CVT Transmissions – What’s In a Name?

Does Your Car Have a CVT?

Not all transmissions are created equal, or even cut from the same cloth! The Colorado favorite Subaru uses a Lineartronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) for virtually all models from 2010 and beyond, which offers a variety of advantages for safety, performance, and handling. In this blog, we’ll compare CVT to regular geared transmissions, review some of the advantages of CVT, and identify the signs you may notice when your CVT is in trouble. As trusted transmission experts with over 50 years, we’re as comfortable with CVTs as we are with regular transmissions.

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CVT vs Regular Transmission

Imagine a regular geared transmission like a 6-speed bicycle: you have your widest gear for times when you need all the power possible to go uphill, and your narrowest gear to maintain speed while cruising. Regular transmissions function in a similar fashion, with low gears for starting out, middle gears for acceleration, and high gears for fuel-efficient cruising.

For CVT’s, instead of gears, there are two electronically controlled pulleys connected by a steel belt – and the pulleys can vary their width indefinitely. These pulleys continuously change the engine speed as needed based on car speed and maneuvering. As a result, there’s never a physical or audible transmission shift. An added bonus is that while there is no true manual mode, drivers can opt to shift in a virtual manual mode.

Benefits of CVT Transmission

  • Smooth Operation – Where regular transmissions may jerk during full-throttle acceleration, CVTs provide power in a smooth, linear manner.
  • Fuel Efficiency – CVT’s find the most fuel efficient point in the engine power band and stays there, oftentimes beating fuel efficiency on true manual transmissions.
  • Improved Response – As CVTs have no physical gear changes, the powertrain is more responsive to changes in throttle and vehicle speed. This also means power can be applied to the wheels continuously, rather than pausing for gear shifts.
  • Reliability – No gears means fewer moving parts, which ultimately means fewer parts to break.
  • Fun to Drive – With the option to switch to a virtual manual mode, the driver can enjoy the thrill or perks of manual driving at a moment’s notice.
  • Interior Comfort – CVT’s are more compact than regular transmissions, which has allowed for increased passenger cabin space and legroom.
  • Power – engines have a sweet spot where torque and horsepower are at their highest levels. CVT finds and stays in that exact spot.

What to Watch Out For In a CVT

Your CVT doesn’t need a ton of maintenance, but like any transmission, if it’s not working properly you may run into trouble (https://www.aamcocolorado.com/services/transmission-repair/). Some vehicles require transmission fluid changes before 100,000 miles and others don’t, so it’s good practice to make sure your mechanic checks on the fluid during regular maintenance like oil changes.

  • Leakage – there are approximately 20 external seals your CVT can leak from, with repairs ranging from simple and quick to extremely complex. If you notice pink or red oil leak marks on your driveway, don’t just cover it in kitty litter and ignore the cause!
  • Vibration – If you’re driving at high speeds and feel a bucking or shaking, you may be experiencing a transmission malfunction.
  • Hesitation – If you notice a hesitation in engaging a gear like “D” or “R”, it may be indicative of low transmission fluid, a loose belt, or an internal transmission seal.
  • Burning Odor – A burning smell when you’re near your car can be a sign of an overheating transmission or fluid leaking into the exhaust system. Leaking fluids into the exhaust system should be addressed immediately, as letting it continue can cause major damage.

CVTs & Beyond – At AAMCO Colorado We ARE The Transmission Experts

If you’ve noticed any of the above issues, or just want to have your transmission checked up on by an expert mechanic, your local AAMCO Colorado location is here to help. Whether you make an appointment online, call to schedule, or just want to ask a mechanic, we’ve been transmission experts for over 50 years and have extensive experience with all transmissions, including CVT. We’ll help you keep your transmission in tip top shape and ready for anything the road (or off-road) might throw at it!

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