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Is It The Diff?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi all, sorry about the delay getting back,short breaks keeping the kids happy and calming the cursing one a tad.

However back to the nightmare,

Brake shoes bought and fitted, and fingers were well and truly crossed but alas, the problem is still there! Wheels off and hubs off and brakes checked, all seem to look OK and a damned sight better than they were. Wheels turn and nothing seems to be binding.

took for a test run but its still there.

Wheels off again, the brake-shoe adjusters are at their lowest settings. One thing we noticed is the drivers side rear brake shoe cable was really tight in its cable and difficult to put in the handbrake lever, unlike the other side which was easy.

On turning the rear nearside wheel with it jacked up and on axle stands, the rear wheel turns and the offside turns to,the opposite way. But on turning the offside wheel in a forward motion it binds/sticks fast and is unable to move, like the handbrake is on or its in gear, which it is not.

The MOT 30th May 2014 failed on:

Offside rear (to cylinder) brake pipe excessively corroded

Nearside (main) brake pipe excessively corroded.

Offside rear (main) brake pipe excessively corroded

Nearside rear brake disc in such a condition that it is seriously weakened

Offside rear brake disc in such a condition that it is seriously weakened

They also mention under repairs done but not in the advisory's

Handbrake shoes very low/slightly sticking handbrake cable/,rear of car.

They have repaired all the above except the handbrakes, so don't know why they put that at the bottom and not as an advisory.

So, not the diff.

Have replaced brake shoes and springs and used correct grease in friction points,

Now it seems as the drivers side rear wheel is seizing, whether this is through the over tight brake cable I don't know but it looks like. I don't know what has caused this or more importantly, how to fix it.
I think its probably beyond my reluctant mechanic but don't fancy trusting any of these cowboy garages that charge the earth.

Any help would be gratefully received as usual.

Kind regards



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Handbrake shoe thickness isn't part of the MOT and therefore wouldn't appear as an advisory. Similarily a binding brake may not be picked up on a brake tester because a permanent 4WD can't be tested on a normal rolling road. If the tester couldn't spin each wheel sufficiently to check wheel bearing condition - this may well earn a fail.

Theres something strange about your description of checking the rotation of the rear wheels - I'm sure the devil is in the detail - has the handbrake been applied and released after checking one side but before checking the opposite side?. However if a handbrake cable is stiff as you describe - it will inevitably cause brake bind and the cable needs replacing. At this stage it may or may not be the answer to the problem but a binding handbrake cable needs replacing anyway - otherwise your new brake shoes will be damaged.

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Thanks for you reply gjnorthall, I am not 100% sure about the handbrake being applied and released released be honest, I am a bit unsure what you mean, please excuse my ignorance. when jacked up the front wheels spin very very easily however, the rear is a different story, and like i stated earlier the drivers rear will not turn most of the time.

What has caused what looks like a perfectly good cable to become so tight? Is there no way of adjusting it? Is it a big or difficult job to change the cable and is it in Two parts, so would both parts need replacing? Is it possible to do oneself? If its a garage job does anyone know the cost?

Thanks and regards


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There's a separate cable that goes to each rear wheel - you need to change one of these cables. The cable may look perfectly good but something internal is preventing the inner cable moving smoothly in the outer casing. It sometimes corrosion - in other cases the plastic coating on the inner cable comes off and causes the cable to jam. Unfortunately changing the cable isn't straightforward on this model - it runs over the top of the fuel tank and the tank needs to be dropped to change the cable. An independent would be around £130 parts and labour.

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Hi again, we removed the whole rear offside handbrake shoes, springs etc,the side with the very tight handbrake cable, put the drum and wheel back on and test drove in our quiet street.

The noises still there and after a short while the binding slowly started. Stopped at once, stripped all the handbrake mechanism from the other side and put drum and wheel back on.This was done to try and rule out once and for all if, the handbrake, the very tight handbrake cable and new shoes were the binding culprits.

The exact same slight whirring noise and the car slowly starting to hold back. So not the handbrake, even though at first this was definitely part of the problem, with a spring cap rubbing and nearly worn through and the shoe loose and rattling slightly and the shoe retaining pins bent and stretched from their original size.

So there was something else. The cursing one jacked and took off the front wheels, checked what he could see of the front wheels, brakes, discs ( all new`ish) . He then removed plastic protectors under the engine and checked the gearbox for leaks and to see if their was Oil in there, there was, and all seemed OK.

He then checked the transfer case (front diff?) and there was a slight hiss when opened, and about a table spoon of very black Oil came out and a few small metallic shavings.

