What is the problem with the CVT gearbox?
Source: Nissan

A continuously variable transmission (CVT) may be the most available option if you're searching for a new car to buy. But you may have also heard negative things about CVT from your friends and been advised to stay away from it.


What is the problem with the CVT gearbox?


The CVT gearbox is mostly known to have the following problems:

  • Difficult acceleration
  • Vibration and Noise
  • Overheating
  • Transmission 'jerking'


Why does the CVT gearbox have all these problems? And does this mean I have to stay away from it?


What is CVT, and how it works?

Source: Marc Lachapelle / guideautoweb

A CVT, or continuously variable transmission, is a type of gearbox that has a wide range of "gear ratios." Conventional automatic gearboxes, on the other hand, only provide six, eight, or ten ratios.

There are several CVT designs, but they all have the same basic idea. CVTs use technologies to change the engine speed across the engine's working range rather than a predetermined number of gears. Fixed gear ratios are replaced with a constantly changing speed setting, therefore eliminating the need for shifting.


A "shift" sense may be added to some CVT systems if the driver accelerates hard. The idea is that drivers would want to experience the old-school shifting sensation.

When driving, a CVT keeps the engine in the correct rpm range for the current scenario, just like the automatic gearboxes we all grow up with. Contrary to traditional automatic transmissions, the CVT isn't constrained by the engine's RPMs.


Since CVTs are more fuel-efficient, automakers have been using them in their vehicles. Due to its "infinitely variable" nature, CVTs operate similarly to a fixed-speed gearbox while providing a wider speed range. A CVT has more potential ratios than any other gearbox, which aids in fuel economy.


CVT Problems

Nissan is the most popular name when it comes to CVT Problems. It was one of the first automakers to implement this transmission system, but unfortunately, with many issues.


Difficult acceleration:

Acceleration difficulty is a common issue. Many drivers have reported that the acceleration is always delayed and not providing the needed response. 


Vibration and Noise:

Sudden shaking while driving is something that is unacceptable. Many drivers have reported that this issue will arise while driving at relatively high speeds. Drivers also said that the Nissan CVT transmission caused the car to shudder, stall and make "unusual noises."


Overheating:

It is also known that the CVT is having an overheating issue. This might be because of the nature of this gearbox. The heating issue is serious and could potentially destroy the car components.


Transmission 'jerking':

"Sudden, unexpected shaking and violent jerking" is considered the main problem with a CVT gearbox. Many people who used it reported problems like revving and jerking and total CVT transmission failure.


These issues are not found in all CVT cars. On the other hand, many CVT cars provide the driver with a great experience. This gearbox transmission is known to have some important benefits.


CVT Benefits

Source: KARL TAPALES / GETTY IMAGES

Higher Fuel Efficiency:

A CVT's capability to continually adjust its gear ratio is considered as one of its many benefits. As a result, no matter how fast the engine is running, it will always operate at its maximum efficiency level. This means that  CVTs tend to deliver higher fuel efficiency when driving in the city.


Easy and Comfortable:

The majority of CVT-equipped vehicles have a more comfortable ride than a comparable vehicle with a normal automatic transmission. That's because there's no shifting going on. No sudden downshifts when the car requires extra power and the sense of gear hunting that you sometimes feel with a conventional automatic are present with this system.


CVT Future

Yes, the CVT has many known problems, especially with Nissan models. Still, it is like any other new technology at its first appearance. The conventional automatic transmission had many issues in its beginning that were fixed with further improvements and developments.


CVTs are now getting better. Some CVT manufacturers have been shown to survive the lifetime of the vehicle while also requiring less maintenance.

There is a flawless record of 5/5 dependability at Consumer Reports for the Toyota Prius, which has a CVT between 2009 and 2020. On the other hand, Nissan Altima models from 2014 and 2016 get a 1/5 rating from Consumer Reports, which blames the gearbox for the car's poor performance.


So the final point is, don't blame CVT for the problems; blame Nissan for its poor design and implementation!

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