Just so you know, there’s a couple of pics of my injury down below. That’s why I put NSFW in the title. It’s not terribly gory, but there is some blood. Unfortunately my own…..
This is a tale of two stories. The first is a dive into the install of a short shifter for my 2021 WRX .The second is a tale of woe, blood, and the emergency room. Ye have been warned if you’re queasy.
The day started out so perfect. I had the day off of work and the wife was out of town. The weather was perfect and I had all the time in the world to get this project done.
WRX’s don’t have the most high-precision stock shifters. The throws are kind of long and the feel is a bit rubbery. To remedy this situation, I purchased a few tasty upgrades. I bought a Raceseng Stratos Aclantara heavy weight shift knob, and I bought a short shifter kit from Billetworkz. It consists of a new shifter, a new shift stop, and a brass bushing that goes on a cable link.
Let me just tell you, for an amateur who doesn’t wrench very much this was a seriously daunting project. I could install a short shift kit on my old GTI in 15 mins. This install took 5 hours. Unless you add the 4 hours in the ER, then it was 9 hours total.
Here’s the link from Billetworkz on how to install their shifters. I must have watched this 5 or 6 times, and had it up during the actual work. It was crucial to getting the install done.
You have to get the car up on ramps and unbolt a bunch of stuff. Then you have to get inside the car and unbolt a fair amount of interior parts. Then you have to unbolt the shifter mechanism from the chassis, and then, and only then does the hard work start. The shifter mechanism has to be disassembled and the stock shift rod has to be removed. You reuse the stock housing and put the Billetworkz shifter into it. It ain’t no 15 minute GTI job, that’s for sure.
There were so many bolts from the whole shebang that I was worried I would misplace them. I got a box of ziplock bags and labeled them for each step so I’d know what goes where.
I hate getting under cars, but I had race ramps, wheel chocks, and I even backed up my wife’s Rogue right behind the rear bumper, in case it decided to roll off on its own. Which was silly because our driveway is pancake-flat.
After a lot of cursing and slightly busted knuckles, I got the shifter out and inside the house for disassembly. Everything was going well until the step where you have to knock a pin out of the stock shifter. I could not get that damn thing out. It would come half-way out and get stuck. I finally just hack-sawed it in half and got the stock shifter out.
Reassembly was the reverse of disassembly, as they say. I got it all put back together and I tested the gears in the car while it was still on the ramps. It all seemed good. I grabbed a few cans of Fluid Film to hit the underside again, because #winteriscoming and #rustysubaru keep me up at night. My hope is to hold off the rust demons as long as possible.
I was DONE. Time to test drive! But wait. There was the matter of the brass bushing. I had not installed it yet. A small transmission plate has to be removed to access the linkage where the bushing goes. It needed a 12mm box wrench.
And here’s where we segue into story two. The day was getting long, I hadn’t eaten lunch, and frankly I was tired. There was a little voice inside my head that said “Wait. Just wait until tomorrow to put the bushing on”. But no. The day had gone well, I had overcome any and all challenges. I could do this!
Here is what the CDC says about Work and Fatigue:
Fatigue has been broadly described as “a feeling of weariness, tiredness or lack of energy”...Fatigue can slow down reaction times, reduce attention or concentration, limit short-term memory and impair judgment.
Impaired judgment. Yeppers. I grabbed my 12mm box wrench. It was awfully short, and trying to loosen the bolt tucked up against the transmission would put my hand in a dangerous spot. But, hey. I’m a smart guy! I don’t need to dig out the long 12mm wrench.
I put the small wrench up there, pulled, pulled some more, and dammit if that bolt wasn’t on tight. I tried again and SLAM! The wrench practically flew out of my hand and my forearm smashed into the fine, sharp, edge of the heat shield. Sharp as the finest knife you have in your kitchen.
Have you ever had a cut so clean and perfect that you don’t even notice it for a few seconds? Then the heat and burning starts. The heart beats faster and blood starts gushing.
I rolled out from underneath the car. My right arm was soaked in blood and I looked like a prop from a horror movie. I pulled my sleeve down with my left hand and saw exposed flesh, muscle, and blood was everywhere.
Ah panic mode. A certain calmness takes over in times of crisis. Maybe it’s the same gene EMT’s or nurses have. Blood, guts, fear…..the mind goes into survival mode. I grabbed the keys to my wife’s Rogue and drove to the hospital one-handed. You see, I was holding my right forearm together with my left hand as hard as possible to stop the bleeding - all the while steering with the bloody hell-hand. Thankfully it’s a short drive and there was almost no traffic.
A funny thing happens when you bust into the ER with blood everywhere. The nurses call out ”Blood!” and they run over to check you out. You know, make sure I hadn’t hit an artery or nerve or anything. Once they determined I wasn’t going to bleed-out or die, they tied a towel around my arm and sent me off to have a seat in the waiting room. I had a funny vision of Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice sitting in death’s waiting room, with all the smashed up dead people waiting to find out what happens to them.
Anyway, this story is getting long, so I’ll wrap it up. They gave me a tetanus shot, cleaned up the cut a bit, numbed me up, stitched me up, and sent me home.
The nurses and doctors were nice and I even had a few different nurses come in to see the cut. It was perfect with no jagged edges. They were just amazed at how neatly a car had sliced me open. It looked like the fishmonger had fileted me with his sharpest knife.
Moral of the story? Don’t bring a box wrench to a heat shield fight? No, no. You probably guessed it at the beginning. Safety third! No wait. Have healthcare before wrenching on your car! Or something like that. Well, maybe I’ll learn my lesson one day.
In the meantime, the shifter is fantastic. I put the shift stop in as well. No more slop, short shifts. It’s quite lovely.
The bushing is sitting here taunting me. But I think it can wait until spring….
And now for the pics you’ve all been waiting for.
The bloody sweatshirt has served me well for many a year. It is time to say goodbye!
The stitches. I counted 12!
The shifty shifter. Sorry for the dog hair. Labs gonna' lab.