Honda CVT Reliability

Honda CVT Reliability – As Dependable As You Think?

For the past few decades, Honda’s penchant for bulletproof reliability appears to stand firm. Hailed as a natural evolution of transmission design, CVTs were supposed to show the way forward. They are engineered to allow gearboxes to shift along smoothly and quietly, while also being simpler and inexpensive. But, are the Honda CVT reliability issues worrying enough?

At first sight, it does seem like CVTs make for a win-win scenario. But their relative new-ness compared to the refinements made towards more traditional transmissions means they can be somewhat less reliable and are often more costly to fix. But can a Honda CVT reliability be just as bad to maintain, or could it outshine the rest of the car industry?

In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at how CVTs function and how they differ from conventional transmissions. Moreover, we’ll then assess the Honda CVT reliability, and whether or not it’s something you need to be wary of. Besides the common symptoms and issues, we’ll also take a peek at how to diagnose and troubleshoot these issues.

Before we dive deeper into looking at Honda CVT reliability, it will be helpful to know more about it. How does a CVT transmission work and what makes it that special? Well, CVT stands for ‘continuously variable transmission‘.

Honda CVT Transmission

In many of the more mainstream and economical cars today, CVTs are a popular choice relative to more “regular” automatics and manuals. In its function, you can easily confuse a CVT for an automatic, as they operate the same way.

From a driver’s point of view, a CVT changes gears automatically. As such, it doesn’t require any manual input from you, aside from needing to change the direction of travel. So, that would be putting it in gear, reverse, neutral, and so on.

The main difference here is that conventional automatic transmissions and manual transmissions have gears. By varying their gearing ratios, those gears regulate the power being sent to the engine.

Otherwise, the torque that is sent to the wheels is uncontrollable. Most vehicles today have anywhere from 1, or upwards of 10 gears working in their transmission. Meanwhile, heavy-duty vehicles like large trucks can have up to 18 gears.

A CVT is different, in that it doesn’t have any gears. Instead of using fixed gears, CVTs use a system of two pulleys, joined by a belt of a chain in the middle. For Honda, a metal drive belt is what runs between the variable-width pulleys.

Honda CVT Reliability

If you’re wondering which Honda model has a CVT (and which ones don’t), then it’s pretty easy to list out. That’s because most Honda models on sale today come with a CVT transmission. Other transmission options are available, of course, such as an old-school H-pattern manual gearbox or a conventional automatic.

Cars With CVT Transmission

There are exceptions, though. For example, sporty models like the new Civic Type R don’t come with a CVT transmission. In addition, Honda’s hardy Ridgeline pickup truck also isn’t fitted with a CVT. The same goes for the Passport and Pilot SUVs. Plus, Honda’s big family MPV, the latest Odyssey, also doesn’t come with a CVT.

So, what gives? Well, for sporting and dynamic vehicles like the Civic Type R, a CVT’s typical inability to handle large amounts of torque and difficulty to cool don’t make them a good match for track days and hard driving. Plus, you could argue that its super-smooth shifts are a tad boring and unengaging to drive with.

This downside also applies to those other models, too. CVTs can’t handle too much torque or heavy loads, which would otherwise kneecap the Ridgeline’s ability to tow and haul. Meanwhile, larger and more powerful vehicles like the Passport, Pilot, and Odyssey would also suffer performance and driveability losses if they were equipped with CVTs.

Otherwise, most of the rest of Honda’s line-up does come with CVT transmissions:

  • Accord
  • Accord Hybrid
  • Civic
  • Civic Hybrid
  • Clarity
  • CR-V
  • CR-V Hybrid
  • HR-V
  • Insight

In some of the newer Honda models (as well as from other automakers, such as Toyota), you might’ve seen mentions of an ‘e-CVT’. This usually applies to models that come with a hybrid powertrain, where an engine and an electric motor (or several motors) have to interact. So, here’s how a Honda e-CVT transmission works…


At higher speeds, there’s typically a direct reduction gear set. Through this, the ICE engine is able to drive the wheels directly, without needing to interface with the electric motors. In this situation, you’re mostly relying on the engine for power. But what if you’re cruising at a fixed speed, or are driving at lower speeds?

This is where the e-CVT kicks in, which is a single-speed unit that spins at super-high RPMs. Using this e-CVT, the ICE engine is able to couple with the electric motor. In so doing, the ICE engine essentially becomes a generator to produce electricity. Meanwhile, the wheels are now being driven by that electric motor.

It does so using a traction motor – typically, this is mounted underneath the engine, enabling the motor to route power to the driven wheels. For the most part then, an e-CVT functions just like a regular CVT, but with an added hybrid-electric or motorized element. There are other benefits to an e-CVT, as well.

For example, an e-CVT configuration like this allows the ICE engine to generate additional power to continually charge the battery (which thus supplies power to the electric motor). This generator-motor combination also ensures that your hybridized Honda can maximize its MPGs as much as it can.

Honda CVT Reliability

Is CVT Transmission Good

This template of two pulleys being connected via a chain or belt is the most common variation of the CVT used today. One pulley is connected to the engine, while the other is attached to the transmission. The latter will transfer engine power to the rest of the drivetrain. Based on your input, the coned pulleys will move inwards and outwards accordingly.

By the movement of these coned pulleys, it will then determine which “gear” you’re using. As a result of this design, a CVT transmission can theoretically have an infinite number of gear ratios. Or at least, it can be programmed to have infinite gearing ratios compared to a geared transmission.

This can have a wealth of benefits compared to a more conventional automatic (or manual) transmission. Here are some of the upsides of our Honda CVT reliability guide:

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #1: Improved Fuel Economy

Perhaps the best upside that can impact your usability is the increased fuel efficiency that is offered by a CVT. CVTs manage this compared to regular automatics thanks to their “infinite” gearing. That’s one good way to tell what transmission do I have in any car.

First off, a CVT is able to maintain the engine’s power delivery more smoothly. Moreover, it can ensure that your car’s speed is in its most optimal range. Plus, a CVT is also more compact in its design, and that lightweight packaging means that there’s less mass to haul around.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #2: Does Not Have Any “Shift Shock”

This is what happens when you change gears (unless your car won’t go into gear) with a regular transmission. That ‘shift shock’ is the momentary loss of power while waiting for the gears to change up or down.

A CVT does not have gears and only needs to move its coned pulleys in or out. By design then, CVTs can maintain a very smooth and seamless power delivery. This allows for the car’s wheels to receive power from the engine without interruption from the gearbox.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #3: Smooth Gear Changes

On the subject of interruption, CVTs are significantly smoother when it comes to changing “gears”. Traditional automatic transmission needs to “hunt” for gears, and then change up or down respectively.

