What Is a Short Throw Shifter?Last Updated December 4, 2023 | Meghan Drummond
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.
Short Throw Shifter vs Stock
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, and it obviously depends on the driver, that should tell you just how much a short throw shifter changes the length of your throws.
One of the things manual drivers love most about “driving stick” is that they feel connected and in control of the process of changing the car’s gears. Common complaints about stock shifters are that they feel mushy, and the throws are so long that it feels more like rowing a boat than driving a sporty car. That sloppiness is fixed when you shorten the space you're changing gears in. A short throw shifter accomplishes this and allows you to feel the rigidity of a more responsive shifter.
How Does a Short Throw Shifter Work?
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. 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.
To see this in effect, while sitting, grab a pen at its midpoint 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 than 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.
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's a truly functional upgrade. Unlike some upgrades, like hood scoops or spoilers, no one is installing a nonfunctioning short shifter just for looks. Every short shifter is there to do a job. It just happens to look a whole lot better than the stock shifter, too.
Like many other upgrades, aftermarket shifters are also available in a variety of options allowing for true customization. Once you find a style you like, you can add the finishing touch with a unique shift knob.
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 constantly when you drive a manual, and making each throw a little better is always worthwhile. For many enthusiasts, a short throw shifter improves their experience because it makes speed shifting and power shifting more enjoyable. 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 an expert at modifying cars, installing a short shifter can be simple, cheap, and really beneficial. Just make sure you're prepared and don't rush it. Each vehicle has a different installation process with varying difficulty and time requirements. Check out our install guides below to upgrade to a short throw shifter today.
- SN95 Mustang Short Throw Shifter Install (1994-2004)
- S197 Mustang Short Throw Shifter Install (2005-2014)
- S550 Mustang Short Throw Shifter Install (2015-2023)
- Ford Focus ST Short Throw Shifter Install (2013-2018)
Sources: Step-By-Step Instructions: Installing a Short-Throw Shifter, Washington Post | Short Shifters - How Do They Work?, The Daily Star