Are continuous variable transmissions reliable


Old 10-20-19, 06:01 PM
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Are continuous variable transmissions reliable

Several of the cars I am considering have CVT transmissions. Since these have been available for several years, is there reliable information whether they hold up to normal use without maintenance?
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Old 10-20-19, 06:19 PM
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Do a search of resent conversation regarding Ford transmissions for small cars, a huge disaster!
Old 10-21-19, 05:41 AM
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Isn't the Ford issue for the dual clutches coupled to a traditional transmission? Not a CVT like the OP asked about.

My wife's Subaru has a CVT transmission. Our first. So far at a bit over 3 years old and 50'000 miles there have been no problems or issues. But, like any mechanical device a CVT transmission can fail and CVT did have some issues. I would research the vehicle you are considering and find it's reliability.
Old 10-23-19, 07:27 PM
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CVT were around for years and years.
You want to stay away from Nissan ones. They apparently are very bad. I also heard nothing good about VW CVT.
Go with Toyota.
They have their driving experience quirks but are OK.
Overall, folks do not like CVTs though they give excellent mpg. Driving experience sucks.
Old 11-16-19, 04:52 PM
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Used in passenger cars since about 1989. The early Nissan and Jeep Compass ones had problems. Newer ones should be fine. They do need fluid changes to keep working at their best.

Mostly found in smaller engine applications, but some people tow with CV's and they perform fine.

Hard to see why they would be more problematic than conventional transmissions, which have solenoids and computers that cause many of the problems anyways, rather than anything flawed with the actual design itself.

They do feel "different" but on the whole I have learned to respect the technology through two Subaru's, the 2019 Outback with the 6 cylinder is pretty hard to tell from a regular transmission, it has the stepped shifting and feels very traditional. It seems to be about refining software to give people what they expect, being a mimicking of the feel of the conventional transmissions.
Old 11-17-19, 10:59 AM
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The first car with a CVT sold in America was the 1959 DAF 600. The fact that you've probably never heard of it tells you most everything you need to know about DAF.

Subaru started making the 3-cyl Justy with a CVT in 1987 but it didn't come to the US until 1989. They didn't use CVTs in the Justy because they were simpler, lighter or offered better fuel economy, they used them because the Justy's 74 CID engine was too weak to drive a conventional slush box. And the "stepped" feature in the new Subies was done to answer the complaints from drivers who didn't like the way a regular CVT responds to driver input; to artificially create the 'feel' of a conventional slushbox shifting gears. But it also defeats one of the key reasons for a CVT: seamless shifting. To always keep the engine at the optimum RPMs for best fuel economy.

The general problem with CVTs is that even thought they have fewer components than a 'regular' automatic transmission, and in theory should be simpler, their operation is actually more complex because of the precise synchronization required between different operations. Just the sort of thing you'd expect to get sloppy as components wear due to component age or heavier than typical use. Subaru doesn't even put a dipstick on its CVTs because they consider potentially adding contaminants to the fluid to be more of a risk than running out of fluid. And the like the synchronicity thing, fluid level adjustment requires a great deal of precision, too much to trust adjusting it to the owner.

That means that the only clue that your CVT is leaking might be spots of fluid on the garage floor. The problem with that theory is Subaru's boxer engine. Whether the label says Subaru, Volkswagen or Porsche, as they age boxer engines are more prone to (minor) oil leaks (from valve cover and head gaskets) than the more upright inline or V designs are. At which point the $10,000 question is whether those spots on the garage floor are engine oil or or CVT fluid.

When Subarus of the post-Justy era first came equipped with CVTs, Subie's advertisements claimed the transmission was "maintenance free." Which is tantamount to proclaiming a ship "unsinkable." But Subaru apparently believed their own press releases because their CVTs were not designed for major repair to be performed at the dealer level. For anything other than minor problems, they go straight to a tranny swap.

They seem to operate well enough when new but the ones that go bad tend to do so nearer the end of the 60,000-mile warranty. Giving rise to speculation that Subaru is designing these based on service life requirements of drivers in Japan, where most driving is urban and low speed and where the average driver just doesn't rack up the mileage that a typical Americans driver does.

