Honda first utilized the CVT automatic transmission in 1995, introduced within their Civic CX model. Comparably, Honda’s CVTs are remarkably reliable in the majority of their associated applications. However, no automatic transmission is completely perfect, and many are prone to various faults. Different design faults can potentially reduce the lifespan of an engine system drastically. Yet somehow Honda has maintained a great reputation with their CVT utilization.
CVT stands for Continuous Variable Transmission. CVT transmissions are notable for their seamless transition between different gear ratios. These transmission systems adjust the diameter of the drive pulley to switch between different gears. Therefore, the unique aspect of the CVT systems is that they are considered automatic, yet still have the presence of fixed gears, unlike most automatic transmissions.
Various models still utilize the CVT transmission throughout today’s automotive market. Since the CVT has established such a known reputation in the automotive market, let’s further examine its applications, performance, common problems, and overall reliability in the following sections below.
Honda CVT Applications
Many different auto manufacturers have created their own CVT. Others have outsourced different companies, such as JATCO, to create CVT systems for their different applications. Yet, throughout this guide, our main focus will be on the Honda CVT.
Honda models in 2022 that are available with a CVT or eCVT system are as follows below:
- Civic (Sedan/Coupe/Hatchback)
- Accord Hybrid
- Clarity Plug-in Hybrid
Generally, the consensus of applications with the Honda CVT has met high standards of overall reliability and durability. Throughout time Honda has continued to expand the different models that the CVT has been utilized within.
CVT Transmission Performance
The CVT has various different strengths when compared to a regular automatic transmission. For instance, better fuel economy is one of the pros many drivers associate with the system. Additionally, the CVT transmission carries less overall weight than regular automatic transmissions. Also, one of the most notable strengths of the driving experience for the CVT is the lack of “shift shock” and overall smooth acceleration. All of these strong points are also in conjunction with the fact that a CVT system requires fewer overall components and therefore is cheaper to manufacture. This doesn’t mean that CVT systems are less complex though, and some may require more diligent and costly repairs due to this complex design. That may seem like a contradiction, but in simpler terms: the CVT design is complex yet requires fewer components than regular automatic transmissions.
This economical design does not compromise a smooth driving experience, In fact, the Honda CVT prides itself on being a much smoother transmission than other automatic systems. The continuously variable transmission, and specifically its transition between gears while accelerating to higher speeds, is known for being streamlined. Smoother in the sense that it should allow for a better engine performance than comparable automatic transmissions.
However, no transmission is bulletproof, and the CVT does have its various associated problems. With that said, let’s not jump into some of those most common problems experienced for the CVT in the section below.
The Honda CVT’s Most Common Problems
The CVT prides itself on overall reliability and durability. Yet, due to the complex makeup of these systems, there are many different areas that can be prone to fault or failure. Honda itself has issues service bulletins and has extended warranties in response to certain CVT components and their associated problems. It’s important to note, that many of these problems can be deterred with the practice of proper maintenance, repairs, and the usage of high-quality fuel and oil. It is especially important to deter any issues that may cause a raise in heat to abnormal levels. Overheating is one of the few major catalysts of issues throughout the Honda CVT and other CVTs as well.
The Honda CVT is a great design on paper and in practice. However, throughout time and wear the occurrence of certain issues become more likely to occur. With that said, let’s now examine some of the 3 most likely issues to occur for the Honda CVT.
1) Honda Transmission Jerking/Slipping
Many transmission jerking issues may be attributed to the fact that your transmission fluid needs to be changed or that the fluid itself is low. However, other various components can also be the catalyst for jerking or slipping transmissions. Different catalysts for a slipping transmission can include:
- Solenoid issues
- Clutch Problems
- Worn out gears
- Broken or worn transmission bands
- Torque converter issues
With the various causes of transmission issues, it’s important to identify the cause before it progresses into more costly and time-consuming repairs. Transmission issues can hide various other engine system faults, just another reason for timely repairs. In summation, a jerking transmission carries its symptoms in its name: a driver may experience difficulty changing gears or in the case of the Honda CVT: a jerking reaction to the engine transitioning between gears. Furthermore, drivers may experience abnormal engine shaking if the problem is severe enough.
