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Pelican Technical Article:

Shifting Improvements

Time:

3 hr

Tab:

$35 to $85

Talent:

**

Tools:

Socket Set, Hex Keys

Applicable Models:

Porsche 911 (1965-89)
Porsche 912 (1965-69)
Porsche 930 Turbo (1976-89)

Parts Required:

Shift Coupler or Coupler bushings, Shift Rod Bushing, Shifter Bushing

Hot Tip:

Install all the bushings using a little lithium grease

Performance Gain:

Better, more precise shifting

Complementary Modification:

Install the factory short shift kit
101 Projects for Your Porsche 911

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.

Porsches have never really been known for their supreme shifting abilities. Very often on the older 911s, the shifting ability deteriorates as the years go by. While many people blame their transmissions and prepare for a full rebuild, their worries may be needless. In many cases, the shift bushings have simply worn out and need to be replaced. Worn bushings can result in sloppy shifting, misplaced shifts, and grinding when engaging gears. Most people are amazed at the improvement that occurs when they replace their bushings. A mere $45 spent on new bushings is a heck of a lot cheaper than a $1500 transmission rebuild.

The first step in replacing the bushings is to gain access to the shifter. On the later 911s, the center console surrounds the shifter, and needs to be removed. There are three screws that secure the console to the chassis floor. The front access panel of the console hides the two screws located in the front of the car. The rear screw is usually hidden under the carpet, and requires some fishing around in order to locate it.

Once you have the center console removed, you should be able to pull away the carpet and gain access to the shifter. Be careful not to tear your carpet when pulling it back. The original carpet was glued to the floor, and has a tendency to weaken with age.

The shifter is bolted down to the floor with hex socket cap screws. Simply place the car into first gear, unbolt the shifter from the floor, and remove it from the chassis. Placing the transmission in gear prior to removing the shifter helps to keep the transmission selector rod from moving when disconnecting the shift rod coupler later on. The shifter bushing is a ball cup bushing, and is located at the base of the shifter handle. Remove the old one and pop on the new one. Make sure that you put some lithium grease in the new bushing before you install it.

Now, move behind the front seats and remove the small access panel that is located on the center tunnel. Underneath, you will find the shift coupler that connects the shift rod to the transmission selector rod. Using a permanent marker, mark the location of the coupler with respect to the shift rod: you will need to line it up again later. Make sure that you mark the rotational position of the coupler, as well as its location along the length of the shift rod. Remove the coupler by loosening up the hex key cone screw, and the clamp on the shift rod.

The two bushings that are located within the shift coupler often wear with age. The center pin of the coupler needs to be pressed out and removed in order to fit the new bushings. Installation of the new bushings is not an easy job, and is perhaps best left to a machine shop with a heavy-duty press. It's quite easy to damage the aluminum coupler if you don't have the proper tools. An alternative to replacing the bushings is the replacement of the entire coupler. For only a few dollars more, you can replace the coupler with a brand new one, and forget about the hassle of pressing out the center pin.

With the shift coupler disconnected, the shift rod bushing can be removed. This bushing is located behind the shifter in the center tunnel. It's held in place by a bracket that mounts to the top of the center tunnel. To remove this bracket, unbolt it from the top of the tunnel. Then disconnect the ball cup bushing adapter that is mounted to the end of the shift rod. It may require some maneuvering in order to get the adapter off and the bracket out. Install the new bushing into the mounting bracket, and then replace it in the center tunnel.

On the 1973 and earlier cars, the shifter has a concave ring-shaped bushing that tends to wear out over the years. In addition, the lockout springs within the shifter assembly tend to become weak with age. When you have the shifter out of the car, it's a wise idea to disassemble it and replace these parts. For all year cars, it's a wise idea to clean and grease the shifter while you have access to it. If you want to install a short shift kit (Pelican Technical Article: Installing a Short Shift Kit), now would be an excellent time to do it.

When reinstalling the entire shifting system, make sure that you line up the coupler in the same place that you marked previously. If you weren't happy with the alignment of the shifter previous and you often 'nicked' gears when shifting, then you might want to readjust your shifter.

