Toyota CVT Transmission Problems [8 Common Issues]

Toyota moved away from the traditional automatic transmissions to CVTs (continuously variable transmissions) because CVT offers better gas mileage and smooth drive.

Moreover, Toyota CVT transmissions reduced emissions, making them eco-friendlier while offering better driving experiences, thanks to the absence of shifting.

Toyota CVT Transmission

However, Toyota CVT Transmissions are not without their bad sides, especially when they go bad. In this post, we’ll look at the common problems with the Toyota CVT transmission and how to go about it.

Toyota CVT Transmission Problems

1. Control Module Failure

The design technology of a Toyota CVT Transmission is quite complicated. So, if you make a small mistake in the control module, it could cause your Toyota CVT Transmission to malfunction almost immediately.

In some cases, control module failure does not show signs. You will only notice something is wrong when the CTV shifts unpredictably. It will no longer follow your control. That should be enough sign to know something is wrong with your Toyota CVT Transmission.

In addition, the belts and pulleys that make the CVT functional are prone to damage and rust. This limits the rotation of the pulleys and slows down the transmission speed.

Lastly, installed third-party applications can fail to follow Toyota’s instructions. This can cause the control module to fail, and the continuous variable transmission may eventually fail. Moreover, using external components can easily backfire and inadvertently initiate mechanical problems in your Toyota.

When faced with this problem, the only way out is to replace the Toyota CVT Transmission completely. However, a professional will also need to check the control module and ensure it works excellently in sync with the Toyota CVT Transmission.

Note that Toyota doesn’t have reliable electronics. So even if nothing goes wrong with the control module, you may have to replace it after 100,000 miles.

2. Overheating

Another sign of a bad Toyota CVT Transmission is overheating. The Toyota CVT Transmission operates differently from automatic transmissions. It uses pulleys instead of the gear system familiar with automatic or manual transmissions.

Since the pulleys of a continuously variable transmission offer countless gear ratios, this creates a considerable risk of overheating. Another cause of overheating is a defective or failed cooling system.

You will need a CVT transmission specialist to check your vehicle’s continuously variable transmission and make recommendations.

3. Lurching, Jumping, or Surging

When your vehicle starts lurching, jumping, or surging, it is a sign that your CVT’s transmission fluid is contaminated.

The transmission fluid can become filled with debris or too populated over time, causing your Toyota to jerk, accelerate, lurch, fall back, or jump forward for no apparent reason.

Therefore, check your vehicle’s transmission fluid. A simple transmission fluid flush is all you require to solve this problem.

4. Slipping Issues

You will notice the RPM indicator rise and fall, but the speed will remain unchanged. In other words, the RPM arrow or indicator dances without any change in speed. This is a sign that your gearbox is sliding. The rope or chain is slipping and may soon break.

Incompatible or inadequate transmission fluid can cause severe slipping problems. This can lead to a considerable failure rate of ratios to disengage while driving. Therefore, you should stop driving your Toyota in this condition.

You will need extensive inspection, diagnosis, and testing to discover and fix the problem. This should only be done at a reputable auto repair shop or dealer.

5. Burning Smell

A bad Toyota CVT Transmission often generates a burning smell when driving at high speeds. You will also notice this burning smell when your Toyota is under heavy loads, especially when towing.

The burning smell signifies excess friction, often due to low transmission fluid.

If your Toyota is not designed for towing, do not tow anything. Even if it is, ensure you stay within its recommended weight. Finally, get your vehicle to a professional for proper diagnostics and repairs.

6. Unusual Noises

A sign that your Toyota CVT transmission is going bad is when you hear unusual noises emanating from the transmission. A continuously variable transmission utilizes a single pair of variable-diameter pulleys and a chain or belt to provide unlimited gear ratios.

However, the pulleys can wear themselves down over time. This causes those unusual noises you hear whenever you shift gears or move out of the idle position.

