How Long Do CVT Transmissions Last? Facts and Fallacies!

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) is a single-speed transmission that works like an automatic shifter for seamless shifting through a range of gear ratios, unlike other mechanical shifters that offer access to a fixed number of gear ratios. There’s a concern about the longevity of these transmissions due to some past issues in some models of Jeep and Nissan. So, how long do CVT transmissions last? You should look into it if you have intended to purchase a CVT car.

What Does CVT Transmission In Cars Mean?

A CVT is a lesser-known option to conventional automatic transmissions. What does CVT mean in cars? You use it just like a regular one – slide the shift lever from “P” to “D” and off you go. But after that, it may get a little complicated.

Normal automatics have a certain number of gears that are referred to as “speeds,” hence “6-speed automatic,” for example. The reason is that each gear is good only for a certain vehicle speed, so if you need to keep accelerating, the transmission will shift up through the gears — first 1, then 2 and so forth.

But a continuously variable transmission technically has no gears. Instead, it’s like having one magical gear that’s variable through all driving situations. That’s why you don’t even feel shifts from gear to gear like in a normal car. Everything you’ll notice is changes in engine speed, or RPM: higher for acceleration, lower for cruising.

How Long Do CVT Transmissions Last? Facts and Fallacies

How long does a cvt transmission last? Renowned brands like Toyota, Honda, Subaru, and Nissan have used various versions of CVT transmissions in several of their lineups. The concerns about the shifter’s lifespan have started after several issues in the first-generation models.

Nissan faced serious problems in some of their lineups manufactured by its subsidiary JATCO. Jeep also had issues in the Compass model along with a few others.

what does CVT mean in cars
A CVT transmission will last up to 5-6 years if you take good care of the car. (Photo: HotCars)

 >> See more: The A to Z of Semi-Automatic Transmission

1. What’s the weakest point of a CVT transmission?

The mechanical structure of CVT is a steel chain about an inch wide that is the main route for transferring power from the engine to the rest of the car. If this chain breaks down for some reasons, the transmission will stop functioning.

When the chain fails, it shatters into pieces with shrapnel everywhere. A traditional auto shifter does not create such a mess when it fails. There could be worn out valves, burnt out clutches, or cracked sun shells, but nothing messy as metal shrapnel. Also, not every servicing shop provides the CVT transmission repair or rebuild service.

2. How long do CVT transmissions last?

How long do CVT transmissions last if you take good care of them? At least more than five years! CVT is still a new technology and the automakers have been working to improve it. But, they will still last for a long time if you do proper maintenance.

honda cvt transmission
The CVT transmissions in Honda cars are better than other brands. (Photo: Honda)

3. Which CVT transmission brand is the most reliable?

The Honda models with the CVT are the most reliable among all the lineups and its CVT transmission life expectancy is the longest. However, the automakers have been working relentlessly to improve the technology. Almost all the newer models of the brands are better than their predecessors.

4. What steps to take to increase the lifespan of CVT shifters?

Here are some proper maintenance acts you can do to help the CVT transmissions last for a long time.

  • Change the transmission fluid regularly, possibly every 30,000 kilometers. The chain/belt that transfers power requires clean, fresh oil to function properly. The oil change frequency should depend on the environment and climate of the area where you drive.
  • The oil change frequency should be more than the manufacturer’s recommendation if you live in a hot, dusty area.
  • The transmission works best for small cars and small engines. Many of them don’t have the suitable design and strong chain to handle high-powered engines.
  • Take the car to your dealer or a trusted mechanic at regular intervals.

Watch the video below to see more details: Should You Buy a CVT Transmission Car (How It Works) – Scotty Kilmer

CVT Transmission Problems

In general, the CVT transmission helps with fuel efficiency by increasing the mileage and it has several other advantages. However, not all the models enjoy all the benefits equally.

For example, the Honda Civic and Accord models offer a responsive, well-programmed handling that eliminates the ‘rubber band effect’ – a condition when the RPM is high but the vehicle takes time to catch that speed. Below are 2 of the most highlighted CVT transmission brands, Honda vs Nissan and their problems.

Honda CVT transmission problems

Though Honda guarantee the transmission fluid for a lifetime, it is not like that:

1) NO transmission fluid is lifetime, it still needs to be changed.

2) CVT’s are not as reliable and durable as regular automatic transmissions. When they go out, you have to replace it for several thousand dollars or get rid of the car for little in return.

There are some more Honda CVT reliability and common problems, remember to always stay alert whenever you use this kind of transmission for a long and hard ride.

Nissan CVT transmission problems

We also got some points for Nissan CVT transmission reliability for your reference:

  • Low speed acceleration is a trouble-spot, the vehicles will shudder and shake while getting up to speed. One of the reasons for that shaking might be overheating. Nissan has been accused of using an inadequate cooling system for their transmission.
  • The Nissan CVT can take a long time to respond to input from the pedal.

CVT transmission, by design, always feels different when you cram the accelerator to the floor. While a geared transmission typically bursts off the line, a CVT has a smoother (and slower) increase to maximum power. But CVT’s sluggishness can go too far. It may be a safety hazard when trying to merge onto a busy road. Needless to say, you cannot be friends with the people driving behind you.

  • CVT whining is a common problem and not unique to Nissan vehicles. What is unique, however, is how much Nissan’s CVTs whine. There’s also clunking and rattling.

Hopefully this article about how long do CVT transmissions last is helpful for you. If you have any car questions, feel free to leave us a comment in the box below, we will answer it for you.