This process of trying to find the right gears can make it noticeable whenever the car is trying to change gears. But CVTs are technically single-speed transmissions. With its potentially infinite gear ratios, gear changes are extremely effortless and smooth.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #4: Compact Design

Owing to the engineering behind it and its lack of needing gears, CVTs are much simpler in design. They need fewer moving parts compared to normal automatics and are thus more compact and light.

It also means that from a technical standpoint, fewer things could go wrong. This is thanks to the fact that there’s less friction between its (fewer) moving parts. Less heat means that there could be a much longer lifespan for a CVT compared to traditional gearboxes.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #5: Better Acceleration

Ever noticed how cars with CVTs tend to pick up speed smoothly, even from a standstill? The reason lies in the CVT’s capacity to pinpoint the engine’s optimal RPM and stay there, ensuring maximum power availability.

So, when you step on the gas pedal, rather than waiting for a conventional transmission to find the right gear, the CVT quickly sets the engine in its ideal power zone, providing instant acceleration.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #6: Cost-Effective Maintenance

It’s undeniable. Honda’s CVT requires less routine maintenance than its traditional counterparts. The reason? Fewer parts in motion. With fewer components rubbing together, wear and tear naturally decreases. And less wear means fewer maintenance intervals and possibly lower costs. Remember, a well-maintained CVT could outlast more traditional transmissions.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #7: Versatility

CVTs seamlessly adapt to driving conditions. Whether you’re navigating city traffic, cruising down a highway, or tackling hills, the transmission adjusts to meet the engine’s needs. This adaptability ensures optimal power and efficiency at all times. Simply put, the car responds quicker and more adeptly to a driver’s demands.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #8: Reduced Emissions

Yes, environmental enthusiasts will find another reason to celebrate the CVT. Since these transmissions maintain optimal RPMs, engines run more efficiently. Efficient engines burn less fuel, leading to reduced CO2 emissions. Hence, not only does your Honda become wallet-friendly, but also earth-friendly.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #9: Proven Longevity

Although relatively newer, CVTs, especially those from Honda, have demonstrated impressive longevity in real-world conditions. As CVTs grow in popularity and refinements are continually made, we’re witnessing Honda CVTs rival, if not surpass, the lifespan of traditional transmissions, especially with proper maintenance.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #10: User-friendly for New Drivers

Recall the first time you drove an automatic. The jerky feeling of the gears shifting can be daunting for many. Now, with CVTs, new drivers can experience a smoother learning curve. The constant power delivery without the “gear hunt” ensures a more forgiving and gentle introduction to driving.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #11: Consistent Engine Noise

Traditional transmissions can make the engine sound loud, especially during gear shifts. But CVTs provide a consistent, less interrupted engine noise. While some may not find this a selling point, many drivers appreciate the less intrusive sound, especially during long drives.

Honda CVT Reliability, Benefits #12: Enhanced Engine Cooling

The smooth operation of a CVT allows the engine to operate at optimal temperatures more consistently. Without the strain of frequent gear shifts, the engine maintains a steady workload. This not only extends engine life but also helps in reducing wear and tear on other vehicle components.

In conclusion, the Honda CVT transmission system, while not without its skeptics, offers a suite of tangible benefits for today’s drivers. Its blend of performance, efficiency, and durability makes it a compelling choice for those looking for a superior driving experience.

As with all automotive technology, continued innovations will only serve to refine and improve the CVT, solidifying its place in the automotive world.

Is CVT Transmission Bad

Although there are plenty of benefits to be had with a CVT-equipped car, there can be some very severe disadvantages. For some, these downsides might be worth it given how much else a CVT can offer you.

Subjectively, it might put off others. For one, a CVT’s smoothness and “step-less” gearing can feel as though you’re devoid of any interaction or fun. As good as that might be, it could also be boring, depending on what the driver expects from a car.

It can feel as though you’re lacking in engagement. But this is merely a matter of taste. There are certainly some other more critical downsides that can be felt by a larger subset of prospective owners. For our Honda CVT reliability overview, we’re going to highlight a few flaws with CVT gearboxes:

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #1: Noisier Than Automatic Transmissions

By design, CVT transmissions prefer to hold the gearing at higher RPMs. This doesn’t cause as much real wear and tear, or an increase in fuel consumption. However, it does mean that CVTs are noisier compared to regular automatics.

You’ll notice a slight whirring or humming noise while driving along. Sometimes, the added sound might be attributed to manufacturers intentionally engineering a “step” function to their CVTs.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #2: Costly Repairs And Maintenance

As we mentioned earlier, CVTs are simpler in their construction. It is more compact in its footprint and has fewer moving parts to rub against and emit heat. Common sense would dictate that there are fewer things that could go wrong. However, CVTs are a fairly new piece of technology relative to other transmissions.

Therefore, there aren’t as many spare parts made available for CVTs should they start going wrong. This scarcity can make hunting for certain components harder. Moreover, there are fewer technicians who are qualified enough to service or repair CVT gearboxes. Consequently, it may cost more than a more conventional transmission when it comes to maintenance.

The engineering that goes behind a CVT may mean that it requires more maintenance, as well. For example, a CVT might need more frequent changes of transmission fluid compared to automatics.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #3: Lack of Driver Engagement

One of the most immediate and noticeable aspects of CVT transmissions is the lack of tangible gear shifts. While this smooth operation can be a boon for comfort, many enthusiasts find it a significant drawback.

Driving purists argue that CVTs diminish the bond between the car and driver, removing the sensation and connection of feeling a car shift through its gears. While some CVTs, like Honda’s, have tried to simulate this “step” sensation, it still can’t match the real thing.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #4: Limited Torque Handling

CVT transmissions often don’t handle high torque applications as well as traditional automatics or manuals. Because of their belt or chain-driven design, there’s a limit to the amount of torque they can manage without causing undue stress or potential damage. Consequently, for vehicles or situations requiring high power outputs, CVTs might not be the best choice.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #5: Long-Term Durability Concerns

Although CVT transmissions are improving steadily, there are still concerns about their long-term durability. Traditional automatic transmissions have been around for decades, allowing plenty of time to perfect and address any weak points. CVTs, being newer to the market, still have some lingering questions about their longevity.

Some users report issues after a certain mileage, especially if regular maintenance was skipped.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #6: Limited Manual Control

While many modern CVTs come with a manual mode that lets drivers “shift” between simulated gears, it’s not the same as the manual mode on traditional automatics. The CVT’s manual mode can often feel less responsive and less engaging. Drivers looking for a sporty or hands-on experience may find CVTs a bit lacking in this department.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #7: Potential Heat Issues

Heat is a common enemy of all transmissions, but CVTs can be particularly susceptible. Due to their construction and operation, CVTs can generate more heat, especially under demanding conditions like towing or prolonged high-speed driving. Over time, excessive heat can degrade the transmission fluid faster and may lead to premature wear of some components.

