How to use paddle shifters and how to retrofit them | Are there any precautions when using them? |MOBY [モビー]

“Paddle shift” is one of the driving items used in vehicles other than MT vehicles, including AT vehicles. AT vehicles automatically shift gears, and you can drive comfortably without having to operate the clutch.

However, it is convenient to have a paddle shift when you want to change gears yourself and enjoy driving. This time, we will explain in detail how to use the paddle shift effectively, points to note, and whether it can be retrofitted to a car that is not installed.

What is paddle shift?


A paddle shifter is an item that changes gears to change the running of the car.

Other than MT (manual transmission) vehicles, it is used in vehicles that use the following transmissions.

  • AT (automatic transmission)
  • CVT (continuously variable transmission)
  • DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission)

The switch on the back of the steering wheel (handle) is eye-catching in cars with paddle shifters.

Gear shifting is possible by pulling a button-like or lever-like switch attached to the back of the steering wheel. It is characterized by being composed of two switches, and the right hand side is “+” to raise the gear, and the left hand side is “-” to lower the gear.

It is attractive that the driver himself can operate it according to the driving condition, such as raising from 1st gear to 2nd gear or lowering from 6th gear to 5th gear.

In the past, the case where it was installed in the AT car specification of the sports car was conspicuous, but in recent years, the paddle shift is standard equipment in other genres such as light cars, minivans, and SUVs.

How to use paddle shift


I will briefly explain how to use the paddle shifters.

There are some differences in the structure depending on the model, but the basic usage is the same, so you should be able to master it immediately.

Switch the shift lever to manual mode or operate the paddle shift

When using the paddle shift, it is often necessary to switch to “manual mode”. If you sit in the driver’s seat of a car, you can see that a stick-shaped or button-type “shift lever” is attached to the floor and instrument panel.

The shift lever of AT and CVT vehicles is characterized by a function called “range” such as “D” (drive), “N” (neutral), and “R” (reverse gear). By moving the shift lever to each range position, the car can move forward or reverse.

On vehicles with manual mode or paddle shift, there is a range position labeled “M” next to the D range. When the shift lever is moved to the M range, it switches to manual mode, and it is a mechanism that enables fine gear shifting from 1st gear.

On the other hand, there are also cars that adopt a system that automatically switches to manual mode by pressing and holding the paddle shift switch on the steering wheel. In addition to saving the trouble of operating the shift lever, it is characterized by an easy-to-understand display on the speedometer that it has switched to the M range.

In some cases, the gears can be raised and lowered using the paddle shifters without having to switch to manual mode. Since there are cases where the paddle shift system differs depending on the manufacturer and model, it is a good idea to check how to use it in the instruction manual.

Shifting gears with a switch on the steering wheel

A paddle shift switch on the steering wheel shifts gears. It features the ability to switch to manual mode or use the direct paddle shift to raise or lower gears from first gear.

The LCD screen on the speedometer displays the number of gear stages (such as “1” and “2”) along with “M”. It makes it easier for the driver to understand which gear stage the car is in, and it will be useful for appropriate pedal operation such as accelerator and brake.

Advantages and disadvantages of paddle shift

@Tomasz Zajda/

I will explain the advantages and disadvantages of using the paddle shift from each point of view.

Although it has the advantage of being able to drive without anxiety compared to MT vehicles, it seems to have the disadvantage of not being able to change gears freely.

[Merit]You can change gears without taking your hands off the steering wheel, so you don’t have to worry about the engine stalling.

One of the advantages of using paddle shifters is that you can change gears without taking your hands off the steering wheel.

MT vehicles are mentioned as vehicles that can shift gears, but because they involve operation with the clutch pedal, there is a possibility of engine stalling (a symptom in which the engine stops when the gears are not connected).

However, with the paddle shifters installed on AT and CVT models, you can shift gears without taking your hands off the steering wheel, and enjoy gear shifting and acceleration at your favorite timing.

