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How Do You Know If The CVT Transmission Is Going Bad?

How Do You Know If The CVT Transmission Is Going Bad

The CVT transmission, also known as the continuously variable transmission, is a mechanism that smoothly changes through an unending range of gear ratios while you drive down your car. There are main differences between this kind of transmission and the other popular choices in the market. Different types of transmissions, like mechanical ones, offer a fixed number of gear ratios and have hard shifts between each gear. You can tell if your cvt transmission is going bad by a lack of seamless gear changes. 

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Since the CVT, or the continuously variable transmission, offers a much higher range of flexibility and maintains a constant angular velocity regardless of how fast you are driving, this changes it from other similar transmissions. Additionally, a continuously variable transmission makes it easy to accelerate and shift smoothly and offers better fuel economy and miles per gallon in your car. 


Knowing the function of the CVT transmission and the performance qualities can alert you of when the CVT transmission is going bad in your car. 

Mechanism of a CVT Transmission 


You might know that a traditional transmission uses a variety of parts that allow the car to shift smoothly between the preset gears. Instead, the CVT transmission works through a pulley system to switch gears effectively and smoothly. The CVT transmission consists of cones at each pulley connected to one another via a chain belt. 


  • Cones



The cones can either increase or decrease the belt diameter to change the gear ratios. The use of cones and pulleys promotes quick-shifting into the required ratio for added power and a fuel economy boost. If your CVT transmission cannot do this, it can tell you that your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Pulleys



One pulley in the CVT transmission connects to the car’s engine, and the other pulley directly connects to the wheels of the car. The CVT transmission transfers the power from the car's engine into the wheels so your car can move at the correct speeds. The width of these pulleys changes based on the required power needed in your vehicle. Depending on the driving situation, the power requirement can change. As one pulley gets larger, the other gets smaller. The power changes allow a CVT to deliver seamless and robust acceleration. If the acceleration is not smooth, this might be how you know that your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Discs and Rollers



In addition, there is a second type of CVT transmission that uses discs and rollers, operating in a similar way to the original CVT transmission. Although we know there are no mechanical gears in CVT, some mechanisms have a more straightforward and traditional way of changing through the gears. In these types of transmissions, the belt and pulley system moves along with the lever or shifters, working together to alter the steering wheel. This second kind of CVT transmission should easily move the ears, so if there are issues, this can tell you that your CVT transmission is going bad. 

Symptoms of a Bad CVT Transmission


In order to know what you might have to look out for in your car or keep it operating at a high level and working properly, you need to keep an eye and ear out for potential CVT transmission problems. Knowing the symptoms of a bad CVT transmission can help you answer how you know that your cvt transmission is going bad. 


  • Loud Noises



First, there might be loud noises coming from the CVT transmission. The transmission gears will slowly wear themselves down and deteriorate over time, causing strange noises to occur when shifting gears or moving out of the idle position. If you hear any loud sounds, like clanging, banging, screeching, or rough idling, these could be clear symptoms of how you know your CVT transmission is going bad. The solution ranges in price and severity, going from replacing transmission fluid to replacing the transmission completely. 


  • Muddy Fluid



Second, muddy fluid or debris-filled and contaminated fluid could be a clear symptom of damaged CVT transmission. If the fluid from the transmission has a slightly sweet smell and is bright red in color, then that is working correctly. If the fluid in the CVT transmission starts to look murky, do what you can to get it changed immediately to prevent any future issues. The fluid color is a clever way to know if your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Burning Smell



Third, if you notice a burning smell in your car, then the smell of burning something can be evidence of an overheating CVT Transmission and can be a symptom of a bad CVT Transmission. This smell is similar to rot and is a potential fire hazard, so make sure you bring your vehicle in for a fluid change before you increase the risk of a fire in your vehicle.


  • Leaks



Fourth, any leakage in your car could be a symptom of how you know your CVT transmission is going bad. The bad and noticeable smell can also point to a specific kind of leakage in your car, whether it is oil or transmission fluid. Make sure that you check for leaks as a regular part of your car maintenance schedule to avoid further issues and more extensive repairs and replacements. 


