The 10 Best Shift Knobs
This wiki has been updated 21 times since it was first published in January of 2017. Whether you're the cool, sporty type or favor something more funky, there's a shift knob out there to suit your personal sense of style. We've included a wide range of options that runs the gamut from novelty items to more standard shapes that will give you a smooth shifting experience. You'll find both universal and car-specific choices, so be sure to check the fit before you decide. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
September 04, 2020:
After reviewing what was available on the market, we still stand by most of the recommendations we made the last time we visited this list. There are just a couple of caveats to that though. We decided to eliminate the FabSelection Star Wars Clone Trooper mainly because its ceramic construction left it prone to cracking or chipping if accidentally hit too hard with another solid object. Also, it was a little bulky, which can feel a bit unnatural. We replaced it with the Pilot Automotive PM-2104, which we like for its versatility to be used in nearly any type of vehicle, including automatics that require a shift lock release button. Its hidden stash compartment was an added bonus, too, and is a great place to keep something you may need in an emergency, like a bit of cash.
Our other new addition during this update is the Bashineng BA-21, which we think users will appreciate for its affordable price and the leather wrap, which prevents it from getting scalding hot in the summers and freezing cold in the winters. It takes the place of the Kei Project Katana, which we eliminated because of its excessive height.
We wanted to make sure there was a nice variety of styles so there would be one to suit every type of vehicle and personality. For the truck and jeep drivers out there, we recommend the American Shifter 8-Ball and Drake Off Road JP-181112. Those who prefer something a bit sleeker for sporty vehicles will probably want to look to the Skunk2 Six-Speed, Mishimoto Weighted MMSK, Hurst Universal Pistol Grip, and Dewhel M10x1.5. The Momo Nero and Pilot Automotive PM-2104 could just as easily fit into the aesthetic of a rugged truck as a sports car, making them versatile options, while the Razo RA68A Palm Grip and Bashineng BA-21 are nice choices for sedans. Those who want something that can help them shift a bit smoother and quicker should consider a weighted model, like the Skunk2 Six-Speed, Mishimoto Weighted MMSK, Razo RA68A Palm Grip.
While in the market for accessories for your vehicle, you might want to think about safety too, and not just style. If you don't already have a car escape tool or an emergency road kit, now might be the time to pick one up. You never know when you might need one or the other, and if that time comes, you'll be glad you have them.
August 24, 2019:
After much research, we decided to remove the Mishimoto Limited Edition, SPG Outdoors Pistol Grip, Uxcell Skull, and Pilot Automotive Manual/Automatic from our list during the most recent update. We felt there were too many complaints stacking up regarding the SPG Outdoors Pistol Grip being uncomfortable for the hand, and we didn't like that the Pilot Automotive Manual/Automatic has misleading marketing regarding the materials it is made from, specifically that the handle is not actually real wood like they claim. Regarding the Uxcell Skull and Mishimoto Limited Edition, while there was nothing specifically wrong with them, we just felt there are now better options available.
All that aside, lets talk about the new additions that made their way into our rankings. We liked the Momo Nero due to its versatility in working well with the interiors of both sport cars and trucks, and we feel the exposed screws and blend of texture give it an interesting appeal. The Hurst Universal Pistol Grip was added for those driver's who like to imagine their vehicle is a high-performance race car, and the Drake Off Road JP-181112 was added for vehicles that are basically the exact opposite of that — rugged Jeeps and mudding trucks. Our final addition was the Razo RA68A Palm Grip for its mass appeal. It is comfortable to use on manual and automatic vehicles, plus it offers two-way height adjustability to achieve the driving position and has a high-quality leather wrap.
We would be remiss if we didn't point out that no matter which shift knob you choose, and how aggressive its styling or features, you should always adhere to safe and responsible driving practices. On another note, while you are working on updating the interior style of your car, you might want to consider replacing those old, worn out floor protectors with some cool-looking universal mats.
October 22, 2018:
Investigated claims that the Kei Project Pokeball does not stay attached properly because of poor overall build quality; ultimately replaced it with the American Shifter 8-Ball, a stylish yet solid choice.
BFI Heavy Weight Shift Knob Available in a variety of fitments for BMWs, Audis, Volswagon, and other European vehicles, these 200+ gram knobs are built to exacting specifications to ensure their is no slop when installed in your vehicle. They come in a variety of leather options, or as a plain billet, all of which feature a detailed crest coin embedded in the top. blackforestindustries.com
Speed Dawg Black Flame Part of the company's Burnout Series, this shift knob is equipped with a heavy-duty 12-volt momentary switch for trans brake and nitrous applications. It is crafted from a specially-formulated polymer resin that can withstand the torque and temperature requirements needed for extremely high-performance vehicles. speeddawg.com
Not Just An Idle Consideration
Swords, pistol grips, characters from movies or television — if you can imagine it, it's likely that someone, somewhere, has designed it.