Honda CVT Reliability, Downsides #8: Resale Value Concerns

The general public’s perception of CVTs is still mixed. Because of some of the aforementioned downsides and the relative newness of the technology in the mainstream market, potential buyers might be hesitant to purchase a used vehicle with a CVT.

As a result, Honda cars equipped with CVTs could face a steeper depreciation curve than their counterparts with conventional transmissions. In conclusion, while Honda’s CVT transmissions offer various benefits like improved fuel economy and smooth operation, it’s crucial for potential buyers to be aware of the downsides.

Understanding these limitations and ensuring regular maintenance can go a long way in maximizing the life and performance of a Honda CVT-equipped vehicle.

CVT Transmission Problems

The good news here is that Honda makes some of the most reliable CVTs on the market today. Few owners have made complaints about Honda CVT reliability issues. It’s especially jarring compared to the problematic CVT transmission that Nissan has in their cars. However, it would be a good idea to understand more about how you can spot a CVT problem, should it appear.

This will help to better prepare you in case you need to send your car off for repairs. There are thankfully some very clear symptoms that can be exhibited should your car’s CVT start to fail. We definitely do not recommend driving your car around for much longer if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Firstly, it can be hazardous to drive in any significant traffic, as transmission problems will affect your speed. More to that, continued use while your transmission is acting up could exacerbate the problem even more. That added strain will make for even bigger repair bills later on.

For our Honda CVT reliability guide, here are some early tell-tale signs of transmission troubles that you need to look out for:

Honda CVT Reliability

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #1: Transmission Running Loud

As we’ve learned earlier, CVTs are a bit louder than the more conventional gearboxes owing to their design. However, these noises should be fairly faint, and can simply be drowned out by your radio.

If you start noticing it becoming ever louder, then this is a sign that your car’s CVT starting to show signs of failure. For the most part, CVT problems are noticed by an unpleasant and very loud rattling or whining noise while the car’s running. This is one tell-tale sign of a bad transmission.


For vehicle owners, identifying unusual noises early can save both time and money. Common symptoms include:

  • Whining or Rattling Noise – These sounds, particularly when accelerating, signal a potential CVT issue.
  • Increased Noise While Idling – CVTs should be relatively quiet when idling. A distinct humming or rumbling suggests a problem.
  • Noise Even With a Warm Engine – A cold engine might be noisier but should quiet down as it warms. Persistent noise indicates an issue.
  • Sudden Changes in Acceleration Sounds – If the sound pattern changes unpredictably during acceleration, it’s a cause for concern.

Causes and Reasons

There are several reasons why a Honda’s CVT might become loud:

  • Worn-out Bearings – These can cause a grinding or whining noise.
  • Low Transmission Fluid Levels – CVTs need adequate fluid. Low levels can lead to increased noise and friction.
  • Old or Contaminated Transmission Fluid – Over time, fluid loses its efficiency and can accumulate contaminants.
  • Belt Slippage – CVTs use belts. A slipping belt can cause rattling or humming noises.
  • Misaligned Pulleys – If the pulleys within the CVT get misaligned, it can lead to increased operational noise.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To diagnose the specific cause of the noise:

  • Check Transmission Fluid Levels – Ensure they are within the recommended range.
  • Inspect Transmission Fluid Quality – It should be clear and not have a burnt smell.
  • Listen Carefully – Identify if the noise is more pronounced during acceleration or idling.
  • Feel for Vibrations – Sometimes, along with noise, there might be palpable vibrations.
  • Professional Inspection – If in doubt, a mechanic can use specialized equipment to pinpoint the problem.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those who prefer the hands-on approach:

  • Change Transmission Fluid – Use the specific fluid recommended for Honda CVTs.
  • Tighten Any Loose Components – Sometimes a simple tightening can reduce noise.
  • Replace Worn Belts – With the right tools, belts can be replaced at home.
  • Avoid Overloading the Vehicle – Excess weight can strain the CVT, causing louder operation.
  • Regular Maintenance – Periodic checks and timely replacements can avoid many issues.

Repair/Replacement Costs

For those considering professional help:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Depending on the area and service center, costs can range from $100 to $250.
  • Belt Replacement – Expect to pay between $200 and $500.
  • Bearing Replacement – This can range from $300 to $600, including labor.
  • Full CVT Replacement – This is more drastic, often costing between $2,000 and $4,000.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Many mechanics charge between $50 and $100 to diagnose the problem, though this fee might be waived if you opt for the repair service.

In conclusion, the key to ensuring the longevity and optimal functioning of your Honda’s CVT transmission is regular maintenance and vigilance to signs of trouble. Addressing issues promptly can prevent more severe and costly repairs down the line.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #2: Vibrations Or Shuddering Under Acceleration

One thing to note here is that some carmakers are intentionally programming a “step” feature into their CVTs. This simulates the feedback and sounds of more traditional gear changes.

However, this feeling is different from the constant vibrations or transmission shudder that might point toward CVT failure. Overheating problems can cause transmission mounts and bearings to wear out prematurely, hence causing all the shaking.


Recognizing a CVT issue sometimes means deciphering subtle changes in your vehicle’s behavior. Key symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Consistent Shudder During Acceleration – Especially felt during low-speed takeoff.
  • Excessive Vibrations – Evident on the car floor, steering wheel, or pedals.
  • Sudden Jolts – Felt when attempting to accelerate.
  • Reduced Power During Acceleration – The vehicle struggles or hesitates when speeding up.
  • Unusual Sounds Accompanying Vibrations – Such as clunking or thudding.

Causes and Reasons

The underlying reasons for such issues are varied:

  • Overheating – Continuous strain can cause CVT overheating, leading to premature wear of components.
  • Worn-out Transmission Mounts – These absorb engine and transmission vibrations. If faulty, the car will shake more.
  • Damaged or Worn Bearings – Bearings reduce friction and wear; damaged ones can cause shuddering.
  • Fluid Contamination – Debris in transmission fluid can result in friction and vibrations.
  • Belt Issues – A damaged or slipping belt can lead to shuddering during acceleration.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Pinpointing the exact cause often involves:

  • Physical Inspection – Check for any visible wear or damage to belts and mounts.
  • Fluid Check – Inspect fluid levels and quality for signs of contamination.
  • Throttle Position Sensor Test – A faulty sensor can mimic CVT shuddering.
  • Diagnostic Tool Scan – Modern cars can be connected to diagnostic tools to read error codes.
  • Drive Test – Replicating the shudder during a test drive can help in diagnosis.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For hands-on car enthusiasts:

  • Replace Transmission Mounts – If they appear worn or damaged.
  • Change CVT Fluid – Ensure to use Honda-recommended transmission fluid.
  • Check Belts for Wear – Replace if necessary.
  • Avoid Heavy Acceleration – Especially if the car is showing signs of shuddering, until the issue is addressed.
  • Inspect the Throttle Position Sensor – Replace it if it’s found to be malfunctioning.

