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Everything You need to Know About Honda CVT Transmission: Problems, Advantages, & Reliability

Honda CVT Transmission

Honda also has its share of transmission issues particularly their cars that were released during 1999-20004. Car models such as the Odyssey, Accord, and Civic are the worst example of Honda CVT transmission problems. A car may stop running properly because of its CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). A car that jerks when accelerating is indicative of a transmission problem. CVT offers improved car performance particularly in acceleration and better fuel economy, but people are still not completely convinced with its efficiency. 

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE


Here are some common Honda CVT Transmission Issues:


Annoying Noise


The cars with CVT produce noise during initial acceleration. The irritating sound is created because CVT tries to adjust the speed of the engine. The noises can be annoying, particularly in comparison to the sound of a slipping clutch coming from a manual transmission. You may be bothered by the sound when you are used to driving a car with an automatic transmission.


Jerky Movement


Cars equipped CVT are designed to provide a smooth transition while accessing maximum power. However, it suffers from a jerky movement during initial acceleration. Also, drivers have an issue with rattling noises during slow speed. Moreover, there are some problems noticed with abrupt movement when starting the system or engine. Other than that, an obvious sign of a transmission problem is the decrease of the car’s fuel economy.


More Expensive


People who have driven cars with an automatic or a manual transmission typically have a hard time switching to a car with a CVT system. For them purchasing a car with CVT is a pricier deal when compared to other transmission systems. 


No Change in Gear Shift


Cars that come with a CVT system do not offer the feel of any gear shifts akin to automatic transmission vehicles meaning you would not feel a change in the speed of the engine when shifting gears. This is due to the fact that paddle shifts are incorporated in cars with CVT systems to stimulate changes in gear. Hence, the paddle shifter allows the transmission of electronic signals to the clutch causing shifting of gears which precisely occurs in an automatic transmission engine.

Causes of Honda CVT Transmission Issues


CVT is an automatic car transmission system that makes use of a belt and pulley for a non-restricted range of gear ratio. It is the part of a vehicle that converts engine rotations into torque which allows you to drive at different speeds. But when the engine turns on, the vehicle still won’t shift into gear, leading to a faulty torque converter. One of the most common Honda CVT Transmission problems is the worsening of the torque converter due to leaking and burning transmission fluid. And what makes it more problematic is the fact that these problems are quite difficult and expensive to repair. So if you want to experience headaches due to CVT transmission issues it is best to do preventive maintenance. You must have your car check regularly for transmission leaks, and address issues right away by having a professional mechanic check and service your car. 

How long do CVT transmissions last? Is the Honda CVT transmission reliable?

A continuously variable transmission or CVT is a single-speed transmission that functions similarly to an automatic shifter for seamless shifting through a range of gear ratios, which is not the same as mechanical shifters that only provide access to a certain number of gear ratios. People are concerned about how long CVTs last because of some past problems in some models of Nissan and Jeep. The question is, how long do CVT transmissions last? This is an important question to ask if you are looking into purchasing a car equipped with a CVT transmission system. 


CVTs are operated just like conventional automatic transmissions. At first, you slide the shift lever from “P” to “D” and off you go. However it gets a bit complicated afterwards. Regular automatics have a fixed number of gears that are known as “speeds”, hence the term, “6-speed automatic” for instance. This is because each gear is good only for a certain vehicle speed, therefore, when it’s necessary to keep accelerating, the transmission will shift up through the gears, first 1, then 2, then 3 and so forth.


On the other hand, in a continuously transmission there are no gears. What it does have is one magical gear that’s variable through all driving conditions. This is the reason you won’t feel shifts from gear to gear like you do in a typical car. What you’ll notice is changes in RPM or in the speed of the engine: lower when cruising, higher when accelerating.


Known brands like Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Subaru have utilized different versions of CVT transmissions in many of their lineups. The concerns about the lifespan of the shiftern have begun after many problems in the first-gen models. Nissan experienced serious issues in some of their cars that are manufactured by their subsidiary JATCO. Jeep also faced problems in some of their models and one of them is their Compass model. 


The good news for Honda owners with the CVT is that Honda models equipped with CVT are known to be the most reliable among all the lineups and among all carmaker brands Honda has the longest CVT transmission life expectancy. But even if you are thinking of buying a non-Honda with CVT, you should not be worried so much since automakers have been working hard and continuously to improve the technology. You can expect that all newer models of the brands are better than their older models. 


How to Make Your CVT Transmission Last Longer


When you properly take good care of your CVT transmission it could last at least more than 5 years. CVT is still a relatively new technology and car makers have been working relentlessly to improve it. Despite this, CVT transmissions will still last for a long time through proper maintenance. The following are ways you can lengthen the lifespan of your CVT:


  1. Regularly change your transmission fluid, preferably every 30,000 kilometers. The belt or chain that transmits power needs clean, fresh oil to work properly. How often you change your oil depends on the climate and environment of the area where you drive the vehicle. If you live in a hot and dusty area, you should change oil more frequently than what is recommended by the car manufacturer. 
  2. Remember that the transmission is ideal for small cars and small engines. Several of them do not have the suitable design and strong chain to keep up with high-powered engines.
  3. Visit a trusted and professional mechanic or your car dealer at regular intervals to check your transmission. 


