1988 40HP Johnson Shift Linkage Location

Finding the Johnson Shift Link Location!

A smart approach to any task is planning out the steps to complete it ahead of time. I planned on doing that when dropping the lower unit for the first time. There was just one drawback, I couldn’t find the Johnson shift linkage location!This happened to me recently when I needed to service the lower unit on this 1988 Johnson 40Hp. I could not, for the life of me, find the Johnson shift link location for the shift rod.

The funny thing about an outboard shift linkage location is that it seems that no two are ever alike. I’ve owned a number of outboards over the years and have always done my own service. No two have ever been alike! The shift rod connectors locations have varied with some being in the mid-section. Others are buried somewhere in the bowls of the engine close to the block. That would be this 88 Johnson 40 HP.

Found the Johnson Shift Linkage!

1988 Johnson Evinrude Shift Rod Linkage Connector
1988 Johnson Evinrude Shift Rod Linkage Connector

In any event, I did a bit of research and after poking around the engine , finally figured out where the shift rod disconnect was. In this engine, and similar Evinrudes’ within a few years. It is located almost directly behind and under the carburetors. It’s quite possible they might have found a more difficult place to put it had they put more thought into it. But I think the engineers did a fine job of making it as inaccessible as possible.

Removing the Johnson Shift Link

Actually, it’s not an impossible task to get to it. It’s certainly easier if you remove the starter (although I haven’t gone that route). And it is definitely easier if you remove the carburetors. I went the carburetor route the first time I did this, which coincided perfectly with the carburetor rebuilds I had to do! However, the last time I did this I was able to access the outboard shift linkage link by removing the muffler plate in front of the carburetors.

I used a long 1/4″ socket extension with a long 7/16″ socket to loosen the bolt holding the Johnson shift linkage on. After that, I simply used a long needle nose set of pliers to carefully grab the bolt and gently retrieve it. I say carefully and gently because in my experience, dropping any bolt when working on an outboard means the bolt will disappear, never to be found again. Surprisingly, I was able to reach in and grab the Johnson shift link with my hand and pull it out the port side of the engine.

1988 Johnson Shift Rod Connector Link Location Close Up
1988 Johnson Shift Rod Connector Link Location Close Up

Re-installing the Johnson Shift Link

Re-installing the shift link is fairly simple as well. I was able to manually wiggle it on to the rod. It takes a bit of wiggling, and you may have to push on the rod it sits on from the starboard side (that rod has some give and can shift left to right). But it will slide on to it. Amazingly, the pin on the Johnson shift linkage slides right into the hole in the shift rod! After that, simply place the bolt in place with the needle nose pliers and use the 7/16″ socket and extension to tighten it in place.

So here, in all it’s brevity, is the location of a 1988 Johnson 40 HP Shift Link. This would also apply to Evinrude outboards of the same era and general horsepower range.

I also have a video of this on my YouTube channel, Extremediy you can watch it here.