If you've been paying attention to the automotive industry, you've probably noticed an unusual trend: the rise of the continuously variable transmission, or CVT. Many manufacturers now use these transmissions in place of traditional automatics across nearly their entire model range. While CVTs can offer more comfort and fuel efficiency, they do have a few drawbacks.
One of the most commonly cited reasons to avoid CVTs is their supposed lack of reliability, but does that mean that any car with one of these transmissions is doomed to an early death? As with any other mechanical part, there are things you can do to ensure that your car's CVT lasts for as long as possible. These three tips will help you avoid some of the most common failures for these unique transmissions.
1. Avoid Hard Driving
The primary reason to own a CVT is for a smoother ride and better fuel efficiency. Many manufacturers avoid installing these transmissions on performance cars because they can't necessarily handle the extra power or offer adequate performance. Likewise, pushing your CVT too hard can accelerate wear and cause more substantial damage.
While this doesn't mean you can't ever put your foot to the floor, you should avoid doing anything that places undue stress on the transmission. For example, launching your car by holding the brake and revving the engine can put a considerable amount of strain on your torque converter. The result is that you can rapidly wear the already fragile components in your CVT.
2. Change Your Fluid
CVTs contain fluid that acts as a lubricant and coolant like any other transmission. Unlike other transmissions, the design of a CVT results in excessive amounts of metallic particles. CVTs use internal metal belts that create large amounts of heat and friction. While the belts can last for quite some time, they will produce small metallic particles as they wear.
Routine fluid and filter changes will help you keep these particles from accumulating in the transmission. The dirtier your fluid becomes, the less effectively it will lubricate the transmission's internal components. Changing your fluid and filter is so critical with CVTs that you may even want to consider performing this service more frequently than your car's manufacturer recommends.
3. Don't Ignore Issues
CVT failures are often due to poor maintenance. If you notice your transmission behaving strangely, it may be due to contaminated fluid or another maintenance issue. The longer you ignore the problem, the more likely your transmission will fail. Instead of delaying the inevitable, get your car to a qualified transmission shop as soon as you can so you can uncover the root cause of the problem.
While CVTs have a poor reputation for reliability, they can be durable transmissions when treated well. Staying on top of maintenance and treating your car gently can help ensure your CVT lives a long and healthy life. Keep these tips in mind when looking for transmission services near you.