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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:27 PM   #1
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Unhappy Transfer case "failed to shift" error code

2002 Chevy Silverado 1500:
Transfer case ''failed to shift'' error code C0387. 4WD started failing to work sometimes. took in to mechanic and got no error codes, replaced push button switch in dash... seems to be a common problem. Still failed sometimes and would get service 4WD message. fastforward: now it is always failing to work. it seems to go into Auto 4 but I hate auto 4. pushing 4hi the light just flashes and returns to 2hi (I CAN hear the encoder motor trying to shift the transfer case)Took it back to mech and he said when on the lift in auto the front tires do engage but still could not get the service 4WD light to come on and get a code. I have read lots on the issues (button switch, grounds, TCCM, encoder motor, etc) It seems that I can get the error light to come on when I try to shift into 4LO so I took it to mech while light was on and the scanner read a C0387 ''failed to shift.'' The troubleshooting said to remove the encoder motor and try to turn the shaft to see if it was bound up and not turning. I did this and from what I could tell it rotated although I could only get it to turn one way but not the other due to very limited space to try and turn it. I put it all back together and tried to shift it into 4hi and same thing light flashed and stayed in 2hi and I can still hear the encoder motor trying to shift in then back out. is there something else that could be wrong with the transfer case or some other electrical part on it I am not aware of. My 4WD has been out for quite some time and living in Michigan I would really like to have it working before snow flies. Thanks

Last edited by Homebrew; October 21st, 2009 at 08:43 PM. Reason: Add vehicle type
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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:40 PM   #2
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what kind of truck?
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Old October 21st, 2009, 08:41 PM   #3
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sorry, 2002 silverado 1500
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Old October 21st, 2009, 09:40 PM   #4
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Probably a Bad Encoder Motor! Once you get it fixed engage 4x4 at least once a week just to keep the motor freed up...this is a common problem with people who don't use 4x4 all summer long!
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Old October 21st, 2009, 09:59 PM   #5
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Thanks Disturban, I am guilty of not using it during the summer.
My mechanic said he got an encoder from a buddy at a scrap yard and swapped it out to try that, however, when I pulled it off it didn't appear to me it had been changed. He may have just put it up on the lift in auto 4 and saw that the front was kicking in and thought it was good. I don't know, he did charge me anything. I'm unemployed at the moment and trying to save pennies but need this working! Maybe I can find one cheap and swap it out myself and see what happens...
Thanks
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Old October 21st, 2009, 10:36 PM   #6
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if the encoder motor was bad would it still shift into auto 4WD and work. I'm baffled by this problem. I was hoping it isn't the TCCM either. I already had half the dashboard apart trying to locate it, I would practically have to take the entire dash out just to get to it.
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 12:01 AM   #7
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Usually when 4x4 wont engage it is one of a few things. Either the encoder motor is bad, the front axle is not engaging (Eliminate this problem) because you said it was in auto 4x4 right? Bad switch! The switch it's self is also a common failure on GM trucks. I would think the encoder motor could still be bad, I am not exactly sure how auto 4x4 works but I assume it keeps the front axle engaged and when it detects rear wheel slip it engages the T case automatically...there for when in auto 4x4 the computer thinks everything is good to go because the front axle is engaged and it is just waiting for wheel slip. Once wheel slip is detected the T case still might not engage in auto 4x4...test my theory and put it in auto 4x4 and get on some loose gravel, mud ect and nail the skinny pedal and see what happens. If I am correct you will not get 4x4 action and possibly the switch will even blink while in auto 4x4. If this happens then it is almost a sure bet the encoder motor is bad. I am not 100% sure this is how auto 4x4 systems work but I am pretty sure!
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 09:12 AM   #8
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pretty positive it's not the switch, it has been replaced last year when 4WD started acting up and I cracked it open the other day to check the solder contacts, it all looks good.

I think you are right on with how the auto 4 works, I will sling some gravel to test it out! Good advice, thanks
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 09:31 AM   #9
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I had a '99 tahoe for 7 years, replaced the encoder motor 4 times - just to support what others are saying. I however, used 4x4 quite often with it.

Try cycling through the different push button settings, usually if it won't engage 4-hi, you can get auto or 4 low to work. A cheap test is to take out the encoder motor, have someone push the buttons one at a time and see if it cycles.
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Old October 22nd, 2009, 07:43 PM   #10
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That is good advice too. I tested Disturban's theory, put it in auto on some gravel rd and mashed the gas, sure enough, only the rear tires spun and the front didn't kick in.

