Power-Holding and Gear-Banging Improvements

January 12th, 2012

Text and Photos by Chris Tobin

The Sigma Short Shift kit from dieselgeek.com is a billet aluminum replacement for the stock shifter.

We specifically purchased a manual transmission-equipped TDI for the strength and reliability over their automatic counterparts, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. To many VW drivers (including us), the long shift throws from the factory setup seem like they would be better suited for a domestic truck than a German sport sedan.

To remedy the problem we turned to the VW experts at www.dieselgeek.com for one of its Sigma Short Shift kits. Additionally, because we know we will be making more power with our 1.9L BRM TDI in the near future, we decided to replace the 90,000-plus-mile factory clutch with a high-performance Stage 3 Endurance clutch and single-mass flywheel from South Bend Clutch, which is capable of handling more torque than our little 4-banger will ever make.

The team at South Bend Clutch makes clutches and kits from mild to wild that can serve as a standard factory replacement or tame a high-horsepower beast. After all, what good is newfound power if you can’t get it to the ground?

If you plan to make more power with your TDI, as we do, it is a good idea to get a clutch like this one from South Bend Clutch that can hold the power and put it to the wheels!

To install our new shift linkage, clutch and flywheel, we headed up to Knoxville, Tennessee, where the seasoned VW techs at MF Automotive would be able to easily install the new parts.

The entire installation of both the short shift kit and the clutch-and-flywheel kit took about six hours for Ché Garland, including the typical slow-downs for photography. He worked on both upgrades simultaneously, with roughly one and a half hours spent on the Sigma shift linkage upgrade and four and a half on the clutch upgrade. However, if you are planning to tackle the job at home, plan on a full day (and maybe even a little more), if you are doing both at the same time, as we did.

Most of you DIY-ers will be able to handle the Sigma Short Shifter kit installation in about an hour, especially if you follow the thorough dieselgeek.com online installation manual.

On the other hand, installing the South Bend clutch and flywheel requires removal of the axle shafts and transmission, so novice DIY-ers may be better served by leaving the installation to experienced VW technicians.

Additionally, Garland and the rest of the MF Automotive crew have vehicle hoists to securely lift the car to work on it, making it much easier to pull the transmission and replace the clutch and flywheel. It is not impossible to do this with a floor jack and jack stands, but it is much easier with a shop hoist.

As soon as we lowered the car from the hoist, we noticed an immediate improvement in both the clutch and shifter feel, with noticeably shorter and narrower shift throws and positive clutch engagement. On the negative side, the performance clutch and single-mass flywheel are considerably noisier at idle than the original setup, but the tradeoff is more strength and holding power from the performance clutch over the quieter factory clutch.

In addition, the factory dual-mass flywheels have been known to fail, leaving drivers stranded on the side of the road and saddled with expensive repair bills. So at this point, we can’t complain about a little clutch rattle that is barely audible over the radio playing at normal listening levels.

The dieselgeek.com Sigma shifter offers almost an inch of front-to-rear shift throw reduction with about a half-inch reduction in side-to-side shift throw. As dieselgeek.com owner Jim Royston told us in advance, the shifter was a little stiff and “notchy” through the first week of use. But after the new linkage components had broken in, our little Jetta TDI now shifts very nicely, and we really appreciate the sportier feel of the short shift throws.

We haven’t had a chance to get the car out on the track again yet, but we do expect to see a slight improvement in times with the shorter shift throws that will allow us to spend less time on the clutch and more time on the throttle.

Both dieselgeek.com and South Bend Clutch offer components to fit virtually all TDIs, so if you are looking to improve the “shiftworthiness” of your TDI, give them a shout and tell them that your friends at Diesel World sent you.


Bean’s Diesel Performance

Dept. DW

210 Rollin Coal Lane

Woodbury, TN 37190



Colt Cams

Dept. DW

2325 264th Street

Aldergrove, BC V4W 2L5





Dept. DW

431 Isom Road

Ste 115

San Antonio, TX 78216



Kerma TDI

Dept. DW

3000 Eaglebend Drive #13

Box 2142

Avon, CO 81620

877.KERMA-TDI (877.537.6283)


MF Automotive

Dept. DW

5611 Washington Pike

Knoxville, TN 37918



Royal Purple

Dept. DW

One Royal Purple Lane

Porter, TX 77365



South Bend Clutch

Dept. DW

709 West Jefferson Boulevard

Mishawaka, IN 46545



This is in the January 2012 issue of Diesel World magazine.

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