One of the popular mods for many people after they have picked up a high performance car is to upgrade the shifter in some form or another. Factory shifters often leave a lot to be desired in terms of crispness and the length of the throw. So which method of shortening that throw and improving your shifts is best for you?
Well it’s a matter of personal preference when it comes down to it and in some cases it's both. There are two ways to get shorter shifts from your transmission and both help to improve performance and feel.
Short Shift Plate
A short shift plate, or shifter adapter is a device that attaches to the shifter cable that goes from the shifter arm or lever to the transmission. It moves the ball that the cable connects to a little closer to the input selector fork and this reduces the amount of throw necessary for changing gears.
There is no need to change the shifter in the cabin or pull apart plastic trim because the short shift plate is located at the transmission and is often quite easy to get too. On the new FA20DIT Powered WRX, it only takes a few minutes once the car is in the air to install the shifter adapter. On a Mazdaspeed 3 or Focus ST, it takes just a little bit more work as you usually have to remove the intake to get to the trans. Either way, it’s a super easy install and a very noticeable change to the way the car shifts gears.
The Short Shifter is a little bit more in depth than the Short Shift Plate. With this upgrade, the shifter assembly itself is changed, usually to a shorter shaft with a slightly different leverage point. Often, these are adjustable and allow you to change how short the throw is based on where you connect the shifter cable to the shifter lever.
This is the typically the better option for shortening your shifts because with the short shifter, you don’t have as much to worry about when it comes to binding. However, the install is a bit more involved than with the Short Shift Plate because you have to pull apart the center console to get to the shifter lever. I’m personally terrified of breaking plastic tabs and developing rattles so when it comes time to installing a short shifter, I make sure to take my time and not make annoying little mistakes.
Benefits of Both:
With a lot of shifter upgrade options, you will notice that the manufacturer lists a throw reduction in terms of percentage. For instance, Boomba Racing’s short shifter plate for the Focus ST, known as the Transmission Bracket, is advertised to give your car up to a 30% reduction in throw which is definitely something you can feel. But when paired with their Short Shifter as well, you can reduce the throw even further, by up to 51%. Since both are adjustable, there is a pretty big range of adjustability between them.
So for some, one or the other may not be enough of a reduction and both is needed. For others, only one may be needed to get the shifts feeling just right.