BMW Aluminum Shift Knob

Just added a new polished aluminum shift knob which replaces my illuminated shift knob. I like the feel of the polished aluminum much better than leather. This polished aluminum knob is also shorter than the illuminated knob, so the shifts between gears feel a lot sportier.

Part #82-23-9-405-686

Retail: $85.00

Update: Jon Maddux sent pictures of some additional BMW shift knobs and their BMW part numbers. There are several kinds of “chrome” shift knobs available from BMW. They have subtle differences, but before you drop $70+ on a shift knob, they are worth noting. Note that both “bright” knobs are plastic. The brushed and matte knobs are solid aluminum. Ron Styger reports the weight of the different knobs are .081kg (25-11-1-434-003), .079kg (25-11-2-492-481), 0.132kg (82-23-9-405-686) and 0.128 (25-11-9-416-257). Retail prices are $85 for (25-11-1-434-003), $65 for (25-11-2-492-481), and $98.25 for (25-11-9-416-257).

Titanium 130R Shift Knob

Pros: Increased shift feel, great looks
Cons: Cold/hot to the touch depending on the season
Cost: $139 from Titanium Cavallino

Titanium 130R

Short shift kits have become a popular upgrade for Z3 owners, but the good kits can be quite expensive. The popular UUC short shift kit, reviewed elsewhere on the ///, is $300 and the imported AC Schnitzer shifter—try that five times real fast—is an eye watering $1000+. Richard Carlson’s /// article on short shifters, ‘The Short End of the Stick’, offers a clear overview of the concepts and techniques involved in designing an effective short shift kit, and touches briefly on a low-cost approach to improved shift feel—a shorter shift knob. Richard experimented with an inexpensive round plastic ball, which he admits didn’t enhance the appearance of the cockpit, but which did result in snappier shifts.

Compare Stock vs 130R

Titanium Cavallino offers an attractive shift knob which they call the 130R knob. Styled along the lines of the classic Ferrari round knob, the 130R is beautifully presented in polished titanium, and is 9/16″ shorter than the stock BMW knob. If you’re wondering whether a 9/16″ shorter knob will make any difference, refer again to Richard Carlson’s article. He presents a table which indicates that a 3/4″ shorter shifter on an M Roadster would result in a 12% reduction in throw. I figure that the 130R will shorten throw by 8-10%. Additionally, the 130R weighs 9 ounces—5.5 ounces more than the stock knob. That extra heft should further improve the new short-shift feel.

Unlike many aftermarket knobs, the 130R is designed expressly for the BMW. This means that, rather than being installed using set screws, the 130R is fixed to the shift lever in the same way that BMW engineers have designed for the stock knob; a snap ring arrangement to hold the knob on the shaft and, to prevent turning, a pin inside the knob which engages a notch in the top of the shaft. Once properly installed the knob cannot rotate, and it would take 80 pounds of vertical pull to remove. If you worry about the knob coming off in your hand in the middle of a fast sweeper, this is the only way to go.

Installation is quite easy. Remove the stock knob by grasping it firmly with two hands and giving it a strong upward yank. Careful that your chin isn’t in the way! Knobs with internal lighting have a long enough wire that breaking the wire shouldn’t be a problem, but take care. If the knob is wired then lift the edges of the shift boot, locate the connector at the end of the wire, unplug it, then thread the wire and connector through the shaft hole in the boot. Installation of the new knob is just the reverse. Slide the knob down over the shaft, insuring that the internal pin is aligned with the notch in the top of the shaft, then press down until the snap ring engages. Done!

Road test time! So, what does it feel like? As expected, it doesn’t change the feel in any revolutionary way. The throw is tightened up, and the extra weight of the knob adds some inertia which helps the shifter across the gate. To my eye the looks are wonderful, but don’t leave the car outside with the top down or you may burn your hand. At the other end of the temperature spectrum, the knob is unpleasantly cold to the touch until it picks up warmth from your hand. I particularly like the standard BMW mounting method and, on balance, I consider this a worthwhile addition to my M Roadster—at least until Santa brings me a UUC shifter.

