Continuously Variable Transmission


I recently drove a Nissan Maxima as a rental while on a trip. I loved the smoothness and responsiveness of the cvt. As I am in the market for a new (used) car, I am curious about this type of transmission, its reliability and its economy over the long haul. I am specifically looking at a 2006 or 2007 Murano or a Maxima. Any advice and information would be helpful. Thanks.


CVTs have been used in mass produced vehicles for at least ten years. I first saw one in a 1998 Honda Civic HX. I don’t know for sure how long Nissan has been making them, but I would be comfortable buying a Honda with one.


The CVT was invented by a Dutch company called DAF in the mid fifties. They made them for their small cars for a while then sold their car and heavy duty truck division to Volvo. They licensed the CVT to a number of companies, I believe. The CVT has been around for quite some time and can now handle more powerful engines; the original CVTs use rubber belts which wore out quite fast.

Transmission shops have not learned to work on these yet, so you are probably stuck with going to the dealer, who will usually change out the unit if it needs repairs. So, if you have a problem out of warrranty, this can get quite pricey.


The technology is still rather new, but it is certainly out of the experimental age. If I were buying and was considering an automatic transmission, I certainly would consider a CVT.


My sister was interested in the vehicle until she found a Murano forum with many users complaining of CVT failures. Internet people complain so of course lots of posts about complaints not compliments. However the scary part to her was the typical fix price was around $7000 as repair procedure of Nissan is not in the works, its exchange of the entire CVT unit.

Even automatic BMW’s do not approach this cost. I would suggest sticking to automatic transmission’s which don’t typically approach half the $7k figure and typically have at least a 150k lifespan.


Who besides nissan offers them?


Test drove a Murano today and WOW!! was it a great ride!


My memory is real hazy but the CVT has been around for about 70 or 80 years I think; just not very widespread until lately. Subaru used them on the Justy back in the 80s but these were problematic.
Nissan does not build those transmissions; they’re made by JATCO who also builds them for Chrysler and soon to be VW I think.
JATCO has been specializing in transmissions for a long time but that does not mean that everything that comes off the assembly line is defect free.
The Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Caliber use the JATCO CVT. My son has an '07 Caliber and has had no problems up to this point, but the long haul has not started yet.

There have been some complaints from Nissan owners about CVT failures at comparatively low mileage but like most problems that occur, the story behind the failure is often not known.
If there were design defects in the original units for the Nissan maybe those defects have been worked out by now; not only on Nissan but other car makes.


Ford had them in the Ford 500, which is now the new Taurus. Toyota has it in the Prius, and some other models. Nissan has the most experience with them. Can’ recall any others just nwo, but small economy cars are the natural recipients, because of the efficiency of the unit.


Honda has it too.


The Pacifica uses electronically-controlled 4- or 6-speed automatic transaxles, not CVTs. The Jeep Compass and Patriot, being Caliber clones, use CVTs.


I have no knowledge if they are reliable or not. But the ONE thing I don’t like about them is…IF there’s a problem…then the only option is to REPLACE the transmission. These transmissions can NOT be rebuilt.