CVT helps in improving fuel efficiency through increasing the mileage and it also provides many other advantages which we will discuss later. However, not all the models get to have all the benefits similarly. For instance, Honda Accord and Civic provide a responsive, well-programmed handling which gets rid of the “rubber band effect” — a situation when the RPM is high but the car takes time to catch that speed.

Is CVT better than automatic transmission?

A traditional automatic transmission and a CVT operates in a similar way but they differ in construction. As mentioned previously in this article, a CVT does not use any gears but depends on two cone-shaped pulleys to transmit power from the engine, through the transmission and to the drive wheels. These pulleys can vary their width depending on power input, hence the term Continuously Variable Transmission. Working together, these pulleys make it possible for a CVT to accelerate with both strength and smoothness. 


One of the benefits in having a CVT is it allows a car to continuously change its gear ratio, meaning no matter what the speed of the engine is, it always operates at its optimum efficiency. Consequently, CVTs provide better fuel efficiency particularly when driving in the city.


Most vehicles equipped with CVTs give its drivers and passengers a smoother ride than a similar vehicle with a conventional automatic transmission. Thanks to the fact that it never shifts so there is no sudden downshifting when the vehicle needs more power, and you won’t feel any gear hunting that you sometimes feel with a traditional automatic transmission. A CVT is also lighter than a regular automatic, and this, paired with the smoother operation, helps in improving fuel economy of cars that come with a CVT system. 


Because CVT does not have gearing, it is also easier for cars with CVT to find and keep an ideal torque ratio. So for instance, it can take off from a stoplight and climb difficult terrain more easily since the variable transmission makes it possible for it to run in the right gear and maintain it. Also, CVTs have fewer components and are less expensive to manufacture compared to an automatic. 


As expected, CVT also has its set of disadvantages. Though CVT’s lack of upshifting and downshifting can be categorized as an advantage, some drivers disagree as they miss the feeling of the car moving through shift points. If you like a more athletic driving experience, then CVT’s lack of fixed gears may not be your cup of tea. Another thing some drivers do not like about CVT is the loud droning sound that happens when accelerating. CTVs can also be pricey to repair or replace compared to a regular automatic transmission. Because CVTs rely on the belts to function, if these begin to wear excessively or stretch excessively, the transmission can completely fail. Some of the typical problems that drivers encounter are slipping, overheating, shuddering and sudden loss of acceleration. 


In comparison to a conventional automatic transmission, CVT’s lifespan is shorter. Also, CTVs are more difficult to work on and even basic maintenance usually takes a trained mechanic to do. Since the technology behind CVT is relatively new, its structure is not yet perfect and sophisticated. Also, if the CVT’s steel chain fails, it shatters into pieces leaving shrapnels everywhere. In contrast, a failing traditional shifter does not create the same mess. It is also easier to find shops that can service a traditional automatic transmission since many servicing shops do not provide CVT transmission rebuild or repair service. 


But Automatic Transmissions also have their own set of disadvantages. First, they are less fuel efficient than CVTs. Second, they produce more emissions. Third, it is much more difficult to drive when climbing steep roads since you have to hunt for gear. 


Ultimately, the answer to the question which is better depends on your preferences and needs. A CVT can be better if you want to save on gas and a smoother ride. But if you want a sportier drive and more accessibility and convenience for maintenance and repair you may opt for a conventional automatic transmission. 

What car company makes the best CVT?

Now that you know the advantages and disadvantages of CVT and considering that CVT might be for you, it is time to find out which auto manufacturer makes the best CVT since not all CVTs are created equally. Some car models are equipped with better CVT than others. Here are the tried and tested CVT-type automatics that have proven to be one of the bests: 


For Honda: Civic, City, CR-V, Jazz, HR-V and Odyssey

For Subaru: WRX and Forester

For Toyota: Yaris, Vios, C-HR and Corolla Altis


These cars are equipped with CVTs that provide smooth acceleration and quiet operation thanks to the inclusion of a torque converter to transfer power to the driven wheels. But what stood out is the CVT in Subaru WRX. What sets it apart is the fact that you cannot tell the car is equipped with a CVT unless you are informed that it is. It also mimics the shifting character that drivers who are into a sportier drive loves about regular automatics. 


Like other cars fitted with a CVT system, Honda has its share of CVT transmission problems. But the good news is Honda has the most reliable cars equipped with CVT and all automakers are relentlessly improving the technology behind CVTs. 


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