Knowing when to shift just got easier

To achieve the fastest lap times or quarter mile times, a car must shift gears at precisely the right moment.

Shift too early or too late and the engine will not be in the “sweet-spot” of the power band. This will cause the car to accelerate at a less-than-optimal rate. A simple way to ensure that each gearshift comes in right on cue is with the help of a shift light.

A shift light can provide benefits by warning the driver when to shift. Besides the advantages in racing conditions, a shift light can also help prevent over-revving situations, which can cause engine damage. Just because late-model cars are factory equipped with rev limiters doesn’t mean it is there for your use! The rev-limiter is the last line of defense your pony’s engine has against throwing a rod, floating a valve or some other internal calamity. Furthermore, the rev limiter should NOT be used as a shift indicator! Too much of that and you will be buying a new motor.

Our resident 2001 Mustang GT is no stranger to racetracks, of both the straight-line and twisty variety. As such, we figured having a shift light on board would make track outings safer and faster. We called on Raptor Performance for their ultra-cool mini-shift light. At about 3½ inches in length and ¾-inch in diameter, the Raptor shift light allows for many mounting possibilities. Function is not compromised by the Raptor’s diminutive size, as it is big on function but small in size and price. Raptor has a dual-mode shift light that sells for about $125, while the single-mode shift light sells for around $100. Our Mustang was the recipient of Raptor’s dual-mode light.

The Raptor features seven super-bright LED lights, which leave no doubt when it is time to shift. In addition, the adjustable switches allow the driver to select their desired shift point with a screwdriver. No pills or chips are necessary to set or change the rpm point, making it simple. Constructed from a 6061 aluminum housing, which is available in black or silver along with different LED color options, you can select the color combination that works best with your interior. We chose the black housing with the yellow LED lights.

The Raptor’s compact size allows for a stealthy installation to avoid cluttering up the interior. Installation is basic and requires only a handful of normal tools, which means that the average enthusiast should be able to tackle this in under an hour. As elementary as the installation is, GTR High Performance, an authorized Raptor dealer/installer, did the honors on our 2001 GT.

Once GTR’s Eli Patronas finished, he programmed the shift light to our desired rpm point. We used the Raptor’s “dual-mode” option and set the launch point to 3,000 rpm, while the shift point was set to 6,200 rpm. The dual-mode Raptor is well suited for drag racers, as it lets the driver focus on the starting lights instead of having to split their attention between the tachometer and Christmas tree. In drag racing, this is an invaluable feature that will surely lead to more consistent launches and faster times. Road racers and autocrossers will also find a shift light useful as they maneuver through a course. Have you ever tried heel-and-toe shifting through a late-apex turn while in traffic? If so, the last thing on your mind is looking down at your tachometer. Safety will be improved as you hustle around the track as you can keep your eyes where they belong — on the track.

If you have about a hundred bucks to spare and want to buy a new toy, the Raptor shift light will fit nicely in your favorite ride and within your budget. While it won’t add power, it will prove very useful and, if used properly, can help lower lap times or quarter mile times. After all, isn’t that what we are after?