How Long Do CVT Transmissions Last?

Everyone is raving about the CVT transmission as the gem of mechanical discovery. Every car manufacturer has a CVT model in the lineup and consumers are buying. Ever wondered just how good the CVT is? Well you’ve stopped at the right place. Read on to find out just how long the CVT lasts.

What Exactly is a Transmission?

The transmission is a complicated part of your car’s control system. It is much more than a part of gear shifting. The transmission actually assists in transferring power from the engine to the tires. A good transmission increases fuel efficiency by reducing the fuel consumption. The transmission also keeps the engine’s RPMs low.

Most people know that the transmission can be an automatic or a manual. The manual transmission is the traditional design, using a clutch and shifter for gear selection. The more modern automatic changes the gear shifting experience to a more seamless process. Today, we will talk about the CVT, an automatic transmission with special powers. We will explore what the CVT, why it has become so popular, and whether it is worth the hype.

How Long Does the CVT Last?

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The average CVT will last for more than 100,000 miles. This estimate includes the assumption that the CVT has been serviced and properly maintained over its lifetime. Even so, the CVT does not last as long as the traditional transmission. Increased horsepower will kill the CVT. As a matter of fact, a traditional transmission can last for twice the lifetime of a CVT.

What is the CVT Transmission?

The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is a special version of mechanical transmissions that changes gears with seemly no effort. This type of transmission are also referred to as shiftless, single-speed, or stepless transmissions. The CVT has a constant angular velocity at any output speed. Leonardo DaVinci is credited with the design of the first CVT transmission in 1940. Daimler and Benz patented the first CVT in 1886. It was Subaru who brought the CVT who brought the spotlight to the CVT in the 1980s.

The old transmission is made up of so many parts to allow you to change gears. Many things have to happen to get the finished result. The CVT design simplified much of that process with a pulley and belt design. There is no sun, ring and planet gear design, which contributes to the continuous shifting of gears. One of the cone-shaped pulleys is connected to the engine while the other connects to the tire. Therefore, the CVT regulates the power to the tires. The designers gauge the width of the pulleys based on how much power is required. This is the key to the seamless acceleration that you get with the CVT. The CVT has no gears and provide more power with a smaller engine. The acceleration is faster and more responsive for a better driver experience.

Benefits of the CVT

The craze surrounding the CVT is for many reasons. Car makers are using the CVT more to achieve peak performance. Here are some of the benefits that make the CVT so popular:

Easier handling of loads – When you drive uphill with the CVT, it is easier on the engine. The CVT design works much easier by providing the most accurate aspect ratio. While the traditional transmission struggles on that steep incline, the CVT automatically generates the most appropriate ratios to get the job done. This eliminates the need for hard shifting and using too much fuel.

Better fuel economy – CVTs provide higher fuel efficiency than the old transmission designs. The CVT keeps the engine at the most optimal power range, which increases the fuel efficiency. The miles per gallon is much higher for the CVT than comparable traditional models.

Smoother acceleration – CVTs provide a smoother ride all around with stepless acceleration. Acceleration is easier so it is smoother. The driving experience is premium at any speed. The elimination of the switching gears makes for a smooth ride which is more enjoyable for the passengers.

Cons of the CVT

Like anything else, the CVT has its shortcomings. Before you run out to buy a car with a CVT, it’s time to learn a little bit more about it. Here are a few cons of the CVT that may cause you to do a double take before you trade in your traditional transmission:

Expensive – The CVT is more expensive than the traditional transmission. The initial costs may be lower, but that doesn’t last. That means repairs and replacement parts will also be more expensive. If you enjoy shifting gears, it won’t make since to lose that for an expensive upgrade. You may not need the extra.

Strange sounds – The CVT makes more noise than the traditional transmission. In fact, they get too loud, which means you have a problem. The sound you don’t hear is the sound of the gears shifting, something many drivers enjoy hearing.

Slow shifting – You’re thinking, “I don’t have to shift with a CVT”. Well, that’s only partially true. You have to do a little shifting going into park, reverse, and drive. It can take more time than it should to make these shifts. That is another sign that your CVT is not all it’s cracked up to be.

