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Go Back JeepForum.com > Models > Jeep Wrangler Forums > JK Wrangler Technical Forum > Another mans shift linkage repair

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Unread 05-08-2011, 06:27 PM   #1
SargeW
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Another mans shift linkage repair

There is an inherent weakness in the transfer case shift cable used by Jeep. The shift cable that runs from the 4 wheel drive selector in the console to the transfer shift case has a plastic bushing that secures the cable to the shift point. This plastic bushing can and will fail without warning, and usually at the most inopportune times. The cable itself is fine, heavy steel cable with an attached machined steel fitting on each end.

Inside the fitting a plastic bushing serves as the spacer to allow the steel fitting to rotate freely on the shaft on the shifter in the console, or the shaft on the transfer case lever, and as a pinch nut to secure the cable onto the shaft as well. When the bushing fails the cable will pop off of the shaft preventing you from shifting into, or out of 2WD, 4WD, or neutral. This can be a real problem if you are towing the Jeep 4 down, are about to tow the Jeep 4 down, or just want to shift into or out of one of the Jeeps low ranges.

The bushing has failed on me twice now since it was new in 2008. The first time it failed I had about 10K miles on the Jeep and was in Alabama. We were not able to shift the transfer case into Neutral to tow it so we drove it to a nearby Jeep dealer who replaced the bushing in the console. That took about 6 hours of sitting around waiting. We were not really informed as to the problem at the time, and were just happy to get back on the road. BTW, the bushing costs about .38 cents to buy.

This time it let go we were leaving El Capitan State Beach in Ca on a Friday morning. I hooked up the Jeep to tow behind the motor home and got in and tried to move the shifter into neutral. No luck, just a sloppy shift handle. I knew right away what it was. This time there was no dealer close, and we were do at the next campground about 200 miles north that afternoon. And there was no way I would get an appointment at a Jeep dealer the same day on a Friday on a holiday weekend.

Since looking around on this site, I was better prepared this time to handle the short term repair. First I slid under the Jeep with a large pair of channel lock pliers and moved the transfer shift lever into neutral. We were able to tow to the next place as planned. Moving it back at the next campground was a little more challenging but doable.

Now the fix. The only place close was a Home Depot. I knew I was going to have to take the console apart and get to the shifter linkage. That in itself was a little daunting since I didn't do it before. But it wasn't as bad as I had imagined.

After getting the console off, I discovered that it was a two part problem. First the linkage had popped off of the "cable keeper" about six inches in front of the bushing. Second the shifter bushing was cracked and falling apart as well. Both would have to be taken care of to put the Jeep back in service. The biggest issue was going to be the shifter bushing. Replacing the plastic bushing with another one was not an option. It is obviously a poorly engineered part. (My research into this problem revealed chronic failure of this bushing, some after as little as 100 miles.)

After much searching at Home Depot, I finally came up with a brass bushing that was actually part of a Watts water line fitting. The diameter was close and I just needed to shorten the length of the bushing. I used a small pipe tubing cutter to cut it down to size. I did squeeze the end of the brass bushing a bit with the tubing cutter. I had to flare it back out a touch by pressing a pair of needle nose pliers in the end and turning the bushing as I pressed. To hold it on the shifter hitch lever, I went with a stainless hitch pin.

With a new bushing and a hitch pin to hold it in place the shifter now worked as designed. To keep the shift keeper on the cable in the correct location, a few zip ties will keep it from moving around. In my research I learned that the failure rate of the bushing was really common, and which end of the cable would fail is a toss up. Unfortunately you usually don't know that the bushing has failed until you attempt to move the shift lever. Often the shifter will select the appropriate gear range, and it's not until you try to move it back that you find out that you are stuck in what ever range you had previously selected.

Some folks had to get towed to a dealer for repair, and some were able to drive it there. As of this date, Chrysler has no plans to produce a modified bushing. There is an after market company that makes and sells a replacement shift cable with different ends, but it sells for about $200.

I was able to source a different bushing at a Lowes store today that looks like it will fit the bill without having to cut it down. The hitch pin is still the recommended method of holding cable onto the shift pin. It is the last pic.

If anyone in interested in how to remove the console, let me know and I can post up some pointers. But this post turned out longer than I had anticipated already

The whole cost of the repair, including the tubing cutter was under $20. If I could have found the bushing without the large nut, it probably would have been less than half the cost. The bushing I found at Lowes was less than $3. I bought two.......

0501011026as.jpg   0501011026s.jpg   0501011039s.jpg   0501011054as.jpg   0508011651a.jpg  

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Unread 05-08-2011, 06:41 PM   #2
JLC08JK
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Thanks' for the write-up Sarge
Did you up-grade both ends of the cable with the same bushing?
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Unread 05-08-2011, 06:41 PM   #3
Vin
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Did you do the other end as well? I read it was the similar situation attatched to the T case.
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Unread 05-08-2011, 06:57 PM   #4
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You know, I didn't. I bought the parts though. I needed a break after doing the repair on the console. I did look at it though and it was not cracked (yet).
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Unread 05-08-2011, 07:57 PM   #5
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I was just trying to confirm they were similar parts. Thanks for the write up.
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Unread 05-08-2011, 08:10 PM   #6
SargeW
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Other posters have indicated that it is the same plastic bushing. It looked the same in the quick look that I took.
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Unread 05-09-2011, 06:25 AM   #7
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I haven't had this happen yet but I think I'll just take everything apart and fix it before it happens out in the boonies. I would appreciate you posting your tips to remove the console.
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Unread 05-09-2011, 09:28 AM   #8
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Ok, here are a few tips to remove the console. One of the hardest points is to remove the 4WD shift lever. It is simply pushed on and there is a notch on the shift lever that holds it on. Put the shift lever in 4 LO if you can to give yourself more room to pull. I just pulled mine hard and it popped off. Twisting won't help, a straight off pull is the best way.

