Home » This Little Round Gearshift Knob Gear Indicator Display Is A Great And Only Slightly Silly DIY Project

This Little Round Gearshift Knob Gear Indicator Display Is A Great And Only Slightly Silly DIY Project

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Sometimes it’s all too easy to take for granted this absolutely staggering technological age we live in. Not only do we all carry around little black sleek soap-bar-shaped computers capable of accessing the collective knowledge of humanity at any moment, but we can now buy relatively cheap desktop machines that can make all sorts of plastic parts you design and have access to so many small programmable computers and displays and sensors, allowing anyone with a bit of interest and time and will to make all sorts of incredible things that would simply not have been possible just a few years ago. It’s amazing! And, even better, it allows for the chance to make highly advanced, cool-looking stuff for your car of dubious utility! Like this fantastic manual shift-knob gear indicator display!

This is a project undertaken by a YouTuber named upir, a person who shares with me a love of display technology of all kinds, and also a person whom I’ve only seen their hands. Upir could just be a pair of disembodied hands, for all I know. They’re skilled hands, and the voice that talks while they work and seems to control them seems to be quite knowledgeable, so that’s just fine in my book.

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The project here is simple in concept, but gets quite complex in execution: the end goal is to make a nice little display that fits inside a gearshift knob and shows what gear is selected. There are so many challenges here: detecting what gear is selected independently of the car itself (there’s no CANBUS connection here, so it’ll work on older, pre-computer cars), finding a display small enough to fit comfortably in a shift knob, making the plastic parts for housing the components and more, so much more.

Upir breaks it down into a series of videos that are quite detailed and fascinating, even if you’re not considering making a gear knob display to show your selected gear.

Here, I’ll embed the whole series so you can see how this all happens, step-by-step:

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As you can see, once the mechanism to detect gear position via hall-effect sensors is figured out, he tries a lot of different display types, which are quite interesting. There are low-resolution LED displays, monochrome ones, color ones, and a hexagonal colorful display, but in the end he settles on an incredible high-resolution full-color round display that actually fits in a shift knob.

These are very detailed videos, showing all aspects of the project, the electronics, programming the Arduino, designing the graphics for the display, making 3D printed parts, assembly … everything.

And, sure, in the end, it’s not exactly crucial; if you don’t know what gear you’re in, maybe you shouldn’t be driving stick, after all. But it is undeniably cool. And the time taken to document and show the process is incredibly valuable for those of us always trying to learn how to actually do stuff.

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There’s a lot of video here, but if you’re interested in what you can potentially make for your car with Arduinos and sensors and displays, this is a great place to start.

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Tangent
Tangent
24 days ago

I remember seeing something like this in a catalog about 20 years ago…

Attila the Hatchback
Attila the Hatchback
24 days ago

I think it would be easier to talk to the CANBUS for the current gear, and then you could also get the engine RPM. That way you could make the color of the indicator go red close to redline, or flash.

I briefly flipped thru the videos and it looks like he’s using a magnet and hall effect sensors on a custom PCB to detect the shifter position? I wonder how reliable all that stuff would be under the shift boot in a real car vs. with a video game shifter sitting in your air conditioned house?

This seems like a fun project, but I don’t think a 3d printed gear shift knob would feel very nice in the hand, at least not with PLA plastic.

Barry Allen
Barry Allen
24 days ago

Which video provides details on that? Hall sensors should be pretty reliable, I’m just not sure how he’s getting enough range out of it to cover the full movement of the shifter

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
25 days ago

Good idea for someone getting into an unfamiliar car. Not sure if I need it for a car I’ve driven for 20 years.
Knowing which gear you’re in is important to learn by doing.
And reverse is the only critical mistake. My car beeps when I’m in R. That’s all I need.

Also, my hand is on the gear a lot. Will need the light to go through my hand, thanks.

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
25 days ago

My first motorcycle (82 Suzuki GS450) had a gear indicator showing 1 – 6. Extremely helpful for a new rider like me.

My son who is learning to drive a manual could use this on our Mazda5. He could also use a bumper sticker I saw the other day that says “Warning – Manual Transmission. If I roll into you, you are too close”

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
25 days ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

My first motorcycle (82 Suzuki GS450) had a gear indicator showing 1 – 6. Extremely helpful for a new rider like me.

Not a motorcyclist: How does one know what gear a motorcycle is in? I assume, since a 1982 model had an indicator, that this is standard?

Frank Wrench
Frank Wrench
25 days ago
Reply to  Joke #119!