UUC M Roadster/Coupe Short Shift Kit

Pros: Reduced shift throw, solid shifts (no “play” in linkage)
Cons: Requires some crawling on the ground if you don’t have access to a lift
Cost: List price: $300 (from UUC motorwerks)

The UUC motorwerks M roadster/coupe short shift kit comes with all the parts you need to reduce the shift throw of your M roadster or coupe by 15-20%. The kit includes a replacement M roadster shifter lever with a custom bend in it, a CNC machined adaptor to mate the shift lever to the shift selector rod, all clips, pins, washers, and lubricant needed for the installation, replacement Delrin bushings for the shift carrier, and a special tool for removal of the shifter cup.

The kit also comes with a 17-page booklet detailing every aspect of the installation. The instructions are detailed, but it is wise to take some time to familiarize yourself with all the different terms used before beginning, and to constantly go between looking at the parts on the car and the pictures and descriptions in the booklet. If you don’t know what all the parts are (I didn’t when I started), it may not be immediately obvious what the “carrier” is, for example.

Besides all the parts in the kit, you will need some tools. An 8mm hex bit or 8mm allen hex wrench is absolutely necessary. You will also need some blue “Loctite” threadlock. A small hammer may be necessary to tap some things into place, and a flashlight is a must. A large flat-bladed screwdriver is needed, and snap ring pliers (tips to the side, not straight out) and work gloves are recommended although not absolutely necessary (I made do without them, but having them would have made the job easier). You will also either need access to a lift (recommended if you have any chance to get your car on one) or jackstands to lift the front of the car. Two final notes before beginning: First, make sure the car is cool. You will be working all around the exhaust. Second, some parts of the installation are almost impossible without two people. For example, sometimes one person will need to be under the car, working to attach something to the bottom of the shift lever, and at that time it is very useful if you have someone else above the car to hold the shift lever in place and keep it from flopping around.

Step 1 is to remove the shift knob by pulling up on it forcefully. Be careful not to mash your nose, and also be careful not to rip loose the wires for the lighted shift knob that M roadster and coupes feature. After you have the shift knob loose, pull on the leather boot on the sides towards the center and lift the boot up. This will expose a foam insulating insert which covers the connection to the lighted shift knob.

Tug the foam insert up out of the way and unplug the connector for the lighted shift knob. You should now be able to set the shift knob, leather boot, and foam insert to the side.

If you feel like having a little fun at this point, you could try driving your car around the block using just the stub of the shift lever–the effort is noticeably increased, but you get a great Miata-like feel to the shifter. This just makes you look forward to getting the short shift kit fully installed!

Notice in the pic of the bare shift lever that there is a rubber boot around its base. Your next step is going to be to pull up on it to remove it.

Once the rubber boot is off, you can see the top of the aluminum carrier. In this is the nylon cup which holds the ball of the shift lever in place.

Now that the rubber boot is out of the way, push the shift lever to the right and look down on the left hand side of the carrier underneath it. You should see a circlip. This clip is what is holding the selector rod in place in the hole in the bottom of the stock shift lever. You can push the clip off with a screwdriver, use a pair of snap ring pliers to remove it, or push it off with a gloved hand. After removing it, remove the small yellow washer and you should then be able to push the selector rod pin out of the shift lever.

I was naive about how the shifter lever in an M roadster actually connected to the transmission. I had no idea what a “carrier” was. The carrier is a metal piece that attacnes to the top rear of the transmission and extends rearward into a rubber fitting behind the shift area. The shift lever itself has a round ball that mounts into a nylon cup which fits in the circular area of the carrier. The bottom of the shift lever is under the carrier and attaches to a selector rod which extends forward to the transmission. The UUC instructions are about to tell you to remove the nylon cup and then to remove the carrier. This is a picture of the carrier next to the car so you can realize how long it is–this will keep you from a little bit of puzzlement as you try to figure out where various clips are (that you need to remove) in relation to the shifter lever.

I’m going to fast forward a bit in the installation. The instruction booklet from UUC contained better pictures than I could take with my camera–since I didn’t have the car on a lift, I just didn’t have room to try to take any pictures from under the car. The UUC instructions clearly take you through removing the shifter cup (either with the supplied shifter cup removal tool or, in a pinch, with a pair of small screwdrivers). The instructions then take you through removing a clip/pin that attaches the front of the carrier to the top of the transmission. Take your time feeling out where the carrier ends and where this clip is. It is not immediately obvious and is hard, if not impossible, to see–you just have to feel along. The clip can be hard to pry up–as the instructions say, “some cursing and swearing tends to make the job easier”. I really recommend trying this tip, as it really works!