Having a great-looking ride is perhaps the first concern of anyone buying a new shift knob, followed closely by whether it will fit correctly, but there are a few other concerns it pays to heed. After all, if you put in a lot of miles, you use the shifter a lot, so you'll want to be able to shift quickly and effectively. Plus, any irritation will get old fast.
For instance, if your hand doesn't fit your new shift knob, you're in for an uncomfortable ride. Whether the knob is too big or too small, you'll have trouble getting a good grasp, potentially causing you to shift more slowly. For the best fit, you'll want to grab a tape measure and determine the width of your palm, then compare this to the measurements of the knob you're considering.
And then there are the materials from which the knob is made. Metal knobs may look awesome, but if you live in a hot desert climate (as in Arizona or Nevada), you'll run the risk of burning yourself every time you get in the car. Extreme cold won't be much more comfortable. In either case, a material that's less prone to temperature changes, like wood or lightweight plastic, might be your better choice — that or be sure to keep and use a cover.
There's also shape to consider, as today's manufacturers offer just about every style of shift knob you can possibly imagine, including those that resemble a huge range of objects. Swords, pistol grips, characters from movies or television — if you can imagine it, it's likely that someone, somewhere, has designed it. The only caveat here is that you still want a knob that's comfortable, one that won't jab you in the palm, unless you are okay with sacrificing some usability for design.
What Grinds Your Gears
Although your manual transmission is probably pretty hardy, you may be doing things that unintentionally shorten its lifespan, as well as that of the clutch. As having a transmission rebuilt can be pretty expensive, you probably want to avoid damage to yours if at all possible. Luckily, all anyone needs is a little awareness to put the brakes on their bad shifting habits.
As having a transmission rebuilt can be pretty expensive, you probably want to avoid damage to yours if at all possible.
One habit it's crucial to notice is where you rest your foot in the course of driving. If your foot sits on the clutch, even gently, you could be creating unnecessary wear. Both this action and that of continuously keeping the clutch halfway disengaged (common in heavy traffic) are known as riding the clutch, an action that puts a lot of wear and tear on the attendant parts, especially the bearings. Whether you're stopped at a light or coasting along, if you don't need the clutch, take your foot entirely off it.
In a similar vein, don't rest your hand on the shifter — even though it may be tempting — because it's not a hand rest. When you use it as such, you're placing pressure on the shifter fork and in turn the gear that sits beneath it. In the end, you're again causing extra wear and tear on these parts that will cause them to deteriorate more quickly than they should.
You could be engaging in more actively harmful habits than resting your foot or hand where they could cause problems. One habit some people develop is sitting at red lights with the clutch depressed, waiting in gear for the light to turn. As with riding the clutch, this causes needless wear to the release bearing. Remember that your clutch is meant to be disengaged and engaged swiftly; it wasn't designed to sit in the disengaged position.
Finally, even if you're going for acceleration and speed, you can gain these without being unduly hard on both the clutch and the transmission. Stomping on the clutch, slamming through the gears, or power shifting might feel satisfying, but you probably won't be gaining much, and the risk to all the parts inside your transmission isn't worth it. True, race car drivers might do these things, but race cars require constant expensive maintenance that you probably won't want to perform on your ride. If you want to accelerate quickly, learn how to shift quickly and properly, instead.
A Brief History Of The Transmission
When you pop a new shift knob in your car, you're engaging with a history that extends all the way back to the 1800s, when the first manual transmission was created. The work of two Frenchmen, Louis-René Panhard and Émile Levassor, it hit the scene in 1894, just eight years after Karl Benz earned his patent for the first gasoline-powered motorcar. Early manual transmissions were unsynchronized versions, using a sliding-mesh gearbox; to operate this successfully, the user had to pay close attention to timing and throttle to successfully shift gears. In fact, this version of the transmission was so tough to drive without grinding that it came to be called a crash box.
Although most passenger cars today with a manual transmission are synchronizing, the synchromesh did not render its predecessor completely obsolete.
Drivers got an upgrade in 1928 with the development of the synchromesh transmission. This new version, the brainchild of Earl Thompson of General Motors, did not require a user to align the gears for engagement during operation; instead, the synchromesh performed the work of equalizing the rotational speed, making shifting both easier and quieter. Although most passenger cars today with a manual transmission are synchronizing, the synchromesh did not render its predecessor completely obsolete. The older design is still used in farming machinery, semi trucks, and some racing vehicles thanks in large part to its durability.
Today, especially in the United States, cars equipped with automatic transmissions are widely available and the preferred choice over their manual cousins, synchronous or not. While it's true that an automatic can be easier for a beginning driver to learn on, plenty of drivers will tell you that driving a stick shift is fun, giving a greater sense of power and control (unless you're stuck in heavy traffic, of course).