CVT Transmission: What’s the difference?

If you’ve never heard of a Continuous Variable Transmission, CVT transmission for short, you’re definitely not the only one. This type of transmission, which has been around for more than a century, allows for a smooth transition between gears using a simple and efficient power delivery system. It was first used in smaller engines, like motorcycles and lawn equipment, and was in cars for the first time in 1988.

But, what makes it so different from an average automatic or manual transmission? Rather than shifting between six different gears as your car accelerates, it has one magic gear that acts as a variable across all driving situations. This variable ensures that your engine is working efficiently while running at various speeds. That’s essentially what makes it so much smoother than the average transmission – there is virtually no need for shifting from gear to gear.

The only real adjustment you’ll notice while driving a car with a CVT transmission is an increase in RPM, or engine speed, as you accelerate. This number should be higher when accelerating and lower when cruising. Even when your vehicle is rapidly accelerating, the CVT operates at the most efficient engine speed for each situation and effectively maintains that speed. Because it’s so efficient, a CVT should help you get a few extra miles to the gallon.

Obviously, there are some clear benefits to having a CVT Transmission, but they aren’t exactly a perfect fit for every driver. While this type of transmission is arguably more reliable, if you like to feel your engine transition from gear to gear, it won’t be a fit for you.

Additionally, a CVT transmission requires regular maintenance and care – more so than a basic automatic transmission. They’re a lot less durable than your traditional transmission options, with belt slippage acting as its Achilles heel. If the belt slips even slightly on the pulley, the entire transmission is ruined. On top of that, not every mechanic knows how to work on or repair a CVT transmission.

Quite a few popular cars that have a CVT transmission, including:

  • Audi A4, A5, and A6
  • Honda Civic
  • Jeep Compass
  • Mercedez-Benz A and B-class
  • Mitsubishi Outlander
  • Nissan Altima

You can view a full list of cars with CVT transmissions here.

Bottom line: While this type of transmission can save you some cash in the long run, neglecting regular maintenance can really break the bank. And, if you’re a car person, the impact a CVT has on the way your engine shifts might not be for you.

If you’re in the middle of deciding whether or not a CVT transmission is right for you, or have already taken the plunge, make sure you have a quality transmission expert you can trust to keep it in optimal working condition. Someone that will help you maintain the quality of your car’s engine, without charging you an arm and a leg for it. Tony at Superior Transmissions is the man for the job – call today for honest, quality service.