Transfer cases are getting smarter, or maybe they're getting dumber. It really depends on your point of view. One camp will tell you that with the onset of more modern designs and the introduction of electronics they have been getting smarter. The other will tell you that the early Jeep transfer cases were simpler and more reliable. Among the most fundamental changes have been the move to chaindriven designs and the switch from direct shift to remote shift. We don't have the time or space here to carry on a conversion about gear versus chaindriven; settle that among yourselves. The change to remote-style shifters did not sit well with many Jeepers, but we can offer a solution to that.
The New Process chaindriven transfer cases, with their Z-gate linkage design, can be found in the Jeep TJ, XJ, and MJ fitted with the NP231J, or in the ZJ fitted with the NP242J. It is a complicated jumble of linkage rods, joints, springs, and brackets zigzagging their way between the shift lever and the transfer case, and it can be a nightmare of misaligned and ill-functioning mechanical spaghetti—especially once you begin to make suspension, drivetrain, or body modifications.
This was the situation we were in with our 2006 Jeep TJ Wrangler Sport. With a 4-inch Currie Enterprises suspension system, the amount of free flex and axle articulation available made it a much better wheeler. It also meant that the twisted-up suspension slightly twisted the frame, the body, and sometimes the drivetrain just enough that under certain conditions, the linkage-rod system misalignment made it impossible to shift into 4-Lo. We had to head back down to level ground and then make the shift from 4-Hi to 4-Lo. Not ideal. Not even satisfactory.
With help from the Jeep experts at T&J Performance Center in Orange, California, we ordered up and installed a Novak Conversions #SK2XC cable shifter assembly on the NP231J handling power division underneath our TJ. With new brackets made from 3/16-inch steel, welding on the fabricated tunnel side bracket, and zinc plating for corrosion resistance, the kit's highlight is, of course, the cable. It features heavy-duty crimped ends, stainless steel inner cable, industrial-grade high-temp outer sheath, super-low friction Teflon liner, and tight bend radius capability with no-bind resistance clear down to 5 inches. Designed to fit right into 1997-2006 TJ and LJ Wranglers, as well as 1988 and newer XJ Cherokees and MJ Comanches, it's all made in the USA. Novak also makes conversion kits for numerous other transfer cases, including the NP241OR.
We got started early and were done by lunch, ready to find some dirt—this time with a complete range of shifting in fully articulated situations. Check out this walkthrough of the installation, features, and benefits of swapping out a sometimes-troublesome stock setup for a more reliable and fully adjustable Novak Conversions cable transfer case shift system.