The procedure for adjusting the shifter is simple. Reattach the shift coupler to the transmission, but keep the clamped end of the shifter rod very loose. With the transmission in first gear, place the shifter into the upper left hand corner of the shift pattern. Now, clamp down on the shift coupler. The shift assembly should be properly adjusted in this position, and the shifter should cleanly lock into all gears including reverse. However, depending upon transmissions, chassis, and linkages, this doesn't always work on the first try. It may be necessary to loosen up the coupler clamp again, and play with the final adjustment of the shifter.

When you have all the bushings replaced, and the shifter adjusted, the car should show a remarkable improvement. If you are still having problems with shifting and grinding, you might want to check your clutch adjustment (Pelican Technical Article: Clutch Adjustment), or your motor and transmission mounts (Pelican Technical Article: Replacing Motor and Transmission Mounts), or the fluid level in your transmission (Pelican Technical Article: Replacing Transmission Fluid). Another upgrade that is a good complement to this project is the addition of the Porsche factory short shift kit for the 915 transmission (see Pelican Technical Article: Installing a Short Shift Kit).

You can gain access to the shifter by removing the center console.
Figure 1

You can gain access to the shifter by removing the center console. The console is held in place by three screws that mount it to the floor of the chassis. In order to access the two screws in the front, remove the front-most part of the console. The third screw may be difficult to locate, as the carpeting usually covers it.

Pull the carpeting back to reveal the shifter, which is mounted to the chassis floor.
Figure 2

Pull the carpeting back to reveal the shifter, which is mounted to the chassis floor. Unbolt the shifter and remove it from the floor. The bottom of the shifter contains the shifter bushing, which wraps around the shifter rod. Remove and replace this bushing, using a little lithium grease spread inside the bushing. Make sure that the bushing is on tight; air tends to get trapped inside the ball cup, and can unexpectedly pop the bushing off of the end of the shifter.

Removing the access panel behind the front seats reveals the shift rod coupler.
Figure 3

Removing the access panel behind the front seats reveals the shift rod coupler. The two bushings in the coupler often wear with use, as sometimes does the small cone screw that holds the coupler in place.

New bushings installed in the coupler make a world of difference when shifting your 911.
Figure 4

New bushings installed in the coupler make a world of difference when shifting your 911. These bushings cost about $20 for a pair, and a new coupler itself is only about $50. Be careful when reinstalling the coupler. If the screw hole in the coupler is not perfectly lined up with the hole in the shift rod, you can cross thread the coupler when tightening the cone screw. If this happens, the coupler is destroyed, and needs to be replaced.

The shift rod bushing supports the shift rod in the tunnel.
Figure 5

The shift rod bushing supports the shift rod in the tunnel. In order to replace this bushing, remove the bracket that holds it in place. It is held on by two screws that fit through the top of the center tunnel.

The new bushing snaps into place inside the bracket.
Figure 6

The new bushing snaps into place inside the bracket. Make sure to spread some lithium grease on the shift rod before you place it through the bushing.

