Posted on August 25, 2017
On the street, at the track and especially at the drag strip, shifting accuracy and speed can make a huge difference when you’re trying to get the most out of your Mustang’s engine. Switching to a short throw shifter can help by reducing the distance needed to change gears while increasing feel. While most transmission work can be daunting, this is one of the easiest upgrades you can make to your car.
How Manual Transmission Shifters Work
The gears inside your Mustang’s transmission are locked into place using syncros, small toothed wheels that lock gears onto the input or output shaft. Those syncros are moved using forks which are connected to the shifter mechanism.
The lever action is controlled using a box that has bumps in the bottom and a place to mount the shift lever at its fulcrum. Moving the shifter pushes the mechanism over these bumps, giving the shifter a field of engagement while keeping the mechanism from sliding back into neutral without effort from the driver. Springs help keep the lever centered when the transmission is neutral.
What Makes a Short Throw Shifter Different from a Stock Shifter?
The key feature of a short throw shifter is the position of the fulcrum. On a stock shifter, the lever above the fulcrum is long while the part below it is short. This gives the shifter a large amount of mechanical advantage and long throws. A short shifter alters the mechanical advantage by shortening the lever above the fulcrum or lengthening the lever below it. This decreases the distance the lever needs to be moved to engage the forks.
Stock shifters are also designed to reduce the transfer of vibrations through the lever for greater comfort. Short throw shifters use harder bushings and stronger metal components to rigidly connect the shifter to the transmission. This allows the driver to feel the engagement so they know they’re shifting correctly.
Some short shifters also allow the lever to be repositioned. Steeda’s Tri-Ax models use a two piece lever that allow the upper section to be bolted to the left or right side of the lower section, letting you move the lever closer to the driver for a shorter reach or away from the driver for more knee room.
Installation on 05-09 V8-Powered 5 Speeds
These models use a remote shifter that is attached to the underside of the car and the transmission. To remove the shifter, get in the cabin and twist the knob counter clockwise to unscrew it from the lever, then lift up the outer shift boot. Next, lift the car to access the undercarriage. Unbolt the main support on the body and the two arms going to the transmission. On some cars, there’s a small bracket over the body support that needs to be pulled off to access the nuts underneath. The new shifter can be installed following the previous instructions in reverse order.
Installation on Other Mustangs
While several transmissions have been fitted to the Mustang since the Fox body era, every model aside from the 05-09 cars share the same basic shift linkage design which places the shifter on top of the shift field box.
Twist the shift knob counter clockwise to unscrew it from the shifter, then pry up the shift bezel. Some models have a cigarette lighter, a traction control button or both built into the bezel; these parts need to be disconnected from the wire harness before the bezel and outer shift boot can be fully removed.
Next, remove the four bolts that hold on the inner shift boot. Lift the boot out of the way to expose the four bolts that hold the shifter onto the transmission. Unscrew these bolts, then lift the shifter away from the transmission.
On TR-3650 transmissions, used from 2001-2004, the plastic bushings from the old shifter need to be fitted to the new one, or the lever won’t shift correctly.
Setting Up the Stop Bolts
The shifter has stop bolts that keep the shift mechanism from being damaged under hard shifting. These bolts should be adjusted to a point that the shifter will move into each gear with ease, leaving a quarter inch gap between the lever and the end of the stop bolt.
Ready to Upgrade Your Mustang’s Shifter?
Anderson Ford Motorsport has been helping customers build high performance Mustangs for over 30 years, so we know what works. Whether you have a Tremec T-5, a Getrag TR-3160 or anything in between, we have the parts you need to get crisp, accurate shifts including complete short throw shifter kits from Hurst, Steeda and Ford Racing.
All prices are in USD