What Is Meant By CVT Transmission Gearbox? How Is It Different From Others?

If you are someone who’s been looking to get an automatic car, or already own an automatic car, then chances are that you have heard of a CVT and what it means. CVT gearbox is the short form for Continuously Variable Transmission gearbox meaning that the transmission has a single gear that changes its shape according to the gear that is needed for the driver. This kind of gearbox is found in automatic cars.

What Is CVT Transmission?

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) gearbox is an automatic transmission which is a single unit, but offers different gears as per necessity, as it changes its shape according to the requirement.

This contrasts with other transmissions, which provide only a limited number of gears.

A CVT makes use of 2 pulleys linked by a belt, where one pulley connects to the engine, while the other links to the transmission. The connecting belt transfers power between them. This is how the gears are changed, and this system allows the vehicle’s engine to work more efficiently.


How Does A CVT Transmission Gearbox Work?

As mentioned earlier, there are two pulleys connected by a belt in a CVT gearbox. These pulleys are in the shape of two cones, arranged in a V-shaped drive belt connecting them. While one pulley is attached to the engine, the other is attached to the wheel.

These two pulleys work in unison when the accelerator is pressed upon, which results in the revving of the engine, which then causes the cone to move according to amount of power required. The other cone is responsible for maintaining the same tension in the drive, all of which results in the acceleration of the car, and which determines how the car accelerates.

A CVT is a single-speed unit that offers infinite gear ratios, as the two cones move independently of each other. This essentially means that the number of gears is not fixed. The revs of engines of cars of this type of gearbox aren’t related to the speed of the wheel, for this very reason.

The earlier versions of CVTs had a lot of whining noise coming from the engine, as the engine revs soared. Today, with the latest technology of CVT cars, there is no noise, as a lot of sound proofing is done to ensure noise reduction.

Compared to the earlier days of the CVT gearbox technology, the CVT gearbox is now a better option, for both driving enjoyment and efficiency. In fact, Nissan has developed its own version of the CVT gearbox, called Xtronic, which features ‘steps’ in its power delivery, which helps give a more conventional gearbox feeling.

There is another type of CVT, the e-CVT, which works differently when compared to a regular one.

An e-CVT consists of two electric motor-generators (MG1 and MG2) which are connected to a planetary gearbox. This whole setup is connected to the engine on one end, and to the wheels on the other.

While MG1 is responsible for starting the engine most of the time, it sometimes acts as a generator to charge the hybrid battery as well. MG2 acts as a drive motor on its own, or with the engine, and a generator to perform a regenerative braking role.

More advanced versions of the CVT are currently being developed, with an AI run CVT being the most advanced version that is being worked upon.

Pros and Cons Of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

As with any other type of transmission and gearbox a CVT and an e-CVT transmission also offers its own share of pros and cons.

Benefits Of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Gearbox

Compared to traditional automatic transmissions that have a fixed number of gear ratios, CVT offers several benefits:

1. High fuel efficiency:

At the core of the CVT system is the idea for making the engine as efficient as possible, which results in high fuel efficiency. This is because a CVT transmission offers an infinite number of gear ratios, when compared to the maximum of 10 gear ratios available in any traditional transmission system.

2. Lighter Weight

It is a known fact that there’s better acceleration and braking when the weight of the vehicle is lesser. This is the case with a CVT transmission, which is smaller and lighter when compared to a traditional one.

3. Easier and Cheaper Configuration

CVTs do not have a complex design, when compared to other types of transmissions, which makes them easier to handle, quicker to assemble and less costly to manufacture.

4. Smooth Performance

Since the CVT offers an infinite number of gear combinations, it is highly capable of adjusting to your driving needs and giving you a smooth performance along with the best experience.

Drawbacks of CVT Automatic Transmission Gearboxes

Although CVT gearboxes have many advantages over traditional automatic and manual transmissions, there are also some drawbacks that should be considered. Here are some of the cons of CVT gearboxes:

1. Limited power handling capacity:

CVT gearboxes are generally not suitable for high-performance vehicles or heavy-duty applications, as they may not be able to handle the high torque and power demands. This is because the pulleys and belts used in CVT gearboxes may slip or wear out under heavy loads.