2) CVT Transmission Power Loss
Slipping or jerking is also a symptom of overall CVT power loss. Additionally, abnormal engine noise or shaking may be contributory to the overall loss of a transmission’s power. It is important to identify that transmission fluid is not muddy or low when experiencing loss of acceleration or engine power. Once fluid issues have been cleared, loss of power may indicate faulty or failing components within the Honda CVT system. Again, this is a problem that will less commonly occur on vehicles that are driven less aggressively and vehicles in which good maintenance has been sustained.
3) Honda CVT Coolant Hose Failure/Leaks
A leaking or faulty transmission coolant hose can be a nagging expensive repair for certain Honda CVT drivers. This problem may carry a variety of symptoms including:
- Low transmission fluid
- Visible breaks or damage on the cooling lines
- Puddles of fluid gathering underneath the car
- A burning smell emits from the engine bay
- Abnormal noises from the engine bay
- Slipping or Jerking transmission
CVT coolant hose leaks are another problem that may likely result from the improper flow of transmission fluid or low levels of fluid. Abnormal CVT fluid can result in an overheated transmission and potentially the CVT completely ceasing function. Due to the fact that this results in more expensive repairs, it is imperative to identify and repair any transmission coolant hose problems in a timely manner.
Now that we have detailed 3 of the most commonly occurring problems for the Honda CVT, we will summarize our verdict on the overall reliability of the CVT in the following section.
Overall Reliability of the CVT
Many drivers consider Honda to be one of the most reliable manufacturers on the automotive market. Part of this impressive reputation is in part due to the quality of the CVT systems Honda utilizes. Even our most commonly occurring problems listed above are likely due to improper maintenance rather than design flaws or poor structural components.
Typically, continuously variable transmission systems are more reliable than regular automatic transmissions. This can be reaffirmed by the fact that many applications with a CVT have higher dependability ratings than similar models without. Normal expectations of the CVT are to reach at least 100,000. Yet many models may pass the 250,000-mile mark without needing severe repairs. The fact that the Honda CVT offers longevity, and greater fuel economy than many similar sized models, it is hard to deny its overall economic value.
However, it is important to note, that many once a Honda CVT demands certain repairs, they may be more costly in comparison. Maintenance and repairs might ultimately be more expensive, yet many drivers may find that investment to be worth it. Especially worthy for those seeking a transmission that offers the strengths, we detailed above.
For further information on the CVT’s design and required maintenance, check out our previous guide on automatic transmission maintenance.
Honda CVT Problems & Reliability Guide Summary
The Honda CVT’s design prioritizes smooth shifting in balance with an economical design. Numerous auto companies outside of Honda also manufacture their own CVT including Audi, Hyundai, Subaru, and Toyota. Many of the most reputable and reliable models from these companies utilize a CVT. It’s easy to see how dynamic the effect this transmission system has had on the general automotive market. Also, it’s difficult to scrutinize this system due to its economical value, durability, and overall performance. With that said, no transmission is perfect, but the CVT has created an exceptional standard amongst all automatic type transmissions.
However, Honda (and Toyota) seems to have especially maintained a higher standard of quality than most other manufacturers utilizing a CVT. For example, the number of complaints associated with Nissan’s CVT systems is exorbitant compared to those from Honda. As mentioned above, the balance of reliability comes with a cost. Many Honda CVT drivers may report higher repair costs when needed. Of course, these costs will vary, and many drivers may also report these costs to be a worthy overall investment.
Generally, when discussing transmissions, drivers will always favor a manual system over an automatic one in terms of overall reliability. This, of course, is dependent on a range of subjective variables such as specific models, maintenance, driving conditions, and more. One thing is clear though, that the Honda CVT is a great option for drivers seeking a smooth performance, better fuel efficiency, and
Let us know in the comments below your opinions or experiences with the Honda CVT, and if this transmission has lived up to its stellar standards of reliability!