All About Honda VTEC Engines

Honda VTEC engines are among the most popular engines out there. It’s no wonder, because it has a unique design that allows for the best of both worlds:

  • The fuel efficiency and stability that comes with low RPMs
  • High RPM performance

You’ll get all these benefits across the entire powerband. If you’re looking for more information about VTEC engines, here’s a basic rundown of how VTEC engines work.

The Basics Of VTEC

VTEC stands for “Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control”. It is a technology developed by Honda in the early 1980s. It was developed for use on Honda’s popular Civic four-stroke internal combustion engine. It works in conjunction with Honda’s specially designed V-tech engines. The goal was to provide an extraordinary amount of efficiency at the pump while retaining the engine’s power. The result is up to twice the power per gallon that you would get from a standard Civic engine without VTEC.

The biggest advantage of using VTEC is that it tunes the engine run optimally for a certain situation. Another advantage is it consistently provides excellent fuel economy. The extra efficiency is accomplished because of the different ways the two systems interact with one another. Skip ahead to the last section of this post to read more about how VTEC engines work.

VTEC Is Best Suited For Smaller, High Revving Engines

Honda originally developed this technology for Honda Civics. The extra VTEC cam lobe does not operate at idle and lower RPMs. This preserves torque and maximizes fuel economy at low RPMs. Small engines need all the torque they can get, so non-VTEC engines are tuned to maximize torque. The downside is that tuning for torque limits the horsepower the engine can produce at higher RPMs. VTEC increases valve lift at high RPMs. This allows the engine to draw in more air, which is used to create more power. An efficient VTEC system can boost a Civic’s fuel economy by up to 26%, while also increasing its power. This technology optimizes the best features offered by Honda engines:

  • Great fuel economy
  • The horsepower achieved at higher RPMs

The Science Behind VTEC’s Unique Sound

VTEC engines make a unique sound. When you accelerate, you’ll hear a distinctive higher pitch sound toward the end. It doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with the engine. As explained in the video, it’s just the VTEC system engaging.

VTEC engines use two rocker arms. Each rocker arm has its own low profile cams for each cylinder. VTEC engines also have a central rocker arm with a high profile cam that’s disengaged at lower RPMs. So when you accelerate, all three rocker arms engage. There’s a piston pressurized with oil inside the rocker locks. That piston allows all the cams to engage. This is what creates the unique sound VTEC engines are famous for.

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