I talked to my mech again today though... He said he did actually swap out the encoder with one he got from a friend at a salvage yard and it still made no difference (two bad ones?? who knows). Said it could be either the tccm (computer) or pointing to the t-case itself. OUCH! that hurts, I'm unemployed and trying to save money by process of elimination here... The mechanic is going to try and plug in his old tccm that was doing something different than mine just to see in he can get the t-case to shift.

I found a guy selling a wrecked 2000 with a good engine, rebuilt transmission, and a new t-case installed last year and still has warranty. I also priced all the 4WD components today, I think it is in my best interest to just buy the scrapper and take all the 4WD components, figure out what is wrong with mine sell off the rest and strip the rest of the scrapper to try and re-coup my money. Being unemployed sucks, I used to fix things I could on my own to save money when employed but I could still pony up cash to do what I needed, when I wanted.

Let you all know what happens next, but any other suggestions are highly welcome
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 10:58 AM   #11
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Had alot of problems with the grounds on the drivers side frame being corroded and then have to reprogram t-case module.
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 03:50 PM   #12
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Well, it's working now! My mechanic plugged in his old TCCM from his truck to test if the t-case would shift. his computer was keeping the front differential locked in and it did the same on my truck as well, but the t-case was shifting. So he plugged mine back in and now the t-case is still shifting as normal every time, all ranges!
SO, either
a. the tccm lost it's brains until it was disconnected and reconnected, I doubt it though because I had the fuses out and battery disconnected for some time when I was working on it.
b. the contacts may have been corroded and not getting/sending a good signal.
c. the tccm may be temporarily working now after getting disconnected and re-juiced.

If I had to put my money on it I would say the contacts were probably corroded, I've read some issues with this. the damn thing is just so hard to get to, I sure couldn't get my hands to it anyway. Anyway, I located a tccm at a salvage yard for $50 so I bought it. Gonna try and swap it out and hold onto mine as a backup or whatever.
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 04:01 PM   #13
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maybe its the tcase it self..
edit:nvm i didnt read the post above..i have no idea i hate those bullshit problems
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Old October 23rd, 2009, 04:25 PM   #14
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its the tccm. my envoy did the same thing. it stopped working. i pulled the power fuse and let it re-learn/re-set. then it worked for a few weeks. then it failed totally. this is very common.
my tccm was a pita to swap!! it was all the way up, and all the way left under the dash.
the area the vin number is riveted. i got a new one on escam for $90.00 installed it. then had it flashed at the dealer for $80.00
that is the last gm product i buy.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 06:41 AM   #15
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Yea my tccm is in the same location and a real mother to try and get out! Last night I managed to unplug the one in the dash, fished the connectors out where the fuse block is, and connected the one I got from the junk yard ( I wanted to make sure it worked in case I do have to swap em) it worked just fine. I also got some anti-corrosive cleaner/lubricant spray from Radio Shack and sprayed the connectors before I plugged the original back in. I think the problem was corroded, bad contact.

About flashing: I've read both that they need to be re-flashed and that they don't! Don't quote me on this but I think if you get a used one you DON'T, my used one worked just fine. As far as a brand new one ($449.52 at the stealership) I am not sure. I read that the new ones have been programed differently and don't need to be flashed and that the dealership is just scamming you another $80 or so. I don't know, personally I would try the new one first to see what happens.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 06:47 AM   #16
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By the way, for anyone with this problem... There are 2 tccm's up on ebay right now with a buy it now for $65. I got mine local for $50. The Flint area has a crap load of GM's so not too hard to get here, but they don't stay at the scrap yards long so keep checking.
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Old October 24th, 2009, 08:21 AM   #17
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yes only the new ones need to be flashed. i was afraid to buy a used one.
might try some silicone dielectric grease on the plug to keep a good contact.
good luck
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Old October 25th, 2009, 07:17 PM   #18
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i know i'm really not helping here but this is why manual 4x4 is so much better
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Old October 28th, 2009, 08:59 AM   #19
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Depends what you mean manual. I owned a 1995 chevy 4x4, was before they came out with auto sensing transfer case. It have a manual shift leaver on the floor. There ARE still electronics involved with these types. I believe the leaver actually shifts the transfer case manually so there is less electronics to fail there. However, 4WD went out in my 95 once, it was caused by a solenoid failure on the front differential. This locks the front axles in for "shift on the fly" type 4WD. The old school manual 4WD you actually had to get out of the vehicle and lock in the hubs at each front wheel manually. so if you knew you were going to go into mud, snow, whatever and knew you were going to use 4WD you would want to make sure you had already locked the front axles in so then you could shift the t-case and keep going. Hope that helps.

My 4WD is still working by the way... I'm convinced it was a bad contact at the tccm computer.
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