Geek Out! Swap your Gear Shifter with a Gaming Joystick

By November 14, 2014Automotive
How to Use a Game Joystick as a Gear Shifter

If you consider your car your significant other, then chances are, video gaming is your mistress. These two fight relentlessly for your attention so why not enjoy both at the same time by flashing a little geek pride in your ride?

If you devoted a lot of your young adulthood to old flight sim games like X-wing vs. Tie Fighter then hopefully you haven’t yet parted with your joysticks like the Quickshot Warrior or Thrustmaster.

Swapping out your manual stock shifter for joystick is actually pretty easy as the author of Geek Greek and TDI Club member, NarfBLAST, can attest. All each of them had to do was remove the stock shifter knob by twisting, pulling or unscrewing it and pushing down the collar to expose more of the shift column.

Joysticks are typically comprised of two plastic halves that are held together by screws so you can open them up and remove any extra components you don’t need. Buttons can be wired to do a variety of things like activate interior lighting, sound the horn, trigger high beams, start the engine, deliver some NOS, or even engage “ludicrous” speed.

Joystick Wiring

Now attaching the joystick to the shift column can be a little tricky and I’ve seen all sorts of methods. Geek Greek filled the base of his joystick with epoxy putty and let it bond directly to the column. But if you change your mind, you’ll probably end up breaking the thing trying to remove it.

Gurobuzz at Instructables came up with a less permanent solution so it fit snug but you could still remove it easily. Drill a hole going through your shift column (preferably in a non-threaded portion) where the handle screw can go all the way through. This will prevent the joystick from shifting or twisting around while you use it. Protect your shift column by covering it with tape or plastic wrap. Fill the base of one of the handle halves only halfway up with bondo and let it cure. Be sure not to cover up any wiring or switches. Then do the same to the other half but fill it right up to the edge. While it’s still wet, cover it with plastic wrap and unite the two halves on the shift column and let it dry in place. This way you can always unscrew the two halves if you ever want to change up the wiring or get another shift knob.

Others have managed to install a threaded base to the handle so it screws on like an aftermarket knob. Although the look of a flight control stick is undeniably cool, I don’t know how much trust I’d put into a plastic toy so I’d keep the stock knob handy in case you ever find yourself with a hand full of plastic shards.

Flight Control Stick from Huey Helicopter

Or, you could get the real deal – like this one that came out of a military Huey helicopter. These pop up on eBay all the time and some even come with the column so you could modify it to fit your car. They’ll cost you a few hundred dollars, but you plan on making it a permanent addition to your ride it’s well worth the reliability and peace of mind for even the hardest of drivers.

Check out the post at Geek Greek for details on how he installed a Quickshot Warrior 5 joystick, NarfBLAST’s thread for the Thrustmaster joystick install, Gurobuzz’s Instructable for specifics on wiring it up and Wexy21’s walkthrough for the Huey helicopter flight control stick.

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