1997 Jeep TJ Transfer Case Shifter Upgrade - T-Case Oh-Shift!
From Janky Shifter to Swanky Shifter
Last month we were out rockcrawling in our ’97 TJ known as Tube-Sock to test the new Deegan 38 mud tires from Mickey Thompson (“Deegan 38,” Dec. ’14) when something funny happened. Our Jeep stopped climbing. It was as if we had somehow shifted out of low range, because the Jeep would just stall out on any tough obstacle or climb and the poor clutch was taking the brunt of the abuse. As we tried to double-check that we were still in low range, the transfer case shifter flopped around unattached to anything. In fact, all these were true. Under extreme flex and twisting the transfer case shifter came apart and the NV-231 transfer case had popped into high range, though the shifter inside the cab had never moved, leading us to believe that we were still in low.
We got out of the rocks after a friend crawled under and shifted the case into low again, but we had no way to shift it back into high once off the rocks without climbing back under the Jeep. The stock factory T-case linkage is pretty janky [janky, adj.: of poor quality; often in reference to a 4x4 that doesn’t work as originally designed because of off-road abuse]. It gets even jankier when a body lift is added and the drivetrain is torque twisted, such as when under extreme loads. Rather than putting it back together in order for it to fall apart again the next time, we opted to upgrade and spend our time trying to break some other part of our Jeep. A call to Novak Conversions and an hour under the Jeep, and we had gone from janky to swanky with a new cable shifter kit.
The factory Jeep TJ and XJ shifters use a system that has a mechanical linkage attached to both the body and the drivetrain via some bars, bushings, and linkage. It all works fine until you get really twisty off-road and then you can’t shift the 231 from inside the Jeep because the pivot bar pops out of alignment.
The Novak kit (top right) replaces all the factory linkage and shifter rails (lower left) with a simple high-grade, low-friction push pull cable. The cable has one bracket that attaches to the body and the other to the transfer case mount.
The most difficult part of the installation is attaching the cable mount bracket to the bottom of the body tub by yourself. Having a helper would make this easy. The final install shifted smooth and allowed us to get back on the trail (and off) without having to crawl underneath and shift the transfer case anymore.