Car CVT transmission

What Is A CVT transmission?

While you may have heard of an automatic or manual transmission, there is a third kind that’s on the rise. The CVT, or continuously variable transmission, is becoming more and more common because it is seen as a way to create a better fuel economy. 


They’ve been around since the late 1980s, but are no longer considered the experiment of manufacturers to increase fuel efficiency. The CVT is now a regular fixture in modern vehicles, and you can find a CVT now from most major manufacturers.


Car transmissions are essential to a vehicle’s success on the road. Knowing the ins and outs of a CVT, and how to operate it, can help you better navigate the modern automotive landscape and get an idea of what a CVT has to offer. Book an appointment today to find the right transmission for you!

How Does a Continuously Variable Transmission Work?

A CVT is technically considered an automatic transmission, because the driver doesn’t have to manually operate a clutch pedal or shift between forward gears. However, there are differences that allow the CVT to stand out. The CVT is a continuous variable transmission, which helps differ it from your standard transmission. 


But what is a continuously variable transmission? What distinguishes the CVT is that there is no fixed number of preset gears. Instead, it uses an unlimited number of gear ratios to adapt to driving conditions at any given moment. This infinite range of gear ratios allows the CVT to be endlessly flexible, and causes a continuous variable transmission, which in turn creates a smoother driving experience. The CVT transmission is often referred to as “shiftless” because of its ability to create a seamless acceleration with no hard shift points.


The infinite gear ratio is made possible in the CVT because of two cone-shaped driving pulleys that have a flexible belt or chain running between them. One side of the driving pulley is fixed, while the other side is movable, caused by the hydraulic cylinder. The cylinder can moderate the amount of space between the pulleys, allowing the belt to run higher or lower, which changes the gear ratio.


This flexibility gives CVT transmissions a serious advantage in the automotive playing field. The CVT can work effortlessly to optimize engine speed, increase efficiency, and optimize fuel mileage. All of this works together to create a smooth ride for drivers. With this infinite variability, the CVT-equipped car actually can boost a passenger car’s fuel economy as well. 

CVT Pros and Cons

Like with any car, the CVT transmission has its pros and its cons. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to the car they drive. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the benefits and drawbacks of a CVT transmission.


Think about what you’re looking for in a vehicle, and see if the CVT transmission is the right fit for you and your car.

CVT Transmission Pros

• Responsive Acceleration – Because the CVT is variable in nature, it can find the right gear ratio at a much quicker pace than the traditional transmission. This encompasses a wide range of vehicle speeds, from off-the-line to highway passing. 

• Smoother driving character – There are no hard shift points in a CVT, which means it delivers a consistent performance across the rev band. CVT transmissions fluid helps find that sweet spot to create smooth transitions every time, with no abrupt downshifting or acceleration lags, which are common issues in conventional automatic and manual transmissions. 

• Increased fuel economy – CVTs are the most fuel efficient of transmission vehicles, and are commonly used in hybrid vehicles and smaller cars to maximize your mileage when you drive.

CVT Transmission Cons

• Higher repair costs – CVTs cost more money to fix or replace, and are not as durable as automatic transmissions. When they break down, they require a lot of investment to get up and running again.

• Noisiness – A common complaint is that CVT vehicles emit a whinier and louder noise than automatic transmissions. When under increased acceleration, they tend to drone. A CVT transmission tends to disrupt the quiet.

• Not as capable and durable in high performance situations – CVTs do offer better acceleration in your routine daily drives, but if you’re looking for transmission that you can work in high horsepower scenarios, the CVT is not ideal. Higher speeds and CVTs don’t mix, which is why sports cars typically lack a CVT transmission.

Signs of CVT Failure

Whether you already own a CVT vehicle or are interested in owning one, it’s important to know the signs of CVT transmissions problems. This can help you be on the lookout for any potential problems and stop them from getting worse. Here are some CVT transmission symptoms that could be a sign of trouble:


• Slippage – This occurs when the vehicle loses power momentarily during an acceleration event when it should be constant, seamless, and increasing in speed.

• Shifting lag – When the vehicle experiences a brief pause or lurching sensation while shifting between drive, park, or reverse.

• Engine rev fluctuations – When inconsistent changes occur through the rev band while driving the vehicle at a consistent speed.

• Overly loud noise – While CVTs typically operate with some level of noisiness, excessive whirring during acceleration is not a good sign.

Is a CVT Better Than an Automatic Transmission?

The CVT has multiple qualities that make it a better choice than the automatic transmission. They are more efficient, and offer a better fuel economy for drivers. With a continuous variable transmission, these vehicles can find the proper gear ratio much faster, and at every speed. This creates a smoother ride than an automatic transmission could provide. it also doesn’t experience the lags or jarring downshifts that are characteristic of standard transmissions. Repairs and maintenance is more costly in a CVT, however.


Both automatic and CVT transmissions can offer a lot to drivers. It’s up to you to decide what’s the best fit for your car. After all, you’ll be the one who has to take care of it. Assess what you value in a car, and what doesn’t bother you, and you’ll know if the CVT is the right choice for you.

Key Takeaways about CVT Transmission

CVT transmissions are poised to become big players in the automotive industry. As continuously variable automatic transmissions, they’re simpler and more adaptable than traditional transmissions. With a better fuel economy and ability to seamlessly navigate varying driving conditions, they have a lot going for them. On the other hand, they can be expensive when it comes to upkeep, and some drivers don’t enjoy the noisiness of a CVT transmission.


While there are some downsides to the CVT, auto manufacturers are aware of the cons and and are constantly working to improve these vehicles. Sound and durability are important factors these automakers keep in mind when focusing on improving CVT cars. Given the progressive nature of the car, and its adaptability, the modern CVT is a force to be reckoned with, and could be a staple of the car scene for years to come.