Q: I am new to the Corvette hobby so my question may seem ridiculous to you. Recently, when my car was in the shop for maintenance I had to borrow my son’s Honda. I enjoyed the way the car shifted compared to my Corvette; my son told me that his Honda had a performance “short-throw” shifter that was installed before he purchased the vehicle.
Looking online, it seems like several companies offer performance shifters for my Corvette’s application. I am not a mechanic but my son loves cars and is quite handy in the garage. I would like for my son and me to have a project that we could do together.
So, I guess my question is how hard is it to install a performance shifter in my 1997 Corvette? Is it a job that can be done at home, and could you give me any pointers to the installation?
A: Jeremy, I have received several shifter installation questions recently and I think this would be a great project for you and your son. I will be glad to go through the installation of a short-throw shifter for the 1997-’09 Corvette.
The C5/C6 stock shifter has as much play in it as the one in the early Corvettes with three shifter rods mounted to the side of the transmission, even though it is engineered completely differently.
In fact, the C5/C6 shifter is not mounted to the transmission at all—it is mounted to the torque tube with a single shifter rod connecting it to the transmission. This can cause some inherent problems with the shifter itself. It has a very long throw and can feel very loose.
Most all quality performance shifters are engineered to help increase shift precision and reduce the shifter throw by approximately 30 percent while keeping the shifter quiet and comfortable enough for daily driving.
One last thing to note: If you’re taking the time to install a performance shifter in your Corvette you might want to take an extra 15 minutes to install a skip shift eliminator. Most agree that the C5/C6’s Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS) is a major hindrance to driving enjoyment. Also known as “skip shift,” CAGS forces the driver to shift from First directly to Fourth when accelerating slowly from a stop. This bypass unit puts the driver back in control.
We have been getting a lot of father and son questions recently and I love it. There’s nothing better than getting in the garage and having quality time with your children. I remember fondly the times my daughters and I shared working on hot rods. So get out there and get that shifter installed.
Replacing the shifter is a very simple job that can be accomplished in a couple of hours with minimal tools and very little aggravation. The first step is to carefully pry out the panel that houses the traction control button, taking care not to gouge the surrounding console face.
The console compartment comes out next by removing four nuts. Two of the nuts are visible once the traction control panel has been removed. The other nuts are under oval-shaped covers at the rear corners inside the compartment. The covers pop off with a small screwdriver to expose the nuts. The auxiliary 12-volt power port requires the connector to be removed before the compartment can be completely removed.
Once the compartment is out of the way, pop off the A/C sensor cover to the right of the steering wheel with a small screwdriver and remove the screw under the sensor cover. The Torx-head screws under the ashtray/cigarette lighter door must also be removed from the front console.
The shift knob is the next thing to be removed. Start by simply popping off the plastic shift pattern cap at the top of the knob. Under the shift pattern cap is a wedge that holds the knob in place. Gently pry the wedge out (try some lubricant if it’s too tight). The knob can then be unscrewed. (Note: for C6 applications an aftermarket shifter ball will need to be used with the new performance shifter.) There are a few push-in retainers in the front console that need to be pulled away from the dash before the front console can be removed and set aside. Be sure to disconnect the cigarette lighter pigtail at this point. Remove the 10mm nuts to detach the shifter boot. The original shifter boot can be reused with most performance shifters.
Before the OE shifter is removed place the shifter in Neutral. A locking pin of some form, such as a small Allen wrench, will need to be inserted into the line-up hole at the front or rear of the shifter assembly. This pin locks the linkage in Neutral to allow for easy shifter installation.
Next, we can remove the factory shifter assembly, which is held in place with four 10mm bolts. Before you pull the shifter assembly out of the shifter housing, blow away any debris or contaminants that may have accumulated. Simply pull the OE shifter straight up for removal.
The nylon isolator on the pivot ball of the OE shifter will need to be swapped over to the new performance shifter if it didn’t come with a new one. A little silicone along the mounting base will help isolate the shifter from driveline noise. A dab of synthetic wheel bearing grease on the pivot ball and isolator will help keep the shifts smooth. Reverse the removal process and the shifter install is complete. The entire process should take less than one hour.
The CAGS bypass (skip shift eliminator) is available from most Corvette suppliers for around $20. Installing the CAGS bypass is simple. There’s a harness with a plug on the driver’s side of the gearbox. Disconnect the plug, connect the bypass to the wiring harness and zip-tie it out of harm’s way (i.e., away from the exhaust pipe). Install the cover plug onto the gearbox connector. That’s it; you’re done.