So it looks like there was no Oil at all in there. My man filled it up with gear Oil and went down the street for a test run,there was a definite improvement, but that is hardly surprising considering there was no Oil.There is still a very slight whirring noise but surely that is the damage in the transfer unit or even maybe the front drive shafts? caused by having no Oil.

That is the last time I will trust a garage again, to service or, do repairs. They all seem the same, Intent on charging as much as possible and doing as little as they can get away with and leaving the difficult jobs and pretending they have done them.

He is re doing the handbrakes tomorrow but I am very worried now,to what the extent of the damage in the transfer box?drive shafts may be. Does anyone know anything about this?

Thanks to everyone and their help.

Regards Julie.

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Theres obviously issues with the handbrake system but you seem to have demonstrated that the problem being experienced is not handbrake related.

There's a particular problem with permanent 4WD cars like the 4.2 Rav. The front wheels are obviously permanently connected to the rears by means of a prop-shaft. A problem occurs if the rear wheels need to turn at a slightly different speed to the rears (eg when cornering). It's fine if you were driving on gravel - one wheel would slip slightly but if the wheels couldn't slip ie on a normal road, then a phenomenon called "tight corner braking" occurs - in practice it feels as if the brakes have been applied. The Rav4 transfer box is a special design which prevents tight corner braking. Inevitably running the transfer box without Oil will have caused damage and I just wonder if the damage is such that tight corner braking is now being experienced.

I obviously don't know the history but have you had the car serviced recently? Were you charged for a litre of gear Oil for the transfer box? If not, it's possible that the transfer box has been devoid of Oil for a considerable time.

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Hi, yes it was serviced a year and a half ago by a garage and has had engine Oil changed recently along with filters. I can not find service details from garage but i expect everything to be done when there and foe the considerable cost.

Without sounding thick, is there anything I can do to check for damage or is there symptoms I should look for?

I suppose its costly to replace.

Could it also damage the drive shafts?

thanks Julie

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HI, Handbrakes re fitted but not adjusted. The offside one with the very tight cable, that wouldn't turn when the new shoes were fitted has, had the old ones fitted back and it now does turns freely. Will adjust handbrakes asap.

Another test drive and all is a lot better indeed. There is a slight whirring after the car has warmed up and travelling up hill, especially when the foot is taken off the accelerator. I am guessing this is the inner damage caused to whatever in the transfer case.

Why? after all the problems we have had and still have, with the stupid limp mode and engine management light, that has blighted us since buying this car, why? isn't there a warning light or sensor to warn about this potentially dangerous and costly hazard?

The car is quick enough to stop while accelerating at usually a dangerous place like, going up hill or overtaking with the horrid limp mode, so why isn't there the same precautions for no Oil in the transfer case?

I wish I had never set eyes on a Rav4 and. the Bradford traffic policeman we bought it off, who, wasn't on the log book strangely but, an Asian business man from Scotland was!

Thank you to all the FANTASTIC folk on this forum that spend hours helping others for no personal gain, we would be all lost and poorer only for their help.

I just only hope they also have VW`s or Audi`s and help with their forums, because it is time for this lump of junk to go.

A special Thank You to gjnorthall and Phil.

Kind regards Julie

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There are numerous warning systems on modern cars but the line needs to be drawn somewhere. It would be possible to fit level alarms to gearboxes, axles etc but the assumption must be made that servicing is done diligently - and the Oil problem you have experienced is not at all common.

Unless there has been a leak from the transfer box - it has been empty of Oil for 18 months and I'm surprised that there hasn't been a serious failure well before now. If you want further help with the transfer box problem - please get back to us on the forum.

It's very unfortunate that you've had so many problems with your Rav - this particular model is generally bombproof. I guess that much of it is down to poor maintenance in it's past life.

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Dont blame the RAV, it could have happened with any car that you bought, as said above the RAV is generally very reliable.

When I bought mine, the garage promised that it had been given a full service and "All" the oils had been changed.

I took it to my local garage who I trust to tell me the truth, and he said he had a very difficult time getting the level plug out of the transfer box and it had certainly not been removed recently.

He did actually change "All" the oils for me just to be on the safe side.

I would see how you get on with it for a while, but it sounds like that Bradford copper knew more than he was letting on.


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My long deceased Father in Law often said "never trust a copper until he's been dead & buried a fortnight". Further, actually the mechanic who diagnosed a diff. problem was right, just that he hadn't considered it might be the front diff!

With all the work you have done on the car, it's a great pity you intend to dump it as when running properly, they are really great vehicles.

Though I do understand your frustration. Clearly this copper knew he had a problem vehicle and wanted to move it on quickly. Unfortunately, you were in the way!

But well done both you and the cursing one. I wish you better luck with your next vehicle.

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