The lowest panel on the center console needs to come off. It's easy, just slip a straight edge at the top corners of the panel. It pops off at the top and lift it up to remove.

Remove the dark color insert in the console. Start at the front of the console and lift gently as you pop off the hold down tabs. The shift boot ring also pops off. Lift it up, turn it 90 degrees and flatten it out to feed it through the dark color insert. It will stay on the shifter. Keep pulling the dark color insert up until you get to the emergency brake. Pull up on the e brake as hard as you can. The straighter you get it pointing up, the easier it will be to get the console off. Open the lid of the center console. The last clips holding the dark insert in place is the lip over the console cubby. Set this aside.

Now remove the screws holding the console down. There are two larger ones easily visible on the front sides of the console. next remove the 4 screws (all torx heads) on each sides of the console. Three are easily assessable, the last one you will need to slide the seats as far forward as possible to get to the last one. Before you start to pull the console up, there is a clip just to the right of e brake that holds a wire loom. Slide the wire loom off of the clip. It is put there to keep loom from getting cut by the lifting and lowering the e brake. The console should lift off now, again twist the shifter boot to get it through the console and work the rear of the console off over the e brake handle.

Getting to the linkage and bushing is easy. I had to drive the Jeep to the store while it was taken apart which was no problem. I did this in the parking lot of a campground, so no heavy lifting is necessary or major tools other than a set of torx bits.

Putting it back together is easy and much quicker. Make sure you put the wire loom back in the holding clip to keep it from getting damaged.

BTW, here is a pic of what the bushing looked like prior to install.

Clear as mud?
0501011025s.jpg  
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Last edited by SargeW; 05-09-2011 at 09:31 AM.. Reason: Additional image
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Unread 05-09-2011, 09:54 AM   #9
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Thanks for the write-up. This issue does concern me as I shift the transfer-case to neutral for a theft-deterrent hoping to confuse the thieves a bit. Sometimes it takes some minor effort to get it in and out of 4x4. It sounds like this weak link is so weak it may break for me someday.

Advanced Adapters makes a replacement cable kit #715596 that fixes the issue but costs a fair amount of money and would take some hours of installation. I may upgrade to that someday, but in the mean time will be more gingerly with my TC shifting and purchase some of the hardware bits in the glove box. Thanks for the pics and write-up, I'll book-mark them.
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Unread 06-10-2011, 09:20 AM   #10
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Hey SargeW, were you able to use that flange bearing from Lowes to fix the bushing on your shift lever? My stock bushing crumbled while wheeling too and we used zip ties so I could finish out the trip. I was planning on going to the dealership to have them replace the bushing and put my center console back on until I saw this thread. I went out to Lowes and found that flange bearing. It took a considerable amount of time tracking it down because I thought it was going to be with the piping conncters (for everyone else's reference, it's with the bolts and screws in one of the specialty drawers) not to mention I originally tried finding it at Home Depot. But when I got home to install it, the bearing didn't fit around the end of the lever point where the stock busing would have been, the metal point in your second picture.
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Unread 06-10-2011, 11:28 AM   #11
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You mean the inside diameter of the bushing? Mine was tight but slid on. Maybe run a drill through it to shave it a little bit?
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Unread 06-10-2011, 11:45 AM   #12
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Yeah, the inside diameter was too small. It was pretty dark outside and I was trying to work by the light from the domelight so I need to get a better look at it. I may have to try the drill idea. I was just curious how the bearing was going to sit. It almost looks like only the larger diameter outter lip would be the correct size to fill in the gap. If so, I may try to engineer something to help fill in the rest, like using polyurathane caulk just to make sure there's no play.
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Unread 06-10-2011, 11:50 AM   #13
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Yep, mine was a little loose on the outside too. However, with the clip on the outside of the bushing it fits nicely. The slight bit jiggle in the shifter has made no difference in the operation of the trans case either. Just having a metal insert makes the shifts positive and smooth.
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Unread 06-10-2011, 03:46 PM   #14
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Mine popped off in a mud hole at the Tcase.

shifted back into 2WD by hand and drove home, I bought 10 more OEM bushings for spares (for other JKs)

I permanently fixed mine by taking a new OEM plastic bushing, cutting the ends off so the only part remaining is the bit to eliminate slop between the stud and cable end clip, and I slid a washer over that and wrapped a cotter pin around the stud (hard up against the lip that the OEM bushing snaps over) so it will never move again until I yank the pin off myself, I did the same thing at the console end.
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Unread 07-06-2011, 06:05 PM   #15
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Crap this just happened to me... Any tips on temp fixes so I can drive to lowes to pick up the bushings? Mine is stuck in 4low
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