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09 October 2007

Forge Short Shift Kit

This is an easy, fun mod, and one that I'll enjoy every drive from now on.... If you have a manual transmission A3 (or GTI or GLI) you have got to get a short shifter! I'm sure some other brands are good as well, but I can definitely vouch for the Forge SSK for excellent quality and feel.

Not a lot of pictures this time.... for one thing, I was chasing the last bit of daylight. Also, after I pulled off the original shift linkage I was way too greasy to touch the camera.

There are two items that you need for the full kit - the main front-to-back shift linkage, and the side-to-side linkage.

Since the kit is made to fit several different VW/Audi models, it comes with various fittings for the shift cable attachment. There are a smaller pin, a larger (thicker) pin, and a ball attachment. You will need the larger/thicker pin and corresponding nut for both linkages for the A3; you can discard/store the rest.

About the nuts.... this was the only less-than-perfect part of the kit. The nuts have washers fixed to one side. You must assemble things with the washers towards the bracket. However, the washers prevented the nuts from threading on correctly at first. I had to 'chase' the threads by running the nuts on backwards, then turn them around and assemble them properly. My suggestion to Forge was to replace those with nylock nuts, and I received this response clarifying why these were used:
They are referred to as "all-metal prevailing torque lock nuts", and they apply tenstion to the threads in an almost identical manner to Nylok style nuts but they use the metal of the nut itself instead of a separate substrate which has the potential to wear.
Additionally, by using the prevailing torque nuts, when tightened to the proper torque specs. (25 nm) as listed in the instructions, there is virtually no chance of them coming loose over any amount of time. We have had versions of this product using the same type of hardware installed on numerous vehicles for well over a year with absolutely zero issues before we released them into the market.

Both parts of the linkage have slots that the pins fit into. The most 'out' or 'up' position on the respective slot is the same position as the stock pieces. The most 'in' or 'down' position on the slot is the shortest shifter movement. Trust me - just set it at the shortest position.

The white plastic 'slider' that joins the two linkage parts is more robust than the stock one, and wraps above and below the channel that it slides in (the stock one does not). This shows how the two pieces fit together.

Installation was a lot quicker than I've seen other people claim for short-shifters. The longest time was spent assembling the pins into the two parts of the linkage. It took a while because of the nut/washer issue that I mentioned above, and because when tightening the nut/pin it would 'walk' in the slot a bit. I wound up sticking something in the slot to block it and make sure that the pin stayed all the way at the shortest position as it was tightened. I was sure wanted it in that position so I used Loctite Threadlocker (BLUE) to make sure neither pin comes loose. At first I was concerned about what would happen if the nut loosened and the pin slipped in the slot, then I realised that it is totally a non-issue. First, when properly tightened there should be no loosening of the nuts at all (see above). However, if a nut did loosen enough for the pin to slip in the slot, it would just wind up slipping back to the stock position. You'd wind up with a bit of slop and a longer throw, but would never be stranded and unable to shift. I also inquired about the design choice of the infinitely-adjustable slot, and Forge's response was:
As for the adjustment, numerous other shifters on the market use multiple selectable pivot points in their offerings, which is all well and good, but many people find certain predetermined settings to not be to their liking, i.e. too much reduction or not enough. We decided to offer an infinitely adjustable mechanism to allows users to find a setting that best suits their individual needs.

Actually removing/reinstalling is soooo easy. I didn't even remove the engine cover/intake. Yes, you actually can reach in and do it. if you have an aftermarket intake, it will block the space you need to reach into, but the stock intake doesn't really. The worst part of swapping the linkage is removing the ring clips on the three pins. They pop off easily, but that's part of the problem - they'll go flying off and get lost somewhere. Luckily, the one that flew off on me bounced around and fell through to the ground under the car, so be careful popping them off.

Start by taking off the two clips that hold on the shift cable ends, and slide the cable ends off the pins. The 13mm nut on the linkage comes off easily with a socket, then I used the ratchet handle to pry up on the linkage to get it off the splined shaft. There is a third clip holding on the side-to-side linkage, then it slides out. NOTE: there are 2 plastic bushings (inner and outer) on the pin that mounts the side-to-side linkage. They have to be put in place for the new linkage.

I used one of the red grease packets included to lube all pins and the slider heavily. Installation is the reverse of removal. Here's the quick list of what to do:

  • Assemble the pins onto the new linkage

  • Remove 2 clips holding on cable ends, and slide off cable ends

  • Remove 13mm nut, and remove main linkage from splined transmission shaft

  • Remove clip holding on side-to-side linkage, and remove the linkage

  • Locate 2 plastic bushings, one may be stuck on the original side-to-side linkage pin, the other may be in the corresponding hole on the transmission

  • Lube all pins with red grease

  • Install 1 plastic bushing on side-to-side linkage, and reinsert it into the hole on the transmission

  • Insert other plastic bushing into other end of hole around that pin, and reinstall the ring clip

  • Mate up the 2 linkage pieces at the slider, and fit the new main linkage onto the splined shaft. It only goes on one way

  • Install and tighten the 13mm nut holding the linkage to the transmission

  • Put the cable ends on their respective pins, and install the clip on each

  • Put up your tools, degrease your hands, and go drive!

That's really all there is to it. Everything between 'assemble the pins' and 'clean up' should take you 20 minutes.

Fom casual observation of the linkage, it looks stock. It won't attract attention from a service tech looking at it, but anyone who drives the car would have to be an idiot not to notice.

The important question is "how does it feel?" It feels great! It's awesome - it actually feels like the RX-8, which is good: short, solid, more mechanical than stock, shiftable with wrist motion. I used to have a BMW 328i with a Z3 shift linkage, and this is just as short-throw but much smoother. This is absolutely how they all should feel right from the factory. No separate alignment/adjustment of the shift lever was needed or called for in the instructions, and every gear engages smoothly and without any excessive force. It's weird the first time you drive it because you think it's not going into gear, then you realise that it already is in gear, you're just used to the sloppy, long throws of the stock shifter.

Like I said at the start, if you have a 6MT, you NEED one of these. Don't settle for another brand of shift linkage that doesn't include entirely new side-to-side linkage. There's only one other brand I'd consider (Dieselgeek), but it removes the original cable ends, requires additional adjustment, and definitely does not look stock. I'm not saying that there's anything at all wrong with the DG one as a product, but for my preferences the Forge one was the best solution.

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