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Novak SK2X Universal T-Case Shifter:
Slick Shifting With Your Own Touch!

By Shawn Pagan

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Now it’s on to the fun stuff - bending metal.

Novak suggests using a wire coat hanger for this step and you could use one. I choose, instead, to use a flat piece of malleable stock (something I could bend with my hands but that would hold a shape). I shifted the t-case into 4Lo and installed the Novak shift lever. I used measurements from my console to determine the length I wanted for the shift lever.

Note on shifter length into the rig: After some different positions I decide that I wanted it to stick up as far as it could. Being that I am slightly over 6 feet tall I was tired of always leaning down to grab a shifter ,so I wanted to place the shifter as high as I could without hitting anything or interfering with the trans mission shifter.

After all that measuring, I decided to leave the shifter at maximum length (not cut anything off) and simply install it to be flush with the bottom of the clamp that it mounts into. With the t-case shifted back into 4Lo, I placed my flat piece of stock along the side of the lever and made marks for where specific points of the lever were at. On the lever I made marks where it fit into the bracket.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Place the shift lever in the Novak bracket and make a guesstimate about the height you would like it to be at. Mark the shift lever where it enters the Novak bracket. Then lay your bending guide (I used a flat piece of stock but you can use almost anything, such as a wire hanger or cardboard) along the top of the lever and mark where the lever ends at the top of the guide (or cut it to the same length if you want).
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
On the left you can see the mark made on the bottom of the lever and how far I slid it into the Novak bracket. On the right you can see all the marks I made. The one in the middle is where I decided to bend the lever.


Once I had all my marks I removed the Novak lever. Leaving the flat stock in place (where I marked it) we shifted the t-case through the gears and as we went into the gears I made sure to bend and adjust the flat stock so that it cleared the floor opening in every gear. Once I passed it through the gears a few more times and felt comfortable with my bends I put the t-case back in 4Lo and took my flat stock over to the work table with the Novak lever.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Here you can see the two extreme (4Lo and 2Hi) as I was working and shaping the flat stock
Novak SK2X Shifter
Here we compare the flat piece of stock with the final bend to the Novak shift lever

Laying the piece of flat stock beside the Novak lever you can see how much bend was needed for clearance. We placed the lever in a vise and marked where it needed to be bent. We then used a torch to heat the shaft and bent it to match the bend in the flat stock.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
The shaft was positioned in the vise with the bend mark just above the jaws. Then it was heated with a torch and bent.
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
We started with a less aggressive bend, not quite bending it as much as the flat stock. We test fit it and then bent it some more just to make sure we were on the right path. This probably added 5 or 10 minutes (cool down time for the lever) but I think it was worth it in the end.

Once the lever was cool enough to pick up, we inserted into the vertical bracket and shifted the t-case through all of its gears.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Test fit in 2 wheel drive high range
Test fit in 4 wheel drive high range
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Test fit in Neutral
Test fit in 4 wheel drive low range


The next step was to bolt the shift lever into place. In reality, what we probably should have done was paint the shift lever at this point as our shift lever sticks up far enough that we wanted to paint it with a coat of black paint, simply to make it more attractive. However, once we had the Allen head set screws tightened into place we decided it was too difficult to remove them so we painted the lever while it was in the vehicle.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
In hind sight, I probably should have simply unbolted the shifter to paint it or painted it before I test fit it. Once it was in I didn't want to deal with the Allen head set screws again so I painted it after it was installed in the vehicle. As careful as I was, I still managed to paint the edge of the carpet...

Note on Allen head screws: Novak has since updated their kits. The shifter bracket is now made out of stainless steel and no longer uses Allen head set screws. The design change now uses a clamp with two bolts to secure the shift rod.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
On the left is the bracket that came in the kit I had and it is the bracket I used. On the right is the bracket that Novak is now shipping. In addition to using bolts instead of set screws it also allows for more throw adjustment with 5 holes instead of 3. Also notice that the additional holes are above where the shift lever would end which should allow for a shorter throw then the linkage on the left.

