CVT Transmission Fluid Replacement: 20 Things You Might Not Know

I rarely feel like I’m over-repeating myself when writing these articles, but one thing is for sure. I am definitely repeating myself when it comes to pointing out just how important it is to replace your fluids in CVT transmissions. We already answered several questions about CVT transmission fluid replacement in our guide to CVT transmissions but we kept getting more questions that needed answering which we will cover in this article. CVT transmission fluid is like blood to a human body. In order for the CVT transmission to work it needs to circle, it needs to be fresh and it has to lubricate and cool all the moving interior parts of the CVT gearbox. Needless to say, it plays one of the most important roles when it comes to CVT transmission health and longevity. Let’s dive in!

What is CVT transmission fluid?

CVT transmission fluid is essential oil or lubricant whose job it is to circle the CVT transmission. By doing so it keeps all the moving parts lubricated and cool at the same time. Every CVT transmission features an oil pump that keeps the circulation of CVT fluid going and a filtering system that usually also features magnets that catches all the contaminants which can be harmful. CVT gearbox fluid is different from regular automatic transmission fluid (ATF) but just like ATF, CVT gearbox fluid needs to be regularly replaced. 

What Color Is CVT Transmission Fluid?

Different CVT transmission fluids come in different colors. For example; Nissan CVT gearbox fluid is brown/gold, Valvoline CVT fluid uses a shade of green but most CVT gearbox fluids are actually red. CVT fluid is only colored so that the mechanic or yourself can visually determine the level or CVT transmission fluid contamination. Any fresh transmission fluid is almost transparent with a certain color.

What Color Should it Be?

Ideally, CVT transmission fluid should always be semi-transparent with a shade of the original color (red, gold, green, etc.). If you extract a sample of CVT fluid from your CVT and it is completely black without any transparency or color, it means that your gearbox fluid is heavily contaminated and in need of a replacement.

Are All CVT Fluids The Same?

No, all CVT transmission fluids are definitely not the same. Each CVT transmission requires a specific CVT transmission fluid with correct viscosity and other qualities that assure correct and precise transmission operation. Certain non-OEM oil brands did develop CVT transmission fluids that do well in all types of CVT transmissions but we still recommend only using fluids that are approved by the manufacturer of your car or transmission.

Can You Mix CVT gearbox Fluids?

No, you should never mix different CVT transmission fluids when replacing the transmission fluid. Different CVT transmission fluids have different properties. Mixing them can result in poor lubrication, overheating and eventual CVT failure. You should also never mix ATF (Automatic Transmission Fluid) that is meant for standard automatic transmissions with your CVT transmission fluid.

Can You Change CVT Fluid at home?

Yes, you definitely can. Many people do it. But beware, only do this if you are 100% certain in your technical abilities and know which CVT transmission fluid your CVT gearbox needs and how much. You can get this information at your car’s dealership. We do not recommend replacing your CVT transmission fluid if your car is still in warranty.

Here is a detailed video guide for a DIY CVT transmission fluid replacement  a Nissan Altima:

Can I Use CVT Fluid For Other Types of Automatic Transmissions?

No, absolutely not. Using CVT transmission fluid on a regular, hydraulic automatic transmission or on a dual-clutch, direct-shift DSG automatic transmission will eventually lead to a complete transmission failure and big repair cost. Do not swap fluids between different types of automatic transmissions.

What Is The Difference Between CVT And Regular Transmission Fluid (ATF)?

The main difference between Automatic Transmission Fluid (ATF – designed for standard automatic transmissions with planetary gear sets) and CVT transmission fluid is in the amount of lubrication they provide to the internals of the transmission. ATF transmission fluid provides more lubrication to the physical planetary gearsets inside the automatic transmission whereas CVT transmission fluid has to apply the right amount of lubricating qualities in order to prevent the belt or chain from slipping on the two pulleys inside the CVT transmission.

Is Nissan CVT Transmission Fluid Synthetic?

While Nissan does not reveal the details of their CVT transmission fluid it is most likely fully synthetic with certain additives that offer amazing low-temperature fluidity and correct pressure in warm weather. If you have a Nissan CVT transmission, make sure that you only use OEM Nissan CVT transmission fluid.

Will Changing CVT Transmission Fluid Help CVT Slipping problems?