Repair/Replacement Costs

A budgeting guide for the potential fixes:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Typically between $100 and $250.
  • Transmission Mount Replacement – Costs vary from $150 to $350, depending on labor charges.
  • Bearing Replacement – Roughly $300 to $600.
  • Throttle Position Sensor Replacement – Between $100 and $200, including labor.
  • Belt Replacement – Costs typically range from $200 to $500.
  • Diagnostic Fees – As before, this may range from $50 to $100, but could be waived if service is availed.

A smooth ride is one of the primary joys of driving. Hence, if your Honda starts to vibrate or shudder, addressing the problem promptly ensures both your safety and the vehicle’s longevity.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #3: Sluggish Acceleration Or Stalling While Driving

If your car is struggling to get up to speed, it is another sign that your CVT transmission is on its way out. This slow acceleration happens when your car hesitates to change up a gear. Or, if you notice how your car won’t move in any gear at all.

Ordinarily, CVTs should offer you a gradual and progressive build-up of power. For some cars, significant component failure could also trigger the car to go into its “limp home” mode that restricts speed. Sometimes, CVT failure can cause the car to stall or shut down completely while driving.


Awareness is the first step to early diagnosis. Indicators of potential CVT trouble include:

  • Hesitant Acceleration – Car struggles or delays when trying to speed up.
  • Lack of Power – The engine revs up, but the car doesn’t match the acceleration.
  • Vehicle Enters “Limp Home” Mode – The car restricts its speed, generally signaling a significant issue.
  • Car Not Moving in Any Gear – The engine might run, but the car remains stationary.
  • Unexpected Stalling – The car suddenly stops or shuts down during operation.

Causes and Reasons

These issues might arise due to:

  • Worn or Damaged Belts – CVTs rely on belts for operation, and wear can hinder performance.
  • Contaminated or Old Transmission Fluid – Inefficient fluid can lead to sluggishness in transmission performance.
  • Failed Valve Body or Solenoid – These components are crucial for gear shifting; their failure can cause stalling.
  • Faulty Sensors – CVTs depend on various sensors. Malfunctions can disrupt the transmission’s behavior.
  • Internal CVT Damage – More significant issues might involve damaged gears or components inside the transmission.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To deduce the underlying problem:

  • Error Code Scan – Connect the car to a diagnostic tool to fetch potential error codes.
  • Transmission Fluid Check – Inspect for proper levels and quality.
  • Test Drive – Monitor the car’s behavior, especially during acceleration.
  • Visual Inspection – For any signs of damage, leaks, or wear on the external CVT components.
  • Listen for Unusual Noises – Such as grinding or clunking, during operation.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

If you’re up for the challenge:

  • Replace Transmission Fluid – Regularly and ensure it’s the recommended type for Hondas.
  • Inspect and Clean Electrical Connectors – Especially those connected to sensors.
  • Reset the Car’s ECU – Sometimes, a simple ECU reset can clear transient issues.
  • Check for Loose or Disconnected Hoses – Reattach or replace as needed.
  • Inspect Valve Body and Solenoids – Though more complex, with a manual and the right tools, you can assess these components.

Repair/Replacement Costs

To provide a financial perspective:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Prices hover between $100 and $250.
  • Sensor Replacement – Depending on the specific sensor, costs range from $50 to $200, including labor.
  • Valve Body or Solenoid Repair – This can cost between $200 and $600, depending on the extent of damage.
  • Full CVT Replacement – A more substantial fix, this ranges from $2,000 to $4,000.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Generally between $50 and $100, but may be waived if you choose to get the repair done at the same facility.

When your vehicle hesitates or stalls, it isn’t just an inconvenience—it’s a safety concern. Addressing these symptoms with urgency ensures both the vehicle’s longevity and the safety of its occupants.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #4: Burning Smell

Although CVT transmissions have few running parts, they can still run hot. Without proper cooling (such as transmission cooling lines leaking) or maintenance, therefore, they can still overheat. You can notice a particular burning smell from your car, which is a sign that something is running a lot hotter than it should be.

Or, you might be able to check your car’s temperature gauge and see if there are any anomalies there. Apart from an overheating transmission, that burning smell could also point to a transmission fluid leak on the hot exhaust.


An unusual odor from your car can be an alarming sign of trouble. Here are the noticeable symptoms to be aware of:

  • Distinct Burning Odor – Especially prominent after driving.
  • Overheating Indicators – Your car’s temperature gauge registers higher than normal.
  • Smoke or Steam – Emanating from under the car or the hood.
  • Transmission Slippage – The car struggles to stay in gear or switch gears.
  • Puddles or Spots under the Car – Indicating potential fluid leakage.

Causes and Reasons

Several issues could result in that worrying burning smell:

  • Overheating CVT – Due to inefficient cooling or compromised components.
  • Transmission Fluid Leak – Fluid dripping onto the exhaust system or other hot surfaces can produce a burning odor.
  • Damaged or Aged Transmission Fluid – Old or contaminated fluid is less effective, causing the transmission to run hot.
  • Failing Transmission Cooling Lines – This can’t maintain optimal transmission temperature.
  • Worn or Malfunctioning Transmission Components – Such as belts or bearings that increase friction.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Deducing the root of the smell involves:

  • Transmission Fluid Inspection – Check the level and quality. Black or darkened fluid indicates overheating.
  • Cooling System Check – Examine the radiator, cooling lines, and related components for issues.
  • Under-Car Inspection – Look for signs of leakage or drips.
  • Error Code Scan – A diagnostic scan might offer clues to malfunctioning components.
  • Thermal Examination – Using infrared thermometers to check the transmission’s temperature after a drive.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those inclined to get their hands dirty:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Regularly replace with the type recommended for Hondas.
  • Cooling System Flush – Ensure the cooling system is working optimally.
  • Seal or Replace Leaky Components – Use sealants or replace faulty parts to stop fluid leaks.
  • Check and Replace Damaged Cooling Lines – Maintain a functional cooling system.
  • Monitor Regularly – Regularly inspect the transmission and its components to avoid surprises.

Repair/Replacement Costs

To help you budget:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Typically between $100 and $250.
  • Cooling System Flush – Ranges from $100 to $150.
  • Leak Repair – Depending on the source, costs vary between $150 and $500.
  • Cooling Line Replacement – Costs usually fall between $100 and $400.
  • Diagnostic Fees – As previously mentioned, these are usually $50 to $100, with potential waivers if serviced in the same location.

