Case Study: Rebuilding & Remanufacturing a CVT Transmission

  Constant Variable Transmission RE0F09B | Nissan CVT Transmission Rebuild
  Dave Riccio, Owner/Technician

By Dave Riccio, ASE Certified Technician, Owner of Tri-City transmission & Auto Repair, Co-Creator of Bumper to Bumper Radio

CASE STUDY: 2013 Nissan Maxima, Failed CVT Transmission

Rebuilt Constant Variable Transmission (CVT)


This customer owns a 2013 Nissan Maxima that began not wanting to accelerate above 60 mph and making lots of noise above 5 mph. Alyssa was certain she had a transmission problem. She had heard the ads for the big transmission franchise store and went there for their free diagnostic. She was told they needed to remove and disassemble the transmission to find out what was wrong with it and what it would cost to repair. She was uncomfortable with that, as it sounded like she would be writing a blank check, so she took her car to her regular mechanic for their opinion. Her regular mechanic did a preliminary inspection, retrieving diagnostic trouble codes for speed sensor signal issues and range sensor irregularities. With that information, that was as far as they could go and referred her to Tri-City Transmission.

When we received this vehicle, on the initial test drive, our technician indicated the transmission was so noisy he had to abort the road test. It was evident to our diagnostician that one or more of the internal CVT transmission bearings had failed. There were no diagnostic trouble codes in the system as related to the transmission since they had apparently been cleared at this customer’s regular mechanic shop. We referenced that paperwork from her regular shop and found codes indicating possibly a slip/speed sensor issue and possibly a faulty range sensor. However, we could not confirm any of this as the bearings were too bad for additional road testing. Any further driving for these concerns was simply not possible. We let the customer know we could remove the transmission, replace the bearings and inspect for any other issues inside the transmission. Before disassembly we gave her a price to replace the bearings or to rebuild the transmission if needed. Having upfront cost in her hand, without us having to perform any major disassembly, she asked us to proceed with the repair scenarios as proposed.

Our disassembly of the transmission revealed that several of the bearings were failing. The rest of the transmission looked to be in decent shape but it did have indication and wear consistent with 90,000 miles. We let her know we could just go ahead and replace the bearings and freshen up the transmission in lieu of remanufacturing the transmission, or at her discretion, we could custom rebuild or custom re-manufacture her transmission as well. We indicated to her the choice could be based on her needs and her plans for the vehicle. She opted to have us perform a customer re-manufacture service. This included updating the transmission with premium bearings, updating the transmission cooling system, and updates to the crucial values that have been problematic in this particular CVT transmission. This customer was ultimately satisfied walking away with a better than new CVT transmission.

Constant Variable Transmission RE0F09B | Nissan CVT Transmission Rebuild

History on Constant Variable Transmissions (CVT):

We have watched the black box of the Constant Variable Transmission (CVT) enter our marketplace. It was a very different transmission to what the industry was accustomed to. So it was surrounded by fear by most of our industry. We liked the challenge as it was something new and exciting, so we decided to get out ahead of the market and learn how to repair, rebuild, and remanufacture CVT transmissions. This has ended up being beneficial for both us and the customers. In our estimation, we find 99% of the market is simply replacing CVT transmissions when only minor repairs are needed. Unfortunately, this has given the CVT a bad reputation. They can be good transmissions but sadly, they are misunderstood by the new car dealerships and most all of the repair industry. Because of that, customers don’t get good options for repair, instead, astronomical quotes for replacement from those who don’t know better. Repair professionals don’t yet understand that “black box” of the CVT transmission.

As we go out and introduce ourselves to general repair shops and new car dealerships around the valley, we find just how much they don’t know about CVT transmissions. They are surprised to find out we not only know how to repair them without costly overhaul or replacement, but how to rebuild and re-manufacture them when needed. Additionally, we understand a lot of transmission shops are in that same boat of not having the in-depth capability to actually fix a CVT transmission. So they just replace them instead.

A handful of years ago, we saw the trend of CVTs coming so we invested heavily in personnel and tooling to make fixing them a reality. There are a lot of variations of CVT transmissions and the unknowing automotive professional (which is most when it comes to CVT transmissions) paints them all with a broad brush adding to the confusion.

CVT transmissions are a daily repair at our shop. Knowing the trend for fuel efficiency, which the CVT provides, we chose to become experts in the technology.

Constant Variable Transmission RE0F09B | Nissan CVT Transmission RebuildTransmission Background Information:

The idea of CVT transmission technology has been around for a solid hundred years. In concept, it’s older than that considering Leonardo da Vinci put the idea to paper in the late 1400’s. From concept to production, 500+ years later, the CVT was typically found in lighter vehicles such as snowmobiles. CVT transmissions were just not utilized in the automobile until the late 90’s with a few Honda models. In 2002 Nissan went all in with the CVT in the Murano. Even with the proliferation of CVT transmissions, you probably won’t see them for a while in the truck.

Trucks are too heavy for the CVT technology, at least at this present moment. For fuel economy and creature comforts, trucks still need the granularities for shifting provided by CVT. Since the CVT won’t work in a truck, in order to accomplish the same goals of a CVT, trucks have gone the route of the 6,7,8,9 and 10 speed transmissions. This offers similar benefits like the CVT in regard to seamless shifting and fuel economy, but they are able to handle the weight and horsepower typically associated with trucks.

People originally were very adverse to the way CVT transmissions shifted or didn’t shift. It felt unnerving to most. However, that was the early models, almost two decades ago. As the design of the CVT transmission has not only improved, so has the software that runs the transmission. Some of the newest CVT models feel just like a normal automatic transmission. Yes, many of the bugs from that model 2002 Murano have been worked out.

Toyota was one of the last manufacturers to get on board with CVT automatic transmissions. Reading the engineering papers, it seems they wanted to utilize CVT transmissions, just not until they had it perfect. Frankly, we are impressed by the way the Toyota CVT transmissions operate. It was well worth the wait.

The Moral of This Story:

1. Don’t waste money on replacing your CVT when in some cases, we can fix it for a fraction of the price.

2. Don’t be scared of CVT transmissions. The bugs seemed to have been worked out thanks to the sacrificial transition to CVT from Nissan.

Other Common JATCO Transmissions in Nissan Vehicles

  • JF011E / RE0F10A – Nissan Sentra
  • JF009E / RE0F11A – Nissan Note
  • JF010E / RE0F09B – Nissan Murano, Nissan Altima
  • JF015E / RE0F08A/B – Cube and Note

Each automaker typically will have their own model # for a particular transmission and then the actual manufacturer of the transmission has different model #. It can be hard to keep track of all the variations between different transmission manufacturers and auto makers. These references are in no way meant to be used as a diagnostic tool, rather points of reference.

Other CVT Related Case Studies

Constant Variable Transmission RE0F09B | Nissan CVT Transmission Rebuild

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