Just like automatic and manual transmissions, Continuously Variable Transmissions (CVTs) are prone to transmission problems, especially under poor care. But if properly taken care of, then they do have a greater ability to control a car’s engine speed range thus offer a smooth riding experience.
CVT’s are an improved version of the old models of transmission meant to facilitate fuel efficiency; most new modern vehicles have been fitted with CVT’s, so if you have purchased one recently then it is likely that your car operates with a CVT.
CVT’s do develop transmission problems some of which are not easy to fix and are way too costly, to fix a CVT transmission problem, you will have to get a professional because the issues are normally too complex. A rule of thumb, however, is to ensure that you take proper care of your CVT because getting it fixed might not be possible thus warrant a new car.
In the below excerpt we will, therefore, look at the characteristics of a faulty CVT and how to fix the varied transmission problems.
Signs of CVT transmission problems
Minor faults are nothing to lose sleep over and can be repaired without taking out the transmission. Severe problems, on the other hand, will require disassembly and full inspection of each and every part. The number of failing parts identified then determines whether your transmission needs to be rebuilt or if it needs to be replaced with a factory remanufactured transmission.
A transmission rebuild requires the purchase of a rebuild kit specific to your vehicle make and model. All the failing parts will be replaced before your transmission is reassembled and put back in your vehicle.
Outlined below are some of the warning signs that CVT vehicle owners should pay close attention to, to avoid irreparable transmission failures:
The presence of a red or pinkish spill under your vehicle indicates a transmission leak. Transmission leaks can be temporarily fixed using ‘stop leak’ products. They are however not recommended since they end up changing the chemical structure of your transmission fluid further damaging your transmission or softening the seals, causing more leaks. The right and long term fix to transmission fluid leakage is to replace the leaking seal or gasket.
Another sign that there could be something wrong with your CVT transmission is if it hesitates when accelerating from a dead stop. Hesitation usually signifies a loose belt, failing clutch pack or even low transmission fluid. Sometimes a delayed shift through gears could be because of cold weather, and in that case, the problem should go away once the weather warms up. Either way, take your vehicle to a mechanic before there is irreparable damage.
A gear or transmission slip is when your transmission spontaneously slips in and out of gears. Transmission slips are mostly caused by low transmission fluid levels, which affects the amount of hydraulic pressure being produced. Low hydraulic pressure affects gear engagement and reduces the power being transmitted to the wheels. If the cause is indeed low fluid levels, then a leaking seal or gasket is to blame. Luckily, you can fix the problem by plugging it or replacing the entire seal.
Shakes and Vibrations
Have you noticed your car shaking or vibrating while in overdrive? If the answer is yes, there might be a problem with your transmission system. Another reason could be poor motor tuning, but a mechanic can only determine this.
You may want to change your transmission fluid if your vehicle is humming or whining. Some car brands only accept CVT transmission fluid, and the use of any shelf transmission fluid will cause whining and humming. An easy way to fix this is to get a mechanic to drain the old transmission fluid and put in new fluid.
The presence of a burning odor is a serious warning sign that requires immediate attention from a professional. A burning smell usually either means that your transmission fluid is low and overheating or old and burning. If you smell burning rubber, stop the vehicle immediately as it could probably be the belt that has overheated.
CVT transmission maintenance
Change the transmission fluid
The transmission fluid lubricates and maintains a cool temperature for your transmission components. After some time, the mechanical components in your transmission start breaking off due to wear and these broken off bits contaminate the fluid causing it to degrade and break down impairing its ability to function.
You are advised to change your transmission fluid every other 15,000 miles depending on heavy use or as per your vehicle's instruction manual. However, if you live in a hot and dusty area, you will need to change your transmission fluid more often than is stated in the instruction manual.
Also, always ensure that you have enough transmission fluid without overfilling the reservoir (fluid should not fill more than 75%).
Service your engines cooling system
All transmissions generate heat; more heat, however, is produced in an automatic transmission. Regularly servicing your cooling system ensures the transmission fluid being pumped through the gearbox stays cool. This prevents it from overheating and degrading faster.
Install a front-wheel mudguard
This will protect your transmission from dust and debris accumulation. You should regularly check your CVT for any dirt and debris before proceeding to wipe it down.
Avoid undue strain on your belt
CVTs have a belt-driven design and overloading or using your vehicle to tow will cause your belt to wear faster due to overheating. You can also reduce belt wear by parking on level ground or in a downhill direction. Additionally, don’t attempt to go up a hill from a dead stop always get a running start. If you have to start from a dead stop, use the break until the transmission engages.
Avoid undue strain on your transmission
You can do this by ensuring you do not change from drive to reverse while your vehicle is moving. You should also let your engine warm-up for a few minutes before putting your car in drive. Also, driving on uneven tires is highly discouraged. It will not only severely damage other parts of the vehicle but also put undue strain on your transmission.
What is the importance of CVT in your car?
In case you haven’t driven a car that has been fitted with a CVT then you need to know of what you are missing out on, for starters CVT fitted cars, do offer drivers an almost seamless gear transition system. This, in turn, provides drivers with a smooth driving experience; they also enable your engine to operate at optimum power thus providing you with better fuel economy and offer excellent power usage.
Therefore, if you don’t want to experience the actual gear stages then you have to ensure that you avoid the vices that will harm your CVTs and prevent it from effecting a continuous variation within the engine that helps provide a seamless and unnoticeable transition between the gears.
Types of CVT
CVT’s can be classified into ten main types; we will, however, take a look at three which are the Pulley Based CVT’s also known as the Reeves, the Toroidal or Roller bases CVT and the Magnetic CVT. The pulley based CVT which is also one of the most commonly used utilizes one of the most complex pulley systems that offer drivers a seamless gear transmission experience.
The Toroidal CVT is equipped with rotating discs complete with power rollers to enable it pull off the function of the pulley system. The magnetic CVT (mCVT) on the other hand, has been equipped with magnets on the inner surface of the control rotor that interacts with the output and input rotors to produce a magnetic gearing action.
Besides, by controlling the speed of the control rotor, you can easily vary the gear ratio between the input and output rotor.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need to service my CVT?
The one most important thing about transmission fluid is that you should never leave it to burn off. To which end your CVT should be inspected fluid changes carried out, but before you do all of the above it would be best if you first referred to the owner’s manual for guidance.
How long should my CVT transmission last?
With proper care, a CVT transmission should give you a service of up to five years and more. Remember that CVT’s are still a new technology in the market and are constantly improved to enhance their performance. You should, therefore, put into practice some of the care measures discussed above for your CVT to achieve its full shelf life.
Can I extend the life of my CVT?
There are a couple of steps that if you put them into practice then you will be able to extend the life of your CVT. First, you will need to keep a close eye on your transmission fluid, ensure that your transmission is serviced after every 30,000miles; you could also add an external filter to the cooler lines and ensure to maintain the cooling system.
CVTs often have a bad reputation when it comes to longevity, and this is because the majority of CVTs will fail even before hitting the 100,000-mile mark. But what most people don’t know is that even normal automatic transmissions rarely go beyond 150,000 miles without a rebuild.
The main reason for this is that automatic transmission and especially CVTs are more sophisticated, which makes them more complicated and less likely to outlive a manual transmission vehicle that has fewer components that can fail. However, just like any other mechanical structure, you can increase the lifespan of a CVT vehicle with proper maintenance and the above-discussed options.