by Chris Monahan

It's a familiar scenario - you're cruising around looking for a little friendly competition. You come across a worthy challenger and an open stretch of road. It's 'on'. The rpms rise as your eyes toggle between the road ahead and the car beside you. The motor is pulling hard and you seem to be gaining ground. Then without warning the car noses over and the dreaded sound of full tilt rev limiter fills the air. Your competition is now a pair of tail lights in the distance.

If you are manually changing your gears, be it with an automatic or a stick transmission, it is up to you to shift at the right rpm for optimum performance. Shifting too early hinders engine performance as does shifting too late. Shifting too late however can also result in engine damage, especially if you are not equipped with a rev limiter. If you are a bracket racer shifting each gear and each pass inconsistently results in unpredictable ET's and an eventual early exit.

The solution is not to watch the tachometer. In the heat of battle things are happening too fast for the human brain to process numerical data, along with observing the road and competition. You've got to have a clear and accurate signal that your brain can react to immediately. This is no better achieved that an optical signal, such as a bright shift light.

Shift lights have been around for a while, but their size and overall gaudiness made them plain goofy for street cars. The older generation lights were based on standard light bulbs, which weren't exceptionally bright and thus hard to see in sunlight. Furthermore with the complexities of late-model, distributorless ignition systems, installing a shift light generally also required some sort of electronic module to create an rpm input signal. Well forget about all that. The new generation of LED shift lights utilize modern technology to not only eliminate the wiring headaches, but to slim down the package into a trim little tube about the diameter of a nickel. The Raptor Performance shift light was one we learned about recently and became so impressed by the technology that we installed them in our early and late model project cars. They literally take a few minutes to hook up, and your only challenge may be deciding where to put it. We've shown you a couple cool placements below. It will likely help you win the next grudge match, and definitely provide a little extra insurance in case your eyes are justifiably not glued to the rpm needle.


A traditional option is to mount on the side of an aftermarket tachometer. Tap the green wire into to the tach's rpm lead, or directly to the MSD tach output terminal, or negative side of the coil on stock ignitions.

On our '04 Cobra we placed the shift light right between the tach and boost gauge, using the existing bezel screw to mount the included bracket. Run the wire in through the small gap between the bezel and lens.

Our favorite mounting location is in the center vent, as seen here on a '99-04 Mustang. This keeps it out the way and stealthy. The LED's are plenty bright to see during the day time.

To mount in the vent remove both the driver side center vent, and the passenger side vent near the glove box.

With the vents removed, drill or punch a 1/4" hole in the plastic air duct, towards the glove box end.

To pass the shift light's wire through the vent, we bent a coat hanger and fed it through the passenger vent and out the center drivers vent. Hook the wire up and pull it back through.

Push the end of the wire harness through the hole created in the duct. Pull the wire down behind the glove box.

Strip back the outer sheath to expose the three leads. The shift light comes with splice terminals, however we opted for a more secure type of terminal. Install crimp-on terminal as shown.

Remove the passenger side kick panel to gain access to the PCM and main computer harness.

On '99-'04 Mustangs the red wire in the grey connector (arrow) is 12V key-on. We'll splice the Raptor's 12V red lead into this wire.

Due to the coil-on-plug ignitions on '99-'04 Mustangs we can tap into any of the 8 individual cylinder coil wires at the PCM.

Attach the ground wire to a good chassis ground, we used this factory ground point below the PCM harness.

On '99-'04 Mustangs set the dip switches to 1-cylinder mode, as indicated in the instructions. The desired light-on rpm is set by the dials - the left one for 1000 rpm increments, and the second for x 100 rpms.

We used stick-on Velcro tabs to mount the shift light in the vent. Set it just far back enough to allow the vent grill to fit into place.

In This Article:
A review and installation of a super-tiny and simple LED shift light by Raptor Performance.

Unlike conventional shift lights, the Raptor light is conveniently small and light weight. All electronics are self contained, meaning no separate "pills" or rpm converters are needed to make it work.

How LED's Work

Unlike a conventional light bulb, an LED (Light Emitting Diode) works on the principals of semiconductors. The movement of electrons in the diode gives off photons, the basic unit of light. In an LED, these photons are projected towards the tip of the bulb, producing an intense visible light. An LED bulb has no filament or inert gas in it, and thus cannot burn out. Furthermore an LED bulb is plastic and more durable. Finally, LED's are more efficient. Only about 10% of the energy from a conventional light bulb is in the form of visible light, the rest is infrared or heat.

Raptor Performance
349-L Copperfield Blvd # 226
Concord, NC 28025
Tel: 704-796-8409