How To Use Paddle Shifters?

Brandon Trenton

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How to use paddle shifters

Did you know that out of cars produced in the US, only 2% have a manual transmission?

Technology has transformed the world of automotive. The introduction of paddle shifters has decreased the production of the manual car for long. Car manufacturers are more inclined to only deal with automatic transmissions and why they shouldn’t be? Paddle shifters allow drivers to be more in control while sitting at the back of steering. All you have to do is shift gears from the back of your steering wheel. The semi-automatic transmission works smoothly as compared to all other transmission types. No clue why we are such a big fan of paddle shifters and how to use them? No problem, read further, and you will get to know from A to Z.

What Are Paddle Shifters?

First off, to make it simple for you, let’s answer your first question, that is what paddle shifters are. Two triangular objects which are located just behind the steering at both sides are paddle shifters. You will find one calibrated with a positive sign and the other with negative.  Paddle shifters are designed for ease of driving. You can shift gears up or down depending on your driving preference without moving your hand.  This cool technology was designed in the 80s by Ferrari to use on their Formula One racing cars. Today you can find them in almost every sports car and an exotic vehicle.

You will find paddle shifters in every semi-automatic vehicle, which is designed to use them as a clutch. Once you shift the gear, an electric signal is transmitted to the processor for alerting the clutch to engage or disengage. This tremendous technology has served as a connecting ground between manual and automatic transmission.

What Makes Paddle Shifters So Valuable?

Talk about paddle shifters, and I would say superior drive experience. Installing paddle shifters is a smart idea. You must be thinking how? Let us clear the smog for you by shedding light on the benefits of installing paddle shifters.

1. Superior Performance

You must be thinking that automatic gear shifters do a great job for you already, but what about the superior drive experience for which you have invested in this asset?

Here comes a two-word solution. Yes, paddle shifters! As I mentioned above, you can increase the power and performance of your car by installing paddle shifters comprehensively. With paddle shifters, you are in total control of the gearshifts and your car. Who likes to be controlled by an internal computer which will monitor the revs and demands of the car’s engine? Nah! No one needs that.

2.  Less Wear And Tear

Have you thought why that 2% of cars with manual transmission are still preferred? The reason is faster acceleration, especially when starting the car from a stop. The automatic transmission doesn’t allow the gear to shift from a standing start without putting unnecessary strain on the engine. Whereas, manual transmission makes it much more difficult if you have the skill to shift the gears smoothly. This also results in excess strain on the engine.

You can start your car in first gear with a paddle shifter smoothly. It shifts the gear perfectly as soon as you push the accelerator. That’s not all. You get a better gas mileage and increased fuel efficiency with less damage and a prolonged guarantee of the engine.

3. Ensured Safety

What do you want while you enjoy to speed up on roads? Safety! Technology can solve everything for you within seconds, but what if the situation changes? You would have no control over the situation. An automatic transmission is unable to adapt to unexpected road conditions, for example, while it’s pouring heavily or as you overtake the car right next to you. In such situations, paddle shifters make it easy for you to lower the gear to drive slowly without using brakes. This saves your vehicle from skidding and sliding on the wet roads. Yes, that’s not going to help while overtaking, but it does. You can shift gears in the direction you want it. This way, you can accelerate it, making it easier for you to overtake as compared to an automatic transmission.

Step By Step Guide On How To Use Paddle Shifters

After getting hold of what paddle shifters are, now comes the next step, which is learning how to use them. Each paddle shifter is marked with a sign, as mentioned above. The right paddle shift is marked with a positive sign (+) while the left one has a negative sign (-) so can differentiate them without a problem. Your car will start at first gear using paddle shifters. The flashing indicator notifies you about the gear on which you are driving. You can switch gears as you change the speed of your car while accelerating just as it did with manual transmission. You don’t need to depend on a gearbox or a clutch to shift gears. Paddle shifters make you the real controller of the car.

Using Paddle Shifters in BMW

Step 1:

If you own a BMW, then first you have to move the gear lever to the left while staying in D mode. You can do it while your car is at rest or even in the middle of the driving. Shifting the lever to the left will turn the sport mode on. You can check it on your dashboard displaying “DS.”

Step 2:

After shifting the lever, you have to wait for a few seconds. Then move the paddle shifter up or down to activate it. Your car will stick on the same gear that you have selected until you change it while being in the sport mode. Well, considering the “what if,” in case you don’t change the gear for long and your engine’s RPM gets to extremes, then the car’s processor will regain the control of the car and change the gear its own to prevent the engine from the strain.

What makes paddle shifters standout from other transmission methods is that pulling on wrong gears will not damage your engine. The processor will only activate such gears that your car’s engine can tolerate restricting you from selecting damaging gears.

Using Paddle Shifters In Subaru

You will find fourth and fifth-generation Subaru with paddle shifters, but if you haven’t used it before, then it will be tricky for you to do it. Let’s follow a step by step guide to learn using paddle shifters on the Subaru.

Step 1:

First, you have to understand how the CVT transmission works. On an automatic transmission, your car will shift gear on its own. The most automatic transmission comes with a defined set of gear ratios, but CVT transmission allows you to drive through a number of gear ratios.

Step 2:

Now you have to move the lever to M for activating manual transmission or go with the automatic transmission using the paddle shifters, but you can do this for the time being.

Subaru paddle shifter tip: Using a downshift lever in the paddle shifter has long-term effects as per Subaru technical representatives. Hence, if you suspect CVT damage over time, then we would recommend you use paddle shifters, keeping its safety as a priority.

For example, you pull the downshift lever while driving down the hill to benefit from engine braking preventing the brakes from heating up. You can utilize this option while driving down the icy route, too, as it makes it easier to control your car moving at slow speed.

Downshift lever works perfectly while overtaking another vehicle or driving up the hill. Downshift increases the RPM of the car, giving it acceleration. This way, you can overtake the running next to you as easy as pie without compromising on fuel efficiency.

Step 3:

The third and last step is to learn how to switch into manual mode. Move the gear lever from M back to D to get back to the automatic transmission. Yes, all it takes a single stroke if the lever is in D position while you are driving them to move it to M first and then again to D to turn the automatic mode on. 

Using Paddle Shifters In Camaro

Camaro made it much easier to use paddle shifters by switching into the manual mode or keeping the car in driving mode for using the paddle shifters automatically. The best part about driving in manual mode is that your car will run on a particular gear until you shift the next gear. However, in driving mode, the car settings will restore back to the automatic setting within 15 seconds.

Moving the gear on downshifts in Camaro brings the car in the lowest gear for a safe drive automatically. You get a much quicker response on the Camaro in abrupt situations as driving up the hill or overtaking.


We get to an end here. Paddle shifters come with a number of advantages proving them as a perfect driving partner. They don’t only work in critical situations but also control mileage, improve performance, and save your engine from unnecessary stress. 

All you have to do is to keep a check on the regular maintenance of semi-automatic transmission to ensure its superior performance. After reading this article, it will be easier for you to use the paddle shifters next time.