How to Use Paddle Shifters Honda Civic

How to Use Paddle Shifters in a Honda Civic

If you’re overly dependent on the automatic gearbox in your Honda Civic, chances are that you’ve never really used the paddle shifters or ‘levers’ behind the steering that help change gears manually. To many, switching the car to M or S mode to shift gears manually seems a little confusing. Many others think that it is as difficult as driving a manual transmission car. 

The truth however is that paddle shifters are extremely easy to use. In fact, you can even have a lot of fun with them!

In this short and easy to understand guide I will explain how you use the paddle shifter in your Honda Civic. And there’s good reason to do so too.

Using your Honda Civic paddle shifters can give you better control of the car in certain conditions, particularly when the weather and terrain conditions aren’t ‘automatic-friendly’ – snow is a great example. To help you understand better, let me explain a practical scenario.

The automatic transmission on your Honda Civic shifts gears automatically based on the engine speed. However, imagine if you’re driving downhill and the road is either wet or covered with snow. 

The auto transmission in this scenario will not aid in engine braking. It will do the opposite and shift up. However, in manual mode, you can make use of engine braking along with the car’s brakes to your advantage, thereby reducing the pressure on the brake pads and gaining better overall control of your Honda Civic.

going up a gear with the paddle shifters
Using the Civic paddle shifter to go up a gear is simple.

How do paddle shifters work?

Coming back to the point of using the Honda Civic paddle shifters, the engineers at Honda have applied a fairly straightforward logic in the way the transmission functions. One paddle shifts gear up while the other paddle shifts gear down. 

When you use the paddle shifters, it sends an electronic signal to the clutch, reminding it to do its job before the next gear is slotted in.

It might sound like it is a complicated mechanical process. But in reality, it is simple and quick. So quick that your car would’ve changed gear without you noticing the shift. It all happens in a split second. The quick change also helps in minimizing a drop in RPM when a higher gear is chosen. When you shift down, the system helps match the RPMs in the lower gear.

If you think that the gear change isn’t quick enough, try using the ‘S’ or sport mode and then shift gears using the paddles. 

You’ll notice that the gear changes are sharper and the car does a better job at matching engine RPMs. This feature can come in handy in emergency situations or if you are out there on a racetrack! 

How to use paddle shifters on the Honda Civic

Coming straight to the point, the paddle with the ‘-‘ sign shifts gears down whereas the paddle with the ‘+’ sign shifts gears up. You may choose to be economical by shifting up when the engine RPM is around the 2000 RPM mark.

using Honda Civic paddle shifters
You can use your finger to shift down a gear on the paddle shifter.

Or, If you intend to get somewhere quickly, you may shift up when the engine RPM reaches a higher mark. The gear position indicator on the instrument cluster helps to know which gear you’re driving in.

It’s a bit like playing a video game. You press the right buttons and the car does the job for you. Some drivers who’ve switched from a manual transmission Civic to an automatic Civic are often confused if they should lift their foot off the gas pedal while using paddle shifters.

To clear the air, one does not need to lift their foot off the gas pedal when shifting gears, except if one intends to brake using the brake pedal. 

The transmission won’t be damaged in any way if you don’t lift off the gas pedal unlike in a manual transmission Civic. The automatic transmission is intuitive and smart enough to do that job for you.

When using the paddle shifters in manual mode, keep an eye on the RPM to ensure it isn’t too low for the next gear else, the system won’t shift up. 

You’ll have to gain some momentum for the transmission to catch up to a similar engine speed in the next gear. Similarly, if the engine’s RPM is too high for the lower gear to accommodate, the transmission will not allow you to shift down unless you’ve dropped some engine speed.

That brings us to the exceptions. Under the following circumstances, you won’t be able to change gears manually:

  1. When you press both the paddles at the same time.
  2. When you press and hold one paddle and then press the other paddle.
  3. When you upshift before the engine RPM reaches the lower limit of the next gear.
  4. When you downshift before the engine RPM reaches the upper limit of the lower gear.

Related questions

How do beginners use Honda Civic paddle shifters? 

There is only a single best way to use paddle shifters. If you’re a beginner who wants to use paddle shifters, I suggest you start practicing when your Civic is new and in D mode. 

That way, you’ll get used to the shift patterns in the automatic mode and have enough time to understand the paddle shifters. I also suggest you start using the paddle shifters on empty roads and highways to make the experience a little less overwhelming.

How is a CVT transmission in the Civic equipped have paddle shifters? 

Technically speaking, a CVT transmission doesn’t have gears. But, to help drivers gain better control of the car, a ‘gearing’ effect was introduced to divide a single band of power into multiple gears electronically. 

This also normalizes things for the driver who has been used to driving cars with gears. The ECU is programmed to offer as if, the Civic is equipped with many gears so the car would feel like any conventional automatic car.

Can I shift up when the Civic is stationery? 

You may shift up to second or third gear but anything beyond that, the system won’t allow you to. If you’d wonder why anyone would do this, starting the car in second gear prevents the wheels from spinning on slippery surfaces. 

This is very helpful in areas that experience heavy snowfall. To avoid the wheels spinning in the same place, you may try shifting up to second or third gear to begin moving with a low torque output.

Can I use the paddle shifters in drive mode? If yes, then when? 

Yes, you can. At any point in time, if you want to take over the control from the automatic transmission, you can choose to upshift or downshift in D mode. One may find the torque to be inadequate when climbing the hill in D mode. In such a scenario, you can simply use the paddle with the ‘- ‘sign to shift down in D mode to get more power out of the engine.

Can I use the sport mode in automatic and manual mode? 

Absolutely! The sport mode is used to keep the Civic’s engine in the powerband which can be very useful for quick overtakes and for spirited driving. When driving in S mode without using the paddle shifters, the car’s transmission will allow you to go pretty high up in the power band, unlike in D mode which shifts up much earlier. 

If you feel like squeezing out every bit of power from the Civic, you may use the paddle shifters manually to your convenience in SM3, or sport mode 3. In this case, the computers will allow you to hit the rev limiter without shifting up.

However, you must shift up quickly else the car will cut power for a few microseconds, mimicking a manual transmission before it shifts up automatically.

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