A burning smell is not to be ignored. Addressing the problem head-on can prevent more extensive and costlier damages down the road while ensuring the vehicle remains safe for use.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #5: Transmission Fluid Leaks

This leads us to the next segment, which is transmission fluid. Just like a conventional gearbox, CVTs have their own formulated transmission fluid to aid in lubrication. Overheating can cause parts of the cooling system to wear out prematurely.

This includes cooling lines or seals. The result is a pinkish puddle underneath your car. Transmission fluid leaks (or a seal leak) are another sign of potential failure with your CVT gearbox, as it can no longer provide the optimal amount of lubrication.


Transmission fluid plays a pivotal role in ensuring a smoothly running CVT. Watch out for these telling signs of a leak:

  • Pinkish Puddle – Noted beneath your vehicle after being parked.
  • Transmission Slippage – Difficulty in gear shifting or the car unexpectedly switching gears.
  • Transmission Overheating – Resulting from inadequate lubrication.
  • Whining or Humming Noises – Due to increased friction from the reduced lubrication.
  • Dashboard Warning Lights – Particularly the transmission or check engine lights.

Causes and Reasons

Fluid leaks can originate from a range of issues:

  • Aged or Worn Seals – Resulting in fluid seeping out.
  • Compromised Cooling Lines – Due to corrosion, wear, or physical damage.
  • Overfilled Transmission – Excess fluid might find an escape route.
  • Faulty Transmission Pan or Gasket – Physical damage or wear leading to leakage.
  • Improperly Installed Filters – Post a fluid change, if not correctly positioned, can lead to leaks.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Uncovering the source of the leak might involve:

  • Visual Inspection – Examine the underside of the car, particularly around the transmission area.
  • Fluid Level Check – A decreased fluid level often signals a leak.
  • Spot Test – Place cardboard under the car overnight to verify and locate the leak source.
  • Pressure Test – Professional garages can perform this to locate even the smallest leaks.
  • Diagnostic Scan – To identify any transmission-related error codes.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

If you’re inclined to address the issue yourself:

  • Tighten Loose Components – Such as bolts or connectors.
  • Replace Worn Seals or Gaskets – Ensure to get the ones suited for Honda CVTs.
  • Transmission Fluid Top-Up – Using the specific fluid for Honda CVTs.
  • Check and Replace Damaged Cooling Lines – Regular maintenance is essential.
  • Transmission Pan Inspection – If damaged, consider replacing it.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Getting a sense of the potential expenses:

  • Transmission Fluid Top-Up – Typically between $50 and $100.
  • Seal or Gasket Replacement – Ranging from $200 to $600, depending on location and labor.
  • Cooling Line Repair – Generally between $100 and $400.
  • Transmission Pan Replacement – Costs usually range from $100 to $300, including labor.
  • Diagnostic Fees – As always, approximately $50 to $100, but potential waivers apply with some service centers.

Regularly checking for transmission fluid leaks can save you from more severe, costly repairs down the line. It’s crucial not just for the CVT’s longevity but also for ensuring optimal vehicle performance.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #6: Delay in Response

When you shift your Honda from “park” to “drive,” there should ideally be an instant response. With a failing CVT, however, you might experience a noticeable delay. This hesitation not only poses a safety hazard but also signals a larger issue. A delayed response might be a symptom of a declining transmission control module or an issue with the transmission’s valve body.


When your CVT hesitates to respond, it’s more than just an inconvenience. Here are the symptoms associated with this delay:

  • Hesitation – A noticeable pause when switching gears, especially from “park” to “drive” or vice versa.
  • Unpredictable Acceleration – Sudden jerks or acceleration after the delay.
  • Dashboard Warning Lights – Transmission or check engine lights illuminating.
  • Sluggish Performance – Even after the car has shifted, it might feel underpowered or not as responsive.
  • Unusual Sounds – Clicking or clunking noises during the delay.

Causes and Reasons

Several factors can cause this disconcerting lag:

  • Failing Transmission Control Module (TCM) – The TCM controls electronic shift operations. When it’s malfunctioning, it might delay shifts.
  • Faulty Transmission Valve Body – This component directs transmission fluid to where it’s needed. If compromised, it can lead to shifting issues.
  • Worn Transmission Fluid – If the fluid is old or of poor quality, it may not lubricate or function properly.
  • Mechanical Wear – Over time, general wear and tear can degrade the CVT’s performance.
  • Electronic Sensor Malfunctions – Modern transmissions rely on various sensors. A faulty one can impede performance.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Determining the root of the delay involves:

  • Diagnostic Scan – This can identify issues with the TCM or other electronic components.
  • Fluid Inspection – Check for proper levels and quality.
  • Valve Body Examination – A professional should inspect this for wear or malfunction.
  • Sensor Checks – Ensure that all transmission-related sensors are operational.
  • Manual Gear Test – Manually shifting through gears can help locate the source of the issue.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For those handy with cars:

  • Replace or Reflash the TCM – Sometimes, a simple software update can fix TCM issues.
  • Transmission Fluid Change – Ensure it’s the recommended type for Honda CVTs.
  • Sensor Replacements – If a sensor is identified as faulty, it can often be replaced at home.
  • Valve Body Cleaning – Sometimes, cleaning out the valve body can improve performance. However, this can be intricate and might best be left to professionals.
  • Regular Maintenance – Keep up with routine checks to catch and rectify problems early.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Budgeting for potential repairs:

  • TCM Reflash or Replacement – Between $300 and $1,000, depending on the model and labor.
  • Transmission Fluid Change – Ranging from $100 to $250.
  • Sensor Replacement – Generally, costs lie between $50 and $200 per sensor.
  • Valve Body Repair or Replacement – This can range from $500 to $1,500, including labor.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Typically $50 to $100, though many service centers might waive this if you proceed with the recommended repairs there.

A responsive transmission is crucial for safe driving. Addressing delays promptly not only ensures safer driving conditions but can also prevent more extensive damage and associated repair costs in the future.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #7: Illuminated Warning Lights

Your Honda’s onboard diagnostic system is designed to alert you of potential problems. If there’s an issue with your CVT, the transmission warning light or check engine light may illuminate. While these lights can be triggered for various reasons, a persistent light should never be ignored. Having the error codes read by a professional can quickly pinpoint if the issue is with the CVT.


Recognizing issues associated with illuminated warning lights include:

  • Persistent Transmission Warning Light – A specific light indicating transmission problems.
  • Check Engine Light – While it can denote numerous issues, it sometimes relates to transmission problems.
  • Erratic Shifting – If accompanied by a warning light, it can pinpoint a transmission issue.
  • Loss of Acceleration or Power – The vehicle may feel sluggish, especially when paired with an illuminated light.
  • Unusual Transmission Noises – Clicking, whining, or humming sounds when the warning light is on can be a clear sign of CVT issues.

Causes and Reasons

Why might these warning lights come on?