On most bikes you have to guess because the gear indicator is not that common, at least on older bikes. Nearly all street bikes at least have a neutral light. With the foot shifter, the gears go (from bottom to top) 1N23456. Getting to neutral or first when you’re stopped isn’t always easy and it’s good to know when you’re there.

Scott Morrison
Scott Morrison
24 days ago
Reply to  Frank Wrench

No matter what bike I ride, I still try to upshift one more time when I’m in top gear – and I’ve been riding for 45 years.

JKcycletramp
JKcycletramp
23 days ago
Reply to  Joke #119!

Gear displays are a useful extra, but all you really need is a tach. Some bikes don’t have tachs, so maybe even that isn’t strictly necessary. But, its absence is felt.

JC Miller
JC Miller
22 days ago
Reply to  Joke #119!

You cannot know, unless your brain can do some weird math. Bikes are weird and marvelous like that, like you could do 60 in 1st gear on some, but you could also almost stall it and do 60 in 6th gear
The gear indicator is not standard at all – also short answer is suzuki and ktm. And even that is not always accurate, I has i think 1980 gsxf 400, it had one, when I switched later on to a gsxr 600 – that one did not, even tho I had much more experience when i switched, I missed the damn indicator a lot.
There are aftermarket solutions but they all use some sort of calculation to show you the gear – I actually got one and never got to install it. The big difference is that the factory one is electro-mechanically wired in the gearbox, so when you kick that lever it shows right away, while the aftermarket correlates the wheel speed with your rpm. I would argue that the aftermarket one is more “deliberate” in its operation, as in it will show you the correct gear only after you released the clutch.
For those wondering why its important – it would make a difference between doing an unwanted terrifying wheelie or not have enough power to do a proper pass – some bikes have fairly low torque but really wide band of rpm, on some I was able to shift at 10k on a more “spirited” riding

Eric Gonzalez
Eric Gonzalez
25 days ago

I would pay for someone to do the programming and assembly and I can take care of the wiring and installation. Seems like a fun novelty accessory for my ’78 Corolla and I would love to program the last screen to show the old “TEQ” Toyota logo along with its miserable 4 gears.

Oldhusky
Oldhusky
25 days ago
Reply to  Eric Gonzalez

I was thinking how fun this would be in an older car with no LCD screens in it. So much more pizzazz than just adding one more glowing screen to a modern glass cockpit car.

Cerberus
Cerberus
25 days ago

My car displays the gear in the gauge cluster. This is a better implementation, though kind of useless ergonomically as it requires looking at the shift knob under your hand. In the case of my car, they got the location right, but per typically dumb OEM, it calculates the gear by rpm and vehicle speed, so it doesn’t know what gear it is in until it’s engaged. This makes it of no use in avoiding shifting into too low a gear, which is about the only useful purpose there is for displaying it. Neat project to do for the hell of it, though.

Joke #119!
Joke #119!
25 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

My car displays the gear in the gauge cluster. 

This, on the dash in the speedo, is the way.

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
25 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

This makes it of no use in avoiding shifting into too low a gear, which is about the only useful purpose there is for displaying it. 

This 100%! I do accidentally hit 2nd instead of 4th from time to time, and damn it would be nice to know before my foot lets off the clutch.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
24 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

If you use your palm to guide the gearstick, rather than gripping the gearstick, then the cross-gate spring will make sure you don’t get second instead of forth.

Unless your cross-gate spring is broken.

Captain Muppet
Captain Muppet
24 days ago
Reply to  Cerberus

Calculating the gear ratio from rpm and speed is almost free to implement for the OEM, whereas stuffing a load of sensors in the shifter or gearbox costs money.

Your OEM isn’t dumb, they’re just being cheap.

Cerberus
Cerberus
24 days ago
Reply to  Captain Muppet

Oh, I know why they’re doing it and it fits what I’m always railing against. It’s just another (admittedly small) example of the added superficial tech bloat that’s ultimately pointless, but seems like an added feature at first glance or if one doesn’t think about it. I don’t mind pointless if it’s in the name of fun, but this is more of a useless feature disguised as useful when, if it can’t help prevent a mechanical over rev, there’s really no point (a fair number of these cars have had their engines blown this way and people try to blame it on RTV they find—which parasitic influencers amplify—and wonder why they get denied on warranty until they post their data log showing a ~10k rpm event). If not done right (and even then), I would have preferred that space to be occupied by pertinent information, particularly in “track” mode (everyday driving mode) where a large circle LED gauge area is cut across by a bar tach with terrible low and mid range resolution, leaving an empty space they fill with a gear number that could be displaying something more useful, say oil pressure as we’re talking a “track” mode (at least it does show temp off to the side).

