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Installing a Short Shift Kit (SSK)

Pelican Technical Article:

Installing a Short Shift Kit (SSK)


5 hours5 hrs






Floor jack, two jack stands, two wheel chocks, safety glasses, two small flatblade screwdrivers, pick, razor blade or knife, workbench vice or press, white lithium grease, deep socket, wire brush, hammer, sandpaper

Applicable Models:

BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)

Parts Required:

Short shift kit (SSK)

Performance Gain:

Quicker shifting via a shorter arm on your manual shifter

Complementary Modification:

Replace the shift bushing kit and the selector rod seal while you're at it
101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's new book, 101 Performance Projects for Your BMW 3 Series. The book contains 272 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to timing the camshafts. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any 3 Series owner's collection. The book was released in August 2006, and is available for ordering now. See The Official Book Website for more details.

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

One of the most popular additions to the BMW 3-Series is the installation of a short shift kit. The kit shortens the length of throw on the BMW shifter, theoretically giving you the ability to shift faster. Installation is a moderate task, and should take the better part of an afternoon.

There are currently many popular types of short shift kits on the market. They are basically all the same - they replace the shift lever with one that has a shorter throw. A little-known secret is that you can swap out a shift lever from another BMW model into your car for significantly less money than a short shift kit will cost you.

If you have an E30 or E36 318, 325 or 323, then you can swap in the BMW E46 325Xi lever (part number 25-11-7-527-252-BOE, about $64) to obtain a 29% reduction in the shift throw. Or, you can swap in the E36 M3/328 lever (25-11-7-527-247) which basically was a "built-in" short shift to these cars, and offers about a 1/3 reduction in lever travel. If you own an E36 M3 or a 328, and you want an even shorter throw, you can swap in the shift lever from an M-Roadster (25-11-7-527-254-BOE, about $64). The bad news is that if you want to use the M-Roadster lever, you may have to bend it slightly to make it fit properly. Use a bench vise and bend it to match your stock lever.

For the purpose of this tech article, I chose the Short Shift Kit from UUC. This kit allows you to adjust the height of the shift lever to suit your driving style. Another manufacturer that I like for short shift kits is AutoSolutions which offers an amazingly detailed kit that replaces many shift bushings and eliminates many points of failure for the shifter.

The UUC kit is shown in Figure 1. It comes complete with everything that you need to replace your shift lever, and replace many of the shift bushings that have a tendency to wear out. Specifically, this kit contains Delrin bushings for the shifter arm, and ball bearing bushings for the shift lever. The kit is very well constructed and all of the parts fit together with very tight tolerances.

The process of installing the short shift kit involves basically swapping out the shift lever with the old one. The removal of the shift lever is detailed in the Pelican Technical Article, Replacing Shift Bushings. Look to that article for precise, detailed instructions on how to remove and replace the shift lever.

The short shift kit works by replacing the shift lever with one that has a longer throw on the bottom half. (Figure 2) shows the original lever along side the UUC short shift lever. The difference can be see in the length of the rod between the ball and the bottom bushing.

This particular shift kit comes with ball-bearings that fit into the bottom of the shiftlever. These bearings will virtually last forever, and will never wear out (Figure 3). A set of small aluminum spacers are required to make them fit with the stock shift selector rod (Figure 4). In addition, I found that my shift selector rod was a bit too big for the new bearings, and required a small bit of sanding to allow the rod to be inserted into the bearing cartridge (Figure 5). Once it fit in there, though, the fit was very tight (Figure 6).

After you install the kit into the car, double-check the shift selector rod and its location with respect to the driveshaft and driveshaft flex disc. Because the throw on the short shift kit is longer underneath the car, there may be a tendency for the selector rod to now interfere with the driveshaft. If this is the case, then you can slightly bend and bow the shift selector rod to clear any drivetrain components. The only downside to this bowing is that the shifter will lean backwards slightly when fully installed.

It took a short while (no pun intended) for me to get used to the new short shift kit. At first, I didn't really care for it, but after driving the car with it installed, I didn't want to go back to the standard shifter. If you're not sure about whether you'll like the short feel, I suggest that you drive someone else's car who has a short shifter installed. The procedure to remove the kit takes as long as the one to install it, so if you're not sure, then try it out beforehand.

