Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible!

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Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible!

Post by tooldudetool »

I posted my story about my horrible luck with my '83 tercel a few months ago...Long story short, I took the manual tranny out of my '83 and put it into my automatic '86. And it freakin worked! I knew it was supposed to be possible, but I am still blown away that I did it and nothing unfortunate happened. Anyway, for anyone considering this bold adventure I have a few bits of advice.
First, spend several hours searching through this forum. I found countless hints and ideas by searching through here, and there are some really helpful, knowledgeble people here too. Second, you better have a garage to work in because you will have to leave the car(s) up on stands for days on end. Most of the work can be done by one very motivated (desperate?)person, but I had my dad help me physically remove and reinstall the trannys. Those suckers are heavy and awkward and it was hard enough for two of us to keep it centered on the jack as we manuevered it into place. My goal was to take both trannys out in one day, and reinstall the manual on a second day. Of course it took many hours of prep to get to the point where I was ready to remove either tranny. I won't go into a great deal of detail about actually removing the tranny (because you should have the FSM handy when you're doing this anyway), but I'll talk about the things specific to converting the auto to manual.
-Drilling a hole for the clutch cable in the auto. I actually ripped the metal bushing tube thing that the clutch cable runs through when it passes through the firewall, out of the manual, and then drilled out the weld spots. I would recommend just drilling out the 3 spot welds while the tube thing is still attached, then it should just fall out. I then drilled 3 small holes in the auto and bolted it in place. There is an obvious flat spot on the auto firewall where it should be attached. It is very awkward to drill these holes, but they don't really have to be perfect as long as everything feels tight afterward.
-Installing the clutch pedal. This part was easy. There are like 2 springs and a bolt.
-Cutting out new holes for the shifter and 4wd lever. The cutout for the automatic shifter is in a different place than the cutout for the manual. And of course there is no cutout for the 4wd lever because the auto has push button 4wd. I used cardboard to create a template from the manual and traced it onto the auto. I then used a Dremel with a sanding disc to cut out the holes (those Dremels are freaking amazing!). I used about 8 discs before I was done. The job wasn't exact, but it was close enough to allow complete freedom of movement. I also had to drill new holes for the shifter console hardware, and bolt it down.
-Swapping rear differentials. So the differential has a different gear ratio depending on the tranny (exact info can be found in this forum), so I had to swap those too. The hardest part was pulling the rear wheel shafts, it took some serious force. Make sure to drain the gear oil first or it will all pour out when you pull the shafts. Actually swapping the diffs was simple, but make sure to get a new gasket first. Neither Napa or Schucks had the gasket, I had to go to the dealership and it took a few days. You could probably just use RTV stuff, I don't know.

I did all of this stuff prior to tranny removal day...
and then...

-Removing manual tranny. This took about 5 hours. We just followed the FSM steps for removal, and everything went pretty well. We pulled the tranny and front diff together as one piece. We were going to try to separate them to make it easier to reinstall, but we could not figure out how to undo the top bolts. There just wasn't any room. It was much easier to reach the top bolts that attach the tranny to the engine block. It took awhile to actually yank the thing free, but we got it out.
-Removing the auto tranny. This also took about 5 hours. The first parts went much quicker doing them for the second time in the same day, but we got hung up at the very end. We spent an hour and a half trying to pull the tranny free, jacking it up and then down, wiggling it, tugging on it, until we were about ready to give up. Then I looked into the gap and saw one bolt still holding the torque converter to the flywheel. AAAARRRRGGGG! My dad was the one who was supposed to remove all those bolts...oh well. After I took that off, it slid right out.
-Removing the flywheels and metal cut out plate. The manuals and autos have different flywheels, and flywheel bolts. Also make sure to use the right metal cut out plate (for lack of a better name) that is sandwiched between the tranny and engine. Also MACHINE YOUR FLYWHEEL!! This only costs $30-40 and is completely necessary if you are planning on installing a new clutch kit. Which you should do now, because believe me you don't wanna have to do all this again in a year or two. I got my clutch kit for $150.

