Restore More Precise Shifting
Changing the ball cup on the shifter for more precise shifting

By Kurt Gibble

These are directions for replacing the shifter bushing that's located on the top of the torque tube just behind the bell housing (and engine). The directions are exact for an '87 S4 (s/n 0181). This is usually the culprit in fore/aft shifter sloppiness(see Panorama May '97), although Dave Cooley has noted that sometime the coupler just in front of the trans can also be the problem. The procedure isn't too difficult, but you can't be ham-fisted.

1. Go in passenger footwell, remove the lower fuse panel(2 10mm nuts) and disconnect the O2 sensor (thick gray wire with black plug). Push out the grommet and wires through the hole in the tunnel.

2. Pull up shifter leather boot -- pull up the front of the plastic frame and it'll snap out of the console. Pull up rubber boot. Look at the shifter and memorize. Remove the 2 clips and the shifter rod pins and remove the shifter, springs, bushings,washers, and figure eight piece.

3. Support car on jack stands -- no loss in having it high.

4. Optional step: Use a digital level to measure the position of the two shifting rod pins. You could also measure the shifter before taking it out. (This is so we're sure to get the bushing spaced properly.)

5. Remove Exhaust. Spray 13mm nuts to manifolds. Place support (jack) on cross pipe in front of rear muffler. Remove two 13mm bolts and nuts on rear muffler, one of same on each intermediate, 17mm center support hanger behind the cat. Remove the nuts on the exhaust manifolds. Lower rear a couple of inches,then remove the bolts from the manifolds, lower the front while feeding the O2 sensor through the heat shields. (If you're near 60K, you might want to change the O2 sensor while the exhaust is down.)

6. Remove the center and two front heat shields -- ten 8mm bolts total.On the center, I removed the exhaust hanger to get it down. Remove the front tunnel brace to which the heat shields mount (four 13mm bolts).

7. Pry the shifting guide rod cup off of the ballon top of the torque tube. I used a Stanley wrecking bar -- the gently curved end. Others have used screwdrivers and motorcycle tire irons.

8. Gently pull the shifting guide rod to the side and down -- mine went more easily to the driver's side. There's a bearing welded to the top of the torque tube (Jim Stadter) in which the guide tube rides, and you probably don't want to break or bend this -- just a guess on my part.

9. Measure the distance from the cup to the rod and mark the orientation. Loosen the 17mm locking nut on the cup threads. How, you ask? Well,you might try to put a 22mm wrench on the cup to counter-hold the torque you apply with the 17mm open-end wrench. If you do, you'll probably twist the cup right off the threads -- you can guess which you've been warned. I was able to grab the tube (back about three inches) with a "normal" pair of pliers and then squeeze those pliers with a channel lock to get enough grip. A channel lock won't go up in the tunnel, as the clearance is too small (the tube has to stay fairly high for this so that the narrow part of the pliers goes where the clearance is the smallest).Unscrew the cup while counting the threads.

10. Put a little grease on the inside of the new cup and clean off the ball. Thread on the new cup the correct numbers of turns, orient it properly, and then measure the distance from the cup the correct number of turns; orient it properly, and then measure the distance from the cup to the rod and adjust it if you forgot how to count. Snug the 17mm nut. Place cup on top (Don't press on it yet) of the ball. Go in the car and measure the angle of the pins/shifter, or at least make sure things look aligned.

11. Tighten 17mm lock nut -- it really doesn't have to be too tight. Even if it does work loose, the cup won't be able to unscrew, so i don't see a big problem looming (YMMV). Push the cup onto the ball (my guess is the plastic will give more easily on a warm day). I used the other end (right-angle end) of my Stanley wrecking bar by pivoting it against a small piece of metal (aluminum, of course) on the top of the tunnel. Worked really nicely.

Reassemble shifter. The trick inputting this in is finding some way to compress the springs so you can get the clicks on. The springs fit tightly onto the shift level so there's not a lot of room. I compressed the springs in a vise and then wrapped four turns of No. 26 bare copper wire around the spring in two places.Then install and cut the copper wire. Nylon thread may work (even dental floss) and, as some of the copper remained,the nylon may be better here.

Replace cross member, heat shields, and exhaust, remembering to feed the O2 sensor wires (and install the grommet) before the heat shields are tightened, and especially before the exhaust is entirely up.