3D Printing a Custom Designed Gear Shifter

We all yearn for the days when we won’t have to book our cars into repair shops to get parts fixed or replaced. As we walk into repair shops we can often hear our wallets or purses scream in terror at the large bill to come. While there are parts that should only be repaired or replaced by certified technicians there are plenty of parts that should be an easy home fix.

Thankfully those days may not be far off due to the constant progress in areas such as 3D Printing and CNC machining. This brings me to the juicy part of this post, how I went about designing, prototyping the gear shifter and analysis of final print. I will also talk about durability of the design as it has been in daily use in the vehicle for roughly 8 months at the time of this post.

First off let’s talk a bit about what happened that led to me taking on this project. Last year my brother purchased a 2006 Mercedes A200, as to be expected with a car of that age there were certain things that needed to be fixed. The original gear shifter was very worn and the leather was peeling off. Initially he purchased an aftermarket gear shifter but once installed it was found to not fit securely onto the gear stick. As we were in lockdown my brother asked if I could design and 3D print a gear shifter for his car and I, with my limited knowledge of Tinkercad, took on the project. 

After taking multiple measurements and doing rough sketches of the design I began trying to create it in Tinkercad. Having limited experience, even in Tinkercad, it took many tries, lots of coffee and plenty of head scratching in order to get the first prototype. From the first prototype I was able to try various designs and adjustments, each with their own benefits and pitfalls. After many prototypes I reached the final design and with the help of my brother we set about installing it.

3D Printed Prototypes with aftermarket
Prototyping and many test prints later.

Before we get started let’s talk about resources needed for the project. The specific printer I used is a Creality CR-20 Pro but most 3D printers should handle this project just fine. You will also need to download the files you want from Thingiverse. Note: 3D Printing this file is fairly straightforward but installation is more advanced.

Custom A200 Gear Shift

Tools and items used:

These are the important settings when printing the gear shifter:

  • Shell Number: 3 or 4
  • Layer Height: 0.1mm
  • Infill Percentage: 50%
  • Infill Type: Gyroid

Instructions

1.Remove the skirt: 

You should be able to unscrew the plastic silver connector and pull down the leather skirt.

2.Remove the shifter head:

Do this carefully as there are clips that hold it in place. Damage to these clips could render the gear shifter head useless.

3.Attach your 3D printed gear shifter:

Insert the shifter head into the custom gear shifter so that the large holes line up. Slide the washer onto the bolt and slide through the holes in the gear shifter with the bolt thread pointing upwards. Attach the nut and tighten until there is very little movement of the shifter on the head.

3D Printed Prototype next to aftermarket.
Custom gear shifter next to the aftermarket gear shifter.

4.Assemble the gear shifter:

Place the gear shifter back onto the stick, make sure that it clips into place properly, some force may be required to get it to properly click into place. Check for excessive movement and tighten the nut and bolt if needed. Once satisfied pull up the leather skirt. As the skirt is not long enough to reach the shifter it needs to be held in place by other means. I found that a cable-tie works well if pulled really tight. You are now ready for your test drive to get a feel for the gear shift.

3D Printed Final prototype installed.
The installed final prototype.

Durability Review

This project was completed in April 2020 I have had 8 months of feedback on the final design. This gear shifter has proven to be very durable even though it was printed in PLA. It has survived multiple trips to Johannesburg, the southern Drakensberg and the car has been left in the sun for various periods of time with no degrading effects. I have included a photo of the final design below featuring the Liverpool FC emblem. This was specifically requested by my brother, a huge Liverpool supporter.

3D Printed Final gear shift version installed
The final design installed and after 8 months of use.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this project as I had fun designing, 3D Printing and testing it. If you want to read about other projects such as Electronics, 3D Printing or learn about new products and news in the maker community please check out our other posts. Want to keep up to date with DIYElectronics be sure to check out our Facebook page. If you really enjoyed this post please consider sharing it with others.

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