Once you have the carrier out of the car (see picture above of it laying next to the car), you can remove the stock rubber bushing shown already out at lower right in this picture) and replace it with the Delrin bushings shown on either side of the hole in the carrier in this picture.

Before reinstalling the carrier, you need to flip the selector rod (which is currently still attached at the transmission end) from side to side and end to end. You will need to remove a circlip from it at the transmission end just like you did at the shift lever end. Make sure to note where yellow washers are used when you take it off and put new ones (supplied with the UUC kit) in place when you reinstall the selector rod. When you take the selector rod out, you should see that in its original position, it had its pins pointing towards the left side of the car, and had a “kink” or bend in it near the transmission end, which bend “pointed” up, giving the rod a little clearance over the driveshaft. When you flip the rod end to end and side to side, you will be reinstalling it with the pins pointing to the right side of the car. If done properly, the kink will now be towards the rear of the car and will still be pointing “up”. This is important to maintain clearance of the drive shaft.

After moving the selector rod, you now need to reinstall the carrier. Again, the clip that fastens it to the transmission is going to give you fits. UUC provides a replacement clip, which you need because you will probably destroy the original clip when you remove it. Make sure to get the replacement clip snapped down all the way when you install it.

Once the carrier is back in place, you should slip the UUC-provided new nylon cup over the ball of the shift lever, slide the cup into the hole in the carrier, and snap it into place as per the instructions. Use the provided grease to lubricate the ball of the shifter before placing it in the nylon cup. Unlike the stock lever (shown at bottom of picture), the UUC lever (top of picture) has a bend in it. Make sure that the lever leans towards the back of the car, and that the bottom part of the lever is also pointing towards the back of the car.

You now will install the supplied adaptor onto the bottom of the shift lever. Note that it can be installed in one of two positions. You should install it in the 15% reduction position to match the way you have now flipped the selector rod. Continue with the instructions to attach the selector rod to the adaptor.

Back to the rubber boot–after you have the shift linkage reassembled, and you have tested your way through the gears, you need to reinstall the rubber boot. The instructions do tell you to make sure to get the bottom of the rubber boot around the top “lip” of the carrier. However, they don’t say that the best way to do this is probably from beneath the car. Get your fingers up in there and tug the boot down around this lip–this is important to keep dirt from getting in the pivot point of the shift mechanism. After reinstalling the rubber boot, reinstall the foam insulation, reconnect the lighted shifter wires, and reinstall the leather boot and shift knob, all in the opposite of the order in which you took them off.

gear pair Stock

throw UUC

throw difference





4-5 3 11/16″

3 3/4″

3 11/16″

3 11/16″ 3 3/16″

3 3/16″

3 3/16″

3 1/4″ 1/2″



7/16″ So, what is it like when you are done? I took the following measurements. In general, the UUC short shift kit reduces the throw about one-half of an inch between each pair of gears. This may not sound like a lot at first, but it certainly feels different when shifting and is a very nice change. The shifter feels like it should have come this way from the factory.

The animation below shows the stock shifter on the left and the UUC shifter on the right. This gives you some idea of what it is like to shorten your shift throw the UUC way.

All in all, I recommend the UUC short shift kit. The installation is difficult for a first-timer, but having been through it once, I think it would be much easier the second time around now that I know where all the components are and what they look like. It feels great in my car, and I have been enjoying it each day since I installed it.

Discuss this article and other Convenience upgrades in the

///MZ3.Net discussion forum.

APE Short Shift Kit

Pros: Very short shift throws
Cons: Hard to install, made my shifter sloppy
Cost: $99

However the installation procedure was long and painful, mainly because the installation instructions were not only bad THEY WERE WRONG. If I knew what it was going to take I probably would have passed on this kit. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is if you want a short shift kit, have a garage mechanic install it. He’ll have a lift so he won’t have to lay on his back, and he probably has tools designed to work in cramped spaces. Print out the installation webpage and hand it to him, he can probably do it within an hour (where it took me over 3).Yet another example of “You get what you pay for”. Once I got the APE short shift kit installed I was somewhat pleased with the results. Given the relatively low price I initially thought I got $99 worth of satisfaction out of AutoThority’s product.