Musicman27
Musicman27
25 days ago

This is an awesome idea! I don’t know why manufacturers haven’t thought of this!

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
25 days ago

Another thought, the video spends quite a bit of time on programing the thing but is light on details like how power the thing in the car.

Also I don’t have a $400 3d printer hanging around.

Might be a good pay someone with tools and knowledge or an enterprising person can build a kit.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
25 days ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

Powering it is the easy part. 12V to 5V converters are damn near literally a dime a dozen.
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=12v+5v+buck+converter&crid=7GRZSQIYTEH0&sprefix=12v+5v+buck+converter%2Caps%2C145&ref=nb_sb_noss_1

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
25 days ago
Reply to  Rad Barchetta

Still talking splicing which is a weakness I have and I don’t like smoke or fires inside my car.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
25 days ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

That’s fair. Always good to know where your limits are. I’m great with wires, but lousy with bodywork and paint.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
24 days ago
Reply to  Arrest-me Red

If you ever have a need to 3D print something there are lots of online companies that can print for you. A number of local libraries also offer access to 3D printers too.

Arrest-me Red
Arrest-me Red
25 days ago

I like it but wiring and I are a bad combination.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
25 days ago

This might actually be more useful on automatic transmissions where you have 9 or 10 gears, so that you can monitor the functioning or efficiency of the transmission. On a manual, it’s pretty useless if you have ears and/or a tachometer. Fun project, I suppose, but ultimately a JC Whitney kind of idea.

PlatinumZJ
PlatinumZJ
25 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

The little gear indicator option was definitely a nice surprise on my Wrangler. I guess I just like having additional information about my vehicle’s performance beyond what the instrument cluster shows…I’m also a big fan of the vehicle information screens available on some aftermarket stereo head units.

Last edited 25 days ago by PlatinumZJ
Fuller Name
Fuller Name
24 days ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

Yes, when I drive my wife’s Pilot with its 9-speed, I’d love to know what gears it’s using depending on how aggressively I accelerate. It will tell you what gear if you are in manual mode but I don’t use it because it seems pointless and inefficient.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
25 days ago

Eh, I already have enough issues with the lighted knob detaching itself when I forget & shift vigorously: 2 wires is plenty to evoke uncivil language as I’m trying to refit it in traffic

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
25 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Are you saying that your chromium plated, fully illuminated, genuine accessory shift knob came right off in your hand?

IanGTCS
IanGTCS
25 days ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I once got a novelty shift knob held on with set screws as a gift. Lasted about 10 minutes before the original (and honestly far nicer one) went back on. Only even open the package and put it on to be nice to the person who gave it to me.

Never again will I get a shift knob held on with set screws. Proper thread pitch or nothing.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
25 days ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

Fancy leather illuminated M knob in this case. I’ll have to step up to a thicker shim now.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
25 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

I was imagining one of those chrome skulls with the blinking red light eyes… ????

I’m a little disappointed, if not terribly surprised, that no one has picked up on my reference to the lyrics of ‘Wolf Creek Pass’ by C.W. McCall. (Give it a listen, it’s a good’un!)

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
24 days ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I did! But I’m a few time zones behind ya, I think. Bit of trivia for ya: the feed store is actually on the other side of the pass, artistic liberty there. What is actually at the bottom of the pass in Pagosa is the county courthouse. And it is a 15 mph curve in front of it. In reality, Earl would have went through the courthouse. Which would have been more entertaining. https://maps.app.goo.gl/1pT8Zde1g3XEpKreA

Last edited 24 days ago by Lizardman in a human suit
RataTejas
RataTejas
25 days ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

BMW has an official lit up M knob. Or at least they do for my E46

Lizardman in a human suit
Lizardman in a human suit
24 days ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

“Ya wanna screw that back on thare, Earl?” LOL. You beat me to it.

Last edited 24 days ago by Lizardman in a human suit
Ben Siegel
Ben Siegel
25 days ago

One of my favorite things I did as a high school wood shop student was make a custom shift knob for my YJ. Scrap wood, lathe, inset old Jeep logo from a keychain (https://www.ebay.com/itm/145244043579?chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&mkscid=101&itemid=145244043579&targetid=1645685075168&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=9021723&poi=&campaignid=20133407470&mkgroupid=147476396765&rlsatarget=pla-1645685075168&abcId=9312979&merchantid=6310644&gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQjw6uWyBhD1ARIsAIMcADpHEVmDXbuUtlbJHs7C_Y4ii0T9dkOaT2t4NG-v3UbcNfQGTbAckPQaAojyEALw_wcB)

Fit my hand well and helped make that jeep mine. Wouldn’t say what gear it was but it was still fun to have something customized that you touch every time you drive.

