So, if you're not into cars, maybe skip past this post.
Today the sportier shift-lever for my car came in the mail, and I was psyched since it's my first modification. Installation was pretty smooth (as I've written-up below), but I'll get into a few of the specifics first in case anyone searching for information on the web comes across this post!
What to buy
There are a few choices, but primarily what I considered came down to these two:
- VW factory shift-lever from the VW Golf R32 (about $40 USD) — The Golf R32 is a limited edition step-up from the GTI with a bit more horsepower and all-wheel-drive. The shift-lever from this car also fits this same transmission, while shortening your vertical throws by about 15-20%.
- DieselGeek's aftermarket MK4 VW “Ultra Six” Shifter (about $200 USD) — This is one of the nicest aftermarket options available, but it's more difficult to install, and it only nets you about 10% less movement than the R32's factory shift-lever. (but also some horizontal reduction, as well)
I personally went with the factory R32 shift-lever, because it'd be easier to install (much easier, in fact), and it's an official Volkswagen part that's less likely to get noticed by the dealership during warranty work. 😅
Once you've made up your mind, received the product (mine arrived in a small box with a M&Ms candies inside… because Parts4VWs.com is cool like that! 😉), and have some time on your hands… either way, you'll follow parts of DieselGeek's installation instructions regardless of which product you decided on. 😃
With the factory R32 shift-lever, you'll just follow the steps to remove the original lever, and then repeat them in reverse order to attach the new shift-lever instead of the old one. The factory GTI and R32 shift-levers are similar enough that there are no major issues swapping between them with this method, even if you later wanted to return the car to its stock configuration. — But, of course, I'm not responsible for anything that goes wrong in your install, so please take care!
The most difficult parts of the installation were:
- Getting the old shift-lever off of the transmission! Mine was jammed on there pretty tightly. It took the use of a crowbar to pop it off, and we had to be super careful supporting the crowbar without breaking anything under the hood. (That'd suck!)
- Afterward, adjusting the vertical shift-cable. The vertical shift cable is the one that lies flat to the left of the shift-lever once installed… not the one that's suspended up in the air. You have to adjust this to get the shifter inside the car back into its original vertical-center position. — Mine was too far forward after the installation, and while this did still allow me to shift between gears 1 through 6 without issue, pushing the shifter down to shift into reverse wasn't aligned properly. This took a bit of trial-and-error to realign, but with two people, one was able to hold the shifter at vertical-center while another adjusted… and pretty soon it was all set.
So, after about an hour and a half (the guide said 20 to 30 minutes… hah! 😅), the car was back on the road and shifting like a dream.
… First modification: complete!