Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you the USRT SmartShift Kit for the Mk2/Mk3 cars with 020 (rod shift) transmission.
The kit has actually been around for years, but many have never seen it. That included me until a short while ago. What I heard before installing it was that it completely changes the fun factor in driving a Mk2/Mk3. After all the shifter isn’t exactly the best part of these cars!
"It’s literally a night and day difference."
Right... Well, I decided to do a DIY on this kit, but had no Mk2 or Mk3 to use as a test car. This is when I contacted Josh Wimpey from Quantum Rally Sport to see if he wanted to use his Mk2 Golf 16v for this thread. Being a rally driver, Josh obviously needs the fastest and most consistent shifts he can get. A botched shift could send him into the weeds or cause a DNF! He agreed that (in concept) this heim-jointed design is the way to go.
Here are some shots of his monster in action:
Now that you know the test subject, let's take a look at some of the tools and parts needed for this project:
Parts you will receive in the kit
-(1) Shift Weight
-(4) Small Delrin Bushings
-(1) Large Delrin Bushing, with clip and bolt
-(1) Long Linkage arm
-(1) Short Linkage arm
-(6) Bolts with their respective washers and nuts
- 5/16” Drill Bit
- Bench Grinder/reciprocating saw/ anything that will cut fine objects
- 13mm Wrench
- Short 13mm ratcheting wrench
- Measuring Tape
- White Lithium Grease (maintenance & future lubrication of heim joints)
- Work Gloves
- Flash Light / Work Lights
(These are the must-haves; however, it would be a good idea to have a set of other tools around just in case you need something else that isn't listed here.)
Be sure to print out a set of instructions from the USRT website! Then get everything laid out and make sure you have it all, like we did here:
Alright, now that we've got everything we need, let's go out to the garage and get that hood open!
Some of you may notice in this picture that it's not your typical 16v (PL or 9A-code) we have in the Quantum Rally car. In this case it’s a real deal ABF bolted to a US transmission. Don't worry, though, everything you'll see in this write up will be exactly like the one under the hood of your car (well, except for the Euro 16v).
Before really going at it, first make sure the coolant bottle is out of the way. You don't have to remove it completely. Just put it in the rain tray or somewhere similar.
Be ready to get your hands dirty after this point
Ripping Out the Stock Shift linkage
First things first, get the original shift weight or rod out of there (weight is OEM in Mk3 –not Mk2). Remove the clips from each end, and slide the weight /rod up/out. You can see the clip in this picture:
Here's the section that you remove it from, circled in red:
So you can see what we’re going to accomplish, here’s a photo of what we’re eventually going to end up with:
Now that you have that out, go ahead and pull out the long metal shift linkage. In this picture, the Yellow arrows are pointing at it and the blue arrows are indicating which direction you have to pry them out. (Pull the left one in the pic, towards the front of the car, and pull the right one upwards, towards the sky.)
We ended up breaking the plastic piece holding on the left side as you can see in this picture:
With that out, now you want to remove the nut (circled in red) that secures the shaft (indicated by the yellow arrow):
and another angle:
Get a wrench and start loosening that nut!
With the nut off, now try and pry the bushing that's holding it in out. Once you do the whole bolt assembly should fall out.
The yellow arrow in this pic shows the bushing a little more up close. Try and get a screw driver or something in there to get it out:
This is what that whole assembly looks like when it's out of the car:
That assembly is now out of the way to get at the next piece, which is circled here in red:
IMPORTANT: Josh and I think it would be a good idea to indicate the sleeve’s exact front/back position and also what position the bracket is in. Do this BEFORE you remove anything. When re-installing, this is the piece that will need the most adjusting, as it controls where the transmission goes into gear. If this piece is misaligned you can't go into 1st and 2nd gear, or 3rd and 4th, etc. So, take pictures of this piece; mark it off on the shaft; do whatever you have to do to make sure that you get it back in EXACTLY the way you took it out. This will minimize any tedious adjustment and readjustment when you re-install everything.
You might have to spray some light penetrating oil (e.g. PB Blaster or WD-40) on this bolt and nut to facilitate removal. It’s no worries if you don't, though. Have at it with the wrench and it should slide right out.
