Money Shifting: Explained

Most drivers aren’t perfect. We all make mistakes out on the road or the track. Usually, these mistakes are minor: something that we can grow and learn from. They make us better drivers.

Of course, some mistakes can have more serious consequences. The infamous money shift is one such mistake that can really mess up your engine and transmission.

In this article, we’ll cover exactly what a money shift is and what happens when you do one. We’ll also give you some handy tips on how to avoid it.

What actually is a ‘Money Shift’?

A money shift happens when a driver intends to move up a gear at full throttle but instead selects a lower gear. It’s called a ‘money shift’ because it can lead to expensive engine and transmission damage.

Hearing the words ‘money’ and ‘shift’ together is enough to make most seasoned drivers cringe. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes sometimes. But some mistakes can be really costly. 

Accidentally shifting down a gear while you’re at maximum acceleration can lead to some pretty gnarly consequences for your vehicle, your ego and your wallet…

What can happen when you money shift?

There are a number of possible consequences that can happen when you accidentally downshift at the redline. From minor inconvenience to all-out financial headache, here are the most probable outcomes:

1. You’ll lose control of the vehicle

When you accidentally drop a gear after full acceleration, the back end of your vehicle can swing out. This happens because the car tries to slow down too quickly, breaking the traction of your tires with the road.

When you money shift, the car will drastically reduce its speed through engine braking. This happens to correct the botched shift. At best this will cause some unpredictable handling, at worst a full-on spin-out. 

Check out this video from Danny DC2, one of my favorite car YouTubers, who manages to correct some serious back-end swerve from a money shift on track:

Keep in mind that this will all happen in the space of a second, which makes quick reactions and skill all the more important. Always make sure you’re confident with a vehicle and its inputs before taking it out on the track!

2. Engine damage

Money shifting can cause real issues for an engine through over-revving. If an engine revs over its redline for too long, irreversible damage will be caused – like valve float.

Think about it this way. In my Mazda MX-5 NB, I can hit the redline in third gear at about 92mph. In second gear, I’ll hit the redline at a much lower 62mph. If I’m travelling at 92mph in third and I accidentally shift down to second, the engine will momentarily travel at a higher speed than the rev limiter would normally allow – because the wheels are spinning too fast for the engine.

In this case, possible engine damage can include dreaded valve float, crankshaft failure, pistons seizing and connecting rods catapulting themselves out of the engine block. We told you money shifting was expensive!

3. Transmission damage

Accidental downshifting can put additional stress on your clutch and the components within your transmission. Things like gear synchronizers and the clutch itself can suffer from incorrect operation.

Your clutch and transmission are designed to work at normal speeds with the help of the engine rev limiter. If your clutch is operating at speeds above the red line, it could fail or even shatter. When a clutch disc shatters, the fragments can fly through the transmission housing and cause serious injury or damage.

Don’t be fooled – even if you don’t fully engage the clutch in a money shift, selecting a gear will still cause the clutch disc to spin faster than it should. Don’t do it!

4. Absolutely nothing

If you’re lucky enough to correct a money shift quickly, you might just avoid any damage or loss of handling happening to your vehicle.

Engines and transmissions are built to last. While your car isn’t designed to travel over the redline, it’s not necessarily the end of the world if it does happen. Your engine might even be over-engineered: meaning there is a bit of leeway when it comes to high RPMs.

If you find yourself the victim of a money shift, pull over as soon as possible to check for any damage. Listen out for unfriendly sounds, knocks or noises coming from the engine or transmission. 

If all seems well, you have probably survived the dreaded money shift. Your wallet will thank you. Try not to do it again!

How to avoid money shifting

Thankfully, money shifting is not a common occurrence. Most transmissions will show some resistance if you try to shift into a lower gear after hitting the rev limiter. Simply put: most shifters should let you know if you’re about to do something wrong.

But worn bushings, bad synchros and tired transmission mounts can all increase the likelihood of a money shift occurring. Here are a few helpful tips that can prevent any accidental downshifts:

  • Take it slow: don’t rush your gear changes
  • Don’t shove gears: help to guide the shifter to its next destination
  • Practise proper shifting technique: don’t grip the shifter too hard
  • If your transmission has noticeable issues, repair them
  • Have fun, and don’t worry about it: money shifting is rare

Aside from our tips, you should make sure that you’re comfortable in a car before taking it into a high-pressure situation like a track day. Practice makes perfect!

Conclusion

And there we have it. I’ve been the victim of a money shift once or twice, but no serious damage resulted from my mistakes. Sure, my dignity took a hit, but I learnt a thing or two about what not to do when driving out on track.

Even if your engine is pretty bulletproof and your driving skill is unmatched, it’s never a good idea to get into the habit of over-revving. It could even injure you if you’re not careful.

Have you experienced the infamous money shift? Let us know how it went for you below!

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