  • Transmission Overheat – Prolonged stress or heavy loads can cause the transmission to overheat, triggering a light.
  • Sensor Malfunction – Modern transmissions have multiple sensors. A failure can light up the dashboard.
  • Low Transmission Fluid – Insufficient fluid can cause a warning.
  • Faulty Transmission Control Module (TCM) – If the TCM has issues, it might trigger a light.
  • Mechanical Malfunctions – Wear and tear, broken belts, or other issues can cause the diagnostic system to alert the driver.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To get to the root of the problem:

  • OBD II Scanner – Use this tool to read error codes. It provides specific reasons for the light.
  • Transmission Fluid Inspection – Check for optimal levels and quality.
  • TCM Check – A professional can inspect this component for software or hardware issues.
  • Visual Inspection – Look for obvious signs of wear, damage, or leaks around the transmission.
  • Professional Diagnostic Test – A comprehensive examination by a trained mechanic is always recommended when warning lights persist.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For enthusiasts or those who prefer hands-on fixes:

  • Error Code Clearing – Sometimes, clearing the code with an OBD II scanner can resolve temporary glitches.
  • Transmission Fluid Top-Up or Change – Ensure you’re using the fluid type specified for Honda CVTs.
  • Replace Faulty Sensors – If identified, some sensors can be replaced at home.
  • Regular Maintenance – Keeping up with scheduled maintenance can prevent many warning light triggers.
  • TCM Reflash – A simple software update, which can be done by the DIYer with the right tools.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Planning for the financial side:

  • OBD II Scanner Rental or Purchase – Renting might cost $20-$30, while purchasing can range from $50 to $250 for advanced models.
  • Transmission Fluid Change – Typically between $100 to $250.
  • Sensor Replacement – Costs vary, but typically range from $50 to $200 per sensor.
  • Professional Diagnostic – Generally between $50 to $150.
  • TCM Reflash or Replacement – Between $300 and $1,000, depending on the complexity.

It’s essential to address warning lights promptly. While they may sometimes denote minor issues, they can also flag severe problems that, if neglected, can lead to extensive damage and hefty repair bills. Always prioritize safety and consult with professionals when in doubt.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #8: Poor Fuel Efficiency

Interestingly, one of the perks of CVTs is better fuel efficiency. So, if you start to notice a decrease in miles per gallon, your CVT could be the culprit. When the CVT isn’t functioning optimally, the engine works harder, consuming more fuel. Keeping a close eye on your fuel consumption can indirectly hint at CVT problems.


Identifying reduced fuel efficiency can manifest through:

  • Increased Fuel Consumption – The vehicle uses up fuel quicker than usual.
  • Reduced Driving Range – A full tank doesn’t last as long as it used to.
  • Harder Engine Operation – The engine may rev higher or sound louder when trying to achieve typical speeds.
  • Lack of Smooth Acceleration – The vehicle doesn’t accelerate smoothly or feels sluggish.
  • Frequent Gas Station Visits – You find yourself refueling more often than before.

Causes and Reasons

Why might your Honda’s fuel efficiency decrease?

  • Suboptimal Transmission Operation – The CVT isn’t adjusting ratios efficiently, causing the engine to work harder.
  • Slipping CVT Belt – This reduces the transmission’s efficiency and demands more from the engine.
  • Old Transmission Fluid – Degraded fluid can’t lubricate or cool as effectively, leading to reduced efficiency.
  • Malfunctioning Sensors – If sensors guiding the CVT malfunction, the system can’t adapt optimally to driving conditions.
  • Transmission Wear and Tear – Over time, components can degrade, reducing efficiency.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

Here’s how to get to the root of the efficiency drop:

  • Monitor Fuel Consumption – Regularly check and record your miles per gallon to spot changes.
  • Transmission Fluid Check – Look for discoloration or debris.
  • Listen for Unusual Noises – Whining or rattling from the transmission area can hint at CVT problems.
  • Onboard Diagnostics (OBD) Scan – Pull up any error codes related to the CVT or engine performance.
  • Professional Assessment – A mechanic can check for less obvious transmission issues affecting fuel efficiency.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

For hands-on owners:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Use Honda-specific CVT fluid for optimal results.
  • Resetting Electronic Components – Sometimes, disconnecting and reconnecting the battery can “reset” the system, addressing minor electronic glitches.
  • Update Software – The CVT’s control software might need an update.
  • Regular Maintenance – Ensuring the entire vehicle, not just the CVT, is well-maintained can impact fuel efficiency.
  • Replace CVT Belt – If you’re adept and have the tools, consider this. However, it might be a job better left to professionals.

Repair/Replacement Costs

A quick financial overview:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Ranges from $100 to $250.
  • OBD ScanMany auto parts stores offer this for free. Buying your own scanner ranges from $50 to $250.
  • Professional Diagnostic – Between $50 and $150.
  • CVT Belt Replacement – Typically starts at $500, including labor, but can go much higher depending on the model and location.
  • Sensor Replacement – From $50 to $200 per sensor, excluding labor.

Regularly monitoring your Honda’s fuel efficiency is a wise practice. While a decrease might hint at several issues, including the CVT, addressing them sooner rather than later can prevent more significant, costly problems down the road. Always consider consulting a mechanic for complex issues.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #9: Inconsistent Movement

A smooth driving experience is a hallmark of CVTs. If you observe your Honda suddenly jerking or surging, especially under steady speeds, there’s cause for concern. This unpredictable behavior can be a symptom of transmission slipping due to low fluid levels, worn belts, or issues with sensors controlling the CVT.


What should you be on the lookout for?

  • Jerking Motion – Your vehicle unexpectedly jolts during acceleration or at constant speeds.
  • Surging Forward – Feeling a sudden increase in speed without pressing the gas pedal harder.
  • Unstable RPMs – Noticing the RPM gauge fluctuating erratically when driving steady.
  • Delayed Acceleration – A lag in response when pressing the gas pedal before the car moves.
  • Engine Stalling – The car might stall or struggle to maintain power.

Causes and Reasons

So, what can cause this inconsistent movement?

  • Low Transmission Fluid – This reduces the lubrication and cooling, causing the transmission to overheat or slip.
  • Worn CVT Belt – A degraded belt might not grip as well, leading to slipping.
  • Malfunctioning Sensors – The CVT relies on sensors to operate optimally. If these fail, it can result in unpredictable movement.
  • Degraded Transmission Fluid – Old or contaminated fluid can’t effectively transmit power.
  • Damaged Pulleys – These play a key role in adjusting the CVT’s ratios; any damage can affect movement.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

How can you confirm the root of the issue?

