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Why is my CVT loud?
While there may actually be issues with your CVT, you might think your CVT is loud because your previous transmission was a bit quieter.
A continuously variable transmission has no gears, unlike a standard transmission which might have between 4 and 8 gears depending on the vehicle. Since the transmission has no real gears, the transmission makes the engine capable of revving up to a higher RPM without the need to switch gears.
In this case, you are really hearing the roar of an engine trying to accelerate to your desired speed. In a standard transmission with gears, your engine would rev up to around 3 to 4 thousand RPMs if you weren't absolutely flooring it, then shift, which would make the engine quieter.
The key difference here is feel: You'll keep a standard transmission kick or shift just a bit, then rev up again, then shift again. A CVT “feels” smoother and lacks the shift or kick feel, but runs the engine at a higher load for a bit longer because it doesn't need to shift to another gear to get you up to highway speed.
When is my CVT loud not normal?
While explaining a sound can be a bit difficult, there are certainly some noises you don't want to hear. An engine rev and having the sound of accelerating fill your cabin might be a byproduct of a CVT transmission, loud metal clanking or banging is not.
Loud metal noises can be a sign that something is wrong – like a bearing or belt going bad.
Other signs you have a CVT problem
Lack of smoothness
Since CVTs don't actually shift, acceleration from 0 to your top speed should be smoother than a standard transmission. If acceleration is jumpy while keeping your foot consistently on the pedal, that can be a sign that something is wrong with the CVT.
Your CVT does shift when you move from park to drive, neutral, or reverse. If this feels like it's taking an unusual time to be able to “go” after shifting, you've found a sign that your CVT might have a problem.
Besides the sound of your engine revving, if the CVT sounds unusually whiny or loud while running, get it checked out.
What are the benefits of a CVT?
Better gas mileage
A CVT doesn't need to shift as much. A standard transmission can have many gears built-in to find the right “Sweet spot” for lower RPM operation at high speed. A CVT does not need to do that and can find the right “sweet spot” right after accelerating to your desired speed. These vehicles will be lighter on your wallet – and manufacturers like them because they bring overall EPA fuel estimates in the right direction.
A vehicle can be made smaller and lighter with CVT. Because the CVT weighs less, it creates less weight for the engine to drag around.
A Cvt has fewer parts than a traditional transmission. The smaller number of parts make the transmission, and thus the entire vehicle costs less.
What are the downsides to a CVT?
Early builds weren't great
While CVTs have been around for that long, they have improved. With that said, the first models of CVT were not great, especially within Nissan. Nissan is faced with class-action lawsuits because they knowingly sold CVTs that would break down quickly – sometimes at only 30,000 miles. The problem? The parts from their transmission company, Jatco, were too delicate. They also didn't have the ability to cool down the CVT fast enough. Customers were largely saved from anything more than inconvenience because Nissan's warranty covered some of the damages – but Nissan ended up losing money on new cars sold because so many had CVT issues.
A different feel
Drive any automatic transmission vehicle before the start of CVTs and you probably had a good idea of when the vehicle was shifting and could “feel” how fast you were going. Since CVTs don't shift, it might be hard to gauge how fast the vehicle is traveling beyond the obvious of looking at the speedometer.
Expensive to fix
This is more of a problem for earlier CVTs that had issues more commonly. Most vehicles on the road today haven't had much if any, transmission work done with them. Early CVTs, like Nissans, could cost thousands to fix because while the parts were cheap, they often needed complete replacement instead of being able to replace just individual parts. The cost to actually install is also quite expensive since the case of a transmission, they require considerable time to fix or replace.
While transmissions are just about never 'cheap' to fix, this is less of a problem now that CVTs are built into more cars and by better manufacturers.
How are CVTs built differently?
A standard auto transmission has a range of gears that connect the engine's powers to the wheels and make you go. A CVT instead has two variable-width pulleys connected by a belt. The width of the pulley changes how much power is delivered – also giving the CVT the chance to deliver serious fuel efficiency in any number of gear ratios – because the gear ratios are unlimited.
Have CVTs improved?
Many of the complaints about CVTs come from them simply not “feeling” like normal – and Nissan's actual issue with manufacturing. CVTs today feel good and deliver improved fuel economy. Two of the most popular manufacturers in the world, including in the US, Toyota and Honda rely almost exclusively on CVTs for their best-selling Camry, Corolla, Accord, and Civic without much of an issue.
This is a very good sign of things to come for the continuously variable transmission and your wallet. While the standard transmission works very well for trucks, the technology change represents the ability to make a smaller, lighter product that delivers good results while saving the customer money in the long run.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding