How to install paddle shift on an automatic 240SX
By: Kellen Wynn
The World’s First and Only Paddle Shifted Nissan 240SX Sponsored by Twist Machine
Special thanks to Steve Chryssos of Twist Machine whose sponsorship allowed me to reach my goals and dreams.
Special Thanks to J. Ballenger and the good people of Powertrain Control Solutions whose customer service and technical expertise transformed my dreams into reality.
Great appreciation goes out to the folks at IPT Performance Transmissions who answered the plethora of questions I had for them. I look forward to doing business with them.
To make this project a reality you’ll need the following:
A car with an Automatic Transmission (RE4R01A in this case).
Powertrain Control Solutions Universal Transmission Controller (PCS TCU).
PCS Custom TCU wire harness plug and play solution.
Twist Machine’s The Shrifter ™ paddle shifter.
Aftermarket steering wheel and hub adapter (Grant signature GT wheel and 3560 adapter).
Other items you may need to have in order to complete the project:
Laptop or a desktop with the PCS TCU desktop programming kit
USB to Serial adapter to connect your laptop to the TCU if it doesn’t have a serial port.
Switch panel to mount your switches.
Low or Mild budget build suggested in Automatic Transmission Ultimate Guide.
Twist machine steering wheel adapter (Grant in my case).
A bolt washer to space the hub adapter from the Shrifter ™ or a custom spacer from Twist Machine.
PCS plug for the Shrifter™.
Grant Steering wheel puller.
After you receive all your equipment, lay them out and make sure you have everything. There is nothing more frustrating than missing parts half-way thru an install. I apologize for the lack of pictures during the install. I will add more pics later.
Powertrain Control Solutions Universal Transmission Controller Install
Start by removing the interior panel and glove box in order to get to the TCU. If you have A/C, you’ll need to remove the fan blower assembly to get clear access to the TCU. This is a difficult task so take your time.
The TCU is located from the upper left side from the ECU.
Remove the bolts holding down the TCU and remove the bolt holding the terminal harness.
Attach the PCS wire harness to the OEM terminal and bolt it together. The PCS wire harness was made long so you can mount it elsewhere in the vehicle. The wire harness comes with several other spare wires (some will be used later) and a serial cable to connect to your laptop.
I mounted the PCS TCU behind the radio and ran the serial cable thru the center arm rest underneath the ashtray. This allows me to remove the ashtray and access the cable when I need to tune the TCU. This removable ashtray will serve me more than once.
Connect to your TCU and upload the latest software, firmware, and base calibration for your transmission. The folks at PCS were nice enough to post the download per my request for everyone’s use.
After the downloads, make sure everything is correct. Double check the transmission set up, In my case I had to calibrate for the tire size, VLSD gear ratio, and shift logic. Drive around with your computer connected to the TCU and make sure everything its all gravy. You’ll know if its not!
Twist Machine Shrifter ™ Install
When you order the PCS TCU, make sure to let them know you’re installing the Shrifter™. They will include a plug to make the install easier.
Make sure your wheels are straight and the steering wheel is in the correct position.
Remove the OEM steering wheel. Pry the horn button off the wheel using a screwdriver. Use a steering wheel puller and remove the OEM wheel.
Install the aftermarket wheel hub as per instructions. Stop before you install the wheel, duh. (*Note: I placed a metal washer between the Grant hub and the Shrifter™. This was to add space between the Shrifter™ and shift column cover which was rubbing. If you do this you’ll need to get 3 longer bolts to connect to the hub.) Twist Machine makes custom spacers to provide proper clearances.
Place the Shrifter™ onto the hub and check for clearance. Install the steering wheel as per instruction and check for clearance. The paddles shouldn’t touch the signal arms and everything should move freely. Twist Machine can work with you to make any adjustments.
Now you’ll need to install the receive unit. Before you make any final mounting arrangements make sure the receiver is getting a clear signal from the Shrifter™. I installed the unit underneath the armrest. Connect the receiver to a switched 12volt and ground. Then run the plug that connects to the PCS TCU underneath the center console and attach it to the PCS TCU.
Install the provided switch in your desired location. This switch obviously turns on the manual mode. I mounted mine in the ashtray because I didn’t want anyone to see it (i.e. nosey mechanics). It also prevents it from being accidentally turned on.
Connect your laptop to the PCS TCU and make sure everything is correct. Make sure the TCU reads up shifts, down shifts, and on/off mode. PCS allows you to select between two manual modes: True manual, which requires you to control all gear changes or Smart manual, which will shift down to 1st after a complete stop.
Take a ride and see if you like it.
*Reminder! Driving impressions are mostly dependent on your TCU calibrations!
Driving automatics for so long almost made me forget how much I hated being in traffic with a manual. Spongy, sore knees, repetitive shifting, and general road rage are a thing of the past with the Shrifter™. With true manual mode you will be reminded of this inconvenience as it is necessary to downshift to 1st at every stoplight. In smart manual mode the TCU will downshift to 1st whenever the car comes to a complete stop requiring you to use the Shrifter™ for upshifts. But for every day use I recommend disabling the unit and allowing the transmission to function as normal.
Windy country roads, highway on/off ramps, and open road courses are now your friend. Shift when you want and ride the redline through any situation. One of the main downfalls for the automatic transmissions is the fact that you cannot choose your gears unless using a floor mounted lever. Bang gears like never before!
I will need to update this section after I attend a few track events. Just from doing a couple “test” runs on the local “course” roads, I can tell you this. The car moves and feels very similar to the M/T model 240sx; quick in and out of turns, excellent braking characteristics, snappy throttle response, and most importantly superb tranny control with much faster shifts than an M/T. A lot of this has to do with how the car is tuned but the Shrifter has certainly changed the car’s attitude.
Not much has changed except the fact that I can keep both hands on the wheel and shift when I want. The Shrifter may become very popular on drag240sx for this reason.
I’m not really interested in the drift sport that much so I haven’t taken it out, yet. Beware to those drifters who flail their arms and hands all over the steering wheel trying to counter-steer. You will end up hitting your hands on the paddles so just let the steering wheel slide in your hands. The ability to maintain the engine within certain rpms will make drifting much easier for A/Ts.
Things to Consider:
As stated in my Automatic Transmissions Ultimate Guide, you must prepare the A/T for any high performance driving. I’ve noticed manual shifting will accelerate the heating of ATF without precaution. It is imperative to install a tranny temp gauge and cooler to combat this problem. Even with extended performance driving, the fluid in my car has never exceeded 180F because of the cooler (170-200 normal op. temp). Its very effective and cheap insurance.
Keep both hands on the wheel. The paddles will interfere with your driving if you cant learn this. It has actually improved my form because my hands remain at the 10 and 3 while driving.
Calibrate the TCU. Take the time to calibrate your transmission. The car may preform poorly if their is no time invested in tuning the car.
New Beginnings: We stand on the threshold of a new era of automotive transmissions control.
“How often does a genuinely new, exciting product come along? Before the Shrifter, paddle shifters could only be found on high-end exotic sports cars. Now, you can adapt that technology to your hot rod! Common on new vehicles, manumatic control provides manual shifting of an automatic transmission on demand. The driver gets the best of both worlds: Added control over rpm, plus full automatic convenience…..”
“….With the Shrifter, power shifting your automatic has never been more safe, easier, or more exciting! Combined with a modern electronic transmission and controller, the Shrifter adds performance and style to your hot rod.” (Steve Chryssos, Twist Machine)