CVT or continuously variable transmission is one of the latest improvements in a car’s transmission. CVT does not need a driver to change gears as these are different from regular automatic transmissions. Learning what a CVT transmission is, how it works and CVT transmission life expectancy can help you understand your vehicle better. If you are in the process of purchasing a new vehicle, you can also better decide if a car with a CVT is right for you.
What are continually variable transmissions (CVTs)?
Older vehicle models come with traditional automatic-type transmissions and operate just like a vehicle with a manual transmission as these have varying gear ratios needed depending on many factors including road conditions and vehicle speeds.
Cars with manual transmissions need drivers to set the gear ratio that the vehicle has to be, automatic transmissions have a hydraulic system that moves according to the pressure made by similar driving conditions. The hydraulic system determines the gear automatically.
The gear ratio numbers that a car can use are already set and the ratios are precisely determined. This means that these ratios are adequate for all common driving conditions. These ratios are also called speeds. These ratios are also called speeds.
The very first modern cars have three speeds while updated cars have ten. You can actually fit a finite number of gears in a modern vehicle, but vehicles with CVT offer an infinite number of speeds by not using gears.
Inside a CVT is a set of pulleys or a system of rollers rather than gears. A single pulley is connected to the engine while the other to the transmission. This allows the driver to adjust the speeds according to their needs according to the best range. Tension control replaces gearing and this helps the car very the ratios depending on the driver's needs.
CVT has amazing benefits compared to traditional manual transmissions
- CVT makes your vehicle more fuel-efficient
CVT vehicles can change gear ratios almost instantaneously and with infinite gear ranges, these cars are the most fuel-efficient. According to experts, a regular car with CVT can go around 38 miles/gallon. Take note that almost all hybrid vehicles come with CVT transmission to save fuel costs.
- CVT helps cars maintain the best torque ratio
CVT does not have any gears and thus, it is easy for these cars to be maintained the best torque. CVT vehicles are able to take off easily from standing to driving and are also easy to move up and down even in very rough or difficult road conditions. Variable transmission lets you find the best gear ratio and keep the vehicle in this ratio for a longer period.
- CVT gives you a smoother ride
CVT vehicles offer a smoother ride compared to vehicles that make use of regular gears. Your car won't feel any drops or any pauses in power as you accelerate which makes CVT cars perfect for the stop and go movements. This is perfect for commuters. Other vehicles may find it hard to start with a red light as CVT cars can accelerate much easier.
How long do CVT transmissions last? The CVT longevity.
CVT transmission life expectancy depends on a variety of factors. CVTs found in new car models may last around 100,000 miles under strict regular car maintenance. Older cars may have shorter life spans.
New transmission features and designs extend the CVT lifespan. You must take care of your vehicle, have it checked regularly so you can get the most out of your transmission. Find out if your car's CVT comes with a clutch or torque converter. The latter is the most common, but a clutch is also popular. Just be careful as you move slowly inch by inch in traffic.
The weakest point of a CVT
Ask an expert or automotive technician and they will tell you that the weakest point of a CVT is its design. Although working with no gears creates a smoother and more fuel-efficient ride, the mechanical structure is not as good as those of a traditional transmission vehicle. Because the CVT system is more complicated, anything can go wrong, and wear and tear may also happen faster compared to regular kinds of transmissions. CVT is not as reliable and durable when you think of the long term.
Also, CVT transmission comes with a steel chain that’s the main power route. This steel chain moves power to all components of the vehicle coming from the engine. If this steel chain breaks, the transmission will not work and the car will not move. If this chain stops and breaks, it will leave tiny metal bits all over the engine. And in case of failure, only a few repair shops can service CVT models
But if you still think that a vehicle with CVT transmission is for you, consider the best car automatic transmission car brands like Honda, Subaru, and Toyota. Among the runners up are Nissan and Mitsubishi vehicles.
- For Honda, models like City, Jazz, HR-V, Civic, and Odyssey should be on your list. These vehicles are very reliable and accelerate just like electric.
- For Subaru cars, the WRX and Forester are worth your while. These vehicles may not hold a lot of torque compared to traditional automatic and manual models. Also, these vehicles may tend to overheat.
- Finally, Toyota models like the C-HR, Vios, Corolla Altis, and Yaris are the best CVT transmission, models. These models are the most reliable.
CVT transmission Issues and the most reliable CVT transmission brands
Indeed, many CVT transmission drivers find their vehicles smooth to drive and very easy to use, but this is not a perfect system. There are also some issues that car owners have to deal with.
- Low acceleration speeds in Nissan CVT
Nissan CVT transmissions last a lot less than other brands. The problem with Nissan CVT vehicles is that these have low acceleration speeds and thus, the engine may uncontrollably shake and shutter as it speeds up. Another problem is overheating and this is why the vehicle shakes. Most Nissan CVT models have poor transmission cooling components and this causes overheating and uncontrollable movements.
- Not so durable Honda CVT
Honda CVT longevity is another issue. Most Honda car owners argue that they don’t need to change transmission fluid, however transmission fluid extends the life of a CVT transmission. The problem with Honda CVT is these vehicles are not as durable as other models and thus will need regular maintenance and repairs. And of course, these repairs are very expensive including parts replacements.
If you want to sell your Honda car with CVT transmission after this has gone out, you may not be able to sell it for a lucrative price. Although, CVT gives Honda vehicles a good fuel economy.
As far as most CVT vehicle users are concerned, the most reliable brands like Toyota, Subaru, and Honda remain the best CVT brands. As long as you take good care of your transmission and change transmission fluid more often, you can massively extend the life of your Honda CVT vehicle.
Tips for proper maintenance
Consider the following to improve CVT transmission lifespan:
- Stick to regular transmission fluid care
The most important way to maintain your CVT transmission is to have regular transmission fluid maintenance. Every car model has recommendations on when to change transmission fluids. Nissan recommends that drivers change transmission fluid every 25,000 miles while some manufacturers say that it should be from 30,000 to 50,000. If your car manual does not specify when to change the transmission fluid, a good rule is to change it every 50,000 miles.
To check the CVT fluid, a mechanic lifts your vehicle and performs a quick check by going underneath your car. You may also look for the transmission fluid dip-stick which looks like the engine oil dip-stick but with a different color. Lift the stick and check the fluid levels.
- Leave fluid changes to professionals
Although changing transmission fluid may be done by using DIY methods, it's best to leave this to professionals. Also, car manufacturers have developed car transmission systems to be completely sealed and thus, only authorized service personnel should check, diagnose, and make adjustments if needed.
If you have a vehicle that has a CVT transmission, consider regular engine maintenance to avoid any costly worries in the future. Search for authorized service centers or an experienced mechanic regarding CVT in your area.
- Regular vehicle maintenance is a must
Regular maintenance can also prevent other transmission problems specific to each brand so find a professional that's an expert with your car brand, model, and type. Also, at the first sign of CVT transmission failure and problems, you should have your vehicle checked by a reliable technician. If you notice unusual sounds, movements, and engine failures, don't hesitate to have your vehicle checked.
How to Protect a CVT Transmission: 5 Practical Tips So Your CVT Lasts YouTube Video:
Do CVT transmissions last longer? Because of the gear-less design of CVT transmissions, these will last longer than regular or traditional transmissions. You can prolong your CVT transmission life expectancy and enjoy a smoother ride for many more years to come when you properly maintain your vehicle’s transmission system.
James is a certified auto technician specializing in commercial vehicles. With 30 years of experience under his belt, James has encountered almost every type of automotive issue there is! Besides his day job at the repair shop, he is also an amateur race car driver.