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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey all, I'm new here. Just posted my intro in the correct section. Anyway, might as well get to the issue. About a month ago I started hearing a grinding/clicking sound coming from my front end. It was an on/off issue. Wasn't too loud, didn't cause any issues with driveability, so I left it alone. This was just after I had taken it out through some very light mud, more like dirty water. ANYWAY, I took it in to get an alignment done and told them about the noise, as it had gotten a little worse through the month, and they said it was most likely my intermediate drive shaft and that as long as I could live with hearing a little noise every now and again, it wouldn't cause any big problems.

Well, it's been a little while. Some days the noise is terrible. Sounds like someones rolling a big can down the road full of rocks. Other days, the noise isn't too bad but it's still there, some days there's no sound half the day, then it will start up again.

Today, I'm driving down the road and the noise gets the worst I've ever heard it. Sounds like someone added marbles to the can that already had rocks in it, and hooked the can up to a loud speaker. It was really bad. So I turned around immediately and took it to the shop.

Well, this time they said it sounded like my transfer case. They don't do 4WD stuff there, and know nothing about my system, so they sent me somewhere else. This new place said that it's the rear linking on the front drive shaft.

I can't get a straight answer from anyone I guess. I'm taking it to ANOTHER place tomorrow for a THIRD OPINION.

I talked to my neighbor who has a big Bronco, and turns out his brother has the same truck as mine. He said that truck was making some noise not too long ago, and it turned out to be his transfer case.

I was originally thinking it could have been a bad wheel bearing, but it's definitely NOT coming from the wheel. Then I figured it COULD possibly be a bad linkage in the drive shaft, but that really doesn't make sense to me either. It sounds like rocks and marbles in a can being rolled around. The only thing it could be, I think, is my transfer case.

My rear posi works fine, rear wheels spin with no problem, no noises. Front tire also spins fine, since I believe the AWD system is actually a 3WD system, as it uses the posi in the rear, and a standard differential in the front, hence powering only the front left wheel and not the front right. Either way, the truck drives, it's getting power to all 3 wheels that are supposed to get power, but it sounds like a can of rocks and marbles whenever I move the damn thing. Forward or reverse. AWD or 4WD.

So, does this seem to be a transfer case issue to you? If so, what would you estimate the cost of fixing? I'm guessing anywhere between $1,000-$3,000.
ALSO, if it does cost that much, I can't fix it. Is it possible for me to take off the front drive shaft, and discontinue use of the front differential altogether, just using my truck in 2WD with the rear? It's a 2003, everything is electronic, so I'm thinking it MIGHT work, but I might have electrical/ computer issues if I do that causing my truck to be unusable.

Any and all help and opinions would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Anyone? I'll make it shorter...
Clicking/grinding noise coming from the area of my transfer case/ drive shaft.
Sounds like a can with rocks and marbles rolling around.
Sometimes it's really bad, sometimes it's not too bad, sometimes it's not there half the day then it starts.
Still getting power to wheels that get power. AWD and 4hi/4lo work.
Ideas?
 

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Crawl under your truck and check the front driveshaft. The joint nearest the transfer case is notorious for going bad and making sounds exactly like you describe.

You should be able to fit under there enough with the truck on the ground. To check the driveshaft, grab is and try to rotate it. If there is any play at all, that joint is bad.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I actually went under there this morning and tried exactly what you said. Didn't notice any play, but I'll give it another go tomorrow morning. It's not hard to fit under my truck either, I've got it lifted :)
Hopefully it is the front drive shaft, because I'm looking at a good $1,000+ if it's the transfer case...FML
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Oh, another bit of info. I put it in Neutral this morning and rolled a little ways down a hill. No noise. If I'm not mistaken, while in Neutral the transfer case isn't engaged...correct?
 

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The transfer case is always connected to the axles, unless you put the T-case in neutral.

Next I would check both front CV shafts. After that, maybe get the truck all the way up in the air and let it spin while you hunt for the noise.

I'm chasing a similar problem. Mine is making growling/clinking noises with the axle rotation. It's not the t-case>front diff driveshaft. I'm hoping its just a wheel bearing or CV shaft and not the transfer case or differential.
 

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Take the front drive shaft off and inspect it. You might not feel any play because of the drive-line being loaded. As with a lot of AWD cars and trucks with a planetary in the transfer case you can end up with only one wheel spinning. An AWD drive system with the planetary setup works great with traction control but is kind of a flop with out it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Yea, I'll have to take that project on next week some time as I'm leaving town tomorrow for the weekend. So, my next question is...if this turns out to be a pretty expensive fix and I don't have the money or time right now, can I just disconnect the front drive shaft and use my truck in RWD?
 

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Yea, I'll have to take that project on next week some time as I'm leaving town tomorrow for the weekend. So, my next question is...if this turns out to be a pretty expensive fix and I don't have the money or time right now, can I just disconnect the front drive shaft and use my truck in RWD?
Yes. Just switch the transfer case in to 4hi so you don't damage the differential inside.

