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17 May 2006

Ultimate Pedals

The same thing bugs me about the A3 that bugged me about my 99.5 GTI - the clutch is just too deep. When you have the seat/wheel/accelerator/brake all in the right positions relative to each other, there is no way to get the clutch all the way to the floor even if you hyperextend your left ankle. Pulling the seat forward 1 or 2 notches gives you good clutch control, but then your right leg is in a bad position. You have to pick which ankel/knee you want to punish, left or right, at any given time.

The lurch/hesitation off the line was really due to poor clutch control. It made me look like I don't know how to drive, and I was afraid of slipping off the clutch while parking and hitting something or someone. I could drive the RX-8 with it's wonderful clutch positioning and feel, and then get back in the A3 and thoroughly hate how it felt. I had to do something about it.

While other people were excitedly ordering the VW GLI pedals for their A3s, I decided to go for the 'form follows function' approach, which is most appropriate for this car anyway. I ordered a set of custom-fitted Ultimate Pedals for the clutch and brake, in the frosted non-slip finish with domed rubber inserts.

When they arrived, the pedals themselves were great but I was appalled at the included screws. They stuck up rather than fitting flush into the conical holes in the pedals. That was OK, though, because I had a plan that required different screws anyway....

From Home Depot I got some No. 10 fine-thread machine screws, flat head (for recess mounting) in various lengths, and corresponding nylon locking nuts for them. I also got metal sleeve spacers with a compatible inside diameter for the screws, in 1/2 and 3/4 inch lengths, and a pack of No. 10 washers. These screws fit the Ultimate Pedal covers perfectly, both in the diamter of the screw shaft and in the way that the head fits perfectly flush into the cover. This is what they should have come with.... I wish I could have found black powder-coated screws that would have been almost invisible next to the black rubber inserts, but that's probably asking a bit too much.




I removed the original rubber covers from the clutch and brake. The clutch pedal is plastic, the brake pedal is metal (by this I mean the actual parts attached to the car, not the covers). After deciding where the screws would go, I put the rubber inserts into the rest of the holes in the pedal covers that would not be taken up by the screws. I marked and drilled the clutch and brake pedals, and attached the brake pedal cover using the screws, washers and nylock nuts. I went ahead and bolted it down tightly since I wasn't changing anything about the brake pedal height.

The clutch cover was the key to making it feel like I want. I used a 1/2" spacer on the bottom and centre screws, and 3/4" spacers on the top screws. That didn't fit right... the curvature of the pedal didn't cooperate with the spacer lengths, so I used some of the No. 10 washers to shim it out correctly - 5 washers under each 3/4" spacer, and 4 washers under each 1/2" spacer. The result is that the Ultimate Pedal cover is raised off of the actual clutch pedal a little over 1/2" at the bottom, and over 3/4" at the top. This plus the thickness of the Ultimate Pedal covers themselves gives me just under an inch of additional 'lift' on the top of the pedal. Angling it like this is crucial, because when the pedal is pushed down the angle with respect to your foot changes. The thickness at the top of the pedal is more apparent and useful when it is depressed, and less noticable when it is up, due to the angle. I almost went for even more lift on the pedal, but this has really done it for me nicely.




Now, it feels right. You can't see that the clutch has been elevated unless you stick your head down there, but boy can you feel the improvement! When in a comfortable, legs-not-squished position, you can stomp the clutch all the way to the floor without hyperextending your ankle or twisting in the seat. Taking off from a dead stop is much faster and smoother since you have more control over the clutch, and maneuvering to park no longer makes me feel like a little kid driving who can't reach the pedals.

Someday I'll get a VW GLI accelerator (part number 1K1 721 503 N for Manual Transmission cars, or part number 1K1 723 503 N for DSG/S-Tronic cars) to match the aluminum look of the clutch and brake. For now, though, this may be the best mod I've done so far.

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