Do Cvts Require More Maintenance Than Traditional Automatic Transmissions?

Posted on: 19 November 2021

Many manufacturers now include continuously variable transmissions (CVT) as an option or standard equipment on their cars. In some cases, manufacturers use these transmissions across their line-ups, leaving traditional automatics or manual transmissions only for high-powered sports cars. While CVTs aren't a new technology, their widespread use in the automotive industry is a new trend.

As a result, many drivers don't know much about these transmissions, their reliability, or their maintenance needs. Fortunately, you don't need to be an automotive expert to keep your CVT running for many years or understand a little more about how it works.

Why Do Manufacturers Use CVTs?

If CVTs aren't a new technology, you might be wondering why so many manufacturers have decided to use them in so many vehicles. Unsurprisingly, the answer is efficiency and gas mileage. CVTs can adjust their gearing to keep your car's engine in its optimum power range, providing the best combination of efficiency and power at any speed.

For higher-power applications, manufacturers now use automatic transmissions with 7-speed or even 9-speed automatics. These transmissions attempt to solve the same problem by offering a wide range of gears for the computer to select. Although these transmissions can't offer the same efficiency as a CVT, the belt-driven nature of continuously variable transmissions limits the power levels they can handle.

What Kind of Care Do CVTs Require?

The good news is that CVTs are relatively reliable, and most manufacturers have been producing them for quite some time. For example, Toyota first used a CVT in their modern vehicles more than two decades ago. Since the technology is mature and well-understood, you should expect a well-maintained CVT to last for most of the life of our vehicle.

Fortunately, the necessary maintenance item with CVTs is the same as traditional automatic transmissions: fluid changes. However, unlike modern automatics, you shouldn't assume your transmission has a "lifetime" fluid. CVT fluid is essential to how these transmissions operate since it helps provide the correct level of friction for the belts.

If your owner's manual specifies a service interval, you should conduct fluid changes following those recommendations. If not, it's a good idea to speak with a qualified transmission shop that has experience working on vehicles like yours. The technicians at these shops can advise you on the best time to replace your fluid to keep your CVT running well.

As with any other transmission, scheduling more frequent fluid changes may be worthwhile as the transmission ages or once you're no longer under warranty. Taking these steps will help ensure that your CVT can go the distance without suffering a catastrophic and expensive failure along the way.

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