Paddle shifters are those paddles (sometimes little tabs) behind the 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock positions of your steering wheel.
If you’ve never used them before, read on.
Paddle shifters are Formula 1 inspired
Formula 1 cars use to have manual gearboxes. That’s right, there was a clutch pedal and an actual gearshift lever.
Drivers had to be skilled enough to change gears while the racecars tore round the track at mind-numbing speeds and subjected them to serious g forces.
Later, rapid-shifting automatic gearboxes were developed.
To enable drivers to shift gears as quickly as possible, paddle shifters were used.
The sight of drivers rapidly cycling up and down through the gears with their fingertips was pretty damn cool.
How do I use them?
Paddle shifters are only found in cars with automatic gearboxes.
To use them, you’d need to engage your transmission’s “M” or “Manual” mode.
The paddles enable you to choose when it’s time to upshift or downshift.
To protect the drivetrain against abusive or ignorant drivers, most cars will still automatically shift up when you reach the redline.
They will also downshift for you if you fail to do so as the speed keeps dropping.
You also won’t be able to downshift to first gear while driving at 100km/h either.
Can I use the paddle shifters even without engaging manual mode first?
Some cars let you do this. Tugging on either shifter will put the gearbox into manual mode.
However, there is a chance that the transmission will return to its default auto setting.
Not all cars will stay in manual mode if it has been activated using one of the paddles.
Will using the paddle shifters damage my car, specifically my gearbox?
It is unlikely to. Carmakers would have designed the transmission to cope with the use of such functions.