Paddle Shifters - All You Need to Know
Posted on December 13, 2021
Like it or not, cars are becoming less analog and more digital. The efficiency in safety, handling, fuel economy, power and luxury that are achievable with technology is astounding. One of the clearest signs of this change in gears (pun very much intended) for the modern driver’s preference is the rarity of manual transmissions and the popularity of the paddle shifter (aka flappy paddles). Originally created by Ferrari in the 80s and whole-heartedly adopted by Formula One race cars in the 90s to allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while rapidly changing gears for maximum control, the paddle shifter is no longer just a race car, or even a sports car, feature. Paddle shifters are now found in a vast variety of available vehicles - and not just the performance model versions either. Before we get too deep into the subject, let’s further explain, what is a paddle shifter? How does a paddle shifter work?
Paddle shifters allow you to change gears without engaging a clutch and/or using a traditional center console shifter. The paddle shifter overrides the automatic transmission (within certain parameters to ensure no damage is done) allowing the driver to choose the gear they are in to optimize performance and/or preference. For instance, drop a gear to overtake a vehicle on the hwy or start from a stopped position in a higher gear on a snowy road. The flappy paddle is usually attached behind the steering wheel (and would therefore move along with the wheel) or on the steering column (and would thus stay in place as the wheel moved in circles). Choosing to use the paddle shifter instead of allowing the automatic transmission to automatically run through the gears allows for a more engaged driving experience, when you want it.
How to drive using a paddle shifter?
For those not familiar with standard transmissions, the idea of selecting your own gears may not interest you and/or you may not know where to start - the good news is, you don’t have to if you don’t want to - those flappy paddles can be left unused for the duration of your vehicle’s life and nothing negative will come of it.
If you do want to enjoy the added control of manual gear changes, the paddle shifts are simple to use - just press the paddle with the (+) symbol to go up a gear and the paddle marked with a (-) to go down a gear. If you are in manual mode and do not shift when appropriate, the vehicle will not allow you to cause damage to the engine and will make the correct gear change if necessary.
Personal preference will dictate the times you choose to be in manual gear change mode but the times it will be the most useful is when you want your engine to respond in a manner that isn’t necessarily intuitive for the automatic transmission. For example, to slow your vehicle down without braking before a sharp turn or in icy weather and/or to assist with tow loads, hills or overtaking a vehicle with ease.
Paddle shifters might just be one more reason manual gearboxes are becoming extinct, but hey, it is good enough for F1, it’s good enough for you right?
Have any questions about automatic or standard transmissions? Want to know which Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler/RAM/Fiat vehicles come equipped with flappy paddles? Reach out to one of our Product Advisors at carhub.ca/contact for more information.
Sharon has been in the auto industry since 2005 and has worked both in the Sale and Service Department of various New, Used, Domestic and Import brands.