Do Weighted Shift Knobs Make a Difference?
Shift knobs have been around for as many years as there have been cars on the market. In the early years, custom gear shift knobs primarily served as more of a decoration than a performance-enhancing part of your vehicle’s transmission. Over time, custom shift knobs have evolved into weighted shift knobs, where additional mass is added to the knob. We get asked all of the time: Do weighted shift knobs make a difference? The answer is yes, weighted shift knobs offer several benefits. In modern cars, weighted gear shift knobs serve a very specific and beneficial purpose beyond just looking awesome: they can improve your driving experience.
Increased Weight Means Smoother Shifts
There are different ways that a weighted shift knob provides smoother shifts. First, the additional mass that a weighted knob provides will successfully smooth out the effect of notches and any resistance points. The resistance you normally encounter when shifting comes from the gate pattern and counter springs that are connected to your shift arm.
The smoothing is due in part to how the extra mass in a weighted knob provides more momentum (which is the product of mass and speed) as you shift between gears. You can only shift gears so fast, but adding additional mass to the gear shift increases the momentum. Once you initiate a shift between gears, the additional momentum allows the knob and arm to move over those resistance points without slowing or being affected by them, resulting in a smooth feeling shift.
The additional momentum and mass result in more energy in motion as the shifting process continues. The more energy available, the easier it is to engage in the selected gear. This results in a more continuous flow of movement as you shift from one gear to another. The weight and mass of a shift knob also serve to dampen (and thus reduce) the vibration you feel in your hand as you are shifting and can help eliminate unwanted vibration or road feedback. This further contributes to the smoother feel of the shift.
Better Overall Shifting Experience
With a weighted shift knob, a bit more effort is needed to initiate the shift – but less effort has required the rest of the way through the shift. This, too, is due to the increased momentum made possible by the weighted shift knob. In short, it takes far less overall effort from you to shift between gears and lets you shift gears a little bit faster. Many people find this provides a more confident and consistent shifting experience. This reduction in effort is not possible without a shift knob that has sufficient mass and weight. Weighted gear knobs result in a crisper, more solid shift. Weighted shift knobs DO make a difference!
Short Shifts and Heavy Knobs
Using a short shift increases the amount of effort required to shift and results in rougher shifts. On the other hand, it does speed up the shifting process by shortening the distance traveled by your hand during shifting, which some drivers may prefer. There is, however, a way to reduce the drawbacks of a short shift. Remember that weighted knobs result in smoother shifts: adding a weighted knob to a short shift will smooth out the roughness of the shift and reduce the work involved in shifting between gears. In short, a weighted shift knob allows you to continue to enjoy the benefits of a short shift while practically eliminating the drawbacks.
Extensions and Knobs
An extension on the gear shift amplifies the effects of having a heavy knob and slows shifting. Some drivers, however, prefer having an extension on the shifter because it reduces the amount of time they spend reaching for the shift knob. This, in turn, could mean that your hands spend less time away from the steering wheel – unless it ends up taking you much longer to complete a shift. Keep in mind that extensions can result in much longer throws. A tall knob does, however, increase mechanical advantage when shifting.
Are Weighted Shift Knobs Bad for My Transmission?
The short answer is that a heavier shift knob is not bad for your transmission at all. We've dealt before with the myth that it’s bad for you to rest your hand on the shifter and lightly touched on this subject. There are those who incorrectly claim that a weighted shift knob will damage your transmission and cause it to wear out more quickly. Physics and common sense can dispel the first myth fairly quickly. First, the gearshift does not directly engage with your car’s transmission. The force from your weighted shift knob is due to its weight, and its weight is due to gravity. Gravity acts straight down – vertically and downward. A vertical force has no effect on your transmission, nor will it cause the selector fork to engage with the rotating collar (not even a little bit!). Instead, this weight simply rests on the bushings holding the linkage between the shift arm and the shift fork. These bushings are not part of the transmission, and will not wear out from the increased weight.
For the same reason, weighted shift knobs don’t cause your synchro rings to wear out sooner. No extra wear or damage will take place unless the selector fork is engaged -- and even with the added weight of a gear knob, the selector fork cannot be engaged by a vertical force, only by forward or backward force -- moving the shift knob up or down in its shift pattern a significant amount. So, if you choose to invest in a weighted shift knob, you don’t need to worry about any potential damage or additional wear to your transmission. Weighted shift knobs do make a difference—but only in a good way.
Are There Downsides to Heavy Shift Knobs?
There are some downsides to heavy shift knobs. For example, a full metal model can get hot to the touch when exposed to sunlight and rather cold in the winter. However, it takes some extreme summer temperatures (such as those found in the southern United States) and intense sunlight for the knobs to get uncomfortably hot. An easy solution is to drape a rag or, better yet, an attractive cloth bag over the metal knob to keep the sun off it when parked. In the winter, many drivers use gloves to protect their hands from the cold.
