The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) is a technological innovation meant to create a smoother and more fuel-efficient experience than a traditional automatic. By eliminating gears, CVTs allow the engine to operate at the most efficient rpm.
While the concept of CVTs are good, in practice they were often plagued with issues. This is particularly true for Nissan, which employed CVT gearboxes across its lineup. These transmissions ran into countless issues and were so poorly designed that a class action lawsuit was filed against Nissan. If you are curious about why Nissan’s CVTs are so unreliable, read on to learn more!
What is a CVT?
CVT, which stands for Continuously Variable Transmission, is a type of automatic transmission that uses a belt and pulleys to create an infinite number of gear ratios. With the ability to adjust the gear ratio on the fly, the engine can operate in the most efficient range, regardless of how fast the vehicle moves.
One pulley receives power directly from the engine, while the other sends power to the wheels. Like a traditional automatic, CVTs use a torque converter between the engine and transmission and also use a shifter to engage and drive/lock the transmission at a specific ratio.
Hydraulic pressure actuates the pulleys, allowing them to move between overdrive and underdrive positions and anywhere between.
Nissan CVT Problems
Any time there’s a transmission issue, you will notice it. Whether it’s a new smell, sound, or change in the way your car drives, it’s generally pretty easy to tell when something is wrong. Nissan CVT issues had several symptoms, which will be highlighted below.
Often referred to as “the judder”, this issue occurs when the belt or pulleys begin to wear out, which would happen far more quickly than it should have on these transmissions. When the components wear out, the steel belt will slip.
Nissan offered a software update to the Transmission Control Module (TCM) that would help technicians diagnose the juddering issue. Two “judder codes” could be triggered and stored in the TCM:
- P17F0: Replace the Entire CVT
- P17F1: The technician should inspect the CVT belt before replacing the unit. Replacing the valve body could fix the issue.
Grinding or Whining Sounds
Another commonly reported issue with Nissan CVT gearboxes is a whining or grinding sound while driving, which can change depending on how fast you are driving. Typically, these sounds are the result of a worn bearing, but they could also be the result of a problem with the CVT belt.
Overheating, Burning Smell, and Limp Mode
The third main issue that plagued Nissan CVTs is overheating. This problem normally occurs when traveling long distances at highway speed or when putting the transmission under a lot of load, such as going up a steep hill.
When the transmission overheats, it can produce a noticeable burning smell while you drive. A bigger problem though is high transmission temperatures sending the vehicle into limp mode. The cooling system on the CVT cannot handle the amount of heat generated by the belts and pulleys.
As a solution, Nissan offered an external transmission cooler upgrade, but even that did not always help. The entire unit may need to be replaced.
How to Prevent Nissan CVT Issues
Due to the underlining design flaws of this transmission, there is no surefire way to prevent problems. With that said, following a strict, routine service schedule can reduce the likelihood of running into issues. Regular inspection and transmission fluid flushes make a big difference in the longevity of any transmission, CVTs included.
CVT Service at Matson Point S
If you need help with your problematic Nissan CVT transmission, come on into Matson Point S! Our Riverton auto repair shop is staffed with skilled and experienced technicians that know the ins and outs of CVTs and can help you figure out the best path to getting your car running as it should again. Call or schedule an appointment online today!