What Is the Difference Between VTEC and Non-VTEC Engines?


One problem that many automakers had with creating a vehicle with a balance between performance and economy was the camshaft grind. Honda's VTEC system was designed to overcome this problem by providing both a mild and aggressive camshaft grind.


  • A basic non-VTEC Honda engine makes use of a single or dual camshaft cylinder head. The camshaft typically has what is called a "mild" camshaft grind. This means that the lobes of the camshaft are set with an average lift amount and average duration. This leads to horsepower loss at high engine rpm, due to lack of air and fuel.


  • The VTEC engine is a complex piece of machinery. The basic principle is that the camshaft has two different sets of lobes. When the engine's rpm are low, typically from idle to 4,000 rpm, the mild camshaft lobes are controlling the intake and exhaust valves. When the engine's rpm exceed 4,000, the vehicle's computer engages a solenoid that pushes a bar to engage the aggressive camshaft lobes, which greatly increases both lift and duration. This allows the engine to produce more horsepower.


  • While the technology is confusing, the results speak for themselves. The base 2000 Honda Civic DX with a 1.6-liter, SOHC, non-VTEC engine produces 106 horsepower at 6,200 rpm, while the 2000 Civic EX, with its 1.6-liter, SOHC, VTEC engine produces 127 horsepower at 6,600 rpm. The 2000 Civic Si and its 1.6-liter, DOHC, VTEC engine produces 160 horsepower at 7,600 rpm.

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  • Photo Credit Honda S2000 AP1 - 2002 s/w image by Christian Schwendemann from Fotolia.com
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