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Shorten Shifter or Replace Shift Knob on a VW/Audi

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I'm an online writer and proud owner of an Audi 1.8T. My articles focus on helping Audi owners handle DIY projects.

diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man

A Cheap Short-Shifter Mod

Technically, this is not a short shifter but it is a great mod to shorten the throw of your stick shift. It can also be combined with an Audi TT shift linkage (5-speed 8N0-711-046) or R32 shift linkage (6-speed 1J0-711-051M), which should shorten shifts by around 10-20% from what I've read (if someone sends me $30 I'll tell you for sure!).

Doing this mod is really just a personal preference for me. I like the feel as opposed to the original height of the shifter, and when I'm under full-boost shifting just feels so much faster and smoother as opposed to stock height. I did this mod on my 20th edition, as well as changing the transmission fluid to Syncromesh about five years ago, and my shifting always felt milky smooth. Now that I have a new (to me) beat-up p.o.s GTI, I've taken pictures of how to do the mod.

Tools for the Job

This is a very simple mod and will only require a few household tools and a new hose clamp. In all my other DIY's I recommended getting hose clamps from the local hardware/auto parts store. This is a new tip that I just learned: If you have a Harbor Freight store in your area you can get a 40-piece hose clamp kit for $7—now that's a deal! I would also recommend a drill with a long 1/2" drill bit to make things easier, but it is not necessary.

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Hacksaw, Dremel with cut-off wheel, pipe cutter, etc. (something to cut through metal piping)
  • Paper towel, newspaper
  • Small hose clamp
  • Drill and long 1/2" drill bit (recommended)
diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man
diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man

Removing the Boot and Shift Knob

Whether you have a rim around your shift boot or just the leather, this procedure will be the same.

  • From the front side of the boot, slip your flat-head screwdriver in there and give it a small twist, working around the front side. It will slowly pop out while you are pulling up on the boot with the other hand. Once the boot pops out, you can pull it forward (towards the emergency brake), and that will pull the boot tabs away and out of the console.
  • Pull the released boot straight up and inside out above the shift knob.
  • You will see a metal pinch/hose clamp wrapped around the four plastic tabs. This clamp is a lot thicker than the hose clamps on your engine hoses. If you work it open just a little, you will be able to pull off the shift knob with some upwards force. Don't muck with the clamp too much—you don't want to break the shift knob tabs.
Cutting the shift rod

Cutting the shift rod

Cutting the Shift Rod

Here comes the fun part! I would recommend cutting off 1-2 inches. Anymore than 2½ inches and you could risk your car not being able to shift in reverse. On my 20th, I cut off about 2 inches. In this DIY, I'm cutting about an inch and a half. It is better to start by cutting off a small amount and seeing how it feels, rather than cutting off too much and realizing you need to replace your shift rod.

Place a paper towel or newspaper around the shaft, mark where you want to cut, and saw that mofo off.

diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man
diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man
diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man
diy-vwaudi-short-shifter-for-the-poor-man

Attaching and Drilling Out the Shift Knob

Now here comes the hard part.

That inch of shift rod that you cut off has a groove on the left-hand side, and that groove matches a piece of plastic on the inside of your shift knob. So now to get your shift knob to slide all the way down the rod you're going to have to remove the plastic inside of it. (Put a flashlight in there and you will see the ridge and flat spot that needs to be rounded out.)

That ridge is in there to keep the knob centered and keep it from turning, but once you put on the hose clamp nice and tight the knob will stay still. Like I said, I did this to my other GTI five years ago, and the knob never moved.

Out of everything VW/Audi makes, it seems like this is the only piece of plastic on these cars that was made to last!

Take no prisoners! The easiest way to remove the plastic is to take a drill and a fat long drill bit and rub it on that ridge until it's gone. Besides, for that you can use thin chisels, screwdrivers, round files, a thin prison-style shankin' knife. Use your imagination, but the goal is to remove the ridge and round out the flat spot underneath.

Once you have the knob drilled out, make sure it fits all the way down your shift rod. (It is so hard not to make perverted jokes during this DIY.) If it slides all the way down, you are done; if not get back to drilling.

Once it fits on, reverse the steps that you did to take it off, push the knob all the way down, line it up to your liking, and tighten a hose clamp around the four plastic prongs. Insert the boot ring in the back first (closest to your dash) then push it down to clip it into the front.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Comments

V3 on July 28, 2014:

I recently got my A4 (b5) and to be honest, compared to my last car the a4 might as well have an OEM short shifter lol

Nate on September 09, 2012:

Just did this in 10 minutes with a dremmel. Instead of trying to bust out the plastic inside the shift knob though I just cut a new groove into the shift lever with the dremmel. Worked great and never have to worry about the knob spinning.

Writen4u (author) on May 18, 2012:

BR

Thanks for a helpful comment/tip. It is a cheap mod and it is the comfort that makes it worth doing. Sounds like you have had a nice diversity of cars to play with as well.

BR on May 18, 2012:

I've done this in a few cars in the past including my TT, CRX, 325i, Stealth Turbo and SRT-4. I would measure exactly where my hand felt most comfortable and my wrist was straight if I was resting my hand on the shifter (most important part to keep your wrist happy). It's a great mod for a bit of performance but mostly comfort.

Writen4u (author) on April 30, 2011:

Yea this is the third mkiv that I've owned and I think I've just become used to that shifter height so it just feels natural. As long as you don't go overboard with cutting it's not really a risk, but some people don't think about how it has to be pushed down to go in reverse and they just chop the rod in half. Now that's a uh-oh moment.

Thanks for the comment.

thefundu from India on April 30, 2011:

So, you've risked up the shift rod...but you'd done great job buddy...hats off to ur creativity...I had a Hyundai hatchback and I too have thought of it once, but I didn't risked....