Ah, the stability of shifting the NP231 in a Jeep. The factory design is nice and smooth – at least right up until the time you start installing body lifts, flat cross members or you want to adapt something to something else (engine, trans, t-case, whatever...). The incredible fore-thought of a design that mates the t-case shifter to the t-case (a part of the drive train) using the body of the vehicle becomes very clear the first time the linkage comes apart after completing the local rock garden and you can’t shift out of 4 wheel drive low range (4 Lo).
Sound like an isolated incident? It’s not. I have spent a lot of time laying on my back in dust, mud, rain and rocks fixing either my Jeep or someone else’s that had the stock linkage either jam (usually because the plastic pivot points break down) or fall completely apart – thus they could no longer shift the transfer case.
The NP231 t-case shifts reasonably well with just your hand for leverage. It doesn’t seem to stick or bind. So as I was looking for an alternative, I originally installed a Skyjacker T-Case Shift Correction Kit. The Skyjacker kit removes the part of the shifter Z-gate that attaches to the body of the Jeep but requires some cutting (of the original shift arm) and welding of a sleeve over that arm. It still uses the stock shifter and the Z-gate shift pattern.
Note Z-gate shift pattern: The z-gate shift pattern is where the user has to move the shift handle around a cog to shift into Neutral or 4 Wheel Drive Low Range.
Here you can see the slight jog you need to take to shift from 4h to neutral. This jog is forced upon you by the linkage under the shift handle not the t-case.
The Skyjacker bracket solved the problem of the Jeep popping out of gear but the shifting felt mushy. By mushy, I mean it was easy to find 2 wheel drive high and 4 wheel drive low – just move the lever all the way one way or the other. 4 wheel drive high and neutral were guesses, at best, because you kind of had to feel where they were. There was very little feedback as to the location of a gear when you shifted.
On the left are the part that come with the Skyjacker kit. It includes a new anchor bracket and a sleeve. Once you remove the factory linkage you have to cut one of the rods, sleeve it with the applied sleeve and re-weld it to get the right adjustment. It solves the problem of your linkage falling apart but it does nothing to improve the feel of the shifter.
Although this never really bothered me, I really didn’t know how bad it was until I decided to take a look at the new shifter assembly being offered by Novak Conversions.
Novak Conversions has released a completely new shifter and assembly for Jeeps using a 231, 207, 2410R or 242 transfer case. The kit comes complete with everything you need to use these cases in the vehicles they came in or adapt them for use in something else.
Novak's website claims that their new Universal Shifter kit will:
• Restore and improve shifting action in Jeeps with suspension and especially body lifts.
• Provide a clean shifting mechanism for conversion transmissions being adapted to the Jeep transfer cases.
• Provide a cleaner shift feel and greater sense of control to the driver of the Jeep.
• Eliminate shifter kick-outs and transfer case damage by replacing problematic factory linkages.
Of course, being the pessimist that I am, my first thought was why I would want to do this when I already have a perfectly good shifter. After all, it shifts through the gears doesn’t it?
Well the package arrived from Novak and I opened it up. It looked pretty simple; three metal brackets, a threaded rod, a long handle with a threaded end, a shift knob and a small bag of miscellaneous parts and bolts. How hard could this be? I probably don’t even need the instructions.
My next step in researching an article was to go out on the web and start looking around. And, oh boy, did I find a bevy of information on this new kit from Novak. It seemed that a number of people where having difficulty installing the kit. Everything from they had to cut holes in their floor pans to they had to modify their center consoles to they had to bend the handle multiple times and in at least one case the handle was hitting their dashboard when they shifted. And in true Internet fashion, there were myriad responses - some that made sense and others that were just out there. But I felt there was nothing I could really use, except perhaps to pay close attention to detail when I did the install.