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the chain in the transfer case drives the front driveshaft,if stretched it will affect 4wd only,part of this may be related to worn/loose trans or motor far as the crush sleeve compressing more over time,i would have to disagree,but wear in the pinion bearings will certainly happen after a lot of miles.when i overhauled my diff,i set the backlash a little tighter than oem spec,about .005 instead of .006 to .008.seems to be working fine for me,but in some cases it will howl if too tight. another thing is the wear in the side and spider gears in the diff,quite common in an open diff,especially wear on the big cross pin.
first i would open hood and watch air cleaner movement while shifting fron D to R and back,giving it a little throttle in both directions,see if clunk is related to engine moving.
second i would use a smal bottle jack to check the movement at the t-case mount.
third i would pull diff cover with driveshaft disconnected to see if i could find any excessive wear.
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