[Disadvantage]There are cases where gear shifting cannot be performed at the desired timing.

The disadvantage of using paddle shifters is that you cannot change gears at your preferred timing.

Compared to MT vehicles, the advantage is that mistakes such as accidentally shifting from 1st to 4th gear are less likely to occur. On the other hand, the paddle shifters used in ATs and CVTs can only shift gears one step at a time, so you may feel dissatisfied if you can’t drive as you want.

Also, when you want to keep your speed down on a downhill, you can skip gears from 4th gear to 2nd gear if you have an MT car. However, you will feel that you cannot drive as you expected because you cannot skip gear shifts with a car equipped with paddle shifters.

Effective use of paddle shift

@Евгений Вершинин/

I picked up two effective ways to use the paddle shift.

All of these are useful ways to make the most of the benefits of having paddle shifters and enjoy driving. Enjoy a comfortable drive with gear shifting while paying attention to safe driving.

Enjoy gear shifting similar to MT vehicles

One of the effective ways to use it is to enjoy the same gear shifting as MT cars.

When the M range (manual mode) is used, the gears are shifted in order from 1st gear when starting. In MT vehicles, it is easy to make mistakes in gear shifting because clutch operation is also involved. Even for smooth acceleration, careful clutch operation and accelerator handling will be required.

However, with a paddle shifter equipped with an AT or CVT, there is no need to operate the clutch, and you can change gears without worrying about the engine stalling. As with MT vehicles, it is necessary to loosen the accelerator pedal before shifting gears, but even people who are not confident in driving MT vehicles will enjoy driving.

Drive downhill safely with engine braking

Another effective use is to use the paddle shifters to lower gears when you want engine braking.

For example, when entering a steep downhill on a mountain road, there are many opportunities to see a road sign telling you to “shift to 2nd gear.” By lowering the gear, the burden on the brake pedal is reduced while suppressing the speed, and there is an advantage that you can run downhill safely.

Heavy use of the brake pedal on downhills tends to cause high heat in the brake pads and brake discs. There is a danger that the “inertia” (the phenomenon in which the car continues to move without stopping) cannot be suppressed, and the car will not stop.
If you use the paddle shift to apply the engine brake, you can operate it at hand, so you can efficiently adjust the speed on downhills.

Can paddle shifters be retrofitted?


It is essential to check with the manufacturer, etc., because adding functions as retrofits to models that do not have paddle shifters varies depending on the model.

Third-party paddle shifters are available for commercial vehicles of each automaker. However, it is not necessarily compatible with all car models, so you will need to confirm with the manufacturer in charge of manufacturing or check the product overview.

In addition, there is also a method of transplanting paddle shift parts used in higher grades to lower grades even in the same model. If you transplant, there are cases where various warranties such as “new car warranty” are not covered, so it is a good idea to check with the dealer or repair shop.

[Example]Cost for retrofitting paddle shift

We will introduce the cost of installing paddle shifters later, using a certain domestic manufacturer’s model as an example.

The main body of the paddle shifter and mounting parts are included in the set, and the installation fee is roughly determined, so it seems that it can be installed for about 30,000 yen. The amount varies depending on the manufacturer and model, such as domestic and overseas, so it is a good idea to check with the dealer when you want to install it.

Paddle shift mounting set From 22,000 yen
Installation fee example From 8,000 yen
total amount From 30,000 yen

*Amount including tax

Precautions when using paddle shifters

The point you want to pay attention to when using the paddle shift is the heavy use of engine braking.

Using engine braking when decelerating has the advantage of being able to adjust the speed appropriately and make it easier to control, but it puts a load on the engine and transmission.

Not only will it cause the engine and transmission to run out of order, but it can also shorten the life of the vehicle itself. It is best to avoid using the engine brake with the paddle shift every time you stop at a traffic light in town or in the suburbs, and use it only in cases where you are likely to overuse the brake pedal, such as when going downhill on a mountain road.

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