Automatic Transmission & CVT – Which Is Right for Me?

Which transmission do you want?

When you are choosing a car to buy an important thing to consider is what type of transmission you want. Traditionally the choice was between an automatic transmission and a manual transmission. However, recently a third option has come onto the market – CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission.


What is Transmission?

Before we dive in…what exactly is a car transmission?

Transmission is the system of gears in your car that transmits power from the engine to your wheels. This is the system that allows your car to move. There are two types of transmission systems in cars, automatic transmissions, and manual transmissions.

Related: Automatic or Manual Transmission? – An Infographic


What is Automatic Transmission?

An automatic transmission is a transmission that shifts itself – the driver does not have to perform an action to shift the gears of the car as they do on a manual transmission car. Automatic transmissions are more popular today as they tend to be easier to learn how to drive, and have less wear and tear than their manual counterparts.

There are two types of automatic transmissions, the traditional automatic transmission (ATs), and the continuously variable transmission (CVT).

image of a transmission internals.

Related: Evolution of the Transmission

Traditional Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission automatically changes between these gears as the driver presses the gas pedal and the car moves – freeing the driving from having to shift through different gears.

Automatic gearboxes use gears to match engine speed to road speed. There is a combination of different gear ratios, usually a total of six (but sometimes as many as nine), that are chosen so that the engine can remain in a range to produce the best amount of torque (turning force).

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

You operate a CVT car the same way you would a normal automatic transmission, although the actual inner workings are much different. CVT relies on a belt and pulley system. Instead of having gears, there are two pulleys connected by a belt. The engine turns one pulley and the other pulley is connected to the rest of the transmission and powers the wheels of the car.

CVT allows the car’s engine to run at the most efficient revolutions per minute for a range of different vehicle speeds. Because of this, CVT transmissions are perfect for when you are trying to ensure maximum fuel efficiency. For instance, Subaru’s are all-wheel-drive cars, and AWD is less fuel efficiency, so they use a CVT to gain back some fuel efficiency.

CVTs are largely found in Japanese cars such as Subaru’s, Honda CR-Vs, Nissan Rogues, and Mitsubishis.

Related: 2WD, 4WD or AWD?


The Pros & Cons of CVT

The main advantage of a CVT is that because it can vary its gear ratio infinitely as vehicle speed changes it can keep the engine at peak power. This means that your engine is always performing at maximum efficiency. CVT also produces fewer emissions because of its ability to better control the engines speed range. Many drivers also report that the ride is very smooth.

However, driving a CVT may feel very different than a traditional automatic transmission because you do not feel the engine accelerating or shifting. CVTs also require special oil, and parts when being serviced so you will need to make sure you have a skilled mechanic that is versed in dealing with this type of transmission.


AAMCO Colorado – For All Things Transmission

Here at AAMCO Colorado, we love all things transmission, whether you’ve got an automatic transmission or a CVT – we look forward to helping you with anything from your next transmission service to major repair.

Is it time for your next transmission service? Find your local AAMCO Colorado and schedule online today.


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