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Comments and Suggestions:
Plex Comments: I was driving my 75 911 with 3.0L engine and 5 speed trans the other day and all of a sudden while on the highway shifting from 4th to 5th I was not able to engage 5th gear. Up until that moment everything seemed to be working fine. There was no grinding or abrupt movements in the car. I noticed at that time when getting back in to 3rd gear it seemed like 3rd was a little too far to the right. Almost felt like 3rd was now where 5th used to be just moments ago. I was still able to use gears 1 through 4 and made it home. When I tried to reverse in to my garage, I was not able to engage reverse gear either. So now my car is in the garage nose first and I cannot use 5th or reverse. The only other pertinent information is that I just had the suspension fully upgraded to a coilover system by Rebel Racing and also upgraded to the brembo 996 brake system. I also just had the engine and transmission mounts replaced with RebelRacing semi solid mounts. Since all these upgrades I have already driven the car about 50 miles without incident and then all of a sudden this issue. Could the transmission mounts have anything to do with this sudden change? Is it the bushings/coupler issue? Is there something more seriously wrong with my transmission? Is this a job a relatively new to DIY can handle or should I bite the bullet and pay a mechanic?
September 18, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I would assume the new mounts or movement from installing the mounts aggravated a failing shifter coupling. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Ajax Comments: The replacement bushings are very good. Very tight and make for precise engagement. I think Porsche engineers used the oval shaped internal bore bushings for one reason. That is to counteract shift fork wear caused by those nitwits that find it necessary to constantly hang there hand on the gearshift lever. As a mechanic, that was one of my pet peeves.
August 12, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike W Comments: Follow up to previous post on June 7th 2015:
No, it does not return to center with detached linkage.
March 7, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It should be loose at the shifter, floppy almost when detached. The shift rod at the trans should want to move to center when removed from a gear. If it doesn't, the problem is likely internal to the trans. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
hkgibby Comments: Is the set screw #23 in Bentley manual page 340-5 that holds on the shift lever coupler the same part# as the set screw #33 same diagram that is used at the shift rod coupler? If not, what is the part# for the forward set screw? Both are hex, correct?
January 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't have the Bentley manual to review. Our instructions were created from a subject vehicle, they should be accurate. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
M.D. Holloway Comments: Just changed my shift coupler on my 77 ROW 4 speed. Shift quality is amazing!!! Thanks Wayne!
November 27, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
M. D. Holloway Comments: Changed out my coupler on my 77 ROW 4 speed. The improvement in shift quality is amazing! Thanks Wayne!!!
November 27, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jamesrlong Comments: I've been reading and some places say the 69 911t had a four speed and some say it had a five speed. If it had a four speed where would first be. Rev is to the left and up. I thought 1st was to the left and down in a five speed but now I'm thinking I may have a 4 speed.
November 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It a 4-speed. Reverse is up to the left. Then first is up toward the center.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jamesrlong Comments: No it didn't work before. When I got the car the bushings were gone. It would go into 2nd and 3rd only. Now it goes into all but 1st.
November 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Then the problem may be internal to the transmission, and not the bushings. With the linkage disconnected, can you shift into first at the trans? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
James r long Comments: I just replaced the bushings in my 69 911t. I have adjusted it several times but I still can't get it to go into 1st. I pull over to the driver side and back but it just slips over into 3rd. It goes into every other gear just not first.
November 24, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If it was fine before, something with the install went wrong. I would check the alignment of the bushings and shifter. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Gun Comments: Here's a link to disassembly and reassembly of early shifters
http://www.renntech.info/SharedData/Manuals/911/911%201972-1983%20Workshop%20manual%20Deel%207%20Pedalen%20en%20hendels.pdf
November 18, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dallas Comments: Sorry for the delay, yes the shifter is and has been very sloppy since I bought the car. Since it started refusing second gear, it's been difficult to distinguish first from third gear... now that's bad. I've got it in the shop right now and i'm replacing all the bushings and the shift knob.

Dallas
June 16, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the follow up. Let me know what they find. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Mike W Comments: I just replaced the orignal 69 bushings in my 69 911e. While it feels much better the shifter doesn't go to neutral center... As in spring to center in between 2-3. This leaves some guess work when trying to find gears. Is this normal? If not, what can I do to remeidy it?
June 7, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Detach the linkage, does it return to center? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Dallas Comments: Hi i've got a 1979 911 with the 3.2L Carrera engine. Earlier today it began refusing second gear and I suspect hope to God it's the bushings instead of the transmission as the shifting has been sloppy and occasionally grinds when trying to put in gear. Does this article apply to my car? I'm unsure of whether the trans is original or from the Carrera. Any help is appreciated, thanks.

Dallas
June 5, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Sounds like the bushings could be the issue. Does the shifter has slop in it?

Article applies to:
Porsche 911 (1965-89)
Porsche 912 (1965-69)
Porsche 930 Turbo (1976-89)

- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Dingers Comments: Hi Casey. I would like information on the G50 in the 3.2 carrera from 1987 to 1989. Ca the linkage bushings be renewed in this system and will it also improve the shift?
April 28, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes it is a very similar task to this article. The bushings are different, and the G50 does not have a coupler. Renewing the bushings will improve the shifter feel greatly if the old bushings are cracked and or falling apart. - Casey at Pelican Parts  
Dingers Comments: What about the G50, 3.2 Transmission from the 964? Have you any advice? Are there bushings to replace or was the G50 a different beast?
April 27, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The G50 3.2L and the 964 3.6L G50 have completely different shifters. Which one would you like info on?? The 964 did not use the same style bushings as the 3.2L Carreras did, totally different beast. Does this answer your question? - Casey at Pelican Parts  
dansuperman Comments: Nevermind,

I managed to trouble shoot the above 3 questions while playing around with it a little more.

Thanks.

