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Note: The company that made the shifter I used in my installation is no longer in business. I have left this write-up here since it gives folks an idea of how an electronic push button shifter is adapted to the vehicle and the driver.
As I write this, there is currently
RADesigns Products, LLC., that is making a
shifting solution that is designed for the AW-4. The adaptation of this
shifting solution to a Jeep can be seen in
I had read about it on a 4x4 forum a year or two ago when a friend was considering doing an AW-4 tranny swap. A guy had made up a manual shifter for the AW-4, using a rotary switch that allowed selection of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and Overdrive. From what I read, it had originally been made to accommodate those that didn't want to deal with wiring in a tranny computer during the AW-4 swap. In other words, you could install an AW-4 and you could skip the TCU. However, you would have to constantly up and downshift the tranny using the knob on the rotary switch. Later, a version for the TJ was produced that let the TCU shift the tranny OR you could manually shift it using the rotary switch.
You are probably wondering why someone would want this when they already have a shifter that will row the AW-4 through its gears. Well....it all comes down to 2nd gear, for the most part.
As you can see on the AW-4's shifter, it has 2nd gear combined with 1st gear. What this yields is a 1st gear that holds until about 4K RPM before shifting into 2nd gear. If the engine drops in RPM, the tranny will shift back to 1st gear. If you put the shifter in 3rd gear, and you are going down hill, the vehicle will shift from 1st to 2nd to 3rd very easily and you end up in 3rd gear with very little engine braking. You can not keep it in 2nd gear (where the engine braking is much better) unless you shift back into 1st-2nd. When you do, you are back to having the engine run at very high RPM to get 2nd gear.
The AW-4 shifter from AWShifting provides the AW-4 user with a solution.....manual shifting. I recently sent BrettM, who owns AWShifting, an e-mail to inquire about the size of the rotary switch he uses to control the shifter. When he responded, he mentioned he was working on a couple of other versions and had one on the work bench that used push buttons. If I was willing to wait a couple of weeks, he promised to have it ready by the first part of April (I wanted the shifter in and tested by the end of April for the upcoming Moab trip). I told him I would wait a bit and see how the push button version turned out.
As I write this, BrettM is not completely sure that he is going to release this version (push button gear selection) for sale. He told me that at this point, I have the prototype and that may be the only one. Hopefully that won't be and he'll change his mind and offer this version for sale.
With the exception of the little white tags on some of the wires, this is what the shifter looked like when I got it. Basically, it consists of a control box (on the left), a 2' long section of wiring that splices into your existing AW-4 TCU harness, and two other wire bundles. One of them is for the 4 LED indicators while the other attaches the 4 pushbutton switches and the two toggle switches to the control box.
As most TJ owners know, there's not a lot of dash space available in the vehicle. So my first job was trying to figure out just where I was going to mount everything. BrettM had constructed it so that the switches and LED indicators could be mounted separately from each other (good idea). All I had to do was figure out just where it was I would put everything. After 30 minutes, I finally figured out that if I was going to get the shifter installed this weekend, I had better come up with an idea. (did I mention I was having a problem trying to figure out where it was going?)
The shifter uses two toggle switches and four momentary push buttons. One toggle switch selects the shifter's mode of operation, Auto or Manual. In Automatic mode, the TCU functions normally and controls the tranny. In Manual mode, you select the forward gears by using the pushbuttons. The other toggle switch is used to lockup the torque converter.
BrettM included some nice red LEDs in the shifter. They are pretty high intensity and if I'm not mistaken, they are the same brand/model used in my dash mounted winch controller. I should also mention that the switches also appear to be of good quality.
So....I spent some more time trying to figure out where I was going to mount everything (again). I finally decided to make a few changes to the existing components and locate the switches and LEDs in a small project box. Since this is a prototype unit, I decided I could always remount it at a later date if I didn't like my decision. (Hey, it's my Jeep!)
I made a trip to the local Radio Shack store and picked up 4 new LEDs. They are a bit smaller (and not as bright). The part number is 276-270. Like those supplied by BrettM, these LEDs can be connected to a 12V source without damage. I also purchased a small project box, part number 270-1803. The dimensions are 5"X2.5"x2".
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