Owners of four-wheel drive (4WD) and all-wheel drive (AWD) vehicles have vehicles that serve them well during challenging driving conditions. Along with the ownership comes the added responsibility to keep the drivetrain systems in good running order.

Galen Neuzil, one of the customer service representative here at ZBAG, has some advice he likes to share.

“For any AWD or other torque-on-demand system, if you’re having a drivability issue, one of the first things to do is check on the tires,” Galen says. "The best test for this is to mark all four tires in the six o’clock position (so you have a mark on the sidewall of each tire pointing at the ground), then have someone watch one wheel and count rotations while you roll the vehicle in a straight line, for ten rotations. Stop with one tire at the six o’clock position. Now, go and inspect the other three tires. The variance of the marks should not be more than one and a half inches from the original six o’clock position.”

If the variation is more, it may be due to tire wear, tire condition, or tire pressure. The cause needs to be remedied, and here’s why.

“In these style vehicles, the transfer cases are designed to keep all four tires turning equally,” Galen explains. “Usually, if the tires are worn more than one and a half inches, the transfer case will be trying to equalize the rotation. If it can’t perform that operation, the mechanics of the transfer case can be severely worn or damaged. The further the tires are off, the sooner the damage can occur.

“If you do the test and the tires are off, the first thing to do would be to check the tire pressure. The person with a slow leak who adds air every couple weeks might be doing damage to the transfer case.”

“If you don’t rotate your tires,” Galen continues, "the wear between the fronts and rears can be substantial, and that could be a cause for eventual problems.”

Another tip Galen offers is to make sure the transfer case fluid is checked regularly. “Be sure it’s full and the fluid is in good condition,” he adds. “If the fluid is dark and smells burnt, it’s an indication of stress or damage in the unit.”

Galen notes that most car service technicians go through the proper servicing procedures to keep your vehicle’s transfer case running properly, but it’s also important for you, the owner, to read the owner’s manual.