Dany
April 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Can you share your findings? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
dansuperman Comments: Hi guys,

Just tried to install my coupler after having replaced the bushing and ran into two problems:

1 After having aligned the little cone screw, I accidentally stripped the cone screw. The cone screw isn't all the way in but I do notice that the screw was in deep enough to engage the rod connecting to it.

2 I believe my coupler with bushing is way too stiff. Is it a matter of personal preference or should I have it really lose?

3 I haven't installed the other final two pieces of my shift bushing and rod bushing which will be tomorrow, but I noticed that I wasn't able to shift to third, 4th or Reverse.

Do you might know why that's the case?

Sincerely,
Dany
April 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Hey Dany, My gut tells me that the cone screw is not quite in the right position, but it could also be that a previous technician had adjusted the linkage with the bushings worn, and tried to get it as good as it could be without replacing any parts. The true test will be when you get all the pieces replaced, you start the car, press the clutch and try to engage the gears. Chances are you will be OK, but if not let me know and we can try to figure it out. Adjusting these takes a fair bit of concentration and visualization but if you still have the issue after all parts are replaced I will do my best to guide you through it. Also it will help me to know which gear engages when it is shifted in to what would normally be 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc. For example if you get 3rd where 1st usually is then we need to turn the shifter adjustment to the right. The shifter is sometimes a little stiff for a while but should loosen up after a month or so of driving. - Casey at Pelican Parts  
Sam Comments: Sorry. I have a 1985 911, 3.2, 5 speed. I'm trying to get an estimate of what I should expect to pay to have a shift bushing kit installed. Thanks!
February 26, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Having experience with more than a few of these it varies GREATLY. How many plastic tabs are broken when trying to put it back together, are the screws rusted around the center console, is there a car phone to remove, are there aftermarket gauges or stereo equipment installed, is your parking brake switch falling apart and going to need replacement, are the screws for the coupler access rusted, is your shift selector seal dumping gear oil in to the tunnel and need to be cleaned out thoroughly... In case you didn't realize there are a number of factors when working on these special cars, and to do the job right I'd expect to pay 2-3.5 hours assuming the selector seal is in OK shape. - Casey at Pelican Parts  
Sam Comments: What range should I expect to have a shift bushing kit put in: Shift Coupler or Coupler bushings, Shift Rod Bushing, Shifter Bushing?
February 23, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't understand your question. What vehicle are you working on, what are you trying to fix? - Nick at Pelican Parts  
roadiesean Comments: I've just completed the shifter bushing and the guide bushing, in my car 1967 912 the guide bushing was in a million pieces, so that was the culprit for my awful shifting. The shifter bushing was a piece of cake, a literal 30 second job, the two most difficult elements of the job was actually fitting the guide bushing, this is like a donut of nylon rubber type stuff, very stiff but with a small amount of give that is a very tight fit into the guide itself, it took some very, very strong fingers years of changing bike tyres and a gentle levering with a screwdriver to get it on and the second difficulty was getting the guide bolt holes and the shifter base to all line up.

All in all though, a very easy job, under an hour start to finish, the scariest part is pulling it apart !!!
November 26, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
jmorgan102 Comments: At first I thought golfdadbob was right and I'd have to disconnect the wiring. But I was patient and worked with the whole thing for a bit and the console came off. The main thing to do is get the shift boot out of the opening for the shift lever. Once you do this you have more movement and you can then maneuver the console out of the way.
October 28, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info and feedback. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
EW Comments: Nick, i Have a 1976 Targa Sportamatic thts giving tough shifting ,do you suggest bushing kit first?

Thanks

EW
August 21, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If it is hard to shift even with the engine off, then yes. The bushings may be worn. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
70sCars Comments: I just finished the upgrade replacing the shifter bushing, shaft bushing and a stomski racing coupling. I had a lot of trouble adjusting the coupling and the shaft using the instructions for the stock coupling. Found the Stomski Racing instructions and and gave it a try. it worked perfectly the first time. The car shifts great and no grinding when dropping the car into 2nd gear. www.stomskiracing.com/instructions/SR010.pdf
August 18, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Eric Comments: Would this solve my problem shifting into first with a 915 transmission? I just rebuilt my engine and reinstalled into the car. I did not touch the transmission, but I was not sure even if it was working before pulling it from another car. The car goes into reverse just fine and I had the clutch checked before putting everything back together.
June 2, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: If the shifter is loose and has to be moved around to engage, it is possible this is your problem. This article applies to:
911 (1965-86) 930 Turbo (1975-86)
912 (1965-69) - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
Jim Comments: 1970 911E, when I am in first gear, the gear shift knob is so far left and back that it touches the driver's seat. Is this the same coupling problem ?
April 29, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It does sound like the shifter parts are worn. I would inspect the shift linkage, check for play or slop. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
carman Comments: The best part about buying parts from your guys are the very helpful Tech articles on how to do it.Thanks carman
March 28, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
 
