Home » Autos and Cars

Choosing A Performance Shifter

Aug 21, 2008
A grand technique to pick up a few precious fractions of a second while racing your ride is by dropping the amount of time it takes you to shift gears. Whether you are doing autocross, drag racing or track racing, the quantity of time it takes you to make a gear change is directly related to the numbers you will see when you pass through the timing lights.

One of the best ways to cut down on shift time is to put in what is called a short shifter. You might have seen a shifter in one of the cars at the track that looked a little stubby, or shorter than normal. It might seem as though these types of shifters would be more difficult to use, but the reality is that they provide the quickest shifts that you can get in a car equipped with a manual transmission.

A short shifter works by reducing the amount of movement that your hand has to make in order to shift gears. While it might look as though all that was done was to shave down the height of the shifter, a short shifter actually represents a fairly multifaceted piece of engineering. This is because the manufacturer has to keep the relationship between the shorter hand movement and the actual shift linkage the same as it was with the stock shifter height. Some cars can have the amount of shift travel reduced by as much as 60 percent. That can really speed you up both on the track and on the street.

Shift knobs or handles are another method of improving the speed and accuracy of a shift in a race car. A shift knob needs to be large enough to grip comfortably with the hand, but not so large that it feels awkward or gets in the way. The knob should also be made of a material which provides enough friction so that it wont slip out of your hand during fast shifts. This is why you might see shift knobs which are in the shape of a T, or which have a pistol grip, these modifications all help drivers keep their hands locked to the shifter at all times. The weight of the shift knob is also important. If the knob is too light, it wont act as an effective counterweight to the linkage underneath, and it will be harder to make smooth shifts. You might feel as though you are fighting against the linkage. A shift knob that weighs more than 500 grams is usually heavy enough to help you to shift effectively.

When it comes to automatic transmissions, some people prefer to shift with paddles on the steering wheel instead of using the manual control feature of the floor shifter. Paddles let you keep both of your hands on the wheel while performing a gear change, and while they might take a bit of getting used to at first, they can really improve the smoothness and speed with which you are able to control a semi-automatic transmission.
About the Author
Justina Mathews writes issues that currently affect the performance car enthusiast. She also writes about issues that affect the street tuner industry, as well as import scene lifestyle. She's a staff writer for high performance shifters .
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