Not surprisingly, there is a right way and a wrong way to shift gears to keep your MINI Cooper engine at peak power. Assuming you have a manual transmission, let’s start with your gear shift and the correct way to change gears. While you’re sitting in the MINI Cooper, push in the clutch and then move the gear shift through the gears.
The first thing you’ll notice is that the gearshift seems to be pushing against your hand as you move the lever through the gears. This is because the gearshift is spring-loaded—it has two springs pushing it towards the center “gate” of the gearbox. This is done to make it easier for you to make a clean shift and know where you are, provided you do it properly.
Properly means that you shouldn’t grip the lever as if it were a baseball or bat. Instead, all you need to do is cup your hand around the lever and nudge it in the proper direction. You use the heel and outside of your palm to push it up into first, and use the outside and base of the fingers to pull it down into second while pulling it towards you against the spring.
To move it up into third take advantage of the spring by simply nudging the shift straight up; the spring will push it out of the one-two channel and into the three-four channel. You can use the inside of your fingers to pull it straight down into fourth without exerting any sideways motion.
When you’re ready to shift into fifth, you use the heel of your hand and base of your thumb to nudge the lever up while pushing over against the spring. From fifth to sixth, you use the inside of your first finger to push the lever away from you against the spring, and the crook of your fingers to pull it down.
Incidentally, most of the shifting can be done with a simple finger and wrist motion. If your arm is moving from the elbow or shoulder, you’re using way too much force. And remember, you’re just nudging the lever into place; you shouldn’t be slamming it in. All that’s necessary is that the movement from gear to gear be crisp and definite.
Slamming won’t get the job done any quicker. Your shift needn’t be slow, but excessive speed is just going to cause you to miss shifts. Under nearly all circumstances, you never want to slam the shifter into the next gear. All this does is cause unnecessary wear on the springs and gears without appreciably speeding up the gear change.
Here’s another tip about that gear shift. Casually resting your hand on the gearshift while driving or sitting at the stop light is also a no-no. It may look cool, but that constant pressure will wear against the springs and gears and eventually cause gearbox problems. Unless you are actually making a shift, your hand belongs on the steering wheel, anyhow.