Life of the Transmission

Since the transmission has such a big job in the automobile, the longer it lasts, the better. Transmission can last a long time when they are taken care of. The life cycle for the transmission varies based upon the type, use, and other variables that affect wear and tear. Typically, the average transmission lasts anywhere from 15,000 to 200,000 miles, or about 7 years. This is usually the amount of time that the manufacturer will warranty the transmission. Here are the best tips to keep your transmission running for a long time:

Regular servicing– Keeping your car serviced keeps it on the road for the longest time. The transmission should be served periodically to prevent problems and to ensure that the ATF CVT transmission fluid (view on Amazon) level is correct. Any leaks can be detected early on. The transmission oil and filter should be serviced every 18 months, or every 20,000 miles. The automatic transmission should be flushed every 2 years or every 40,000 miles.

Transmission coolers – Heat is the number one killer of transmissions. If the heat endures for a long time, your transmission is sure to suffer damage. The CVT transmission cooler (view on Amazon) lowers the temperature against the metal surfaces and seals. The transmission cooler can double the life of the transmission.

Synthetic transmission fluid – Obviously, the best automatic transmission fluid for your vehicle is the type recommended by the manufacturer. However, regular transmission fluid is often broken down by heat and reduced its effectiveness. Synthetic transmission fluid is more heat resistant and is just better for your transmission for the long haul. Synthetic fluid is much better for those who carry heavy loads, drive through mountainous terrain, or frequently drive in heavy traffic.

Sensible driving – Driving hard puts a lot of pressure on the engine and the transmission. Reckless driving is damaging. If you want your transmission to last, allow it to warm up first. Avoid shifting gears while you are in motion, come to a stop before you shift gears. Don’t drive hard. Practicing conservative driving practices can prolong the life of your transmission significantly.

How to Prolong the Life of Your CVT

All transmissions have issue that are unique to each make and model. Proper maintenance is the key to long life in any type of transmission. Maintaining your CVT will ensure that you get the full life cycle that the transmission can give. However, diagnosing and repairing a CVT is not afforded the amount of knowledge and parts available as the traditional transmission. Searching articles like this one is a great start to getting the knowledge you need to keep your CVT healthy. Here are a few things to consider when maintaining a CVT:

Fluid checks – This is the most important part of maintaining your CVT. Low transmission fluid is will quickly cause trouble in your car. The valve body is one place that will be negatively affected by it. If you see a puddle of red fluid, you may even have a fluid leak. The car with CVT will have to be lifted to access the entire system as well as check the transmission fluid. There will not be a dipstick for checking the transmission fluid, you may buy a Chevrolet model or make one. A computer is also required to properly perform this service. In other words, unless you are a certified mechanic, take your car in to a certified professional for the servicing.

Pull the pan – Routine maintenance should include pulling the pan every 40,000 miles. Clean the ferrous fuzz from around the magnets and refill the CVT transmission fluid. The fluid should be about 150°F.

Check the Belts – Filtered vents usually keep belts much longer than when the vents are not filtered. Excessive heat is also a quick way to damage the belts. A belt that is adjusted too tight or too loose will shorten the life of the belt. Debris also harms the belts and should be checked for during the servicing.

Check the pulleys – These components usually have problems associated with low or dirty transmission fluid. There is a primary and secondary pulley. The pressure is higher than that in traditional transmission. Again, accessing the pressure may be a challenge that is not ideal for do it yourself.

Bearing checks – Bearing failure is common and frequent in CVTs. Bearing noises in the CVT are problematic. These noises are usually associated with whining when the car is put in forward or reverse. The faster you go, the more noise it makes. Making metal will destroy the pulley bearings which means they must be replaced. This requires removing the entire transmission. So, make sure you have your bearings checked every once in a while or if you hear noises.

Is the CVT Worth It?

As you have learned, there are pros and cons to having a CVT. The information and parts for the CVT are not as readily available as those for traditional transmissions. The traditional transmission will have a longer life cycle than the CVT in most cases. However, the CVT provides a premium driving experience, shifting seamlessly through several gear ratios.

The CVT also saves on gas, a benefit that cannot be easily ignored. Ultimately, you have to care for both types of transmissions to get the full value out of it. So, is the CVT worth all the hype? It depends on your taste, the extent of your warranty, and your pocketbook. If the pros outweigh the cons for you, the CVT may be your best bet.