What's fun about the paddle shifters? Here's how they work!


Posted by: 234DRIVE x NAIJAUTO.COM

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There is a new buzz about paddle-shifters on cars to drive automatic transmission cars in a manual way. So you want to know more? Read on now!

1. History of the paddle shifter

You know manual cars are going extinct right? However, automobile manufacturers found the perfect way to engage car enthusiasts like me with that manual transmission driving experience by introducing paddle shifters to drive cars via a semi-automatic transmission.

Paddle shifters in cars can also be called flappy paddles and the origins of paddle shifters can be traced to the late 1980s on Ferrari Formula One clutchless manual race cars. These were designed to allow drivers to maintain the control of the car at high speeds by not taking hands off the steering wheel.


From manual to automatic, to Tiptronic and now paddle shifter

This feature used to be exclusive to high-performance sports cars in the early 2000s but today, a lot of everyday car brands have paddle shifters in Nigeria like the Lexus, the Toyota, the Honda, the Infiniti and more making them an automated manual car.


This is a regular Lexus with a paddle shifter, nice!

2. What are paddle shifters - All you need to know about

Now that you know how paddle started or came about, let's define paddle shifters.

2.1. Paddle shifter definition

Paddle shifters are flaps mounted behind the steering wheel or on the steering bracket that allow you electrically shift the vehicle's automatic transmission like a manual car without a clutch pedal. Paddle shifters are always added to cars with Tiptronic gears to make sure drivers focus more on handling the car's steering wheel as speed increases.


Imagine not focusing when driving a fast car like this

No need to take hands off the steering to change gears and this answers the question 'why do automatic cars need paddle shifters' perfectly.

2.2. How does a paddle shifter work?

You simply pull on the paddle behind the steering to manually change gears. The paddles are on both sides of the steering wheel with a plus and minus sign on each paddle.

The right paddle is mostly the paddle shifter upshift with a (+) sign which takes you to higher gear while the (-) sign on the left side of the steering wheel takes you to a lower gear when flapped. This gear change will reflect on the dashboard with a gear number indicator as long as the manual mode is activated. 


Locate the Upshift on the right 

2.3. How to use a paddle shifter:

  • Step 1: Engage the manual/sports mode of the car you are driving.
  • Step 2: Locate the paddle shifter system behind the steering wheel of the car.
  • Step 3: Take note of the upshift (+) and downshift (-) flaps. 
  • Step 4: Tap the paddle towards yourself gently to engage the gears then wait a second before you accelerate.
  • Step 5: Listen to the revs of the car to know when to shift to the next gear just like you do in a manual car.
  • Step 6: Downshift when you need to slow down and make sure your legs are off the throttle pedal when downshifting. 

This is how to paddle shift in a car with a Tiptronic transmission. The question ' how to use a paddle shifter' becomes simplified when you actually start driving a car with the paddle shifter system in use. 

Here is an easy step by step tutorial on how to use paddle shifters:

Easy step by step tutorial on how to use paddle-shifters

Please you need to note that there are different types of paddle shifters in existence today and you need to know how each type works.

3. Paddle shifter types

There is only one type of paddle shifter but it varies in the working principle because there are different types of automatic transmissions today. They are:

3.1. CVT automatic transmission

This is a type of transmission that is known as a shiftless transmission because it has no evident shift points through different ranges of gear rations. When the manual mode of the CVT car is activated, the paddle-shift CVT controls the way the gear ratio changes and it makes these changes happen faster. Examples of cars with CVT paddle shifters are the 2018 Honda Jazz and Honda City. 


This is a regular car with paddle shifter

3.2. Conventional automatic transmission

This is the type of transmission found on most cars we have in Nigeria today. The paddle shifters on this type of transmission are also always used to shift the gears manually as long as the manual mode is activated.

3.3. Dual-clutch transmission

This is the type of transmission mostly found on high-end performance/sports cars. It uses a pair of internal clutches consisting of multiple wet clutches and a single dry clutch to drive the car semi-automatically. We can also call this clutch an automatic clutch.

Normally, DCTs offer instant gear changes by using a computer to predict when the gear change should happen but when the manual mode is activated, you can now use the paddle shifters to control the speed you want to go at.  


Downshift paddle means reduce your speed 

4. Paddle shifter functions/benefits

Some benefits include:

4.1. Provides safety

Cars that have paddle shifter transmission are safer to drive in Nigeria where we have wet weather from time to time. I know you are wondering how this is related. 