HumboldtEF
HumboldtEF
24 days ago
Reply to  Ben Siegel

Awesome! I bought a mini wood lathe just so I could make shift knobs mostly for my sim rig. I started making them for my cars too. I love playing around with different shapes and heights. Most car guys hate seeing wood shift knobs in anything newer than 1970 but I could care less.
Heres some pics with a few examples: https://i.imgur.com/1kwOH9D.jpg https://i.imgur.com/j74JjIa.jpg

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
25 days ago

And, sure, in the end, it’s not exactly crucial; if you don’t know what gear you’re in, maybe you shouldn’t be driving stick, after all. But it is undeniably cool. And the time taken to document and show the process is incredibly valuable for those of us always trying to learn how to actually do stuff.

Meh…. Everyone makes mistakes, and the display is a great idea honestly. Cool for passengers and/or teaching as well.

Now wait 5 years and the germans will implement it such that if the display has any error at all, the whole car will refuse to shift gears.

Library of Context
Library of Context
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

And even then, it would only work with a subscription to their ‘Shift Knob Information Sub-System’ service.

Ben
Ben
25 days ago

German Engineers: Someone suggested we look into using KISS in our cars to improve reliability. We now proudly introduce the Knob Information Sub-System. That’s what KISS stands for, right?

Pupmeow
Pupmeow
25 days ago
Reply to  Ben

This reminds me of years ago when I was settling into my first corporate job. I invented something called the Paperclip Utilization Minimization Program, aka PUMP, aka using a stapler instead.
No one thought it was funny (except me). 🙁

Fuller Name
Fuller Name
24 days ago
Reply to  Pupmeow

I wanted to call our computer refresh project “Delivery Of New User Technology Solutions” but couldn’t get that made official. I was hoping we could get some tasty breakfast budgeted in every day.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

I recently installed a new shift knob without a pattern printed on the top. To which my other half looked at it, and said to me, “how will I know where the gears are now?”.

As though anyone actually takes their eyes off the road to check the shifter instead of relying on feel to know where it is in space.

Amschroeder5
Amschroeder5
25 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I bet you a lot of people do, especially starting off

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

Totally; it’s comforting and supplies a little bit of a mind-muscle connectivity push – you see the pattern, which helps your body know a little better what to expect/where things should be spatially.

I remember when I first learned; the context provided by the pictogram made me a little less nervous.

Spikedlemon
Spikedlemon
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

They’re the same person who regularly forgets there’s a 6th gear. Even when it was printed on the top.

Ben
Ben
25 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Are they? In my admittedly limited experience, the people who forget about 6th are the ones who have enough experience driving 5 speed sticks that 5th being the highest gear is ingrained in their muscle memory.

OrigamiSensei
OrigamiSensei
25 days ago
Reply to  Ben

If you’re like me the switch from 5 to 6 speeds turned out to be remarkably easy because I simply skip 5th. In my car it’s a pretty useless gear.

The article mentioned the difficulty of finding a small display but I’d say small OLEDs are pretty common and available now. Shouldn’t be terribly difficult.

JumboG
JumboG
24 days ago
Reply to  Ben

It was bad for a couple of months when I bought a 4 speed F-150 and had driven 5 speeds for more than a decade. I would occasionally try to shift into 5th.

Barry Fischer
Barry Fischer
25 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

I have 2 manual cars, one with reverse down and left and the other down and right, so having the pattern inscribed saves some embarassment.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
25 days ago
Reply to  Spikedlemon

Taught my wife to drive stick on 1980 Dodge Omni in 1985. Had an aftermarket shift handle (not a knob) so no pattern display. I used a Sharpie and drew it onto the dash for her.

Because the shift linkage was like a spoon in a bowl of soup, she had to do a lot of hunting around, but eventually learned where to shove the stick in that pos.

After this, she could drive a stick in anything no problem.

Whenever she drove a different brand, she’d tell me all about it when she came home from work. It was a bit like having Lisa Douglas for a wife at times. But worth it for sure…

Last edited 25 days ago by Col Lingus
SLM
SLM
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

I make those mistakes too (and I never had an automatic). But putting my hand on the stick is enough to know the gear and you don’t have to look at it.

Crisis
Crisis
25 days ago
Reply to  Amschroeder5

Frankly, having the current gear displayed on the dash would be more useful. If I’m looking at the shifter , I know what gear I’m in. But, as noted before, not essential in either case.

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