  • Visual Inspection – Check the transmission fluid levels and color. Dark or gritty fluid indicates problems.
  • Check for Error Codes – Use an OBD scanner to pull up any transmission-related error codes.
  • Test Drive – Drive at varying speeds and note when the inconsistencies occur.
  • Professional Assessment – If unsure, always consult with a trained mechanic.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

If you’re considering tackling the problem:

  • Fluid Replacement – Drain and replace with Honda-specific CVT fluid.
  • Sensor Check – Inspect and replace any malfunctioning transmission sensors.
  • Belt Examination – Visually inspect the CVT belt for wear and tear. If competent, consider replacing.
  • Software Update – Check if there are updates available for the transmission control software.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Let’s break down potential costs:

  • Transmission Fluid Change – Typically between $100 and $250.
  • Sensor Replacement – Depending on the specific sensor, expect $50 to $200 per sensor, not including labor.
  • CVT Belt Replacement – Generally starts at $500 but can go higher depending on the complexity and location.
  • Professional Diagnostic – Costs vary, but usually between $50 and $150.
  • Full CVT Replacement – If problems are severe, replacement might be necessary, ranging from $1,500 to $3,000, or more.

A smooth driving experience is a crucial aspect of CVT transmissions. If you’re encountering jerks and surges, it’s imperative to address the issue. The sooner these problems are tackled, the lesser the chance of exacerbating the damage, saving you both stress and potential costs in the long run.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #10: Difficulty Shifting Gears

While CVTs don’t have “gears” in the traditional sense, you might still feel a sensation similar to shifting. If this becomes noticeably difficult, or if the transitions become jarring, the CVT might be malfunctioning. Moreover, if your car struggles to find the right “gear” ratio or you feel constant up-and-down shifts, you’re dealing with a CVT that’s not acting as it should.


What signs should raise your concern?

  • Jarring Transitions – Abrupt or rough movements when the transmission adjusts its ratio.
  • Constant Hunting – CVT seems to frequently adjust, unable to “settle” on a ratio.
  • High RPMs – The engine revs high before the CVT adjusts.
  • Delayed Response – A lag in the CVT’s adaptation when you accelerate or decelerate.
  • Engine Noise – Heightened noise level during the “shifting” sensation.

Causes and Reasons

Why might your CVT behave this way?

  • Worn CVT Belt – When the belt shows wear, it might not adjust smoothly.
  • Low or Degraded Fluid – Without proper lubrication, the CVT struggles to change ratios.
  • Damaged Pulleys – Malfunctioning pulleys can’t effectively adjust the belt.
  • Sensor Malfunctions – CVTs use sensors to determine the best ratio. If these fail, it affects performance.
  • Software Issues – The transmission’s software might require updates or has become corrupted.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

To understand the problem:

  • Visual Inspection – Check the condition and level of the transmission fluid.
  • Error Codes – An OBD scanner might indicate specific CVT malfunctions.
  • Observe RPMs – High RPMs without acceleration can indicate CVT issues.
  • Consult a Mechanic – For in-depth diagnostics, seeking professional help is recommended.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

Considering addressing the issue yourself?

  • Fluid Change – Replace the CVT fluid with the specific type recommended for Hondas.
  • Software Update – Check for updates to the transmission control module.
  • Sensor Inspection – Ensure sensors are clean and functioning, replace if needed.
  • Check Pulleys – If you have the expertise, inspect pulleys for wear or damage.

Repair/Replacement Costs

What kind of expenses can you expect?

  • Fluid Replacement – Generally ranges between $100 and $250.
  • Sensor Repairs – Depending on the sensor, costs might be between $50 and $200, excluding labor.
  • Pulley Repairs – These repairs can start at $400 and go higher based on complexity.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Mechanics usually charge between $50 and $150 for in-depth checks.
  • Complete CVT Replacement – If the CVT is severely damaged, costs might range from $1,500 to $3,000 or more.

Understanding the nuanced “shifting” sensations of a CVT is essential. Unlike conventional transmissions, CVTs should provide smooth transitions. If you’re experiencing the opposite, addressing it promptly can save further wear and potential expenses down the road.

Honda CVT Reliability, Problems #11: Transmission Overheat Warning

Some Honda models are equipped with a CVT overheat warning that will illuminate or flash if the transmission’s temperature rises above a safe level. If this warning comes on, it’s crucial to pull over and let the car cool down. Continuing to drive can cause more severe damage to the CVT. Often, this issue can be attributed to low fluid levels or a malfunctioning cooler.


What should you watch out for?

  • Warning Light Activation – The CVT overheat warning illuminates or flashes on the dashboard.
  • Reduced Performance – The car might enter a “limp mode” to protect the transmission from further damage.
  • Burning Smell – Overheated transmission fluid has a distinct burnt odor.
  • Sluggish Response – The car might delay or resist acceleration.
  • Strange Noises – Whining or buzzing sounds coming from the transmission area.

Causes and Reasons

What’s behind the overheating?

  • Low Fluid Levels – Inadequate lubrication increases friction, leading to higher temperatures.
  • Malfunctioning Cooler – If the cooler isn’t working correctly, it can’t regulate the transmission temperature.
  • Clogged Cooling Lines – Restricts fluid flow, hindering optimal cooling.
  • Heavy-duty Driving – Extended periods of aggressive driving can put stress on the CVT.
  • Degraded Fluid – Old or contaminated fluid loses its cooling and lubrication properties.

Diagnosis and Troubleshooting

How to get a clearer picture of the problem:

  • Check Fluid Levels and Quality – Low or burnt-looking fluid can indicate overheating causes.
  • Monitor Temperature – Some OBD scanners provide real-time transmission temperature readings.
  • Inspect Cooling System – Check the cooler and cooling lines for blockages or malfunctions.
  • Consult a Mechanic – They can run specialized diagnostics to pinpoint the cause.

DIY Repairs/Fixes

Some potential solutions:

  • Fluid Change – Replace old or degraded transmission fluid with fresh, manufacturer-recommended fluid.
  • Cooling System Flush – Clear out potential blockages in the cooling lines.
  • Replace Cooler – If it’s malfunctioning, a new cooler might be necessary.
  • Avoid Heavy-duty Driving – Limit aggressive driving and give your car periodic breaks on long journeys.

Repair/Replacement Costs

Projected expenses:

  • Fluid Replacement – Typically between $100 and $250.
  • Cooling System Flush – Ranges from $100 to $150.
  • New Cooler Installation – Depending on the model, costs might be between $200 and $500, excluding labor.
  • Diagnostic Fees – Expect between $50 and $150 for a professional diagnosis.
  • Extensive Repairs – If overheating has caused significant damage, repair costs can exceed $2,000.

Ignoring an overheating warning can have catastrophic results for your CVT. Addressing the issue promptly not only safeguards your transmission but can prevent more costly repairs in the future. It’s always a wise decision to prioritize the health of your car’s CVT, ensuring smooth and efficient driving.

