Helping friend with 2011 Nissan Cube - CVT transmission might be out

One of my friends has a Nissan Cube that they loved until it left them stranded. I personally think this is an ugly car but they find it very practical for their needs.

It is in good overall shape but the transmission crapped out last night. It is going into a shop to see if it is something minor but she is thinking it is toast. The cost to replace the transmission is about the value of the car but she says the rest of the car is in good shape and car prices are so insane that even though the book value is only a certain amount, her car would sell for more if she went to replace it with the same thing. She is going to look around for a day or so at used cars while her car gets looked at and make up her mind in the next couple days to repair or replace.

I know these CVTs in general seem to be problematic. Have the replacements been fixed or is this just the nature of these transmissions? I probably would personally avoid any car with a CVT based on the stories I have heard.

What would those here suggest?

I just noticed this at the top of the page I linked but don’t think it will apply to her. Nissan CVT Lawsuit Settlement Preliminarily Approved |

I think she is doing the right thing . The vehicle is in the shop and is not going to sell for much with a dead transmission so it needs to be fixed . She is looking around so that will help her make a decision . I would not even try to infuence her but would offer to take her places when I could.

The question is if the transmission can be rebuilt so that it will not fail again for many years/miles, or if this is just going to involve replacing used defective parts with new defective parts, guaranteeing repeat failure. Spending a lot of money on a permanent fix is worth it. Spending a lot of money on an exercise in futility is not.

How many miles are on this 2011 Cube, and is this the original transmission or was it replaced before?

If they replace it with a like tranny that’s still 11 years of potential life, doubt they’d keep it that long.

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That’s exactly right. The business of finding “better” parts because the first ones only lasted for years and years is one I never understood. I see the same thing with shocks and brake pads. If this car is otherwise in good condition there’s no reason not to fix it. The cube body style is no longer being made and if that shape suits you, why walk away from the car?

I think her plan is to fix it unless she finds a screaming deal on a used car. She might sell it in a year and this would give her time to save up for a newer car by keeping this one going. This is probably the best bet.

I sent the deal about the class action to her even though I don’t think it applies. She responded that it didn’t apply to her but that her mother owns a newer Versa and is having transmission problems so she was happy to see this. I think I would avoid Nissans with a CVT if buying a new car.

I didn’t get the mileage but think around 100K from what she said. It is the original transmission.

I have always heard that you do not rebuild a CVT because parts wear into each other. The only thing that could be reused is the casing so the practice is to just swap the transmission which is probably best.

I understand these things need pretty routine service and frequent fluid changes when compared to a traditional automatic. She had been taking it to a shop with a less than stellar reputation in town for a while and they never mentioned changing her transmission fluid when it was in for work or oil changes. She is finding a new shop at this point and I suggested a couple. The car is several hundred miles away in a tow yard now so she is going to try to have it looked at there instead of paying even more to have it towed home.

She says “I am not a mechanic. I trust them to tell me when something needs to be done.” It sounds like she is the latest victim of an incompetent and dishonest shop.

It looks like they just missed getting it fixed for free by Nissan. maybe call corporate and see if they will help with the cost.

PSA: Nissan doubles warranty on CVTs to 10 years/120,000 miles | Autoblog

Toyota CVT’s seem to do pretty good by the reports we get here. I don’t think CVT is the fundamental problem. In the book “Car Guys vs Bean Counters” author (GM exec at the time I think) says they tried to put CVT into one of their cars, but too many failure reports coming back, so they switched to conventional automatic. Author implied CVT takes more space than conventional automatic, and the cause of the problem was trying to squeeze CVT into less space that it needs to have. Have to wonder if Toyota’s CVT’s are simply allotted more engine compartment space, and therefore are larger than Nissan’s? Today’s Corolla is a considerably bigger car than my early 90’s Corolla, when CVT option not available.

Good luck avoiding a CVT, they’re in many Hondas, Toyotas, Nissans, Subarus, and others. Mazda still has an old 6 speed AT.

