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  1. #1

    Smile 2004 Savana AWD Transfer Case Problems

    I need some advice. I have a 2004 Savana AWD with 140,000K and the transfer case has gone out. Perhaps you could make an argument that 140K mi on the original transfer case is acceptable, but what about if you are going on your 5th one? That is my problem. After transfer case #4, (original transfer case, then came rebuild #1, then an all new one and then it got rebuilt too for rebuild #2) the dealer said the trick was to balance the driveshaft. Well I'm 48K mi on the 4th, out of warranty and needing my 5th transfer case. Anyone with any advice?? Oil was changed 20K mi ago and before that I never had to change it because it was getting replaced/rebuilt so often. I was on the verge of ordering a new one, but am afraid now. I had an 03 Savana AWD for work and it had its transfer case done once before 50K mi too. Is there a trick out there?? Anybody else planning on making a full size awd van or are they re-doing the GM's anytime soon? thank you.

  2. #2

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    that sucks dude,i haven't had a problem. i have just over100,000 on mine so far all is good,you got a lemon

  3. #3

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    Yeah I think you got a lemon also. Analyze your problem. Either there is an inherent design defect and others would be having similar problems and word would have gotten out and a recall. OR you have received multiple defective transfer cases. The likelihood of that happening is remote. 4 bad parts? I don't think so.
    I think Something is causing those transfer cases to wear out and go bad rather than they are themselves defective. But I am no mechanic.
    I would take that vehicle to a good drivetrain specialist and have them figure out what the heck is really going on and diagnose the problem. Then either have them fix it or get GM to cure the problem if you have any recourse with them through your warranty. Have you googled the problem?
    Good Luck
    Last edited by 1flyfisher; 01-23-2010 at 08:00 PM.

  4. #4

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    An update: I talked with a major national company who only does transfer cases (I will not post their name since I do not have their permission). They have locations on both the West and East coasts. The owner told me that this is a chronic problem with these vans. He was at a major GM return center to buy transfer cases to rebuild and they had over a thousand of these transfer cases there - all defective and broken. WOW, especially considering the low volume of production of GM full size AWD vans. He said by comparison there were only about 50 failed transfer cases out of Tahoes and Suburbans, which dwarf the awd van's production. It was his opinion that GM should have recalled all of these long ago, but did not. Luckily there appears to be a solution.

    The OE bad transfer case is a Borg Warner 4473, which he told me was a poor design that starves itself of lubrication. His opinion was to go with the Borg Warner 4481, which he feels is better lubricated and elimnates the viscous clutches in favor of a full planetary gear set. He indicated he just started this practice and has 5 in the field now w/o return call or complaint. I talked to a highly repsected local transmission/transfer case only shop for a second opinion and he thought the change was a good idea. I am waiting for the 4481 to arrive and will update later on how the installation went and how it drives etc.....

    PS I have always had the correct tires on all four corners and rotated the tires properly. That often is the culprit in a failed transfer case, but not here with me.

  5. #5

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    One last thing....awd came out on the full size van in 2003. I had an 03 and now have the 04. The older owner's manuals call for ATF as the fluid, but I understand GM now has a "blue" fluid out that is better and I have been told the newer ones call for that instead. I plan to make that switch. Lastly, make sure your driveshafts are balanced....that is another thing that has to be right for these things to live, as there are no carrier bearings.

  6. #6

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    I tried googling for any widespread transfer case problems with the awd vans but I found nothing except this for the 08 recall of 151 vehicles.
    Recall ID # 08V340000 - POWER TRAIN:TRANSFER CASE (4-WHEEL DRIVE)
    Recall Date: JUL 28, 2008 Component: POWER TRAIN:TRANSFER CASE (4-WHEEL DRIVE) Model Affected: SAVANA Potential Units Affected: 151 Recall Details Recall Date:
    JUL 28, 2008

    Model Affected:
    2008 GMC SAVANA

    Summary:
    GM IS RECALLING 151 MY 2008 CHEVROLET EXPRESS AND GMC SAVANA VEHICLES EQUIPPED WITH ALL WHEEL DRIVE (AWD). SOME OF THESE VEHICLES HAVE TRANSFER CASES THAT WERE MANUFACTURED WITH AN INCORRECT PART THAT CAN CAUSE EARLY FAILURE OF A DRIVE CHAIN. IF THE CHAIN BREAKS, SHIFTING THE TRANSMISSION TO PARK MAY NOT KEEP THE VEHICLE STATIONARY.

    Consequence:
    IF THE VEHICLE IS PARKED ON AN INCLINE OR BUMPED, IT MAY ROLL AND STRIKE A PERSON, OBJECT, OR ANOTHER VEHICLE WITHOUT WARNING, AND CAUSE PERSONAL INJURY.