At this point we needed to resolve the issue of the gaping hole in our floor board. At a local auto parts store we found a rubber shift boot with a metal surround and with a little finesse we were able to make it fit such that it would not bind the lever in 4Lo or 2Hi.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
A cheap rubber shift boot from the local auto parts store covered the hole in my floorboard. It almost looks like it belongs. You do have to take care to position this so the rubber doesn't bind the shifter, and in some cases depending on the throw of your setup you may need to trim the rubber back. I made no modification to the rubber boot and mine worked fine.

Once we had everything working, we re-installed our aftermarket Tuffy console. With the front part of the console installed I did round the corners slightly with a die grinder but it was just enough to clearance the round stock of the new shift lever. It is almost unnoticeable to the naked eye. In fact, the brushes in the Tuffy Console still completely cover the hole.

Novak SK2X Shifter
No cutting of the console was required. I did round out the ends of the shift hole just a touch, but this was more for preference than necessity.

When we installed the back part of the Tuffy console we also discovered that when in the 2Hi shift position the lever just slightly touches the console.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
In these pics it's hard to tell but ever so slightly the t-case shift knob touches the Tuffy radio console. It touched just enough to cause a little sound vibe. As a solution for me I had a friend machine off the upper corner of the knob and it no longer touches - problem solved. In most installations - especially with a sock center console - this would never be a problem but given a similar situation this could also be solved during installation (shorten the shifter).

Note on my Tuffy Console considerations: In reality, I don’t think either of these issues are anything to worry about. I measured the factory center console and the cutout for the shifter seems to be slightly longer than my Tuffy console . As for it touching the radio console on my Tuffy, this is where the cup holders are on a stock console so it shouldn't be an issue. Keep in mind, also, that if you do have a Tuffy (or other) console like mine, I kept the shifter as long as possible, while shortening the shifter even half an inch would have cleared with no problems.

Now that we have the assembly installed and working properly, I can honestly tell you that I am, indeed, very happy with it. I know where each gear in my t-case is and I can feel the t-case engage the gear without ever having to look at the idiot light on my dash board. I can find 4Hi and Neutral without guessing where they are located.

Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Normal driving - 2Hi
Snow, ice and loose dirt - 4Hi
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Neutral
4Lo - yes, it clears the shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
Driving in 4Hi
Driving in 4Lo
Novak SK2X Shifter
Novak SK2X Shifter
You may be asking why my shifter sticks up so high. If you recall, I wanted it to. Being 6 feet tall, I was tired of leaning forward to work the shifter. With the t-case lever this high I can easily reach it with my hand or fingers and shift without having to move around in my seat. Clearance all around might have been better by making it a little shorter, by either cutting it off or sliding more of the lever through the bracket. Either way, it works for me and that's one of the cool things about this kit - it's adaptable for you own style and choices.

There are a couple of things that people may view as concerns after the install:

(1) For most vehicles the new direct shift pattern does not require moving the shifter to the side to change from 4Hi to neutral or 4Lo – there is no direct shift lock out. This means the driver will have to make sure they are doing the right things when they want to shift. The lever simply moves fore and aft to engage the next gear

(2) Depending on your vehicle, the shifting pattern may be “reversed” from stock. On the stock TJ shifter you pulled up and back to engage 4Lo. With the new shifter installed you pull back to engage 2Hi and push forward to engage 4Lo.

(3) If you install this kit before installing a body lift or removing a body lift or before installing a flat cross member or removing t-case drop bracket - basically if you change the relationship between where the t-case sits and the body of the Jeep - you may need to trim/cut/rebend or get a new shift lever. This, of course, depends on how close the tolerances are when you bend/modify the lever.

I really like the way the Novak SK2X shifter feels and operates. It feels like a transfer case should - easy, precise and it leaves the guesswork at home. I now have confidence that I will never have to crawl under my rig to shift the t-case again. It’s one less thing you need to worry about on the trail, and it’s easily adaptable to body lifts, flat skids or any other custom work you plan on doing now or in the future .

My only question is why didn’t they do this sooner?

 

Resource
NOVAK Conversions
information@novak-adapt.com
648 W. 200 N.
Logan, UT 84321
http://www.novak-adapt.com

 

Shawn Pagan

Shawn Pagan is a staff writer for ROCKCRAWLER.com as well as Our Land Use Editor. Shawn now resides in northern Colorado.

Contact Shawn at thepagan@rockcrawler.com