Definitely, while it is never guaranteed, flushing or replacing the CVT transmission fluid can greatly help with slipping problems in a CVT transmission. In fact, sometimes all that is needed is a fluid replacement if no further damage has been caused. Slipping, however, is just one of the common CVT problems.

Can You Mix CVT gearbox Fluid Brands?

Yes and no, but we would have to say no. While two separate brands can offer the exact same CVT transmission fluid, you can never be certain if their properties really are exactly the same. We recommend that you use the entire amount of CVT transmission fluid from the same brand, the one that is recommended by the transmission or car manufacturer.

What Oil Goes In A CVT Transmission?

There is no universal answer to this question, the “oil” that goes into a CVT transmission is called “CVT transmission fluid” and it must be the exact fluid that is prescribed by the CVT transmission or the car manufacturer. Using improper CVT transmission fluid can lead to transmission failure. Check your owner’s manual or consult a professional.

How long does it last and when should you replace it

In theory, CVT transmission fluid can last almost 100,000 miles. But waiting for the transmission fluid to get worn out before replacing it means you are risking complete CVT failure. Most car manufacturers recommend replacing the CVT transmission fluid once every 25-50,000 miles or even less is recommended by most technicians we talked to.

Buy it here!

The best prices for CVT transmission fluid are at Amazon.com

Click here to see all the available CVT transmission fluids available and the latest prices. When buying a CVT transmission fluid, make sure it is compatible with your CVT transmission.

Who Makes Nissan CVT Transmission Fluid?

Nissan makes their own CVT transmission fluid called the “CVT Fluid NS-2, NS-3, etc.”. Learn more about Nissan CVT.

Who Makes Subaru CVT Transmission Fluid?

Subaru also makes their own CVT transmission fluid called the “Subaru CVTF-II CVT Transmission Fluid”. It is the recommended fluid for their Lineartronic CVT transmission.

Who Makes Honda CVT Transmission Fluid?

Like other car manufacturers, Honda supplies their own CVT fluid called the “Honda Fluid 08200-9006 CVT-1 Continuously Variable Transmission Fluid” which is recommended for most CVT-equipped Honda models.

What are the symptoms of worn-out or low CVT Transmission Fluid?

Having low or worn out CVT transmission fluid will essentially mean two things, your CVT transmission will be running dry or it will run with fluid that is more similar to water than transmission fluid.

This means that insufficient lubrication and cooling will be provided to the internal moving parts of the CVT and sooner or later symptoms of serious damage start appearing. Typical symptoms of worn out or low transmission fluid include: 

  • Weird smells of something burning
  • Transmissions starts slipping and grasping
  • You experience delayed engagement and poor reaction times
  • Weird noises of grinding metal, clunking and thumping start appearing
  • You start noticing leaks coming from the transmission, further back from the engine
  • Your “Check Engine” or “CVT warning” lights start lighting up on the dashboard
  • You experience jerking and poor overall performance of the CVT

If you replace your CVT transmission fluid as soon as you start noticing some of these symptoms, there is a big chance you will avoid bigger transmission issues and repairs. Ignoring these symptoms of worn out and low transmission fluid however will certainly lead to a complete CVT failure and insane repair bills. 

So what is the cost of replacing it?

So by now you have surely realized that yes, CVT transmission fluid must be replaced every 25,000 miles or depending on your vehicle’s recommendation and the way it is used. If you use your CVT car for towing, make sure you replace CVT fluid more frequently.

OEM CVT transmission fluid can cost from 14$ to 35$ a quart, and you usually need about 6 quarts. However, you can buy aftermarket and excellent quality CVT transmission fluid from Castrol or Valvoline that cost anywhere from 8$ to 10$. If you do not replace the transmission fluid on your own, you can also expect to pay around 70$ to 100$ for labor costs. If you decide and if it is time, you should also replace your CVT transmission filter which costs an additional 30$.

On average, CVT transmission fluid replacement cost at an independent mechanic will cost you around 120$ or 300$ at a dealership. The cost may vary depending on your car and your location.

Conclusion

We hope you do not feel too overwhelmed after reading all of this. If we recap, this is what you must know and do:

  • Learn when should you replace your CVT transmission fluid and actually replace it
  • If you plan on replacing the CVT transmission fluid at home, make sure you know which CVT fluid is correct
  • Replace CVT transmission fluid sooner if you use your car for towing
  • Do not ignore the symptoms of worn out or low transmission fluid

Doing these few simple steps will ensure that your CVT transmission stays strong and running.

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