    Remedy:
    DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE TRANSFER CASE DATE CODE AND, IF NECESSARY, REPLACE THE TRANSFER CASE. THE RECALL BEGAN ON AUGUST 15, 2008. OWNERS MAY CONTACT CHEVROLET AT 1-800-630-2438, GMC AT 1-866-996-9463, OR THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE AT HTTP://WWW.GMOWNERCENTER.COM .

    Potential Units Affected:
    151

    Notes:
    GENERAL MOTORS CORP. 08244


    I have talked to a lot of owners of these awd vans as I was wondering about the performance of the AWD and you are the first I have heard reporting transfer case problems. If you find some more info on this as in something out there on the net please post the link or article.
    Well I'll have a 5 year warranty and 100,000 miles to rely on if any problems come up. I'll take a look at extending my warranty.
    Last edited by 1flyfisher; 01-25-2010 at 02:52 PM.

  7. #7

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    Also it appears the transfer case for 2010 will be a new one. I just googled looking for specs on the 2010 transfer case to try and find which one they are using now and it said TBD. So perhaps a change is in the works. Maybe my manual will show which transfer case I will get.

  8. #8

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    Quick Update on the Installation of the Borg Warner 4481 transfer case. The transfer case is in...sort of. To start it looks different, which is certainly OK with me. It bolted right up to the trans and the front drive shaft went right in. Last step...the rear drive shaft. Oh no, it's too long now. The 4481 rear output "nose" is 1.5" to 1.75" longer than the crappy 4473 I had. Drive shaft is out for cutting, shortening, weld and rebalance and was due back today. Will update later on performance and such after we are finished.

    When you get your new van, let me know what transfer case it has. I want to buy a new one....but am scared of it now. I would feel better if GM made a change. Good Luck!!!!!! I can help you identify it if you need some pointers.
    Last edited by aburrob; 01-29-2010 at 09:52 PM. Reason: spelling/extra thought

  9. #9

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    I have had no problems with my (low mileage) 03 AWD. I owned a 81 AMC Eagle MT. vicous transfer case; and was 'eating' clutches! Afterwards, thought I should have taken it to a body shop, to measure the frame holes, to check the body alignment. I had driven, with the OEM clutch, in deep snow ('had'to)! I also had early, uncureable, tranny problems with a 90 Aerostar AWD. No problem with my 03 (yet), driving under similar conditions. I believe the Express AWD is similar to the Astro/ Safari AWD, - not the 'K' pickup mechanical drive. I have tried to learn about the Subie, MT viscous vs AT electronic, AWD - without success. So far, for my needs, I believe the Viscous AWD is best! My daughter has just bought a Jeep Liberty, with CommandTrac 4-wheel drive. Do NOT want 4-wheel drive, but maybe it is stronger, for my primary needs.

  10. #10

    Smile 2004 Savana AWD Transfer Case Problems - Final Update

    OK...I finally got to the bottom of everything. For all of you out there who have an AWD Savana or Express take heart...there is a solution to the transfer case life expectancy issues and it will cost less than $10. Intrigued?

    On April 16, 2008 GM came out with a Technical Service Bulletin reference number 08-04-21-004. It covers all Chevrolet Express and Savana AWD vans from 2003 to 2009. This bulletin was not communicated to owners of vehicles (at least not to me ); only to GM dealers and they had to take the time to look it up if you randomly brought your vehicle in for service!! What the TSB says in a nutshell, is that the fill plug is located too low on the Borg Warner 4473 transfer case for this application and orientation. Instead of filling the transfer case to within 1" of the fill plug (per the manual), you should fill it as full as you can get it, replace the fill plug, then go to the top of the transfer case, remove the vehicle speed sensor and add a whole liter of additional fluid. It specifies for all the years covered to go to the Dextron VI. pn#88861003. Going from memory here, I think it holds just over two quarts per spec and this change will take it close to 3.5 quarts or something like that...since a liter is more than a quart. The failure mode is lack of lubrication and affects mainly the input shaft at the transmission and the output shaft to the rear differential. This makes sense when you look at it, because the transfer case sits at an angle and the uphill side is what gets starved for lubrication; the input shaft at the transmission and the output shaft to the rear differential. That my friends is all there appears to be to it.

    Now, regarding my van that I put the BW4481 transfer case into. We have it in and working, however I would not recommend anyone else follow suit, especially since we now know that there is a simple solution to the original issue. The issue with the 4481 appears to be that is either does not transfer torque at the same rate as the 4473 or it transfers it later? Not sure, but my van does not handle the snow and ice as well as it once did. It fishtails now, where before it just hooked up and moved forward. Plus we had to cut the driveshaft and take out 1.75" of it and rebalance it to get it all in and working. I'm just glad it is running now and moving me down the road.

    Last note: When I confronted GM with this latest information they did the right thing and are making it right with me. Perhaps this new GM is going to be a new kind of company, that listens to and really cares about its customers. I have new hope in how they dealt with this issue, so I suppose only time will tell.

    Good luck to all.

    burrode

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