An unlikely but perfect DIY combo
So this weekend I made some time to work on the car, since I had a sort-of christmas present UUC short shift kit that I really wanted to install. Since there's been a recurring O2 sensor code coming up, I though I'd do those while I had the exhaust separated and had easier access to the sensors. At 181,000 miles I figure I'll never have to do them again.
I was able to get the SSK in without removing the driveshaft or dropping the transmission, but if my hands were any thicker or shorter, I would have had no chance. The carrier stayed in place since I did not replace the selector rod. The UUC carrier bushing screws into the shift rod carrier with 6 tiny screws, which were rather difficult to do in place, but it still only took about 15 tedious minutes, and I only dropped one down into never never land; I think to R&R the carrier itself just to be able to have it on a workbench would have been much more than 15 minutes.
The O2 sensors spun out easily enough, using a cheap 7/8" (~22mm) wrench I picked up at a local hardware store. I figured if I had to hack it apart to get it in there, it was only $6.50 instead of $25 for an O2 sensor tool. It worked like a charm. You can feed the plug right through the box end of the wrench and then you've got great grip on the sensor and a nice long lever. I don't know if that configuration is unique to an XI but I was able to easily reach both sensors once the exhaust rear section was removed. Alternatively you could just cut the wires for the old sensors, but I saw no reason to do that since I used the old wire to pull a string down to route the new ones back up. It would have taken more time to get the wire cutters than to feed the 3 feet of wire through the wrench.
All in all, 3.5 hours total for both jobs, with a helper. And I love the feel of the SSK, my wife said it perfectly, "it feels exactly like it should." Throws aren't too short, and at the high mileage of my car, it tightened up the shifter feel just enough to make it feel much younger, but not too "notchy" or too difficult.