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Houston TX Automotive CVT

National Transmission is the leader in the Houston area for the repair and service of CVT Transmissions. CVTs (continuously variable transmission) have become more common in the vehicles on the roads in and around the Houston area. CVTs have been installed in passenger cars and trucks since 1989, but for those of our customers in the Houston area that have not shopped for vehicles in the past few years, this automotive technology may be new them. As such, National Transmission has thought to share our expertise of the technology behind the CVT.

Continuously Variable Transmission Explained

The primary difference between an automatic transmission in most Houston area vehicles and a CVT is the former utilizes a complex series of gears to transmit the engine's power to the wheels and a CVT is completely void of gears. Rather, a CVT employs a couple of variable-width pulleys which are connected by a single belt. One of the two pulleys is connected to the engine and the other pulley sends the power needed to move the vehicle to the wheels. Simply explained, it is the width of the pulleys varies in accordance with how much energy is required. As one pulley increases in width, the other pulley narrows, allowing the continuously variable transmission to provide uninterrupted acceleration. It should be noted that there is a CVT that is less common that utilizes a set of rollers and discs.

While a CVT lacks the gears that a conventional automatic transmission has, some CVTs do permit “manual shifting”. This is achieved when the belts and pulleys of the CVT transition to points that are preset, thus simulating a changing of gears. Drivers shift by either using a clickable paddle on the steering wheel, or moving the shift lever. One such example can be found in the 2019 Ascent SUV made by Subaru which has eight points for shifting.

The recently released 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback has a feature referred to as a “launch gear”. The “launch gear” is similar to what would be found in a vehicle with a standard transmission. Initial speeds of up to 25 MPH are handled by the launch gear, thereafter releasing control to the vehicle's belt-and-pulley configuration. Toyota's representation is that this system allows for a smoother and stronger acceleration from a stopped position.

How Do CVTs Work?

Most often National Transmission will repair or service CVTs that are in customers' vehicles having four-cylinder engines. This is in part because vehicle manufacturers represent that CVTs derive maximum power from small engines more responsively, providing a quicker acceleration.

In addition to the elimination of abruptly downshifting when passing other vehicles on the roads of the Houston area, CVTs offer an acceleration experience that is without interruption of having to shift gears. Drivers will experience smooth operation when climbing steep grades or hills thus avoiding what is commonly referred to as “gear hunting”. Fuel economy is yet another feature of the CVT. CVTs weigh less than automatic transmissions and as such provide better overall power efficiency on the road. This is a primary reason vehicles that are hybrid-powered will have CVTs installed.

One characteristic of CVTs that our Houston auto repair shop technicians hear customers being challenged with is that when driving a vehicle with a CVT, the experience of continued acceleration void of shift points can be a bit unnerving. Excessive noise is another characteristic that challenges many vehicle owners with a CVT. The noise is a result of a CVT's forcing the engine to operate at higher revolutions per minute as the vehicle increases its speed.

Are CVT Problems Common?

It goes without saying that CVTs are not without mechanical problems and issues. And while CVTs and automatic transmissions may vary in many respects, the cost to fix either type of unit can be expensive. One need only to search online for problems related to CVTs to find more than their share of complaints. Some common complaints about CVT transmissions are slipping, jerking, and jerking sensations, while others include overheating and a sudden loss of acceleration. And not different from any other type of transmission, there are times with a CVT will fail completely. In fact there are court cases whereas owners have sued manufacturers as a result of unreliable and inadequate performance and operation of a CVT.

Which Vehicles Have An Automatic or CVT?

National Transmission tells our customers that when in the market for a new (or used) vehicle in the Houston area, discerning between vehicles that have a CVT and those with an automatic transmission is not always obvious as both vehicles will have a shift levers with park, neutral, and drive positions.

One telling consideration is that CVTs are commonly installed in Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Nissan vehicles, as well as many sport utility model types. Both Toyota and Honda have also begun installing CVTs in more of their models as well. Additionally, CVTs are more common in vehicles imported from Japan than those made in the United States of America of European vehicles. Quite often a vehicle will have either an automatic transmission or a CVT. One exceptional vehicle is the 2018 Accord from Honda that is offered with either of the two choices. But it should be noted that while the 2018 Accord has both types, either unit is only available with a specific engine type limiting buyers' option.

In conclusion, there are numerous ways to identify which type of transmission is in a vehicle. In new vehicles, it will be indicated on the information sticker at the dealership. Additionally, one may find out the transmission type simply by visiting the manufacturer's website. And of course, you may always reach out to us here at National Transmission and we will be happy to assist you.