Here's a top angle of it from behind the manifold:
The next step is to remove the part in the linkage that is supposed to look like this:
However, Quantum Rally's Golf had already been upgraded. The original plastic pieces kept breaking –a really frustrating reason to drop out of an event! Regardless, the piece you’re looking for is located right in the middle of the transmission -almost directly under the coolant bottle:
Pry that piece up so you can get to that nut right next to it. That nut also secures the bracket (outlined in red). You're going to get a wrench on that thing, loosen it and pull everything out in the direction that the yellow arrow is pointing in these pictures:
Here's what the bracket looks like when it's been taken out:
With that out of the way, now move on to the bolt right next to where that bracket used to be. It's a shiny gold bolt with Audi rings on top of it. There's a nut underneath the whole assembly that you want to get a wrench on. I believe a 13mm will do the trick:
Then, use a short ratcheting 13mm and start loosening that bolt on top.
Once that's loose enough and the nut on the bottom comes out, pull the bolt out:
This will reveal the squishy stock bushings that you can either take out now or later. (They will be replaced with hard Delrin pieces supplied in the package.) I suggest you leave them in until you're ready to reinstall:
And… here's a close up of the top and bottom bushing:
That's pretty much it for the disassembly. Now lets move on to customizing the stock bits to fit the USRT parts. It’s not that scary. Don't worry!
Measuring and Fabrication
When you get all the stock stuff out organize it on a bench like we did here:
The first thing to do is match the SmartShift adjustable end links and the shift weight to exactly match the stock ones. Skip this step and you’ll run into trouble during reinstallation. Even worse you’ll have lots of trouble getting your gears. Do it right!
Note: the lock nut pictured here is no longer required.
Next, take that bracket that you took off (circled in red in this picture) and get your cutting wheel ready:
Then, take the cutting wheel and cut both ball joints off. Make sure the surface that you're left with is completely flat:
BEFORE taking the 5/16th drill bit to it, I suggest punching a pilot hole into the metal with a center punch or nail. ALWAYS make pilot holes before hand or the drill bit will walk and will not give you the accurate hole you need.
Be sure to line the pilot hole in the middle of this ring that you will be able to see once you cut the ball joint off:
Just in case you can't really tell where this circle I'm talking about is, I outlined it with a red circle. Drill right down the center:
As you can tell in the picture above, there are a few pilot punch marks. We worked with improvised tools at the time of install! So can you. Just take the time to do it accurately.
Here's what the end result will look like:
For show purposes, here's a stock bracket, with the ball joints intact, and on the right, is the one we drilled out:
Don't put away that drill yet! Two more ball joints need to come off. So, go grab that other bracket that looks like this:
Take your cutting wheel and cut joint off (leaving the remaining surface as smooth as possible):
Now, perform the exact same steps for the last bracket: Find the ring where ball joint was previously located, punch/drill a pilot hole, and finish it off with the 5/16 bit. The end result will look like this:
Once that's done, take a metal sleeve off of one of the long bolts that you got with your kit, remove the stock bushing, then press it into place, like this:
Since you're still at the press, take the other sleeve from the second longer bolt and press that onto the other shift lever. The end result will look like this, circled in red:
You’re almost done with the drilling at this point. Find the final bracket, that looks like this:
Once again, follow the exact same steps to get that last ball joint off. Cut off ball, make sure you are left with a smooth surface, place the pilot hole, and drill it out with the 5/16th. Presto! You’re doing great!
Here we are smoothing off the final surface a bit more:
and the final product:
Once you're done drilling, perhaps take a bit of a break, go watch TV or watch these 3 videos that I made, and then go back to work
After you're back to full energy, start out by grabbing this piece here:
Remove the "golf ball" part, leaving just the metal rod:
Then, take the big Delrin bushing and put it in place of the golf ball, clipping it into place
Once that's good, you're all set to start re-installing!
Installing the Goods
You’re almost ready to take it for a drive! Almost. Head back under the hood and get those wrenches ready.
Working backwards is best, so let’s start out with putting the new Delrin bushings into place. If you haven't done so already, pry the old bushings out of their place with a screwdriver:
You’re going to replace them with these guys.
They take a bit of effort to pop them into their respective spots, but they'll go in. Don't worry. Start with the bottom one:
Then do the top one.
This is how it should look when complete.