Also, try checking for play again with the front end off the ground. I didn't have any with the truck on the ground but I just checked again with it in the air and there is definitely some slop in that double cardan joint at the tcase.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Ahh thanks, roger that. Good to know. I wasn't sure if disconnecting the drive shaft would mess with the computer. I'm new to all of the electronic stuff, used to old cars that you can fix with nothing but a tool box haha.
I'll definitely get it up in the air and mess with that shaft more probably next week. I'm really hoping it's the shaft and not the case...
 

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My noise turned out to be that double cardan joint on the front driveshaft. I couldn't find anyone local to build me a custom one for a reasonable amount, so I just got an aftermarket reman one for way too much money with a lifetime warranty.

It'll probably go bad again in a year or so, and then I'll just replace it unless I can find someone to build me one for less than $400.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Is there a way to put my transfer case into Neutral? There's a little spot on the lower left of the selector knob that has an <N and it looks like a little light, but I can't figure out how or if I can select it...

I can't figure out how to upload a picture without joining a photo sharing site, so the picture of what I'm talking about is my "avatar."
As far as I can tell, I'm not able to select anything other than the AWD, 4HI, or 4LO
Unless I'm not doing something right, I can't pull the knob out, push it in, or turn it any further than the 3 options...
WTF? Dodge really fuc*ed up when they made this truck
 

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You sure can. I think this is the proper procedure:

Set parking brake
Turn key to ON but do not start engine
Using a ball-point pen or similar, press and hold the Neutral button on the transfer case for 10 seconds

I think that is right. The procedure should be in your owners manual too, or maybe on the back of the driver side sun visor. It might actually take longer than 10 seconds for it to do the shift. The light will start blinking at you and then you'll hear it clunk in to (or out of, i suppose) gear.

I remember reading a warning about shifting the transmission out of park while the engine was running with the transfer case in neutral. Something about how if you take it out of park the internal bits spin up and there is no way to stop them because you're not attached to any axles. So, don't do that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Wow...thank you!
I couldn't find anything online as to how to do this.
Makes total sense now that it's written in front of me and I just did it haha
I'm also noticing a slight squeaking noise coming from the general area where my issues are too, so I'm thinking maybe (hopefully) that my problem is that joint, the same as yours.

I am still a little confused though.
This is my first AWD/4x4, and the first time I've ever had issues with it. I've never dealt with a transfer case before either.
If it is my transfer case, the only way it's connected to power is through that front drive shaft...correct or no?
I'm just not really understanding how putting the truck in 4hi, then disconnecting the drive shaft will save the front diff from getting screwed up, rather than just leaving it in AWD (which is my standard option) if the only way my transfer case is getting engaged is via my power, which it's getting from the drive shaft.
I feel like a dumb ass right now haha
 

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Ah, I see where you've gotten confused.

So here is how your AWD system works.

The transfer case has a selectable locker in it, essentially. When you are in AWD the differential is open. A open diff will try to deliver power to the side with the least load(traction). Typically, this is pretty great. However, if you remove the front drive shaft the differential in the transfer case sees a HUGE loss of traction on the front end and sends all of the power there. So either you won't be able to move the truck, or you'll burn up the transfer case.

When you shift the transfer case in to one of the 4wd options, it locks up the differential inside the case. Normally this forces both the front and rear axles to get the same amount of power and spin at the same speed, but with the front driveshaft removed, it just eliminates the slipping you would get from the open differential and allows you to use the truck normally in a sort of 2wd mode.

Remember the front axle is always driven either by the transfer case or the wheels, so it's always spinning. These trucks don't have any unlocking hubs at the wheels to disengage the front axle, not that you would want that with an AWD system anyway. The front axle/differential has no problem being driven with or without the drive shaft hooked up. Its just that differential inside the transfer case that doesn't like it.

Cool?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Ahh, alright. I think I'm good now. I shall attempt to remove said drive shaft this weekend, after putting the truck in 4hi of course, and see if the mysterious noises disappear.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
OK, well I got woken up pretty early today. It's Saturday as we all know, and I get a call from my buddy. Didn't answer of course, because it wasn't even 8am when he called...on Saturday. Anyway, I'm up now so I'm beginning my project of removing my front drive shaft. Just sprayed penetrator lube all over the 10 bolts that hold the bitch on. Hopefully that will help at least a little.

One more question though.

It doesn't look to be the case, but will I have a hole to cover up on my T-Case once I get the drive shaft off? It looks to me like it's just bolted up to another flange on both ends, but I'm not sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Got all 10 bolts out. The 4 15mm bolts at the front, and 6 8mm bolts at the rear. There's a big rip in the rubber cuff connecting the shaft. Now, I can't get that end off. When I took the last 15mm off the front, the front of the shaft came right off, but the rear of the shaft is stuck onto my truck. Hammer and chisel?
 

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Give it a few smacks with a hammer. You can also try a pry bar between the shaft and the flange.

It's just stuck on there. That end of the flange is kind of like a cup, where the other end is pretty flat. Nine years of road grime and rust are stuck in that end holding everything together for you.
 
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