Piston Slap: Bringing the notch to an STI’s shifter

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Subaru

Thanks to everyone that contributed a question to Piston Slap in the last week—your efforts are appreciated. Feel free to reach out to pistonslap@hagerty.com any time in the future. Now, let’s get to it! – SM

Alain (quite succinctly) writes: 

How do I make my 2016 Subaru WRX STI manual transmission feel notchier?

Sajeev answers: 

This is a fantastic question! Let’s start with a look at the factory STI shifter, part no. C1010VA001 if I googled it correctly. Even if I got it wrong, this shifter isn’t too far off from whatcha got.

Subaru short throw shifter WRX STI
Subaru

The level of complexity is a far cry from the shifters I’ve experienced with my Fox-bodys, but no matter—the salient fact is that all shifters (in non-race cars) connect you to the gearbox with some level of NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) dampening. Some use way too much (cough, BMWs) but it’s usually just a matter of replacing squishier parts with firmer ones to get the notch-like action we all want in our manual transmissions. So focus on the black, round donut at the end of the rod in the photo above: Factory specifications generally require these to be made of rubber, for aforementioned NVH concerns.

Switching to a harder, polyurethane bushing might get you the feel you so desire. You might also need the bushing on the other end to complete the package. Or maybe you want to go whole-hog and replace these bushings with solid brass bits? Either way, these modifications will add extra vibration and noise, but to like/dislike the change is a subjective matter: Only you know what’s right for you.

My guess is swapping out all black rubber bushings for red polyurethane from shift knob to gearbox will get the job done. That said, I was shocked at the variety of bushings and vendors that can improve shift feel on these Subies. Will this ever make a WRX STI shift like a Hurst equipped T-56 or (my personal favorite) a T-5 with an MGW billet shifter? Probably not, but it’s a worthwhile upgrade that you’ll certainly appreciate. Well, at least I’d like to believe that.

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