Transmission, Manual

Shifter Free Play Explained

Shifter Free Play Explained

Some free play in the shifter is normal. (Neither the clutch nor the transmission internals affect the shifter free play.) There are three main sources of free play :

Plastic bushings at the base of the shift lever.
This can be easily checked by removing the shift knob and boot. If you get into replacement of these, the small, stiff springs can be a pain to re-install. One trick is to compress the springs in a vise and tie them in the compressed position with small copper wire. Install them, and remove the wire.

The infamous shifter cup.
There is a rod going forward from the base of the shifter that anchors the forward end of the shift linkage. This rod ends in a fitting very similar to a steering linkage tie rod end that fits on a ball on top of the torque tube. The rod end fitting has a plastic liner that wears, and which will eventually pop off, leaving you with a non-functional shifter. (If this happens to you, get to a safe position off the road. Hold the base and the top of the shift lever, and shift to third gear. It's a bit hard on the clutch, but if it's not too far, you can get the car home in third.) Replacing the cup is an interesting experience. You can almost get your hands in the limited space. A couple of points - The adjustment on the rod end determines the fore and aft tilt of the shift lever. Count the threads showing on the old one, and put the new one in the at the same depth. Pulling the cup onto the ball is a learning experience. If you have them, you can use several stainless steel hose clamps attached end to end around the torque tube and the rod end. A racheting nylon tie-down strap may give enough pressure. You can tie a strong rope around the torque tube and the rod end, and use a steel bar to twist the rope, pulling the cup onto the ball. Some members have shaped pry bars to lever the cup onto the ball. A couple of our more pessimistic members normally run with electrical tie-wraps around the torque tube and shifter cup, hoping to prevent the cup from jumping off the ball. If you do this, pull them almost, but not quite, tight.

Rear shift coupling.
There is a coupling that attaches the aft end of the shift rod to the transmission. This coupling appears to be pretty bullet-proof, and there is some designed-in free play in the coupling. A couple of members have replaced the coupling, only to discover that they still had the same free play. The adjustment of this coupling can also affect the fore and aft tilt of the lever.

If you want a tighter shift pattern, with less lever travel, you can shorten the lever. There are two ways to do this: Contact David Roberts at 928 Specialists (770-928-4777) or one of the other vendors, and buy a GT shift lever; or, shorten your shift lever. The easiest way to do this is with an abrasive cut-off wheel in a high speed grinder or a Dremel. The shift knob and boot just pull off. Push the shift lever through a slot in the bottom of a cardboard box to form a protective shield. This keeps hot particles from scarring your seats and dash, and catches them for easy cleanup. Look at the top of the shift lever, and duplicate the shape about 1 1/2" down. Shift effort is slightly increased, but travel is reduced. Treat the leather on the boot while you have it out.

Wally Plumley
928 Specialists

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