The shift is definitely shorter and more comfortable, however there seems to be a little more wiggle/looseness in the stick when the car is in gear (especially 3rd). This is hard to describe but when the transmission is in 3rd gear I can move the stick left and right about three-quarters the distance of the shift knob. At first this slightly annoyed me but now I’m really bugged by it. The shift just doesn’t feel right, I would prefer the shift be tighter, enough so that I actually crawled back under the car and removed the entire assembly to see what stock felt like again. Once I felt the longer but tighter stock shift I decided to leave the short shift kit off. After talking to a few others that have the APE short shift kit it appears that a few owners (but not the majority) developed the same sloppy feel that mine did.

I guess the bottom line is I wish I never would have wasted my time and money on this kit.


For $99 I got a sheet of paper, a metallic purple aluminum piece, a bolt, a washer, and a c-clip. So I definitely did not receive $99 worth of parts, I’ll have to wait until it’s installed to see if I got $99 worth of convenience.

Step 1 of the instructions said, to lift the car so that you can work under it. This is harder than it sounds but I managed to get the car up on some jack stands that left just enough clearance room to slide under the car.

Step 2 of the instructions said, LOCATE THE SHIFT LEVER UNDERNEATH THE CAR – it is located directly below the shift knob, underneath the car along the centerline. It is just above the driveshaft. This picture is deceptive because I was able to stick a camera into this area, in reality you will never get this good a look at the connection. The shift lever is directly above the catalytic converter (which would have been a useful addition to the instructions). Between the catalytic converter and the shift lever is a heat shield and the drive shaft. Because of this you have very little room to maneuver. Basically I had enough room to get one hand into this area, and then I couldn’t see what I was doing. But get use to this, 90% of this installation will have to be done by touch alone. You can get a little extra room if you unscrew the six circle looking screws that are holding the heat shield in place. You can’t remove the heat shield but this will lower it an extra inch or so and make installation much easier.

Step 3 of the instructions said, SLIDE THE SNAP RING OFF AND REMOVE THE YELLOW WASHER. This was very difficult to accomplish, I ended up loosing the C-Clip and cutting two of my fingers trying to pull it off, and carefully removing the yellow washer (which is plastic). The instructions don’t tell you to do this but your going to half to any way. Go ahead and carefully pull the shift rod towards the passenger side. BE CAREFUL there is a plastic yellow washer on that side too and you don’t want to loose it.

Apparently what has happened here is the creator (Authority Performance Engineering) thought the shift link (the gold rod) was designed to enter the shift rod on the drivers side (maybe that’s the way it is in a 3 series). However as you can see from the picture above, the rod is on the passenger side. Because of this you will need to reverse what the instructions say to do to keep the rod on the passenger side.

I found that it was much easier to install the adapter if I removed the entire rod and do some of the work outside of that cramped space. (This was not included in the instructions). Follow the gold shift link rod forward until you find where it connects to the transmission. You wont be able to see it but in this picture I held a mirror up so you can see that it attaches just like the rear with a C-Clip and two plastic yellow washers. Remove the clip (which is on the driver side and one of the plastic yellow washers. Then slide the gold shift link rod towards the passenger side and free it from the link BE CAREFUL there is also another plastic yellow washer on the passenger side to.

At this point the entire gold shift link rod is loose and you can remove it. Once it is removed we can easily install the short shift kit. Honestly I don’t think I could have installed these parts in that tight enclosure. On one end of the gold shift link rod put on one of the plastic yellow washers, then the purple aluminum piece, then the other plastic yellow washer, then the C-Clip that came with the kit. The direction you install the purple piece makes a difference, make sure the more open (machined out) end is facing away from the 90 degree joint in the gold shift link rod. (Just look at the picture). At this point we’re half done, take a break, give your hands a rest and have a beer.

Okay crawl back under the Z3 and reattach the gold shift rod at the front (transmission). Remember to insert the rod from the passenger side (opposite what the instructions tell you to do) with a yellow washer on each side and then use the C-Clip on the driver side. Once this is done reposition yourself to stick you hand back to the rear link and reinstall the rod on that end. This is going to be very frustrating, but the purple piece will go on the passenger side and a bolt and washer will be installed from the driver side. The problem I ran into hear is trying to tighten the bolt. I barely had enough room for my hand, the combination of my hand, a socket wrench was nearly impossible. I could feel my way to put the socket on the bolt, but then I had to move my hand back to the socket wrench handle and half the time the socket ended up dropping off the bolt. When I got it too stick I could only turn the bolt one click on the ratchet. Basically it took 30 minutes (no kidding) to tighten this bolt. I almost gave up to and buy a slim power socket but my determination prevailed.