carman Comments: I replaced my shifter bushing and my shift coupler.The hardest part was removing the console. There is more to it than just removing the three screws that hold it down. Before you try to replace the shifter bushing read the tech article on installing the factory short shift kit. It tells your how to remove the console in detail. Wish I had read it first, would have made the job easier . But after installing the parts it made it a whole lots better.carman
March 24, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the feedback. Glad we could help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
eyedoc3 Comments: yes-it shifts normally
February 19, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Then the linkage is either out of alignment or damaged. Check for work on damaged parts. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Bruce Comments: Great difficulty shifting into reverse and 5th gear. Others ok. Simple adjustment- if so, where?
Bruce
February 19, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Use this article to see if the bushings are OK:

http://www.pelicanparts.com/techarticles/101_Projects_Porsche_911/37-Shifting_Improvements/37-Shifting_Improvements.htm

With the linkage disconnected, does the trans shift normally (if done at the trans by hand)? - Nick at Pelican Parts
 
red77911s Comments: If you decide to replace the shift rod bushing and you should, you will have to take off the ball cup bushing adapter and mine was incredibly hard to get off, there was evidence in the form of dozens hammer marks that that the P.O. had tried before me and gave up. what I suggest is to get two of the largest slotted screwdrivers that you can find and placing them between the adapter and the shoulder where the shift rod narrows as it enters the adapter and twisting them first one side and then the other and working it off that way. Mine was so tight I almost gave up a couple of times fearing that I would not be able to get it back on, but my stubborn nature kept me going. After finally succeeding I started looking at what had happened to make it so hard to get off and I realized that over time the screw that holds it on, from being forced forward and back thousands of times in my 35 yr old 77 911 had deformed the hole in the shift rod such that it had raised the edge up like a crater and in effect increased the diameter of the shift rod jamming it into the adapter. With a wide file I then made several strokes across the hole, following the curve of the rod, the adapter then slipped back on easily or it never would have gone back on. Hope this saves somebody the hours I spent figuring this out. Incidentally, replacing all my bushings changed my car completely, I was sure I needed to rebuild my tranny. Thanks Pelican!
January 25, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes it is a good idea to chamfer holes for future service work - Nick at Pelican Parts  
glovebox Comments: My 930 turbo 1st to 2nd gearchange is very stiff and takes extreme effort. 3rd to 4th is fine. What could be the problem?
and how to remedy same.
August 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: As well as the shift linkage and bushings look at your engine and transmission mounts. They can let the engine move around and this affects your shift throw. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
golfdadbob Comments: Just finished this exercise and have a few suggestions. 1. Replace the coupling bushings first because they are easy to access and mine were extremely worn. The removal/replacement is about 30 minutes TOPS. BE SURE TRANSMISSION IS IN 1ST GEAR because that's what you need for final adjustment and then you don't have to worry about moving the gear shift when removing the coupling. CONCLUSION: What a huge difference, there was abolutely no play or slop ANYWHERE. 2. Everything in the coupling like pin, bushings, shaft, and coupler is an "interference" fit which means "really tight". Beating it apart and back together will most likely mean buying a new one. I took mine to car repair with a hydraulic press. It took about 15-20 minutes and he didn't even want to charge but I gave him $10. Machine shop wanted $100 just to look at it. 3.The article said "remove the console" and left it at that, like no big deal. Another article said remove all the controls in console; DON'T. However, do remove the passenger side carpet and foot board underneath to access the wiring harness connections in center tunnel. Check wiring color before disconnecting but all should match. I couldn't really remove the console completely because it was attached by the decorative leather boot on the gear shift shaft but you have to disconect the wiring.
March 8, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for some extra things to look for during this big job. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Golfdadbob Comments: Where can I buy a $50 coupler?
March 7, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: A salvage yard should be able to get you the whole coupler and we can get you the bushings to rebuild it. - Nick at Pelican Parts  

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