CVT Transmissions

Continuously Variable Transmission

Another Tech Tip from Clutch & Transmission Technicians

What is a CVT transmission?

The CVT transmission uses variable diameter pulleys with  a belt or chain to give it a wide range of gear ratios. It continuously varies the ratio as the vehicle is being driven versus the traditional transmissions that use planetary gears to stage the gear ratio on a more predictable pattern. The CVT  method  is similar to a 10 speed bike.

The pros.  The transmission has gained popularity on many of the newer vehicles as it can continuously change the gear ratio to improve emissions and fuel economy.  It is constantly changing the gear ratio to get the maximum performance out of the vehicle. Better gas mileage  is probably the biggest factor.

The consThe biggest concern  at this time is the cost of replacing the transmission when it fails and the low mileage failures on some models. The belts are subject to wear from constantly changing positions on the pulleys and stretching of the belt can give them an early failure. The availability of replacement parts at this time is very scarce.  However  with the increasing popularity of the car manufacturers using them. The aftermarket parts should become more available and make them more affordable to repair. The other downsides of these transmissions, that may be of concern to you, is that you do not feel the shifts as it is changing gear ratios and these transmissions can be noisier than conventional automatic transmissions.  Also the response on a hard acceleration, like when getting on the freeway or passing a vehicle, does not seem to be as responsive.

I decided to post about the CVT Transmissions, as we have had several customers this year who have experienced transmission failure at low mileage.  The cost of the transmission repair was close to or more than the value of their vehicle.

Some of the customers had recently purchased a used vehicle and were unaware that they had a CVT transmission. They were not happy when they found out that the transmission repair would be as much as they paid for their vehicle.  If you plan on purchasing a vehicle with a CVT transmission, I recommend purchasing an extended warranty.

I recently visited some new car dealerships and learned that a good majority of their vehicles had CVT Transmissions, and that they planned on using more in the 2014 Models. You can tell by driving the vehicle if it has one of these transmissions as you will not feel the shifts as you are driving. You can also ask the salesperson. It appears that they are going to be in a majority of the new vehicles.

This does not mean that all CVT transmissions fail at a low mileage.  And they do appear to be helping to improve fuel economy.  However, I felt it important to educate our customers about the costs of repairing CVT transmissions, especially when purchasing a used vehicle.   CVT transmission technology should advance, and the parts should become more available. For now, you should do your research on the vehicle you are planning on purchasing and find out about the warranty and coverage.

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Serving Modesto, Turlock, Patterson, Ceres, Oakdale, Riverbank, Sonora and surrounding area since 1992

CTT Transmissions

3424 Oakdale Rd. Modesto CA 95355

209 551-4050