In addition, a very common symptom of a bad CVT transmission is that the transmission is slipping gears. This is a common problem resulting from structural problems or a lack of adequate transmission fluid, which causes the potential of gears to pop out of gear while you are driving. A lack of transmission fluid is a clear way to see if your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Delays in Movement



Furthermore, other noticeable symptoms of a CVT transmission going bad is that there are delays in movement and a lack of quick response time. If your vehicle stalls for a second or two before shifting gears smoothly, this should be a cause for concern. Car owners experience this issue for a variety of reasons, serving as evidence for gearbox malfunction or transmission fluid issues. When you have any problems with the gearbox or the transmission fluid, these are clear symptoms of how you know your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Surging



Along with the other main symptoms that your CVT transmission is going bad, surging can be a sign of contaminated transmission fluid that cannot run the transmission properly. When your transmission becomes too polluted or filled with debris over prolonged use, your vehicle might begin to accelerate, jerk while accelerating, lurch, jump forward, or fall back for no apparent reason. Sometimes, a transmission fluid flush could be all you need to solve the problem of the CVT transmission going bad. 


  • Worn Clutch Discs



One of the most prevalent and serious symptoms that your CVT transmission is going bad is that you have worn clutch discs. Similar to the brake pads, the clutch disc in a CVT transmission is coated in numerous friction materials. As you disengage the clutch, this material allows the clutch to grab and transmit engine power to the drive shaft. However, this material will break down over time and won’t provide enough friction for the clutch disc to function properly as it normally should. Replacing a clutch disc every 50k-100k miles is considered routine maintenance to prevent your CVT transmission from going bad.

CVT Transmission Warning Signs


You will need to do some extra research when you buy a car with a CVT transmission. By educating yourself on these transmission mechanisms, you can know if your CVT transmission is going bad. Because of the expansive nature of replacing a CVT and the necessity to replace it more often, make sure you take a test drive, conduct an analysis of the transmission, and check the warranty on the CVT transmission. Performing these steps can keep your CVT transmission running for a long time and prevent your transmission from going bad too soon. 


While you are test driving your new car, make sure you lookout for the following symptoms of a bad CVT transmission.


  • Slow Shifting



First, look out for abnormally slow shifting. Although it is not required to shift a CVT transmission from first to second gear, you have to shift the CVT transmission between park, drive, and reverse to correctly use it. If it takes more than just a second or so for the transmission to shift, it can show a faulty CVT transmission. The inability to properly shift is a way to answer how you know your CVT transmission is going bad.  


  • Strange Sounds



Second, you might hear loud noises and sounds coming from your transmission. CVT transmissions are usually louder and make more sounds than their traditional manual or automatic counterparts, but they shouldn’t be that loud that they are noticeable. Although humming and whining sounds are normal for drivers, excess noise is a sign that your CVT transmission is going bad. If you hear too much noise or strange sounds when accelerating your car, or jerking while accelerating, these are symptoms of a bad CVT transmission. 


  • Transmission Slipping



Third, if your CVT transmission is slipping, this is a problem. When you accelerate and press down on the gas in your car, you should experience a smooth, seamless, and constant acceleration while driving your car. If the transmission or acceleration slips and you lose power during driving, this is a symptom of how you know your CVT transmission is going bad. 


  • Jerking During Acceleration



Fourth, jerking while shifting or uneven shifting during acceleration could occur when you are shifting or accelerating in your car. Shifting should never jerk the vehicle, so if it is, these are symptoms of a bad CVT transmission. 

CVT Transmission Repair Cost


When trying to determine if you know if the CV transmission is going bad, you might end up realizing you need a repair or replacement. Transmission replacement is one of the most expensive jobs done by a mechanic or auto body worker. According to the transmission repair cost guide, the average cost of the replacement of the CVT transmission ranges on average from $1800 to $3400.


If you want to save money on the parts, a used transmission ranges in price from $800 to $1500, while a rebuilt transmission averages between $1100 and $2800. A remanufactured CVT transmission is a little more expensive, coming in between $1300 and $3400. In addition to other parts, the labor required to replace the CVT transmission ranges from $500 to $1,200 to fix a CVT transmission that is going bad. 



To determine if your CVT transmission is going bad, you need to look for certain signs in your vehicle, like worn clutch discs, surging, leaking, transmission slips, and loud noises occurring from underneath the hood. If you notice any of these signs, there is a good chance that something is wrong with the transmission.


In this case, you will have to pay for a complete replacement, transmission rebuild, or repair. Although all of these repair choices are expensive, they are necessary to keep your CVT transmission and vehicle running for a long period of time. Without fixing the aforementioned CVT transmission problems, your transmission will eventually fail. 


If your CVT transmission fails, this can lead to an extremely high transmission replacement cost. In this case, you might be wondering if it is worth it to replace the transmission or repair it, or if you should just sell your vehicle. If your car has other damage, the best bet might be to sell your car to a reputable local junk car buyer. 


However, suppose you want to keep your CVT transmission from going bad over time. In that case, you need to pay for certain repairs like transmission fluid flushes, repairs on leaks, shift solenoid replacements, and sometimes even a complete replacement – costing you between $1,500 and $3,000

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