2. Lack of driver engagement:

CVT gearboxes are often criticized for their lack of driver engagement, as they do not provide the same level of feedback and control as a manual transmission. This can make driving less enjoyable and feel less connected to the car.

3. Potential reliability issues:

Some drivers have reported issues with CVT gearboxes, such as overheating, slipping, and premature wear. While these issues are not necessarily common, they can be costly to repair and may require the replacement of the entire transmission.

4. Higher cost:

CVT gearboxes can be more expensive than traditional transmissions, both in terms of initial purchase cost and maintenance and repair costs. This is due to their more complex design and the need for specialized parts and service.

5. Noise and vibration:

CVT gearboxes can be noisier and more prone to vibration than traditional transmissions, especially under heavy loads or at high speeds. This can be a concern for some drivers, who may find it unpleasant or distracting.

Also Read: Best first cars for new drivers

Why Do Automakers Use CVTs?

The selling point to any products is the experience of using it, and the kind of service that it provides the customer with. This is what is driving automakers to use CVTs. As CVTs extract the maximum power from engines, they allow for quicker acceleration and more responsiveness, which improves the experience of a driver.

Apart from that, automakers nowadays are opting for CVTs over the regular transmission systems for a wide variety of reasons, the most important of which include the following:

1. The CVT uses a stepless shifting system which is unique to this type of transmission only, resulting in a smoother operation of the engine, when compared to any other type of transmission.

2. The engine can be easily tuned to the maximum range of efficiency, as the drive ratios available are infinite.

3. For a gear change, while one set of pulley faces are pushed together, the other are drawn apart.

Apart from that, what sets a CVT apart is that a special computer-controlled, hydraulically activated system changes the gears as per requirement, during driving.

What To Watch Out For When Buying A Used Car With A CVT?

As mentioned before, fixing any repairs or replacements of a CVT is very costly, which is why it is important to ensure that you’re getting a good used car of the CVT model. Here’s what you should keep in mind when getting a used car with a CVT:

1. Slow shifting

A CVT doesn’t require for you to shift gears, but it does require for you to shift gears between park, drive, and reverse. If it takes more than a second to do so, then it indicates that there’s something wrong with the CVT.

2. Strange sounds

In general, CVTs are louder than their traditional counterparts, but they shouldn’t be so loud where humming and whining are normal. If that’s the case, then it means that something is wrong with the car.

3. Slipping

In CVTs, acceleration should be continuous and seamless, if you feel a momentary loss in power or a slip, then it could mean a faulty CVT.

4. Jerky shifting

Shifting should never jerk or jolt the vehicle.

5. Inconsistent RPM

In all cases, a CVT should be consistent. In the contrary, if there’s a fluctuating RPM while driving at a steady speed, it could mean a faulty CVT.

6. Dirty transmission fluid

If the transmission fluid is dirty, it could mean that there’s some issue with the CVT.

FAQs on Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) Gearbox

1. Is a CVT better than an automatic transmission?

Depends. While a CVT gearbox might be smoother and more efficient than a regular car, it is not necessarily as direct or responsive.

2. How long do CVT transmissions last?

CVT transmissions usually last more than 100,000 miles, but it all depends upon how it is maintained. If the car is maintained properly, then the car is expected to last longer.

3. Is a CVT better than DSG?

CVT and DSG gearboxes each have their own share of pros and cons. While a CVT is great for smooth functioning and better fuel economy, a DSG is known for its responsiveness.

4. What kind of cars have a CVT gearbox?

Several automobile companies use the CVT gearbox for their cars. Some of them include Mitsubishi, Nissan and Subaru, Honda, Hyundai, Kia and even GM.

5. Is CVT Auto or Manual?

CVT is automatic.


Overall, a CVT gearbox has its own pros and cons, and how it is looked at totally depends upon the driver. More than anything, maintenance is the key to CVT gearboxes. If they are maintained well, CVT gearboxes serve very well. Getting a warranty for your CVT gearbox will help maintain it well. Warranty Direct offers a good warranty cover that covers your electrical car parts, and hybrid car parts, along with covering regular mechanical parts as well. Depending upon your requirement, you can choose one of Warranty Direct’s Gold, or silver warranty cover plans, which offer repair or replacement required for your car.

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