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Old 04-17-2009, 02:13 PM   #1
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Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

I am having a problem with my transfer case loosing oil and the problem is I can't find any signs of a leak. I have been working with Peter at Sportsmobile West and he said he is contacting Atlas directly about my problem, but I also wanted to reach out to the members of the forum to tap their vast experience.

My van has 8300 miles and to date I have had to add 1 quart of oil to the transfer case. I added 1/2 quart at about 5k miles and I just added another 1/2 quart after we got back from our last trip. I have inspected the exterior to the transfer case carefully and I don't see any signs of a leak. I would think if it had puked out 1 quart of oil there would be lots of visible evidence but there exterior is dry and clean. On Peter's advise I pulled the dog house and checked the breather tube and it is also dry. Any ideas on where the oil is going or other thing I might check?

Thanks
John
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Old 04-17-2009, 02:22 PM   #2
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

I don't think it's possible to have it flow into the transmission, but there is no other place it can go. Are you sure it's not coming out the bottom when driving? There is nothing to catch it, or leave much evidence so maybe you missed something.

I'd wrap the case in clean paper towels, maybe with a trashbag overwrap and go for a spin.

Also check you transmission fluid just in case.

How are you determining that you need to add fluid / how much to add?
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Old 04-20-2009, 01:38 PM   #3
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

Jage,

Thanks for you input, I have not checked the trans. fluid yet that is a good idea. That is probably the worst place it could end up.

I have been filling the transfer case to the wire tie marker that SMB West installed on the sight tube. My first thought was maybe the tie was moving but it is on very tight and I can't slide it with my fingers. After driving a few thousand miles the mark is about 1/2" below the tie mark and then I fill it back to the bottom of the tie.

In my experience with leaks in manual transmissions the oil does not just leak out without a trace. Usually what I have found is that everything behind the leak in a fan shaped is coated with oil as wind carries it back onto the undercarriage. Also I park on concrete in the same spot and I have no oil staining. If it were leaking out when driving I would expect that when I stop there would be some oil leaking dripping.

I may try your trick with the paper towels as I am running out of ideas.

Thanks
John
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Old 04-20-2009, 10:08 PM   #4
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

John ,
At 5 k miles my Atlas was down 1 full quart with no sign of external leakage .I refilled to the zip tie and all was well until 16k miles when the level dropped again to being exactly 1 quart low . I brought it back to the proper level when I had the service done at Bobs Brake in Lawndale and contacted Atlas by phone with the question of where is the fluid going ? they said that there should be some sign of leakage if there was a problem . I steam and pressure wash my under carriage every 3k miles and have never found any source of leakage of any type , fore or aft of the Atlas . I have not had any problems with the shifting or use of the transfer case and was told by Atlas to monitor the fluid level and contact them if the level
dropped again . They were very customer oriented and seemingly eager to please but could not provide an answer to our dilemma at this time . maybe a call from you might be in order as now there are two of these mysterious Transfer Cases .
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:11 PM   #5
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

How about at the rear seal. Ever so slightly leaks and is flicked away by the wind/yoke/whatever???
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:15 PM   #6
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

That's what happened to me. Twice in fact. No visible leaks, just dust/oil mix all over the cross member and exhaust system. Apparently it's a common issue with the Atlas TC
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Old 04-22-2009, 01:29 PM   #7
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

My rear yoke was leaking from the nut loosening, but there was a spray pattern all around the U-joint/yoke- on the van and muffler that was pretty obvious.

Also we're talking a quart in 5K miles, that's a lot to not see... but I suppose there is the usual road grime and stuck dirt layer for my fluid to show up in too.
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Old 04-22-2009, 05:19 PM   #8
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

Thanks guys I will give the rear seal a close look.

John
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Old 07-20-2009, 02:06 PM   #9
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

I just went through this entire Transfer-Case fluid-loss ordeal, so perhaps I can add some insight (apologies for the length, but it has been a process that needs to be adequately explained):
I checked the sight-tube level on my Atlas II prior to going on trail near Pierce OHV Area / Yuba River in California (just NW of Tahoe). The fluid was about ½” below the zip-tie. Although I didn’t check the level after getting back off the trail, I did check it once I got home about 200 miles later; it had dropped another approx. 1” (which I later figured-out corresponds to about ¾ - 1 quart).
The entire area was clean…….almost no oily fluid on the Transfer Case, heat shields, underbody, drive shafts, driveway, etc.
After speaking to both Eber (Sp?)at SMB, (Jim and Peter?) at Atlas, my Amsoil dealer, and others, these were the potential places the fluid could have gone:
1) There is a double-seal in the connection between the Transfer case and Transmission and it could be damaged; the fluid could either be trapped between the two seals, or have bypassed the second seal and actually crept into the transmission. Eber had seen one instance of the fluid going the other way; the transmission fluid creeping into the transfer case (TC), however he had not seen the reverse. The Transmission holds I think 14 Quarts of fluid total, so it would be difficult to gauge if just a quart of TC oil was making its way in. This would be the worst-case scenario, because the only way to definitively diagnose this would be to pull the transfer case and examine the seals, etc.
2) The U-joints can fling-off a certain amount of oil….check the area above the rotation; however probably not a quart in just 200 miles.
3) I noticed that there was some oil below the end-plate, aka Bearing Cover (the cast aluminum plate situated behind the sight-tube), held on by 4 hex-head cap-screws. I pulled mine and discovered that there was no seal behind this plate, only aluminum-to-aluminum mating surfaces. I used Red (High-temp) RTV Silicone gasket sealer and replaced the plate. You could tell that there had been Loctite Threadlocker Red used on these bolts, so I re-applied that to the bolts as well. I was kind of disappointed that this was never sealed originally. There remains still a slight bit of oil seepage around the bolt heads, but its very slight, and I doubt this was the reason for my larger loss. If you do this, remember to replace the shims properly prior to replacing the plate, and to keep the layer of sealant thin so as to not introduce too much end-play. Update: Advance-Adapters (Atlas) suggests using Loctite 518 Anaerobic Gasket Maker, and RTV on the bolts as your sealer to prevent fluid seeping-out, something I will do next time I open it up.
4) After replacing the end-plate and replacing the fluid, I drove around for a while. After getting back, I noticed that there was a large drop of oil seeping out between the TC body and the driver’s-side rear-corner of the bottom pan (the lowest point on the TC). I suppose that if the oil was seeping out of this corner, its possible that it went directly onto the roadway surface while driving; thus leaving no trace. There are 14 button-head cap-screws holding the pan on. I checked them and all required only minimal force to loosen. The bolt pattern is poorly-designed; as there are only 2 bolts per end-edge, and they are not situated near the corners…they could definitely use another bolt per end in order to keep the gasket tight in these corners. After removing a few of the bolts, I was again disappointed to discover that these bolts were never Loctited. I replaced all the bolts and torqued them to the recommended 10 Ft-Lbs, using Loctite Red. If you’re going to do this, a couple of Notes: A) The 2 bolts on either end of the pan are through to the gear-box, not blind, meaning that if you remove them while the TC is installed and full of oil, the oil pours out of the hole once you remove the bolt. Besides the mess, in order for the Loctite to work best, the bolt/threads have to be clean and dry. (Update: Advance Adapters recommends sealing these 4 bolts with RTV to prevent the seeping from these 4 bolts – they claim it’s the responsibility of the installer (SMB) to properly Loctite/seal these bolts.) Thus, plan on doing this the next time you change the fluid and drain thoroughly and clean before applying RTV/Loctite. By the way, IMHO, this through-hole design is insane; if even one of those 4 bolts worked their way loose on the trail, you would lose 100% of your lubricant within 1 minute, and probably wouldn’t realize it until it was way too late. B) The bolts installed were button-head cap-screws with T40 Torx-Plus drive….not Torx but ‘Torx Plus’….. ‘Torx Plus’ is a new improvement over regular Torx, the star tips are more rounded, and it allows for greater torque. However, the regular Torx drivers (which I own) are just a bit small, and start slipping at around 8-10 Ft-Lbs. After stopping at NAPA, Home Depot, three different Auto stores, 2 specialty tool sores and Sears, I gave up looking for a Torx-Plus T40 driver-bit. I know they can be pre-ordered at NAPA, or ordered online at Sears, but I wanted it that day. You can also buy them from your Snap-on dealer for about $269/set. So, if you’re going to do this, plan ahead and pre-order a Torx plus T40 driver from Sears for $7. C) I found conflicting information in the documentation and SMBForum on what type of lubricant to use: However both Atlas and SMB agree that 2 Qts. (for the 2-speed TC) of Amsoil MTG GL-4 75W-90 is preferred. D) Nowhere in the Atlas documentation is the oil-filling method detailed…The best way is to loosen the upper sight-tube fitting, and use a hand-pump ($11 at Amsoil; I am fortunate to be living just down the road from an Amsoil dealer) with a narrow conical fitting to pump the fluid into the male-fitting end.
After doing all this, I have driven for about 50 miles and have noticed the sight-tube lubricant level has not dropped, although there is still a drop of oil seeping-out from the lowest corner of the pan. I called Advanced-Adapters and they are going to send me a gasket so that I can replace it next time I have it open. I’m crossing my fingers that the above measures fixed the problem and it is not the transmission seal. Since I still have a bit of seepage at the corner, I will monitor it closely for the next several hundred miles. After that, once I have the gasket and Torx Plus T40 bit in hand, I suppose I will go back and re-seal everything properly, including using RTV sealant on those 4 end-bolts.
This whole process took me several hours of effort and caused me to cancel a weekend of camping, (not including hours looking for ‘Torx Plus’), so you might be better off to preemptively work these fixes into you otherwise regular maintenance schedules if you can.
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Old 07-20-2009, 10:22 PM   #10
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Re: Atlas Transfer Case Losing Oil

Outstanding write-up Yubariver!! Keep us informed on the status of your oil loss. Looks like I will be ordering tools and fluid so I am ready in the near future. Your details will make the job much easier.
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