Shorten Shifter or Replace Shift Knob on a VW/Audi
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)
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
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.
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.