Our Los Angeles lemon law attorney gives an overview of the CVT transmission and the most common issues associated it in Nissan vehicles.

Nissan’s Troubled CVT Transmission

By Jonathan Cagliata

California consumers are encountering more and more problems with the transmissions in their 2007-2019 vehicles arising from Nissan’s new CVT technology.  Fortunately for Nissan owners, CCA’s attorneys are here to help: we have the legal and technical resources to educate you about your vehicle’s problems, we have the expertise to aggressively enforce your legal rights, and we have the resources and experience to deliver for you the quickest and best resolution of your lemon law claim.  

This page is designed to provide some basic information about the CVT transmission and the problems that Nissan customers are encountering.  If you have any questions, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM. 

What Is a CVT?

The Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) differs from conventional automatic and manual transmission because it does not use a system of gears to vary the input speed to the vehicle’s driveshaft.  Instead, CVT uses belt-bound variable-width pulleys, one connected to the engine and the other to the driveshaft which powers the wheels. The pulleys adjust their width as power is distributed between them, one narrowing as the other widens. As a pulley widens, the belt gets closer to the center of the widening pulley: the rpm increases because less surface area is required to complete a full rotation. This variable design is supposed to provide a smoother-yet-punchier driving experience.

This design differs from classic transmissions, which contain preset gear ratios that apply to control the speed of the vehicle. While each gear ratio is designed to handle a range of speed, there are only so many presets a vehicle can have – meanwhile, the CVT adjusts in direct response to the power applied, widening or constricting as needed. Manual versions of the CVT have preset widths that simulate the feeling of various gear states, with newer models utilizing a ‘launch gear’ to control the first 25 mph, before switching to pulleys at increased speeds.

What Model Nissan Vehicles Are Affected?

Various Nissan models utilize a version of the CVT. These models include the:

  • Sentra (6th gen: 2007-12; 7th gen: 2013 – present), 
  • Versa (1st gen: 2007-11; 2nd gen: 2012-19), 
  • Altima (4th gen: 2007-12, 5th gen: 2013-18), 
  • Rogue (1st gen: 2008-13, 2nd gen: 2014-19), 
  • Murano (1st gen: 2002-07; 2nd gen: 2009-14; 3rd gen: 2015 – present), 
  • Pathfinder (4th gen: 2013-19), and
  • Other Nissan Vehicles.

What Defects Are CVTs Prone To?

Owners of vehicles with CVTs have experienced a wide variety of transmission-related problems. Most notably, consumers complain of juddering (shaking, shuddering, bumping, or vibration), along with hesitation on acceleration, lack of power, or RPM flaring. Belt slippage is a common defect in CVTs and has been shown to cause some of the above-mentioned issues. Consumers report experiencing these issues at various points on operation: most notably, vehicles equipped with a CVT suffer when accelerating from a stop, when driving uphill, or when accelerating at lower speeds (as when merging onto a freeway). Certainly, these defects pose a safety risk to consumers on operation by increasing the likelihood of an accident.

Nissan’s Technical Bulletins

Nissan is aware of the issues presented in their CVT-equipped vehicles, but has been unable to adequately address the problems. Over the years, various technical bulletins and recalls were issued by the manufacturer. For example, Nissan issued NTB15-083 (April 1, 2016) for ’14-’16 Rogues and ’13-’16 Altimas, in response to transmission complaints of juddering (shaking, shuddering, bumping or vibration). This bulletin authorized replacement of the CVT assembly simply for the presence of fault code P17F0, or if mandated by signs of belt slippage.

On November 08, 2018, Nissan issued NTB18-077 for owners of the 17-18 Rogue Sport, 15-18 NV200, 2014-17 Taxi, and certain versions of the 17-18 Sentra Turbo, in response to complaints of hesitation and lack of power. This bulletin authorized replacing the valve body in all models present with certain fault codes and further authorized replacing the entire CVT assembly with evidence of belt slippage.

On November 14, 2018, owners of 2013-17 Versa Sedans, 2014-17 Versa Notes, and 2013-17 Sentras were issued NTB17-034g in response to reported complaints of juddering, hesitation on acceleration, lack of power, or RPM flaring. This bulletin mandated the replacement of the CVT valve body in all vehicles. It also authorized replacement of the sub-assembly or the entire CVT with the presence of excessive debris.

In spite of Nissan’s efforts, CVT owners continue to suffer through deficient and defective transmission performance.  

CVT Class Action Litigation

Nissan has been the subject of numerous class action lawsuits regarding its CVTs. However, consumers often find the class action settlements inadequate and unfair because they do not fully account for customer’s losses arising from the defective transmission. 

Just recently, Nissan settled the class action entitled Batista v. Nissan North America, Inc., Case No. 1:14-cv-24728, surrounding transmission defects in its Pathfinder models. Through this settlement, Nissan denied liability or the presence of any defect. Despite this, Nissan agreed to extend the warranty on applicable transmissions by an additional 2 year or 24,000-mile period. Another matter involving Nissan’s CVTs, Falk v. Nissan North America, Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-04871-HSG, is stayed while the parties orchestrate a further settlement agreement. 

How CCA Can Help

If you are an owner of a warranted Nissan vehicle equipped with a CVT, and Nissan hasn’t done enough to address your vehicle’s issues, we invite you to call us today for a free consultation: (833) LEMON-FIRM.