So, if your car (Toyota) is screeching, banging, or making clunking sounds, it’s a sign that the CVT transmission needs to be checked.

The solution to this problem will vary, depending on the severity of the noise, which determines how much you will spend. In most cases, you may have to replace the Toyota CVT Transmission completely.

7. When the Vehicle Only Moves in Reverse Gear

When your Toyota refuses to move forward despite revving the engine and only moves in the reverse direction, it means your CVT transmission needs some repair.

A broken transmission can be repaired, but replacing a failed CVT with a new one is always more economical.

8. Leakages

If you notice a dark red or red fluid leaking beneath your Toyota, your CVT transmission fluid may be leaking. Likewise, the coolant may leak if the fluid is bright red, and the leakage is from the front of your vehicle.

In this case, get your Toyota to the nearest auto repair shop for analysis and repairs. Then ensure you use a transmission fluid compatible with your Toyota CVT Transmission.

Can You Drive with a Bad Toyota CVT Transmission?

The short answer is no; you should never drive your Toyota with a bad CVT transmission. However, life happens in weird ways or places, and you may be forced to keep driving your Toyota even when it requires servicing.

Nevertheless, driving with a bad Toyota CVT Transmission is not a good idea. This is to avoid the considerable risks of damaging other vital components of your Toyota.

How Much Does It Cost to Replace a Toyota CVT Transmission?

Research shows that the average cost of replacing a faulty Toyota CVT Transmission range from $3,000 to $8,000.

This price range may see several variances as it depends on several factors, such as the components required for your Toyota model, labor costs, the time it takes to uninstall the defective CVT transmission and install the new one, etc.

Has Toyota Ever Recalled Any Model Year for CVT Transmission Issues?

Toyota once recalled the 2019 Corolla Hatchback equipped with a CVT transmission. Unfortunately, the torque converters for these continuously variable transmissions were prone to breakage, resulting in a complete loss of power to the vehicle or wheels. This could significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Tips to Make Your Toyota CVT Transmission Last Longer

You can maintain the reliability of your Toyota CVT Transmission by following these tips:

  • Provide enough transmission fluid. You need to change your Toyota CVT Transmission fluid from time to time to ensure the smooth operation of this vital unit. Ensure you only use fluids compatible with your CVT Transmission.
  • Change your Toyota CVT. Transmission fluid after approximately 100,000 miles. Failure to change fluid after eating up those miles will make your CVT Transmission operate less efficiently, as several lumps and oil stains would have accumulated in the
  • Adopt excellent driving habits. Aggressive or harsh driving habits can significantly shorten the lifespan of every element within your Toyota CVT Transmission.
  • The Toyota CVT Transmission is primarily designed for vehicle-friendly users. This is why it is not the ideal choice for frantic motorsports. The continuously variable transmission is highly reliable, but only when used excellently with proper maintenance.
  • Adopting excellent driving habits protects your Toyota CVT Transmission from severe damage while ensuring your safety. Therefore, avoid pressing the accelerator too hard when ascending or going uphill. Likewise, do not go too fast when traveling over bumpy roads. This will prevent damage to the CVT Transmission’s gearbox as and other components in your engine.
  • Keep your engine’s cooling system in excellent working condition. Your Toyota CVT Transmission relies heavily on the engine’s cooling system to stay cool during operation. So, ensure the cooling system is always functional and in tip-top shape.
  • Avoid towing heavy loads as much as possible. Towing heavy cargo easily strains your CVT transmission and induces excess wear.
  • Never drive your Toyota on spare tires for extended periods or with mismatched tire sizes.
  • Always bring your Toyota to a stop before changing gears. For instance, when reversing, allow your vehicle to come to a complete stop before engaging Park or Drive. Changing gears while in motion can cause the transmission components to grind against one another, inducing wear.

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The Toyota CVT Transmission offers drivers and vehicle owners a wide range of benefits. But despite the positives, the Toyota CVT Transmission has some issues. Try to take note of these signs and implement solutions as soon as possible.