We really like Can-Am’s Defender models.  They’re the total package, featuring plenty of power, nimble handling, and excellent styling.  That doesn’t mean they can’t be better though, and most Side x Side owners love to customize their machines.  One of our team members recently came up with a simple improvement for the Defender that’s definitely a welcome change, and it’s an easy fix for every model Defender.    

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Chris Geer is one of our long-time editors and testing associates, and besides being a highly experienced rider, he’s also a certified mechanic and top-notch mechanical guru.  He’s got a knack for figuring every vehicle out.  When it came time to buy his own vehicle for hunting, hauling firewood, or casual trail rides, the Defender DS was his 1st choice.  For a guy who tests them all, that should tell you plenty about the Defender.   As usual, he began to pick at the Defenders subtle details and find ways to improve it.  One thing he disliked, as do many, was the overly long gear shift lever. 

Many Side x Sides come with an unexplainably long gear shift lever.  It’s as if the styling team wanted to deliver the whole 18-wheeler experience, but there really is no reason for it.  It’s so long, in fact, that the factory actually took it off for the official cab photo shoot!  The problem is, long levers are flexy, and they definitely add to an imprecise feel and poor gear selection.  To make matters worse, on the Defender, when shifting into LOW gear the shifter knob actually gets into the knees of the center passenger.  That makes it both annoying and ugly.  Defender owners can do something about that thanks to Geer’s upgrade.  Here’s how he recommends to modify it. 

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  • DETERMINE YOUR NEW HANDLE HEIGHT.  We removed over 4 inches from our shift lever.  You could likely go a little more, but less will work also if you prefer.  Mark that location with a paint marker, masking tape, etc. 

  • UNSCREW THE HANDLE AT THE TOP OF THE CURRENT SHIFT LEVER.  This comes off with little trouble after loosening the 8mm lock nut. 
  • REMOVE THE SHIFT LEVER FROM THE DASH.  Pull two screws on the dash console cover, and one screw to remove the shift lever from it’s mount. 
  • HOLD SHIFT SHAFT IN YOUR BENCH VISE.   Keeping it steady during the threading process is important.
  • THREAD ON A 9 x 1.25mm THREADING DIE TO CREATE NEW THREADS.   The shaft is currently 10mm.  To make sure the threads followed the shaft straight we first threaded it with a 9 x 1.25mm threading die.  Make sure it is started straight, and turn slowly.  Cutting oil helps, but WD-40 or penetrating oil works also.  Spray a little on the shaft when starting.
  • FOLLOW WITH AN  8 x 1.25mm threading die.  By using a two-step threading process, you can cut past the shoulder on the first step, and then create your final threads on the second cut.  Again, cutting oil helps. 
  • CUT EXCESS LEVER BUT ALLOW FOR THREADS INSIDE HANDLE and LOCK NUT BELOW.  Deburr and chamfer the top edge of your cut. 

  • THREAD ON LOCK NUT, THEN HANDLE GRIP.  Tighten the lock nut against the handle base and you’re done!  

(Note:  It might be possible to make this modification without removing the shift lever from the Defender, but it would be more difficult to cut the threads correctly.  It’s far easier to remove it from the dash and to hold securely in your bench vise) 

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The shorter shift lever feels more precise, doesn’t get in the way, and just plain looks better.  It’s a relatively easy modification that took us less than 15 minutes, and it makes an already great Can-Am Defender even better.  Thank you, Chris!


November 6, 2020

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