What Is a Short Throw Shifter?
A short throw shifter is one of the easiest and least expensive performance upgrades that you can perform on your manual transmission car. Just like it sounds, a short throw shifter reduces the lengths of your throws (or shifts) by shortening the distance between your hand and the pivot point of the shifter.
A short throw shifter creates tighter, shorter gear shifts, and gives you all of the associated benefits that come from purchasing any aftermarket shifter, like having a better choice of materials that can create a more sturdy feel.
Stock Shifters vs Short Throw Shifters
Common complaints about stock shifters include that they feel mushy, and the throws are frequently so long that it feels more like rowing a boat lazily down a river than driving a sporty car. One of the easiest ways to fix this is to upgrade the shifter.
A short throw shifter is going to feel more solid and less sloppy than the stock shifter. Your hand also has to travel shorter distances, which means faster shifts can be completed with less arm movement. Some short throw shifter advocates claim they don’t even need to move their elbow to change gears with their short throw. Though we can’t verify this easily, and it will obviously depend on the driver, it doesn’t sound implausible and that should tell you something about how much a short throw shifter changes the length of your throws.
One of the things that manual drivers love the most about “driving stick” is that they feel really connected to the process of changing the car’s gears and feel in control of the process. All of this is easier when you can change gears in a smaller space and feel the rigidity of a more responsive shifter.
How Short Throw Shifters Work
Many people operate under the misconception that a short shifter is just a hacked down shifter. Please don’t chop up your shifter, it will not give you shorter throws and it’s just a bad idea. A short throw shifter isn’t just a shifter that is short.
The actual difference between a short shifter, a long shifter, and a stock shifter resides in the shaft. The shaft is the part of the shifter that travels between gears. A short shifter reduces the angle of that shaft, changing the pivot point. The result is that the bottom side of the shifter that you can’t see travels the same distance despite the shorter throw.
To see this in effect, while sitting grab a pen at its midpoint in one hand and hold it parallel to your leg so that the point is an inch away from your thigh. With your other hand, pull the pen back until the tip touches your leg, having traveled the full inch. Now, move the hand that’s holding the pen towards the end of the pen, so that more of the pen is below your hand rather than is above it. Then repeat the experiment. You won't have to pull the pen as far the second time, but the bottom will travel the exact same inch. You’ll also notice that it hits your leg with a similar amount of pressure regardless of your pivot point. That’s what it means to change the pivot point, and why you can reduce the length of your throw without it having any negative impact on your transmission.
The shaft of a short throw shifter is also usually shorter than stock, but that’s to reduce linear throw length in addition to angular length. The end result is shorter throws.
Benefits of Short Shifters
One expert estimated that in his experience short throw shifters could reduce the distance between throws by up to 70%. Obviously, that’s a significant difference and will vary considerably based on your car’s stock shifter as well as your choice of replacement.
Shorter throws improve both performance and safety. Quicker shifts mean being able to accelerate and decelerate quickly. This translates to speed when you want it, but it also means less effort and stress in intense braking situations and that you can have your hands on the steering wheel more often (a must for autosports like drifting).
Other benefits of shorter throws include not accidentally elbowing your passenger or knocking over a coffee cup. Being able to use the full space of your cabin allows for a lot of freedom.
There’s something about a short shifter that really epitomizes the “sporty” look, maybe because it is automatically functional. Unlike many other performance upgrades like hood scoops or spoilers, no one is installing nonfunctioning short shifters for looks. Every short shifter you see is guaranteed functional in addition to being much-improved looks-wise over the stock shifter.
Like many other upgrades, aftermarket shifters are also available in a variety of options allowing for true customization. All of which contributes to a Mustang look that is uniquely your own.
Improved Driving Experience
Most people who drive manual do so because they love the feel of it, but with a stock shifter it’s hard to really get the kind of responsiveness that people expect from a sporty vehicle. Upgrading to a short throw shifter improves every gear shift.
Few things will impact your driving experience as much as finding the shifter that’s right for you. You change gears many times every time you drive your car, and making each throw a little better is a worthwhile endeavor. For many a short throw shifter improves their experience, but if you prefer a long throw there are still great aftermarket options that will allow you to enjoy the increased responsiveness and durability of an aftermarket shifter.
Installing a Short Shifter
Even if you’re not a particularly adept fix-it person, it’s easy enough to install a short shifter. The most important thing is to be prepared in advance and not to rush it. As noted before, this is a part of the car that you touch literally every day. You want it to be installed correctly, and few things are worse than having a constant reminder of that one time you rushed things and really messed up your car.
- Flat-Head Screwdriver
- Quarter-Inch Ratchet
- Wrench Set
- Your New Shifter
- Gasket Scraper (Box Cutter)
- Hammer and a Block of Wood (Rubber Mallet)
- Thread Lock
Once you’ve gotten your materials together, read through your specific shifter’s installation guide. You can also watch this short video from Bill at CJ Pony Parts as he walks us through the process of installing a short throw shifter.
Sources: Step-By-Step Instructions: Installing a Short-Throw Shifter, Washington Post | Short Shifters- How Do They Work?, The Daily Star