When you are driving automatic cars and rain suddenly starts pouring, you would have to use brakes to constantly stop the car and it might skid which leads to an accident.

When you have paddle shifters on your car, you can determine the level of speed with the paddles and easily reduce the speed of the car without using the brakes.  

4.2. Increases car performance

The transmission on regular automatic cars change quickly and overdrive gears to reduce the fuel consumption of the car. It has zero consideration for performance and this is not what every car lover wants.

With a paddle shifter, you determine the perfect time to shift to have a sports/performance car driving experience.

>>> Performance-wise, read this post too: Why do automatic cars need paddle shifters?

4.3. Makes car last longer

Cars that drive with paddle shifters when manual/sports mode is activated have a higher chance of accelerating smoothly. Semi-automatic cars beat a fully automatic and a fully manual car from a slow start because you control the gears and power with zero sentiments. 

Semi-automatic cars are always in first gear and this helps to prolong the transmission and engine life because there is never a sudden load from zero mph on the engine. 

These are the advantages of the paddle shifters and once your paddle shifters start having problems, it would default the benefits above so you must know the signs of a failing paddle shifter. 

5. Symptoms of a bad paddle shifter

  • Paddle no longer clicking as you pull (sticky paddle).
  • Delayed acceleration after the paddle is clicked.
  • A drop in RPM as you shift higher.
  • Double shifting on one click.

>>> Further reading: Common paddle shifter problems in cars & how you fix and maintain it adequately


Can you see the gear 5 indicated on the screen?

6. Prices of cars with paddle shifters in Nigeria 

A lot of performance/luxury based cars for sale in Nigeria have paddle shifters equipped on them. The table below shows the price range of common car brands with paddle shifters for sale in Nigeria 

Locally used/foreign used prices of cars with paddle shifter gears in Nigeria
Car brand with models   Price range

Lexus (IS, GS, ES)

 ₦2 million - ₦14 million
Mercedes-Benz (GLK, GLE, C-Class, E-Class, GLC, G-Class)  ₦3 million - ₦120 million
Honda (Accord, Civic, Jazz sports trim)  ₦4 million - ₦14 million
Toyota (Camry, Supra, Corolla sports edition)  ₦8 million - ₦14 million
Infiniti (G37, QX50)  ₦6 million - ₦9 million
Acura (ZDX, TX, MDX)  ₦2 million - ₦22 million
BMW (X6, X5, 3 series, 5 series, X3, 7 series)  ₦2 million - ₦75 million
FCA (Dodge Charger, Challenger, Durango, Chrysler 300)  ₦8 million - ₦16 million
GM (Chevrolet Camaro, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe)  ₦8 million - ₦22 million

6.1. How to install paddle shifters on cars 

Most cars you see with paddle shifters come like that directly from the manufacturer but it is still very possible to install paddle shifters on your car by buying a paddle shifter kit that ranges between ₦550,000 - ₦620,000 and it would cost another ₦100,000 for the paddle shifter install because it is very complex. 


Affordable conversion kit for regular cars  

It works by giving your transmission an in-built shift module that works directly with the installed paddle shifters behind the steering wheel. You will hardly see this installation on cars because if you think about the cost, it could buy you a tokunbo Toyota Camry Pencil-Light.

6.2. Installing paddle shifter extensions

With just ₦10,000 - ₦100,000 you can purchase a paddle shifter extension that increases the size of the paddle shifter flaps just so that you can have enough surface area to place your hand on the paddle shifters.


Installing a paddle shifter extension is a great investment 

This makes your paddle shifter feel like a proper gear shifter just attached to the steering and that's very comfortable. 

7. Where to buy cars with paddle shifters 

Paddle shifter cars are sold in every car dealership that has cars for sale. Paddle shifter cars aren't special, so they are not extra expensive compared to cars without it. 

You will find great listings of cars that come equipped with paddle shifters right here on Naijauto.com with deals you cannot afford to miss. 


The next time you sit in a car with paddle shifters, don't be scared to engage them because you now know 'how the paddle shifter works' and if you have forgotten anything, just check back on Naijauto.com for the process step by step.

You have just reached the end of our post on car Paddle shifters and all you need to know about; for more interesting and informative automotive car tips like this, check Naijauto.com daily to stay updated.




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Crank - the head of content for 234DRIVE is a mechanic/car enthusiast/car vlogger that writes and creates relatable motoring experiences. Whenever he lays his hands on any car, he reviews them in depth. He calls himself the 'Educative Car Guy'.

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