Super Piston Slap: NVH = Killing You With Kindness?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
super piston slap nvh killing you with kindness

While Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH) control built into a modern machine is normally your friend, it often kills you with kindness. That’s when NVH hides things that should never be hidden. Shameful. Cowardly. Pathetic. And while I wasn’t expecting this level of deceit when merely replacing the shift knob on the otherwise stock transmission in my 2011 Ford Ranger…well it was thrust upon me. And it can happen to you, too.

There was a time when you could simply unscrew the factory shift knob on any basic machine (cough, 2011 Ford Ranger) and replace it with whatever the heck you liked. Something with a little more style than stock. Or something with more heft, giving a nicer quality feel in your hands. I had a solid 8-ball shifter remaining from the T-56 swap in my Fox Cougar, and I certainly thought it would look choice on the truck. So I began pulling the factory part off. Oh man, what a mistake THAT was…

So apparently the shift knob isn’t a normal “twist and spin-off the threads” type of deal. The forums mentioned a way to pull really, really hard to pop it off the threads, and I’ve seen that done elsewhere on other vehicles…so I gave it a shot.

While those scratches weren’t from my teeth, they sure felt like it. No dice.

I wound up ripping off the rubber knob skin with my Leatherman tool, then attacking the hard plastic covering with a ball-peen hammer. I was left with this metal hunk, and the remnants of the plastic covering wedged between the shift lever and the shift knob. How many vibration quelling layers are there to this thing?

Back to the top photo. I wised up and did what others suggested: remove the shifter assembly. Which is another multi-layer, sleeved, affair with NVH reducing content. But with one bolt, I made it all go away. But was I gonna try to remove the factory knob on my workbench? I already mangled the damn thing up pretty badly, and the scratches could be present when I install the 8-ball knob. So I punted on 4th down. I called in my kicker, eBay motors, and got what I really wanted instead. Sure it cost me a few too many dollars, but…well…

BAM SON! What you see here is the chrome lever from the Ranger FX4 Level II, the aforementioned 8-ball knob, and the faux-leather boot from a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 Notchback. (Yes, I had to add the Notchback part, as that makes it cooler). All this stuff together makes for a far superior design, deserving to be standard issue on ALL Rangers of the U-shift-it variety. Aside from the slick chrome plating (mixed feelings with all this black plastic) and the unbelievably better ergonomics of the FX4 lever, this part has very little NVH interference. To wit:

  • Huge, thick, air tight(ish) noise quelling rubber boot? Gone.
  • Multi-layer Knob sporting chintzy plastic and rubber covers? Nope.
  • Sleeved shift lever with some rubbery stuff sandwiched between them? History.

Now remember I said that the stock stuff can kill you with kindness? That doesn’t mean you want to be physically abused: word has it that the Hurst replacement is a bit over the top for most folks, even if the price is nice. So the Ranger FX4 part has the right look and feel, and it’s a fantastic piece of OEM engineering. I can now shift without my elbow ever leaving the armrest. The notchy engagement is now faster, and you can feel the notches instead of just wondering WTF is wrong with the gearbox. Vibrations through the shift knob are minimal, but present. Hammer the throttle in first gear and the lever emits a gearbox whine that–with my modified air filter housing and 2010 Mustang GT muffler–gives the DOHC Duratec Ranger a Pre War British sports car’s demeanor.

You can’t help but smile a little as you twist up the little Duratec Ranger through redline in the first three gears. OR A LOT. This is just so frickin’ cool. And it’s so damn hard to find this anywhere in the world of new vehicles sold in North America.

My point? Just about any vehicle can be de-wronged, fixed to your liking. Don’t be killed by kindness, you need not be a victim any longer!

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3 of 39 comments
  • Banger Banger on Dec 05, 2012

    I continue to be jealous of your sweet, sweet Ranger mods. I have considered the Hurst unit, but they're hard to come by without spending several hundred dollars, and most of the folks over at Ranger Power Sports who have them report leaks from the gasket after installing. Not that transmission fluid will ruin the rubber floor mat in the Banger Ranger, but still not something I want to have to worry about after installation of a week's pay-worth of shifter. The FX4LII shifters are getting kind of rare! Good find.

  • Art  Vandelay Art Vandelay on Dec 06, 2012

    This is why there is a Nardi wheel, shift knob, and ebrake handle in my basement waiting for me to get back from the Stahn and put them in my 1st gen Miata. Not so much the NVH aspect, just don't like to feel like I am in an 80's GLC when I look at the wheel or grab the shifter.

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