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Tech Tip: EA81 4-speed Sloppy Shifter bushing fix

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Hey everyone, I'm new to the board having just bought my first Subaru, a 1985 Brat GL. When I bought it it had 10-12 inches of play in the shifter, making it a true Wondershift- "Hmm, am I in a gear? What gear am I in? I wonder..."


I crawled under the Brat and found that I had play in every possible location: where the linkage mounts to the trans rod with a roll pin, where the linkage mounts to the shifter with a bushing, and where the base of the shifter sits in the pivot attached to the transmission case.


I came up with a cheap and easy solution to the rather common issue of shifter slop that I'd like to share with everyone.


First you need to pull the shifter assembly out of the car. I don't have any pics, but here is how I did it:


1. Remove shift knob and lock nut from shifter

2. Jack up car

3. Use a pair of side cutters to grab and pry the cotter pin out of the roll pin holding the shift linkage to the tranny rod.

4. Use a suitably sized punch and a 3 lb mini-sledge hammer (The best hammer for working on cars, makes it MUCH easier than using a 32 oz ball peen or any other hammer) to knock the roll pin out.

5. Slide the linkage backwards off of the trans rod , then pick bottom of the shifter up out of its pivot cup and pull the whole assembly down out of the shift boot and out of the car.


You could take the bolt that holds the linkage piece to the shifter out and then take the parts out separately, but this way was quick and easy, so I didn't bother fighting with the bolt in the confines of the car.


Now that it's out of the car, remove the bolt holding the linkage piece to the shifter, and pull them apart. I found mine was missing several parts, and the remaining parts were badly chewed (I had one plastic bushing and two rubber isolator bushings. I assume there should have been a steel sleeve to ride inside the plastic bushing and a second plastic bushing). Rather than wasting my time and money trying to get replacement parts from Subaru I went to the local Grange (Hardware store) and bought the following parts:




1. 3/8" Inner diameter X 1/2" OD X 1" length Steel Spacer - $0.75

2. 1/2" ID X 11/16" OD X 3/4"+ (Longer ok) length Bronze Sleeve Bushing - $2.25

3. 3/8" diameter grade 5 bolt. Must have a shoulder (no threads) the same width as the OUTER width of the shift adapter (about 1 1/8"). The total length (with threads) doesn't matter since you can cut it off. - $0.33

4. 3/8" Nyloc or similar locknut with same thread pitch as bolt (recommend coarse thread) - $0.50?

5. Two 1" OD X 3/8"-1/2" ID X 1/16" thickness Nylon washers/spacers. They need to be about an inch OD, ID doesn't matter too much, thickness is important but can be sanded thinner or shimmed thicker with stainless steel washers as needed. The 3/8" ones my hardware store had were the correct OD and thickness.- $1.00?

6. A couple 3/8 washers to space things as necessary


Note: if you have a better hardware store you might be able to find a 17mm OD bronze bushing. If you can find one I would recommend using that instead of what I used as it will slide into the shifter hole perfectly with no modification. You will then need to replace the steel spacer, bolt, nut, etc with similar metric hardware that will fit together correctly (steel spacer OD=Bronze bushing ID, steel spacer ID=bolt OD). This would save a little time and effort. Regardless, here is what you are making:




Here's how you do it:


1. Remove plastic and rubber bushings from shifter

2. Cut the brass bushing to the exact width of the shifter hole. I used a hacksaw. I was a little impatient and measured it wrong so that the bushing was slightly narrower than the shifter hole. It worked out just fine, though I'm annoyed at myself for making such a stupid mistake.

3. If you are using the 11/16" OD brass bushing you need to thin it down to fit in the 17mm shifter hole. You need to remove 0.009" from the entire circumference. You can 75-100 grit sandpaper, a file, or a Dremel. Just take a little off at a time evenly around the entire bushing and continue to try to slide it into the hole. I used a sanding drum on my Dremel with the bushing in a vise and slowly went around the outside as evenly as possible. Once it was small enough to start to slide in I heated the shifter with a butane torch to expand it slightly and tapped the bushing in gently with a hammer for a slight interference fit:




4. Grab the shift linkage piece and drill the bolt hole in the "U" bracket out to 3/8" to fit the new larger bolt.


5. Carefully clean up any burrs on the ID of the brass bushing and clean all metal filings out of the center. Make sure the bushing does not protrude past the sides of the shifter hole. If the sides of the shifter hole are rusty or rough clean them up with some 150 grit sand paper so that they are flat and smooth. Do the same for the insides of the "U" on the linkage piece.


6. If you have 3/8" Nylon washers, you need to enlarge the center hole to 1/2" to fit over the steel spacer. I used a Dremel, but you could clamp them against a piece of wood and drill them out, or use a round file. The fit doesn't need to be perfect:




7. Dry fit everything and check your clearances. The steel spacer should fit inside the "U" of the linkage piece perfectly with no modification (You may have to tweak the sides of the "U" with a pair of pliers if it has been bent inwards or something). The steel spacer should also slide inside the bronze bushing and rotate easily with no play. The shift lever with the bronze bushing installed, the steel spacer inside the bronze bushing, and the two nylon washers sitting on either side over the ends of the steel spacer should slide into the "U" of the linkage piece with no free play or excessive force:






8. Once everything fits and is clean of all metal shavings or rust, coat everything with a light layer of waterproof grease. Bronze bushings are oil-impregnated, so technically they shouldn't need additional lubrication, but after cutting down the bushing and cleaning out the metal shavings some of that oil has been removed, so I felt that a little grease would be a good idea.


9. Assemble all of the parts and install the bolt so that the head of the bolt will face the passenger side of the car once the shifter is reinstalled. If you put it in with the nut on the passenger side it will hit the transmission case and you will not be able to shift into reverse. (Ask me how I know :o The bolt and possibly the linkage piece are installed backwards in my pictures. Yes I did that too. Easy to take it apart and flip it around though.) Add washers as necessary if the bolt shoulder sticks out past the "U", then install the locknut. Tighten it down decently tight (11-15 ft-lb), the steel sleeve should sit against the sides of the "U" and prevent the shifter from binding when the bolt is torqued. If it does bind the nylon washers may be slightly too thick; you can sand them down easily with 150 grit, but don't go too far, you want there to be zero play:




That's all there is to the bushing upgrade. $6 in parts and a little time. I also cut a slit in both sides of the linkage piece where it slides over the tranny rod and put an 8mm through bolt in place of the roll pin (found that tip in a post here on the forum). I should note that that is the only part that I am not satisfied with. I was unable to put enough torque on the bolt to crush down the linkage piece over the trans rod and eliminate play at that location. I stopped torquing when I felt the bolt (8.8 grade) begin to deform. It works, but there is still very slight play since the hole in the shift rod is slightly oblonged. I plan to try tapping the hole for a 3/8 bolt as outlined in this post sometime in the future:



Edited by pressingonward
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Nicely done! And actually cheaper than OEM bushings and probably easier to aquire those parts for people not near a dealership.


I had considered making new bushings from bronze rod stock, but the original plastic/rubber bushings are still availible from the dealer along with the snap-on nylon "donut" that goes on the bottom pivot point of the shifter.


But your solution has the benefit of being inexpensive and using generic off-the-shelf parts which in the near future may be the only way to repair this kind of slop as support for those vintage transmissions is not a priority for Subaru.



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