wheel size. These issues can also make the transfer case emit noise or the truck's steering bind in turns. Follow these steps to ensure your tires aren't causing the problem before moving on to more complex repairs.

  • Make sure all wheels and tires are the same size and that all inflation pressures are correct according to manufacturer specifications.
  • Check tire tread wear to see if there is more than 0.15 mm in difference in tread wear between the front and rear tires. Interchange one front and one rear wheel, then road test to see if the problem persists.
  • If tires are not inflated properly, inflate them to manufacturer specifications. If tread wear is excessive or varies by more than above, replace tires.
Figure 1. A tire with uneven and excessive tread wear.

Step 2 - Check transfer case for whining noise

The transfer case could be low on fluid or have worn interior components.

  • Shift through all the transmission gears while test driving the truck. If there is a noise while the truck is in neutral, or in some gears but not others, remove and repair the transmission.
  • Check transfer case fluid level. If low, fill to correct level and with specified fluid.
  • Check the oil pump for wear or damage. If needed, replace.
Figure 2. F-150 transfer case.

Step 3 - Check transfer case for scraping, rumbling, or growling noise

The issue could stem from damaged or worn internal components.

  • If there is a growl or rumbling noise coming from the transfer case in all ranges, there might be issues with your transmission's bearings or planetary gear set. Take to a mechanic to be sure.
  • If there is a scraping or grating noise coming from the transfer case in all ranges, check the drive chain for wear or damage. Replace if needed.
  • If there is a howl or humming noise coming from the transfer case in all ranges or 4H only, the gears in your transfer case might be worn or damaged.
F-150 Transfer Case Removed From Truck
Figure 3. Transfer case removed from vehicle.

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