While we mostly stick to automotive tool and product reviews, occasionally we enjoy rambling about other things that strike our fancy. In this case, we wanted to share some of our musings about short shift kits. Short shift kits are kind of funny in that they are often marketed as performance enhancing, however the manner in which most people implement them actually degrades performance while making the whole shifting mechanism clunky compared to stock.
Most often, we see short shift kits installed in modified street cars. In most of these cases, these types of cars are slammed to the ground on cut springs, run wide wheels with stretched rubber tucked under rolled fenders, and so on. That is to say that they are modified for cosmetics more so than actual performance. A quick peek inside, if you can see through the 5% tint on the windows (ok, now we’re just being a little mean spirited), often reveals a shift knob that barely protrudes past the top of the center console. For the luxury of a kind of lame looking gear shift lever, these drivers pay the price in hard, clunky, high effort shifts that they affectionately describe as “notchy.” About the only advantage these types of short shift kits win you is style points, if that’s your thing…
What Is A Short Shift Kit?
But enough about that. Let’s talk about what a short shift kit is and why you’d want one. First, a shift lever is typically comprised of two levers opposite each other on a spherical fulcrum. One of these levers, the gear shift lever, is what you put your shift knob on. The other lever connects to your transmission’s shift linkage. Short shift kits typically increase the length of the transmission linkage leverin order to make shift throws shorter. Unfortunately, some also reduce the length of the gear shift lever to achieve the same end but this is usually a product of poor design.
What Is The Real Performance Benefit To A Short Shift Kit?
Well engineered short shift kits have two performance goals in a manual transmission car. The first is to improve your shift times and the second is to minimize the time your hands are off your steering wheel to shift. When it comes to improving shift times, very little can be done to a stock transmission to improve the time it takes to mechanically switch gears (short of banging gears, which you can do with any length shift lever). The real improvement comes because a short shift kit allows you to run a longer gear shift lever without an unnecessarily long shift throw, which moves your shift knob closer to the steering wheel. This means it takes less time to move your hand from your steering wheel to your gear lever and back. Not only does this decrease your overall shift time, but also keeps your hands on your steering wheel longer, allowing you to maintain better control of your car. In short, if you plan to run a short shift kit, it should be to compensate for a longer shift lever.
As you have probably realized, many of the short shift kits that you see installed on cars actually have the opposite effect than intended. The reality is, properly implemented short shift kits have very limited application for street use. A well executed shoft shift kit would likely make your gear lever high enough to block your access to A/C and radio buttons. Our advice is to really be honest with yourself about why you want a short shift kit. If you want to improve performance, install a short shift kit correctly with a longer shift lever. If you want to improve cosmetics, just realize that you are in for some rough shifting.