In all candor, just going in and replacing the shifter bushings is too much work for the rewards it yields. Now that the job is done, the only way I would advocate anyone doing the job is to do it as part of another job. In this case, I did it when I was replacing the driveshaft coupler.

Because I knew I had to pull the exhaust, heat shielding and driveshaft I replaced the carrier bearing and the driveshaft coupler, also known as the “guibo,” I figured I’d do the shifter bushings “while I’m in there.” That’s a helpful approach because there is no way to do the job without removing the exhaust and the driveshaft anyway.

Luckily, the driveshaft coupler and the shifter bushings begin to get sloppy at roughly the same mileage. That said, this job is laid out from the time I got the driveshaft out and the coupler removed from the output shaft of the transmission.

The job itself isn’t too terrible. I rate it 2.5 out of five wrenches in terms of difficulty. A couple of things make it easier. One, if you buy a shifter bushing kit from one of your favorite BMW parts suppliers, it makes it easier to do a more complete rebuild of the shifter assembly. The kit I bought from ECS tuning included all the stock replacement bushings necessary for the repairs, but also the nuts, clips and pins that hold everything together. It doesn’t cost much more to do it this way, so it’s worth what little extra it costs. If you’re working on a racecar, there are kits available with stiffer bushings.

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Two, it helps if you remove the rear transmission mounting bracket, which spans the transmission tunnel and supports the transmission mounts. Replace those while you’re in there, too. By removing the mount, you can support the transmission with a jack, and it gives you room to move the transmission around just enough to get some of the retainer pins out and back in place. That will have its own picture and caption below.

I’d also recommend taking a photo of the shifter assembly from underneath before you take things apart. This is a BMW, after all, and it only goes back together one way.

Before doing any work under the car, pull up on the shifter boot to pop the frame from the console surround piece. Put the car in fourth gear and pull up and back on the shifter knob to remove it and the boot.
There are two Phillips screws in the rear of the shifter opening. Remove them and lift the console trim piece off the console assembly. Just lift it a little. There are two electrical connectors, one on each side. Remove them from the window switches.
There’s also a foam donut that you’ll need to remove and replace on this job. It helps insulate the cabin from road noise.
The shifter bushing kit from ECS Tuning includes all the bushings, pins, clips and special parts needed to fully rebuild the shifter assembly.
Under the car, here’s what you see when the driveshaft coupler comes off. At the front, you’ll have to remove the two pin clips that hold the shifter support frame to the transmission and the chassis, and the clip and pin from the shift shaft.
I figured I’d start with the clip that holds the shifter linkage to the shift shaft.
Because this car came from Phoenix, rust isn’t an issue, so everything came apart pretty easily. The retainer clip popped right off. This is a good point to remove the rear transmission mount so you can get to the rest of the hardware and wiggle the transmission around a little.
The shifter linkage slides right out of the shifter. Notice that it’s on the left side of the car, and the bend in the linkage arches upward toward the chassis. That’s the only way it goes back together and clears the driveshaft coupler.
The front of the shifter support frame is mounted to the upper rear of the transmission with one pin-clip on each side. Slip the retainer clip off the transmission and slide the pin out with a long, flat-blade screwdriver. This where it helps to be able to move the transmission from side to side, so the pin can clear the transmission tunnel enough to slide out of the transmission. Do both sides.
The rear of the shifter support frame connects to the chassis with a bushing inserted into a bracket. The bushing has slits in it to hold it in place on the chassis bracket. Pry it out one side at a time with a screwdriver.
Once you get the chassis bushing off, the shifter drops out. The lower shift boot has a collar and groove that slips over the opening in the top of the transmission tunnel. Luckily, the one on the car was still good.
Out with the old and in with the new. Note the orientation of the old chassis bushing before slipping on the new one. On the new bushing at the bottom, you can see the slit that locks the bushing into place on the chassis bracket.
Lots of mileage and oil seepage have made the old shifter frame bushings mushy. They push out pretty easily with a flat-blade screwdriver. If not, a little penetrating lube helps.
The new shifter frame bushings go in easier with a little white lithium grease.
With both bushings in place, wipe off the excess grease.
The trickiest bushing to replace is the one that the shifter ball sits in. Use two screwdrivers to rotate the bushing clockwise so that the ramped tabs rotate out of the slots on the solid fore and aft sides of the opening. That presses the tabs in and allows the bushing to slip up and out of the shifter bracket.
When the tabs are rotated out of the slots, you can pull up on the shifter to pull the bushing out of the shifter bracket.
Clean everything up, and slide the new bushing on from the bottom. Here again, some white lithium grease helps things function smoothly.
Press in the new bushing with the tabs located where the sides are solid, then rotate the bushing counterclockwise so the tabs emerge in the slots.
Back under the car, the shift linkage is still attached to the shift shaft. There are three steps to follow in this one photo. Pull the circlip out of the groove on the bushing. It might go flying, but we have a new one, so no big deal. Pull the pin out that holds the bushing onto the shift shaft and remove the linkage.
Slip the new bushing over the linkage pin clip it into place in the groove on the dowel. Leave the circlip on the bushing, but out of the groove. The circlip is what holds the pin in place. Slip it into the groove after the pin is pressed through the shift shaft and both sides of the bushing. Celebrate that you can now start putting things back together.
The bushing is difficult to push onto the shift shaft because the spongy insert inside the bushing is new. Push the bushing onto the shift shaft, press the pin through and clip it in place.
Now it’s time to reinstall the shifter support frame. Press the pins through the transmission and through the shifter bracket, and then snap the clips down over the transmission.
With the front of the bracket in place, you can press the rear bushing slits back into the chassis bracket.
Once the rear bushing is locked in, reattach the linkage to the shifter. This is what it all looks like when it’s back together. Again, the linkage goes on the left side, with the bend arching upward toward the chassis. The bend is what allows the linkage to clear the driveshaft coupler.

Check out the driveshaft coupler story.

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Images courtesy of Eric Green and Eric Green

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