On a side note, many people install short shift kits in their cars thinking that it will fix problems that they are having with their transmission. This will not solve any problems, and will in most cases make a poorly shifting car shift even worse. The reason for this is that with the short shift kit, the torque arm on the shift lever is much shorter, giving you much less 'resolution' on your shifter. It's similar to having a gas pedal that only travels 1 inch over its range instead of 2-3 inches. You have less precision in how much throttle you want to give the car. In a similar manner, with the short shift kit you will have less precision on where the shift rod is placed. It's a wise idea to tackle the core problems with your transmission (synchros, shift bushings), prior to the installation of the short shift kit.

Well, there you have it - a lot of work, but if you walk through it step-by-step and follow the photos I have published here for you, you should have no problems. If you would like to see more technical articles like this one, please continue to support Pelican Parts with all your parts needs. If you like what you see here, then please visit our online BMW catalog and help support the collection and creating of new and informative technical articles like this one. Your continued support directly affects the expansion and existence of this site and technical articles like this one. As always, if you have any questions or comments about this helpful article, please drop us a line.

Comments and Suggestions:
calypsoe36 Comments: I need a new shifter and selector rod assembly in my e36 but I found a z3m roadster with selector rod, shifting rod, and shift lever will that all fit?
October 17, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Only if the part numbers match. Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Alex Comments: IS this fix my E46 318i?
July 26, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I can't be 100% sure, as we didn't have an E46 318i in the US. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Justin Comments: Hi my car is a 1994 325i convertible. Its shifting is very sloppy, and throw is too far for my liking. I have part number 25-11-7-527-247-M9 ready to install but it dawned on me that I better change the bushings in the swap. I would like to buy a kit but I am confused which one would be compatible with my situation.
May 29, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff:
I’m not the best with part numbers.

Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Andy Comments: Hi, I own a E30 with a 328i E36 engine & gearbox conversion, I'm not sure if it's got the 328i gear leaver on it. Question is how can i tell, is it as simple as measuring the 'throw' of the gear leaver across the box from 1st - 2nd? if so do you know what this measurement should be for an E36 328i?
October 14, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I am not 100% sure. I opened a post in our forums. A Pelican community member may be able to answer your question.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Barry Comments: I have an E30 325i with what I got told in my car is a Z3M Short-Shifter with Z3M Knob, with a UUC Link, a mechanic told me the shifter link fouls on the Guibo. How can I fix this? or is it simply that Z3M Shortshifter is not made to be used with UUC Link?

Is there a certain shifter I can swap in that can retain the UUC Link and :

1. Look the same as my Z3M Shifter as I like it.

2. have Similar distance/throw etc between gears.
April 8, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You would have to chec with UUC. I wouldn't know if it works with your vehicle. If it is hitting the driveshaft components, I would think it doesn't fit correctly. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Andy Comments: I'm looking into swapping the lever from a 1997 328is into a 1998 323is. Is this possible?
March 23, 2014
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: They might be the same. I would check the part number on each vehicle and see if they match. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Nick Comments: I have a 1995 318Ti. Now, I am aware that this chassis car E36/5 shares a lot more parts with an E30 and the Z3 than it does a standard E36 sedan/coupe. Would the shorter linkage out of the E36 328 still be a drop in replacement?
November 16, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I don't think so. If you give me the year and model the donor shifter is coming out of I can double check. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Liam Comments: @ Nick's reply to Bob-
99 3 series can be an E36 or an E46. I owned a 99' 323is that was very assuredly an E36. That's the year they switched over. I think only a few versions of the E36 were still in production, maybe only the 323 and the 325, but I'm not sure. Easiest way to tell is if your kidneys are part of the hood or are separate.
October 29, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input and additional Info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
bob Comments: Novice w/ cars so ur opinion is appreciated. I own a 99 bmw 323is. What E version is this considered? The ball that my palm wraps around to shift gears jiggles loose daily so I'm often giving it a few turns while driving so it doesn't come off the stick. I turned it while parked and w/o realizing it turned it too much and the stick portion turned as well. Now loosey goosey with no gears. It just floats and my car can only drive in 1st gear. What do you think needs to be fixed and how much would it cost? I'm also open to a short shift kit option too.
April 17, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 1999 3-Series in an E46. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Neil Comments: Does the SSK effectively replace the shift bushings mentioned in the other project? Or would I also need to get the shift bushing kit as well? I am getting the "5th gear lean" and want to get it fixed. Thanks.
March 29, 2013
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call, they will be happy to answer yor question: 1-888-280-7799 - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Logan Comments: With the UUC or Autosolutions kit, coupled with the E30 shift bishing kit, are there any other parts needed to completely eliminate shifter slop, particularly side to side? Also, are any of these parts included in either lit? Couldn't tell if they were, maybe just under different names:

Forward Brass Connection A        
Lower half of shifter lever C    
Nylon bushings for shifter leverD
Shifter rod B                    
Shifter plate bushings3

Thank you in advance!
September 16, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: No, you covered them all - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Goose Comments: Do you have a kit for a 2002 315i
June 30, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Call one of our parts specialist at 888-280-7799 and they'll let you know what we can do for you - Nick at Pelican Parts  
e30sb650 Comments: what would be the best kit for a 91 e30 325i with the most reduction. looking for over 50%
April 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Give our parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they can help figure out which part or repair kit you need.

- Nick at Pelican Parts
John Comments: I bought a 1991 318i that worked in 1st 4th and 5th gear. Drove a while like that and suddenly lost 4th. Never made any odd noises, Just stopped shifting into fourth. The shift lever seems to move properly. Is this problem likely the shifter bushings. Thanks
April 20, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Yes it sounds like it - Nick at Pelican Parts  
jason Comments: I recently purchased the e36 bushing kit and a bmw short shifter for my 95 e36 325is from you. Aamco installed it as well as a replaced trans. I love the way it shifts but my only issue is when the car is in first it lines up like it is in third. In nuetral the shift appears pushed to the right instead of in the center. Is this something they should be able to adjust?
March 4, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: You can't easily adjust this. But, you can take the arm (the lower linkage arm, not the actual gearshift arm) and slightly bend it so that it is more aligned with the center of the car. This however requires removal of the entire linkage so that you can place it in a vice. Unless it's really troubling you, I would probably try to ignore it. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Jeff Comments: I have a 325i 2001 manuel trans. recently I was driving and came to a stop when went to down shift its as if my gears disappeared. What can I do to fix this?
February 25, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It sounds like something may have happened with the linkage - either a broken arm or bushing. I think that you need to follow the instructions in the article and take a close look at your linkage to see if there are any issues. If the linkage checks out okay, then unfortunately, it's probably something odd inside the transmission. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
rikzz3 Comments: what would be thr best kit for a 2001 z- 3 coupe? is this done under the car?
February 22, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Although I don't think we sell too many of these, I believe that we can special order them. Give our sales dept a call at 1-888-280-7799 and they should be able to find one for you. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Harry Comments: Was doing a UUC kit install but got stalled because my transmission did not lower when I loosened the brace...jack would drop but tranny didn't. I didn't want to force it.

Car's a 99 M Coupe. Suggestions??
January 1, 2011
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I'm not too familiar with the M Coupe for that year. You might want to try removing the joint that connects it to the driveshaft. - Wayne at Pelican Parts  
Andy P Comments: TO answer Alesx's Q:
I have a 1992 325is E36 and the eshaust is just plain in the way. It makes life MUCH easier to remove the middle section... you might work around it, but the pipes, and especially the 'cats, are totaly in the way and makes it hard to see and to work, so yes, it really helps to come out.
Also, sisnce you have to remove the driveline to get any sort of access to theis stuff, it is highly recommended to change out all the parts you canwhile uoi are under there...Shift Coupler, rubber boot, pivot cup for the shifter, plastic washers for the shaft, rubber and metal grommet for the flat shifter bar on both ends, drive shaft "Guibo"....the works! only wanna do this ONCE!
Just my 2 cents, since I just spent 2 days doing ALL of that stuff and I'm still filthy!
July 29, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the input on this one. We appreciate the help. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Tim Comments: I want to replace all of the bushings and misc. parts by buying the shifter bushings kit offered in your store if I get this bushing kit, will it be compatible with getting an e36 shifter as stated above?
April 26, 2010
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The shift bushing replacement kits are tailored to each car, so you can buy an E30 kit and then remove the parts that are not compatible with the E36 shifter, and then add them in separately. We don't have a separate kit for the E30/E36 combo, but you can alter the kit contents as needed. Thx - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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