Is the dealer brushing me off by recommending I DON'T fix a transfer case leak on my Jeep?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1994 Jeep Cherokee with 115,000 miles. My problem is, the car has
started to leak fluid from the transfer case. The seals were replaced twice in
the last two months. Both times, the leak did stop for almost a week. When I
talked to "Chuck" at the local Jeep dealer service department, he recommended
that I buy a case of fluid and add it as needed, since the leak "isn't that bad"
and "the car has a lot of miles on it." He says that's better than spending
$1,500-$2,000 to fix it. I'm not blond, I have a Ph.D in nursing, and I get a
little steamed when the mechanic talks to me like I have dead space in my head.
Can you tell me if I'm getting good advice from Chuck? -- Louise

TOM: Well, toots ...

RAY: Just kidding, Louise! Actually, I think Chuck is giving you pretty good
advice. Since he works at a Jeep dealership, he knows something you don't --
that the engine is probably going to blow on this Cherokee long before you've
gotten your money's worth out of a transfer-case rebuild.

TOM: The only problem with this advice is that there's no easy way to check the
fluid level in the transfer case. You have to crawl under the car to check it,
which is not very convenient -- especially in those nice, white nurse's

RAY: Actually, you really have to get the car on a lift and remove the plug, so
it's something you have to have done at a gas station or garage.

TOM: So before you implement the "Chuck Approach," you need to get an idea about
how fast it's leaking. Have Chuck top it up for you, and then come back in a
month and ask him to check it again. If it's all leaked out and the transfer
case is ruined, then you'll know it was in the stars and you can have the repair
done or look for another car.

RAY: If it hasn't all leaked out, have Chuck measure how much fluid it takes.
You may find that you only have to check it every two months -- or every three
months. And that wouldn't be so bad.

TOM: At some point, the leak will get worse, but by then, you may have won the
lottery -- or seized the engine. Good luck, Louise.

* * *

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a Great Used Car: Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You to Know." Send $3 and
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