Another solution to the temperature issues is to use a Hybrid knob. These models have a Delrin (plastic) exterior and a solid stainless steel metal core. As a result of this design, they don’t get hot or cold regardless of outside temperatures and sun exposure, but you still reap all the benefits of a weighted shift knob. Another potential downside to a heavy shift knob involves extra high + heavy setups. These can overpower the stock gear select springs. The result is unwanted bounce and the inability to automatically return to neutral when removed from gear. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can’t have an extra high + heavy setup. The gear select springs can be upgraded to springs with a higher spring rate and preloaded to eradicate this problem. We’ve found that MTEC Shift Springs work especially well for this.
Parts Involved with a Shift Knob
The key part of a gear shift knob is the shift knob itself. In addition, you will have an adapter (either threaded or non-threaded) that connects the shift knob to your shifter arm. The threaded adapter is designed with threaded shifter arms in mind and allows you to adjust the orientation and height of the shift knob. If you have a threaded adapter, you may also need a shift boot retainer. It prevents the shift boot from sagging beneath the shift knob and gives your gear shift a seamless look as the shift knob sits perfectly flush with the top of the shift boot. A non-threaded adapter is for platform-specific shifter arms. The ones that we make include an integrated shift boot retainer. These are custom machined and attach using four set screws. The result is a robust fit that won’t loosen or wiggle.
Types of Weighted Shift Knobs
There is a wide variety of options when it comes to weighted shift knobs. You can choose from different shapes, weights, heights, and materials. Not only can you select a shift knob based on weight preference, but you can find a weighted knob to suit a variety of shifting styles. The shape of the shift knob is also key to both its design and functionality. Cylindrical-shaped knobs are meant for side grip shifting, while spherical-shaped knobs work best for overhand shifting. The contour design works for multiple shifting positions, including overhand, angled overhand, and sidearm. Before we get into the different types of weighted shift knobs that we offer, it’s important to realize that our shift knobs are made of dense, heavy 303 stainless steel. As a result, our shift knobs weigh quite a bit. Stainless steel provides mass, weight, durability, aesthetics, corrosion resistance, and outstanding performance -- which is why we chose to use stainless steel rather than titanium, aluminum, or plastic. Some of our knobs are available with a tough yet attractive Delrin cover over part of the stainless steel knob while leaving the bottom profile of the knob exposed.
The Raceseng Mass series of knobs are, as their name implies, designed to be heavy. The shape of the knob itself, however, is designed for different shifting styles and different-sized hands. That is why we provide shifting position diagrams for each shift knob and hand sizing charts, too. The Mass series includes various shapes, such as the low-profile sphere Slammer and Contour models, the cylindrical-shaped Ashiko, and the unusual Prolix with its sphere shape that has been merged with peaked tangent contours.
The Raceseng Hybrid series is similar in both mass and design to the Mass series because these weighted knobs have a solid stainless steel metal core. What makes them different is the use of an interchangeable, CNC machined Delrin cover that gives the knob its final shape and texture. When a Delrin exterior is used, there will be no issues with hot or cold temperatures. These covers are interchangeable and simply screw onto the weighted score. This allows you to change the appearance of your gear knob in seconds.
Raceseng also offers extenders, which can dramatically increase both the height and effective weight (and momentum) of shift knobs. Extenders also successfully reduce the travel time between your steering wheel and gear shift knob, allowing you to have your hands on the steering wheel even more for greater control. Our extenders are also compatible with or without a reverse lockout. These extenders are made of precision machined Aluminum 6061-T6 with a satin anodized finish. We’ve also designed them to be very simple to install.
Shift Boot Retainers
In addition, our extenders include a shift boot retainer option so there will be no issues with a saggy shift boot. Our shift boot retainers are designed to slide up into the bottom of the shift knob. They are held in position by o-rings that provide an effective friction fit. The shift boot then attaches to the retainer with a low-profile zip tie (which we supply). As mentioned earlier, the result is a seamless, professional look that further accentuates the style of your shift knob. Note that if you have a reverse lockout, then you won’t need a shift boot retainer.
If you want a smoother, easier, faster shifting experience, then weighted shift knobs are your answer. Gear shift knobs aren‘t just for looks – they are for performance. The additional mass of a high-quality shift knob increases the momentum as you shift gears, making it far easier to overcome the resistance of the gate pattern and the counter springs. The added mass also dampens vibration and unwanted feedback. An extender arm can further increase the momentum advantage. And contrary to the myths, it’s impossible for a weighted gear shift knob to damage your transmission or cause it to wear out more quickly. For those who are worried that their hand is either too large or too small to comfortably use a gear shift knob, keep in mind that some companies (like Raceseng) offer a range of sizes to fit any hand and different shapes and contours to suit various shifting styles.
At Raceseng, we are committed to the highest level of quality. We don’t make accessories for your car that just look good -- we make accessories to improve the performance as well. And if you are interested in improving your shifting experience, then it's time to invest in a Raceseng weighted gear knob. You can purchase one of our off-the-shelf models for your vehicle, customize your gear knob with special finishes and engraving options, or build your own gear knobh. No matter what car you have, we can help you put together the ideal gear shift knob that fits not just your hand but your shifting style, too. Our gear shift knobs take no more than 15 to 30 minutes to install and come with a one-year warranty, too.
We think that this article should put an end to the question: Do weighted shift knobs make a difference? The answer is that they certainly do!