Depending on the trans price (which is A LOT) and the vehicle value (which is not much), it may make sense to just dump it.
When I was in the field, there was only one CVT trans available (Subaru Justy), and it was not rebuildable. The nice part was that it was not obscenely expensive AT THAT TIME. It most likely still is not rebuildable but it definitely is not cheap.
Do the math.

I’ve heard bad things about CVTs on youtube. CVTs are only used in budget vehicles. The higher end vehicles don’t use CVTs. There are no parts or rebuild kits available for CVTs. They need replacement at 120k miles and such. Then I’ve heard that CVTs need frequent fluid changes. But most people don’t change their transmission fluid anyway, so that’s an easy thing to blame the failure on. All this must vary depending on the maker too. Hybrids can use eCVTs which are totally different and have frome none of the issues that the mechanical metal belt sheave CVTs have.

Does anyone know the if the fluid change thing is really the issue? There is metal to metal contact in there all the time that it’s being used so that must contaminate the oil rather badly.

Nissan CVT uses faulty pulley design, which is too weak for the torque engine produces.
Fluid changes delay the inevitable to some extent, but do not address the design of the pulley itself.
What should help a lot is avoiding hard torque variations (AKA jack-rabbit-starts) as this is what actually stresses the connection between pulley sides and leads to the eventual lock up or shearing.
Other manufacturers manage to build more reliable CVTs, so this is Nissan-specific “feature”.


I just send the Autoblog deal to her. Maybe it can be ammo if she goes to Nissan to at least get a discount or get a break on the purchase of a new Nissan. I am not sure I would want a new Nissan. I saw a post here about a Versa using oil with only 120K miles.

I got more information on her car. She bought the car brand new so she is the only owner. This is the original transmission and it has 123K on it. The ripoff shop she had been using is both dishonest and incompetent. They usually try to sell you crap you don’t need and charge a lot of money for it. They didn’t know enough to even charge her for work that needed to be done. The transmission fluid is also “original” which I am sure is way past the change interval. She told the shop that she wanted them to take care of anything that needed to be done and routine maintenance. Obviously they missed this or simply don’t know how to do it so left her on her own.

I got screwed over by this shop in the past and know a lot of people who have as well. She can be added to the list now.

I got her in touch with a shop I trust and use and it is probably going to be towed there and repaired. They told her simply changing the fluid and filters could bring it back to life for a while or it could need a new transmission. It seems to drive fine when cold now but starts slipping when hot. I doubt this will work for a long time but might buy some time.

They told her to expect a $3000-5000 repair bill at the worst case. I think that is her plan unless she finds a decent used car in this price range before it gets to the shop.

The same is true with the Mitsubishi Mirage. I have a manual but it is common for the CVTs to go out at about 120K like this Nissan. This is a cheap car of course and usually you would junk it for a transmission failure. I see used models with 90K selling for more than I paid for mine new though so a car like this might be worth repairing.

The CVTs have a couple failure points but one is a cheap thrust bearing. If you change this before failure, I guess the transmission can go a while. Otherwise once the bearing lets go, it is a big mess and you need a new transmission.

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You are correct - traditional belt-driven CVT’s should be avoided. But there is eCVT which a totally different animal used by Toyota on its hybrids. It’s a marvel of engineering!
To be honest, I never tried Toyota’s CVT but in general, I trust Toyota so much that I would probably make an exception for it. After all, it’s made by Aisin, not unknown ford supplier…

You’re right, I have that in my MkZ hybrid. But Toyota is using the cone/belt type CVT in their small non-hybrids. But I haven’t heard of issues with them. Seems like older Nissans have the most problems.

It would be interesting to know why Toyota’s CVT’s seem to be more robust than Nissan’s.

Is Toyota’s …

  • Bigger?
  • Weigh more?
  • Better materials?
  • Better belt routing?
  • Better lube system?

Or is it just a myth, and both are about the same?

My understanding is that the Toyota CVT has a launch gear which reduces forces on the transmission when accelerating from a stop.

I own a 2018 Nissan Versa with a manual transmission. The CVT issue was well known when I bought it new in 2018.