Piston Slap: Justy-fied Freestylin' Over CVTs, Part IV

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap justy fied freestylin over cvts part iv

Mark writes:


I enjoy reading the piston slap series.

I have a 2009 Altima with the 2.5 4 banger and the CVT transmission. I’m not a big fan of the CVT, but it works ok and gets decent mileage. I bought this car as it was the cheapest car I could find that fits 4 adults and qualified me for the cash-for-clunkers handout. I didn’t expect to keep it long or pile the miles on it this quickly but now it has 90k on it. I mostly drive it without any passengers as we now have 3 kids and the minivan gets used for family duty (just had one kid when we bought the Altima). I’m trying to decide if I should hold onto it or sell it – it’s kind of at that point where if I keep much longer, I’ll probably end up driving it into the ground.

The transmission is the wildcard to me – is there a consensus whether these trannys can be expected to last for 150k or more miles? The trans warranty goes through 120k but by that point the vehicle probably won’t be worth a whole lot.

Sajeev answers:

That body style Altima was my favorite rental in its class for a while, its CVT was surprisingly on point. Compared to other manufacturer’s downright slothy 6-speed automatic transaxles, Nissan’s CVT (from 2007 and up?) was no slouch in any metric.

Even if the transmission fails right after the warranty expires, this isn’t an unobtainium gearbox like the Subaru Justy. Nissan’s been in the CVT game for years now, odds are they’ve spent millions investing in this future (including warranties). There’s a learning curve in rebuilding/diagnosing them, but (in theory) CVTs are fairly straightforward. This webinar brings a ton of valuable pros and cons of CVTs from the perspective of a local transmission rebuilder.

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3 of 34 comments
  • Plee Plee on Jan 14, 2015

    The failure rate of the CVT in the Nissan Pathfinder and Infiniti JX is very high. For Nissan's sake, I hope all these hundreds of thousands of vehicles they have been selling lately do not have the same failure rate as those two, it would be the kiss of death.

  • Type44 Type44 on Jan 15, 2015

    Those in the know, know... The BG machine would not be used in a CVT application; it's loaded with the wrong fluid, and the trans pump provides the pressure which is not a certainty in most CVTs I've seen. Drain, refill, and cross your fingers.

    • -Nate -Nate on Jan 15, 2015

      Thank you . I didn't know but I *do* know to ask here as Forums are my friend.... Sooner or later I'll be faced with a CVT and this is the first time I've heard anything but derision and hate on them @ TTAC . One of my old Mercedes W123's has the hydro-pneumatic rear suspension and it can either be a royal PIA or a wonderful thing , as I routinely carry 7 people in it , I prefer the wonderful thing route and use Mercedes fluids in it because all problems always seem to begin with leaks and experience has taught me that hydraulic leaks are caused my lack of service and wrong fluids , in that order . Damage and wear comes long after . I hope the California Tree Hugging Thought Police don't arrest me for doing Routine Maintenance properly ! (sarcasm font is broken) =8-) . -Nate

  • SCE to AUX Beautiful find! I can't fit inside, but I'd admire it any time.$16500 seems decent for a semi-rare collectible in good condition, but others will know better.
  • Dukeisduke I would use the phrase "new clutch disk and pressure plate", or simply "new clutch". Hopefully it's got a new throwout bearing, too. It looks okay, but the stripes have to go.
  • Crtfour I love those old "Heartbeat" commercials, and brings back memories of growing up riding in Astro vans.
  • Tassos Murilee's piece of junk today was a Camaro from 1992. I told him to scrap it ASAP and put it out of its misery before Tim steals it and makes it his so-called 'used car of the day'. I did not count on Tim being much more ambitious than that. He was able to find one that is TWENTY Years older than that.It may make a collectible for a few (sure as hell not for me), but it SURE AS HELL IS NOT A "USED CAR OF THE DAY".
  • Jeff I like these 3rd generation Camaros much better than the 2nd generation. I might be in the minority but I always liked these Camaros. As for the S-10 pickups I had a second generation S-10 for almost 21 years very reliable so I might be in the minority here as well but when something gives me good service and costs not much to keep up then I like that vehicle.