Subaru's initial response to the complaints was to extend the warranty on certain 2010-2012 models from 6 years/60k mikes to 10/100k. Then that got stretched to 2010-2015 model years. Now it's all the way up to 2018 models, which IMHO is a pretty solid indication that they don't have the problem under control.

Understand, too the implication of simply extending the warranty and not having a recall to fix the problems. Subaru is effectively telling its customers, "Because it doesn't affect all cars and would cost us a ton of money, we're not going to let you schedule a repair at our expense and at a time of your choosing. Instead, we're going to require you to drive it until your car exhibits a problem (and which our mechanic must be able to reproduce), and possibly experience the inconvenience of being stranded by a failed transmission. And once you manage to get it to the dealer, you're going to unexpectedly be without the use of your car, possibly for weeks, while we will replace your transmission with a remanufactured unit that quite possibly will experience the same problems once it gets some age on it."

I should note that Nissan also has had its share of CVT woes, and they also chose to extend the warranty rather than recall and repair.

Based on reports I've seen in Subaru forums, if your CVT goes out after the warranty has expired, replacement runs $10-ish K. Mabye $8k if you can sweet-talk Subaru America into a sweetheart deal.

I personally don't like the way a CVT drives. My first CVT experience was with an A-Class Mercedes diesel I rented in Europe in 2005. It was the second-worst driving experience of my life, second only to a 1990 Pontiac/Daewoo LeMans rental. Both were absolutely horrid.

And I don't care to un-learn my old driving habits and expectations. The problem (from my perspective) is that it's not your right foot that determines how the engine will perform at any moment, it's the CVT. In slippery conditions, for instance, if the engine revs take a sudden jump, you can't know whether the wheels are slipping or if the CVT just decided to downshift. And I can tell you from personal experience that when it gets really slimy, a Subie will spin its tires despite the fancy traction control. In which case it's handy to know whether lifting off the throttle will correct the problem or make it worse.

I'm a Subaru junkie and a station wagon guy, so the Outback Wagon is my ideal car. But from 2012 on the OBW is only available with a CVT. Since I tend to keep cars until they become unreliable or maintenance costs become prohibitively expensive, and because I dislike/distrust the CVT, I won't consider buying an OBW after the 2011 model unless and until they clearly have straightened out their CVT or offer an alternate transmission.

If you'd care to get a 'celebrity' (YouTube) mechanic's take on CVTs, click here. If nothing else, his video production is good for the odd chuckle.
Old 11-17-19, 02:46 PM
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But from 2012 on the OBW is only available with a CVT.
A minor point of order: The OBW 3.6R, with the 6 cylinder engine, was paired with their 5EAT "traditional" 5-speed automatic transmission up through 2014. In 2015, the 3.6R also received the CVT.
Old Yesterday, 11:43 AM
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I would echo Igor [ukrbyk]. Daughter has a late model Corolla with a cvt, no issues. I have come across Nissans with issues and my sister owns a 2013 Fiesta that has been an absolute nightmare for the cvt. As yet I have not owned one fortunately; I'm old school.

And I agree with Fred on the driving characteristics, can never get used to how it works when I drive daughter's Corolla.
Old Yesterday, 02:22 PM
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Here is my story.
I bought a 2008 Nissan Altima with a CVT. I have nothing but good things to say. 250,000 miles on it and all I have done is replace the Nissan specific transmission fluid in it at the manufacture recommended intervals.
Still shifts fine and has never skipped a beat.
I found it interesting that when we bought it the warranty was 3 years/60,000 miles. A year or two later we received a letter from Nissan that doubled the warranty, basically because of the bad press or issue they had prior to that.

Now I do follow the manufacture recommendations as spelled out.
In my opinion, if you take good care of something it will be good to you.
Something can go wrong on anything, but most manufactures today put out a good product.

Good luck.
Old Today, 05:43 AM
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Nissan specific transmission fluid
This is a key item. According to tranny pros I know, not a good idea to use a non-OEM fluid in these.

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