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CVT (continuously variable transmission)

The factory does not supply a dipstick for the CVT in my car. I have read a few advisories that recommend most owners like me should not attempt to check the transmission fluid for a CVT. Anytime my car goes to the dealership the car disappears behind a wall to the shop where no customer may go.
Does the fluid level check for a CVT require a higher degree of care or skill than another type of automatic transmission?

I check all other vehicle fluids, and just feel annoyed that I can not do a preventive maintenance fluid level measure for the CVT.

And I enjoy the smooth acceleration of this car. So I don't want the tranny to get torn up for improper fluid level. The CVT transmission is configured for a 2008 Dodge Caliber, and manufactured by Jatco.
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Comments

  • edited February 2013

    I understand you valid concern about the need to check the level of your transmission fluid, but...
    Has the fluid ever been changed in this 5 year old transmission?

    Whether someone has a "conventional" automatic transmission or a CVT, the fluid should be changed every 3 yrs or 30k miles (whichever comes first) if you want to avoid an expensive rebuilding or replacement of the transmission.

    Whether Chrysler's maintenance schedule lists this service or not, this is something that needs to be done if you want to get the maximum number of years/miles from your car. Car mfrs have begun to drop this type of service from their maintenance schedule in an attempt to make their cars look like they are maintenance free, but when the trans fails from lack of maintenance (most likely around 120k-150k miles) your warranty will be long over, and the mfr will not be the one to bear the financial burden of replacing the transmission.

    If you don't feel comfortable with the dealership doing this type of service, you should look for a well-reputed independent transmission shop in your area. Whatever you do, do NOT go to AAMCO, Lee Myles, Cottman, Mr. Transmission, or any other chain operation.
  • @twin I just looked at your owner's manual online, and it really doesn't show a trans dipstick.

    Is it possible that there is a dipstick really far down, where you can't see it? On some of the Honda CVTs you have to reach really far down to get to the dipstick.

    The reason I'm asking is because my 2005 Camry owner's manual also doesn't show a trans dipstick, yet it's physically there in real life.

    Perhaps you just have a drain plug and a fill plug, like on a stick shift trans. Or perhaps the level is checked with a scanner.

    Just throwing possibilities out there.
  • Many cars are no longer made with dipsticks. Domestic cars without trans dipsticks have been around for over 10-12 years now. Engines on some Euro cars don't have oil dipsticks either.

    If I remember correctly, your transmission has no stick but does have a tube. You insert a special tool (a dipstick marked in millimeters) to measure the depth of fluid in the transmission, consult the temperature/level graph in the service manual, and determine if the level is proper. For example, if the fluid temp is 40*C, you may want 20mm fluid. If it's 80*C, you may want 60mm fluid, etc.

    Transmission fluid doesn't get "used" like engine oil does. If the transmission doesn't leak, it stays full. Another reason to have this transmission "sealed" is that the wrong fluid will kill it in short order, and making it harder for some kid on a lube rack to throw in a quart of Dexron is, in my opinion, a good idea.
  • I have a 2007 Jeep Compass (same car basically) and can confirm that the CVT has a dipstick tube with a plug on top. The label around the plug says "hands-off", essentially. The owners manual says don't touch it until 60,000 or 100,000 miles (can't remember right now)

    Somewhere between 35-40,000 miles I priced a fluid change through my trusted Indy transmission shop. As most of these cars were still under warranty he simply hadn't worked on one yet. He researched what it would cost to do an exchange, just the cost of the fluid alone more than doubled his normal price. His advice? Don't bother, the fluid in these sealed units really does last longer.

    As an aside, a bearing inside the transmission started whirring a while ago. The dealer replaced it under warranty. I'm not sure that the bearing failure was related to not changing the fluid at 30,000 miles.

    As an aside to my aside, the dealer sent me off down the road without tightening a brake line...
  • Disposable consumer products..Nobody cares any more..."Lifetime Sealed-No Maintenance Required"
  • My oldest son has a 2007 Caliber with the CVT and from my hazy memory I think his has a dipstick. Whether it's identical to the '08 I do not know.

    Making it out of the warranty period is all the manufacturer cares about and gambling odds are in their favor. :-)
  • And whoever replaces the CVT fluid, make SURE it is the exact fluid specified for the transmission. I would buy it from the dealer.
  • I have heard that the CVT that Nisson uses isn't very reliable, but maybe this one is.
This discussion has been closed.