For all your Daf questions 

  1. What is a Variomatic?

    Variomatic was the Daf trade name for a form of Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT. It's the main thing that sets daf cars apart from all others of their era. In a "normal" manual, or automatic, gearbox there are a certain number (usually 4 or 5) of fixed gear ratios. In a CVT, the ratio can change seamlessly between a minimum and maximum value - giving an infinite number of gears within those limits.

    This is an enormous advantage because every engine works best (most efficiently) at a particular speed. Using a normal gearbox, the engine speed has to vary from this optimum value depending on road speed and the gear selected. With a CVT, the engine can stay at it's best speed and the gear ratio varies to match it exactly to the road speed.

    The Variomatic system is also more efficient than a "traditional" automatic gearbox in other ways. Normal automatics waste a certain amount of engine power because they use a torque converter between the engine and gearbox. This is a form of fluid coupling which "slips" slightly in use - wasting power. That's why, for a given car, an automatic model will usually have slightly worse performance and slightly worse fuel consumption than a manual version. With the Variomatic, there is no torque converter - once you're moving the drive is "solid" from the engine to the wheels. This makes it an ideal form of automatic for small cars with small engines, such as the Daf range.

  2. Isn't belt-drive unreliable?

    The simple answer to this is NO!

    Any car is unreliable if you don't drive or maintain it as you're meant to. If you consistently "ride" the clutch in a normal car, it'll be unreliable and suffer lots of clutch failures! The Variomatic, with it's belts, is no different. Where the reliability concerns seem to have come from were people who didn't take the (small amount of) time to learn how to use the system properly. Outside the dealer network, many garages were also unsure about how to maintain such a novel design. So, your trusted local mechanic could quite easily make a mistake and cause problems.

    As mentioned on the front page of this site, most manufacturers use rubber belts to drive the camshaft in modern engines. These belts are subject to very high alternating loads - first they're under strain, then they're not, and this is repeated hundreds of times a second at high revs. Being "hey're likely to get contaminated with oil, and are running in an area of high temperature. Yet these belts rarely break unless you run them well beyond their design life (typically 40 - 60 thousand miles). If one does break then the results are usually catastrophic for the engine.

    The vario belts on a Daf have a much easier life. The stresses on them vary quite slowly as you accelerate or slow down and they're far less likely to get contaminated or heated. Not only that but, if they do break, at worst you're stranded until a replacement is fitted (a side-of-road job to get going) but, if you have the two-belt version (most Daf models) you can actually continue to drive carefully with only one fitted. Obviously, carrying spare belts makes sense because it's unlikely your friendly RAC patrol will have any!

  3. Are Dafs suitable for daily transport?

    When they were designed, the Daf range was certainly intended to be used for daily travel. Obviously, road and traffic conditions have changed over the past few decades but there's no real reason why a well maintained Daf shouldn't still serve as a day-to-day car. They're small, economical, and simple enough to give inherrent reliability. As long as you're prepared to allow for the slightly higher maintenence requirements that any car of that era had they can be as reliable (or more) than a modern car.

    Because of the simplicity, "higher maintenance doesn't mean higher cost either. The Daf 33, for example, takes a whole 2 litres of oil for a change, and there's no filter to replace. They also seem to prefer cheaper oil to the modern synthetics that many new cars require!

    With a little mechanical knowledge, it's very unlikely that a Daf - or any older car - will leave you completely stranded. Even if there's a problem, they'll usually get you home. With newer cars, if something goes slightly wrong, some sensor in the ECU is likely to leave you sitting with a dead engine and a very expensive bill!

  4. What about spare parts?

    Spares availability for any old car can be a problem. The Daf range is no different on this score, though it's certainly no worse than most.

    The usual service parts (plugs, points etc) were standard parts used by many different manufacturers. This means they're generally still in production and available through good auto factors. Similarly, brake shoes and cylinders are still being made for most models. Many parts specific to these cars are available from various sources, including the Daf Owners Club in the UK and the Daf Club of America in America. Many parts are also available from Danny Muijtjens at DafHobby

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