Car Shifter Buyer’s Guide
- A vehicle’s shifter is a metal lever that’s connected to the shift assembly in manual transmission vehicles. It’s also known as the gear stick, gear level, or the gearshift.
- Shifters are usually found between the front seats of the vehicle, particularly on the center console, or on the dashboard. In some vehicles, shifters are bolted directly on the floor while others are mounted on the steering column itself.
- Some people replace their old gear sticks for purely aesthetic reasons. Others replace their gear sticks because of damage.
- Before you replace your gear stick, you have to make sure that it’s the cause of the issue. A stiff gear stick is typically caused by clutch and transmission fluid or cable problems. Replacing the shifter or gear stick can affect the functionality of your entire transmission.
- When choosing a replacement shifter, you have to consider the compatibility, design and material, durability, and accessibility. Aftermarket shifters can go head-to-head with OEM parts without prompting you to go over your price range.
- Aftermarket shifters can cost you around $40 to $550. This range depends primarily on the compatibility, quantity, material, and brand of the part.
- CarParts.com has a vast selection of quality aftermarket shifters for an unbeatable price.
The transmission is one of the key components of a vehicle. It’s made up of a complex series of gears, discs, and hundreds of other moving components that transfer the engine’s power to the wheels so it can move at different speeds. Without it, the vehicle won’t be able to move and/or maximize the power of the engine.
The shifter or gear stick allows the driver to select the mode in which the vehicle runs by altering the configuration of the transmission’s gears. Find out more about this important component with this short but informative guide.
What Is a Shifter?
A vehicle’s shifter is a metal lever that’s connected to the shift assembly in manual transmission vehicles. It’s also known as the gear stick, gear level, or the gearshift. This part’s counterpart in automatic transmission vehicles is called a gear selector.
Shifters are usually found between the front seats of the vehicle, particularly on the center console, or on the dashboard. In some vehicles, shifters are bolted directly on the floor while others are mounted on the steering column itself.
Gear shifters are usually made up of a long shaft with a gear or shift knob on top. The knob often includes a diagram of the shift pattern of the gear selection of the vehicle. Manual transmission vehicles typically have up to six gears and have a more complex shift pattern than automatic transmission vehicles, which usually use the PRND(321) format.
Most first-time drivers opt to drive an automatic transmission vehicle because they don’t have to memorize gear shift patterns and their uses. However, learning how to use a gear stick is handy and can be useful in emergency situations.
American vehicles used to have column shifters since 1939 until a bit recently. This type of shifter allowed vehicles to have a full bench-type front seat, which was common in those eras. Column shifters are still found today on some pickup trucks, emergency vehicles, and vans.
Vehicles used by law enforcement and emergency medical service providers cannot have a usual floor-bolted or center console shifter. Vehicles used in these applications are required to have a mobile data terminal or two-way radio, both of which are typically installed where the center console shifter should be.
How Does a Shifter Work in a Manual Transmission?
In manual transmission vehicles, the gearbox is the second “stage” in the transmission system, the clutch being the first. The gearbox is usually bolted to the rear of the engine and contains the transmission’s gears. Modern manual transmission vehicles typically have four to five forward speeds, a reverse, and a neutral position.
The gearstick is the lever that’s operated by the driver and is connected to selector rods at the top or on the side of the gearbox. These selector rods run parallel to the shafts that bear the gears. Constant-mesh gearboxes are the most popular design because of their efficiency.
Constant-mesh gearboxes have three shafts: the input shaft, the layshaft, and the mainshaft. The engine is what drives the input shaft which then turns the layshaft. The layshaft helps rotate the gears that are affixed to the mainshaft. The gears are free to rotate until a synchromesh device locks them into place.
The gear stick has a fork at one end which moves the synchromesh device. The synchromesh device then engages the gears inside the gearbox. A Baulk ring is installed in the synchromesh device that prevents the engagement of the gears until the shaft speeds are all the same or synchronized.
When Should You Replace Your Vehicle’s Shifter?
Some people replace their old gearsticks for purely aesthetic reasons. In fact, shifters and gear knobs are made in all sorts of designs and themes that can match your vehicle’s overall look. Gear knobs are more often replaced component of a shifter since it’s easier to find novelty gear knob designs. Installing them also requires minimal effort and requires fewer tools.
However, there are some occasions where the shifter might be damaged or faulty. A broken or damaged shifter may cause injury to you as a driver or it may cause damage to other related transmission parts. Be sure to check with a certified mechanic before making any repairs.
Can You Change the Gear Stick in a Car?
You may try to move your shifter one day and ask yourself, “why does my gear stick feel stiff?” Is it time for a replacement if you notice this symptom? Can you really do it on your own?
You can change the gear stick in your vehicle. It might be a bit difficult for the average DIYer, but it’s possible. Shifter replacement requires common shop tools and around an hour or so of labor, depending on the circumstance.
There are several possible reasons why your gear stick feels stiff. The most common of which are clutch, transmission fluid issues, or transmission cable issues. However, proper diagnosis should always precede repairs like these. Before replacing the shifter, you have to be sure that it is indeed what’s causing your transmission problems. Otherwise, you might end up damaging the entire transmission system and that’s the last thing you’d want.
If you’re a seasoned DIYer, you can always use a repair manual or database to help you troubleshoot the issue. However, if you don’t experience working on the transmission of your vehicle, you should let a certified mechanic or technician do the job for you.
Things To Consider When Looking for a Replacement Shifter
Keep the following in mind when selecting a new shifter:
First and foremost, the replacement shifter you’re going to purchase must be compatible with your vehicle’s year, make, and model. While universal-fit shifters are an option, they tend to require the installer to make minor adjustments to it so it can be installed properly. This potentially doubles the installation time and effort required.
Material and Design
Gear sticks are typically made of a steel or aluminum shaft, and an aluminum, leather, or plastic knob. Shifter materials vary, so you have to keep in mind the style and look you need from a replacement shifter so it can match your vehicle’s interior trim.
You’ll need a gear stick that can last you a long time, so you have to choose a reliable replacement. The gear stick shaft should be able to withstand constant use and the knob shouldn’t come off as you’re driving. Make sure you source the replacement part you need from a reliable shop.
OEM vs Aftermarket
OEM shifters are manufactured by the original equipment manufacturer or other licensed affiliates. They’re prized for their quality, but they don’t come cheap. They also tend to have limited options for design and material.
Meanwhile, aftermarket shifters can easily match the quality of OEM parts as long as they’re sourced from a shop that you can trust. Aftermarket shifters also give you wider legroom for choosing the material and design you want. They’re also easily accessible as you can get them from most shops and online stores at a better price than OEM parts.
How Much Is a Replacement Shifter?
Aftermarket shifters can cost you around $40 to $550. This price range mostly depends on the part’s compatibility with your vehicle’s year, make, and model. Other factors can also come into play such as brand, location, type, series, and application.
Aftermarket shifters are usually sold individually but kits containing hardware and other components are also available. Floor and console shifters are the typical go-to types but other shifters may also be available.
Gearsticks also come in various colors and finishes. You can get chrome- or satin-finished gearsticks as well as polished ones, too. Some opt for primed, customizable shifters with matching trim so that they complement the vehicle’s interiors.
Finding the Right Fit
Looking for a reliable aftermarket shifter that suits your performance and aesthetic needs? Look no further because CarParts.com has a vast selection of quality aftermarket shifters for an unbeatable price. You can use the site’s vehicle selector tool to find shifters that are compatible with your vehicle’s year, make, and model. The advanced search console also lets you choose a shifter according to your price range and preference. Shopping for great car part deals has never been this quick and easy.