Okay, now both trannys are out. I took this time to take my manual tranny to the car wash and clean the layers of old oil and grease off. There were a few other things to do too, such as:

-Swapping radiators. The auto tranny is oil cooled and has two oil lines that run into the bottom of the radiator. You will notice the auto radiator is about twice as thick as the manuals and that is the reason. Swapping these was pretty easy.
-Rewiring 4wd indicator, reverse lights and anti-start switch. Auto tranny vehicles have an anti start switch that only allows the car to start in either "P" or "N". Check out the wiring diagrams in the FSM and you will see which wires to cut and connect together. As far as the two wiring couplers that you see dangling off of the manual trans go, I just took the entire wiring harness that connects to those off of the manual car and wired it into the auto. I think there are only two or three wires that actually need to be cut and reconnected. I'm sorry I'm not more specific about which ones, but it's somewhat obvious when you compare the two wiring harnesses and see which wire connects to which part. If someone needs more specific info, I can figure it out or take pictures for you.
-Swapping driveshafts. The two trannys are different lengths, so make sure you use the manual's driveshaft.
-Installing the pilot bearing. This is a small bearing that is seated in the middle of the flywheel. The automatic doesn't have one, but if you buy a clutch kit, it will include one. The very tip of the input shaft fits into the pilot bearing once the tranny is installed.
-Installing the manual tranny. I had my dad come over to help me again. We installed the new clutch, reattached the flywheel, and followed the FSM. I also wired the clutch cable arm down so it wouldn't be in the way. The hardest part was lining everything up without that clutch arm jamming against the underside of the car. It was actually much easier installing the tranny than taking it out.
-Filling the tranny with gear oil. This was such a pain! It's one thing to top off a tranny, put squirting 4 quarts of gear oil through a tube above your head sucks! Here is what I should have done: Before you reinstall your shifter into the tranny, just squirt all of your oil into the hole from inside the car. It's so much easier to sit down and basically pour the oil in than it is to try to squeeze those damn bottles for an hour and a half.

So I think thats it. I'm trying to remember if there is anything else I may have repressed about this whole conversion. I'll post if I think of anything else. I gotta tell you, it was a pain, but I know more about this car then I ever thought I would, and there is really no repair that can intimidate me anymore. Anyway, I hope this helps somebody who is crazy enough to try this conversion.

Good Luck!
Last edited by tooldudetool on Thu Dec 22, 2005 2:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by GTSSportCoupe »

EXCELLENT write-up! Thanks very much! It's people like you who make this site great. 8)
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Post by MootsMan »

Great write-up. tooldude !! I have to swap a manual from one car to another, but it already has a manual ( or did have, my mechanic already has it out ). That should be a piece of cake compared to what you have done.

Thanks for taking the time to write all this up and post it , and welcome to the forum !! 8)
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I admire your perspicacity, diligence, and the enormous effort this daunting task took.
That you took the time to write this is laudable. I know how long the composition must have taken.
Your achievement humbles my mechanical efforts, but spear carriers are on stage for a reason as well...
Again, thanks for taking the time to share.
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Re: Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible

Post by xirdneh »


. Anyway, I hope this helps somebody who is crazy enough to try this conversion.

I was happy to see someone try this and enter it in this site. i have thought about this conversion for some time. I figured it could be done but was hoping someone else would try it first.
Two things to comment on.
The use of a slide puller for removing the rear axels makes the job much easier. Borrow, rent or build your own.
Getting the gear oil into the tranny is much easier if you use a pump. the pump kit screws onto the gear oil bottle and has a clear plastic hose a couple of feet long to run up into the fill hole. The pump is not expensive.
Love those Tercell 4x4 wagons but they sure suffer from road noise.
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Post by tooldudetool »

A gear oil pump? Brilliant!! Too bad I didn't know about it before.. Anyway, I appreciate all the positive feedback from everyone. Currently, I can't drive the tercel because one of the transaxle oil seals is leaking. So I would now add that to my list of things to replace while you've already got everything torn apart. Do both, they only cost about $6 a piece, and I sure wish I would have done mine then. I think the rubber gets brittle after 20 years or so...
Should only take about an hour or so to replace.. no big deal :D
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Post by takza »

When you put those in...BE SURE to get them straight and of mine almost popped back out cause I didn't have it in straight. Might use some axle grease on the outside to help getting them in.
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Post by Mac »

hey, you could run engine oil through the auto radiator.
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Post by Gasoline Fumes »

Mac wrote:hey, you could run engine oil through the auto radiator.
I've heard it's a bad idea. I guess the oil pressure is higher than the radiator can handle. But I don't know what kind of pressure the transmission pumps through the cooler. Would be interesting to know....
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Post by Lollypop »

Man thanks for the write gives me lots of hope if I end up having to do the clutch job on my car.I just as soon not do it myself but I will before I pay 900 bucks at the shop.

Thanks for the write up and the hope

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Post by 2wagons »

Hey tooldude, was your car on stands when you removed the tranny? How much room is needed to put the tranny on a jack and roll it out from under the car?
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Post by tooldudetool »

2wagons, yeah, I had the front end up on jackstands, and the rear wheels up on ramps. It was kind of a tight squeeze once the tranny was down, but by rolling it on its side we could pull it out from underneath.
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Re: Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible

Post by xirdneh »

Parts Required to Switch from Automatic to Manual Transmission
1. Manual transmission with mount attached to aft end (2 bolts for attaching mount to car body)
2. Dirt shield between engine and tranny (with two screws)
3. Drive line (two piece including carrier bearing with heat shield and two bolts and 4 bolts & nuts & lock washers for attachment to rear axle).
4. Flywheel (6 bolts) (replace/add pilot bearing if bad)
5. Clutch plate (replace if badly worn)
6. Pressure plate (8 bolts)
7. Throw-out bearing with spring retainer
8. Manual tranny wire harness
9. Shifter (6 bolts)
10. Fwd/4wd shifter and linkage
11. 90 degree fitting for speedometer cable (speedo cable can be connected without this)
12. Manual brake pedal assembly
13. Clutch pedal assembly
14. Through firewall clutch cable fitting (may have to make one)
15. Clutch cable
Interior parts
16. Shifter boot (includes mounts for driveline well cover plastic part)
17. Axle well cover plastic part (4 sheetmetal screws)
18. Shifter knobs (2)

Maybe needed
19. Rear differential (to match gear ratio of front differential)
20. Cardboard template of holes in driveline well for shifter and fwd/4wd shifter

The 3.7 ratio is from 8/82 - 8/84. So, if you are in a junkyard check
the metal tag inside the drivers side door (on the body, not the door).
It will have the month and year of production. After 8/84 they are 4.1.
Also check numbers stamped on firewall in engine compartment
Z52F is 3.7 to 1
Z54F is 4 to 1
Love those Tercell 4x4 wagons but they sure suffer from road noise.
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Re: Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible

Post by marlinh »

I have taken on doing the swap from auto to manual. I have taken a few photos. I'll post them later. I have the pedals in, removed the clutch cable tube from my donor car (which was a pain to try to drill out the spot welds. I removed the master cylinder and brake booster to get access) and cut the holes for the shifters. I decided the floor is too wimpy to support the 4 x 4 shifter in the auto, so I will be welding the original metal in place to support the levers. I cut it out from a car that got sent to the crushers. In case I cut the holes in the wrong place or need to adjust anything, I will weld it in after the trans is in. Also, I pulled the engine and transmission out together because the engine was toast anyway. I finds it easier to pull everything out from the engine compartment because I have a gravel driveway and am limited as to how high I can raise the vehicle anyway.
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Re: Converting an auto trans to a stick shift - its possible

Post by rer233 »

I completed the 'sex change' operation on my '87 a/t car a couple months ago. Like you noted, the a/t floorpan seemed too "wimpy" to support the 4wd shifter and the whole top of the floorpan was shaped differently, so i cut it out of the donor car and screwed and glued it into the '87. The finished result came out great- well worth the effort. At 70 mph the engine turned 4200 rpm with the a/t and now turns 3100 rpm at the same speed (i went with the 3.73 gears out of my '84.)
Feel free to ask for any needed advice.
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