How to Install a Novak Cable Shifter SK2XC Conversion Kit for the Jeep Wrangler TJ

    Improve Transfer Case Shifts

    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.

    In a few hours we had completed the job, and our 2006 Jeep TJ Wrangler's NP231 couldn't have been happier. The Novak Conversions cable shift conversion system allowed the transfer case to shift freely on time, and at all times, throughout its full range.

    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.

    The factory linkage body bracket is bolted on from the inner side of the transmission tunnel. The four nuts were accessed for removal by carefully pulling back the carpeting.
    With the nuts removed, the factory linkage body bracket could be pulled loose. At the same time, we removed the entire Z-bar linkage assembly between the OEM shift lever and transfer case pivot lever.
    Here's the reason for our trouble. This complicated spring and lever gizmo too easily gets out of alignment when the Jeep is navigating undulating terrain. It can't do its job correctly under those conditions, inhibiting the transfer case from shifting through its entire range. We also removed the transfer case anchor bracket at this time; its two corresponding 3/8-inch adapter nuts (of six) are typically at the 1 and 3 o'clock positions on the case and require nimble fingers and patience to remove.
    The differences between the factory linkage body bracket and the Novak Conversions body bracket are substantial in both design and construction. However, the superior Novak bracket fits right onto the four factory bracket holes with no modifications.
    We removed the factory transfer case sector shaft rotator plate (right) and set it next to the Novak Conversions kit upgrade (left). The new sector shaft rotator plate provides a good range of adjustment for that end of the cable to help fine-tune the transfer case's shifting. It was reinstalled in the most down and forward position possible (the transfer case should be in 2WD for this entire operation), and the factory nut was reused and secured to a suggested 30 lb-ft.
    Novak has discovered that some shift handles have a shorter bellcrank or that other unique combinations may need a longer throw and a shifter extension. An extension for the shifter was included in the kit just in case. We did not need it, but way to go, Novak!
    Four kit-provided rubber rivnuts were inserted (pads facing toward the body, brass inserts within the rivnuts facing the transmission) into the four holes at the corners of the Novak body bracket prior to installation. These rubber rivnuts are a tight fit, and we found it easy to temporarily run their bolts a few threads into the rivnut, and then use the head of the nut to pull the rivnut into their holes in the bracket.
    If you don't have help on this job, ever-useful duct tape can be applied to hold the Novak Conversions body bracket in place while you hop into the driver seat to tighten the bolts for the rivnuts from the outside of the transmission tunnel. You may also need to tape the rivnuts to the bracket to keep them from spinning during initial tightening. Take care to not overtighten the rivnuts.
    The Novak Conversions transfer case anchor bracket was installed on the same two transfer case adapter bolts that the factory bracket came from. The factory hardware we saved during removal was put back into action to secure the new transfer case anchor bracket. Retightening the two 91/16-inch bolts to 38 lb-ft. is recommended.
    With the two new Novak Conversions brackets (transfer case anchor bracket left and below, body bracket right and above) that form the backbone of this transfer case cable shift system upgrade kit in place, we were ready for the cable.
    The heart of the Novak Conversions transfer case cable shift upgrade system for the NP231 is the cable assembly. It features heavy-duty crimped ends, stainless steel inner cable, industrial-grade high-temp outer sheath, super-low friction Teflon liner, tight bend radius featuring no-bind resistance clear down to 5-inches, and it's all made in the USA.
    Once we had again confirmed that the transfer case and the shifter handle were both in the 2WD position, the outer nut and washer on one of the cable assembly housings were removed. The remaining nut was spun until it was in about the middle of its threaded adjustment range; then the cable housing was fed rearward through the hole in the body bracket. The outer washer and nut were then replaced on the threaded end of the cable housing and spun back on finger-tight.
    Next the kit-supplied bearing end bolt was installed on the threaded end of the Novak Conversions cable, and then the bearing end bolt secured to the factory shift lever using the kit-provided nuts and washers. The rubber grommet that was left behind in the shift lever plate after the removal of the factory Z-gate linkage system was cut from the hole in the lever prior to installing the bearing end bolt. Without moving anything else, the two nuts sandwiching the body bracket can be tightened, and no further adjustment should be necessary here.
    The bolt and washer on the outside of the other end of the Novak Conversion cable housing were removed and the cable slipped through the hole in the transfer case bracket. We looped the cable rearward and fed it through the bracket, so its threaded end was pointing forward. The washer and nut on the cable housing's end were then put back on and spun finger-tight.
    The kit-supplied clevis assembly was placed on the threaded end of the cable that goes to the transfer case and spun on slowly while looking to see when the clevis pin properly lined up with the hole in the shift rotator plate. At that point we removed the cotter pin and turned the clevis forward or backward in half-turn adjustments until the clevis pin could be inserted into the shift rotator plate with no tension.
    Now is the time to test-shift the transfer case. We had the use of a lift, so that was easy, but in any case, this is best done with the wheels off the ground. We shifted through the complete range of the transfer case, making sure the shift lever position in the cab was correct, and by spinning the wheels by hand we could tell if we were in the right transfer case gear position. At this point some fine-tuning can be done either by turning the clevis or bearing end, but don't go so far that you have less than six or more threads of engagement on either end. The cable can also be lengthened or shortened by turning the cable housing jam nuts at the brackets; just remember to make the same adjustments at each end of the cable.
    Once we knew everything with the Novak Conversions transfer case cable shift upgrade system was all buttoned up, we bolted the skidplate/transfer case/transmission crossmember back up and headed out to find some dirt in our 2006 Jeep TJ Wrangler.
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