There are a large number of unique variables that could prompt the Honda CVT reliability symptoms to crop up from earlier. As we mentioned before, some parts such as the mounts and bearings could wear down.

Honda CVT Transmission Problems

Other potential causes are a lot more serious, such as the drive-belt slipping. This gear slippage (aka transmission slipping – in conventional transmissions, you might otherwise notice it as symptoms of a slipping clutch) is what causes sluggish performance or slight shudders while driving.

But for the most part, issues with Honda’s CVT transmissions are simply down to the transmission fluid. In fact, this applies to every transmission. As with every other component of your car that has a lot of moving parts, it will need lubrication.

Just like motor oil within your engine, transmission fluid will make sure that there is as little friction as possible within the CVT. Less friction will prevent fewer parts from degrading, and will also emit less heat. Overall, transmission fluid is an important part of any gearbox, and it’s important that it is looked after.

If certain seals or parts wear down, it could allow contaminants to mix in with the transmission fluid. Or, transmission fluid that hasn’t been changed out in a while can wear itself down thanks to the intense heat.

Contaminated or worn-out or burnt transmission fluid can have a significant impact on your Honda CVT reliability. Running these sub-par fluids for a long time can cause problems such as overheating or leaking, as they can no longer maintain their lubricating properties.

CVT Transmission Repair

There is at least some good news to be found amidst all this doom and gloom. Unlike some other brands such as Nissan or Jeep which are plagued with reports of unreliable CVTs, Honda is quite the opposite. So, are their CVT transmissions reliable?

Honda makes some of the most reliable cars today (and within the list of the most reliable cars), and this stellar reputation trickles down to its CVT gearboxes. So, you can be safe in knowing that a Honda with a CVT can comfortably last 10 years or more. That’s on the higher end of the typical CVT transmission life expectancy.

However, that doesn’t mean that all Hondas are immune from some sort of transmission problem. We can take a look at sites such as to find a more extensive database of customer complaints and reports for certain cars.

As an example, two of the more problematic Hondas have been the 2001 Civic and the 2003 Accord. Each one has more than 500 complaints logged just for issues around their transmissions (granted, neither had CVTs – manuals and automatics only).

Honda CVT Transmission Replacement Cost

On average, their transmissions will start showing signs of failure at around 100,000 miles for both models. The aggregate CVT transmission repair cost on average for either Honda to have their CVT transmission repaired is around $2,000 to $3,000 (once you’ve found a transmission repair in Omaha).

However, it’s worth noting that in most cases, CVTs can be hard to fix. As such, many owners here have found out that most of their problems could only be solved once the whole CVT transmission has been replaced entirely.

As we’ve learned earlier on in our Honda CVT reliability guide, CVTs can be more expensive to account for a transmission repair or replacement. The relative shortage of parts and skilled technicians will make your options fairly limited.

Moreover, the labor costs will be monstrous. This is because, in some Hondas, the whole engine needs to be removed before being able to access the CVT. Therefore, CVTs can take more time and money to have mended compared to a regular transmission.

CVT Transmission Maintenance

Another plus point aside from Honda’s top-notch reliability is its warranty service. In the case of Honda CVT reliability issues, transmissions are covered for repairs or replacement. This warranty coverage is good for 5 years or 60,000 miles – whichever one comes first.

This leads us to a very good point, in that good maintenance is all you need to prevent CVT issues down the line. You should always consult your owner’s manual to more accurately pin down the service interval for your Honda.

We learned already that many potential CVT faults and issues needn’t ever happen if you’re more attentive toward the transmission fluid. In general, Honda recommends a full flush and replacement of the transmission fluids every 20,000 miles or 2 years.

This applies to whichever comes first. You might also want to consider calling up your local Honda representative to quote them directly as to when you might need to swap your transmission fluid.

CVT Transmission Longevity

Or, you can check the state of the transmission fluid for yourself through the engine bay. You should try to find a yellow tab on the back end of the engine compartment. This marks the transmission fluid reservoir.

You can then use the dipstick to check the amount of transmission fluid left. While you’re there, you can also assess its condition. Remember, transmission fluid should be a pinkish or reddish color. If it’s gone brown or smells like it’s burnt, then it should be replaced.

There are also several other factors to consider in knowing when to change your transmission fluid. This could depend on how hard you drive your car or the climate around you. Living in hot and humid areas would necessitate you to replace the transmission fluid more frequently. This is important, as your Honda’s CVT will need ample amounts of lubrication to work at its best.

And having good transmission fluid will also ensure a long lifespan for your Honda’s CVT. It would also help to preserve the condition of your CVT by changing up your driving style. Aggressive driving with smoky burning starts will only serve to wear out your CVT much faster than it needs to.

Standard Automatic Vs CVT Transmission Facts

  1. Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) uses two pulleys connected by a belt to transfer power between the engine and transmission, unlike traditional transmissions that use gears.
  2. CVTs can modify settings continuously, allowing the engine to run more efficiently and optimize both power and fuel economy.
  3. CVTs are lighter and smaller than traditional transmissions, taking up less space and costing less to manufacture.
  4. CVTs offer smoother performance and do not require shifting gears, providing a stable driving experience.
  5. CVTs are ideal for hybrid cars and SUVs, as they are designed to maximize gas efficiency rather than power.
  6. Compared to traditional automatics, CVTs have greater fuel efficiency and an infinite amount of gear ratio combinations.
  7. CVTs have a less complex design and are easier to assemble than traditional automatics.
  8. The throttle response in a CVT may seem delayed for drivers accustomed to traditional transmissions, and maintenance costs for CVTs are typically higher due to fewer certified technicians.
  9. Service departments at car dealerships are best equipped to repair CVTs, as they have certified CVT technicians and specialized knowledge of the transmission.
  10. While every situation is unique, it is generally recommended to seek transmission service at a dealership for the best quality and cost-effective repairs.

Honda CVT Reliability: In Conclusion…

Add to that, be sure not to put too much load on your car. Maybe think about hiring a truck for the next time you move house. More weight that your car needs to move around will mean putting more strain on the CVT. Honda or not, a CVT won’t last long in those conditions.

In short, we can conclude our Honda CVT reliability guide by saying that their luster for low-maintenance cars remains as glowing as ever. Even compared to its Japanese rivals, Honda’s track record for excellent durability and reliability will make it quite a strong recommendation for anyone who wants a car that won’t break down all too often.

You can be certain that in many ordinary cases, you won’t be facing any problems with your Honda’s CVT transmission. However, no matter how tough your Honda might be, it will only be as strong as how its human will care for it. All that is required is following along with your manufacturer’s set service intervals.

A quick flush and swap of transmission fluids can do wonders in making sure you can be spared from headaches and big repair bills down the line. In regards to CVTs, good maintenance will go a long way in making sure you can enjoy thousands more smoothly-geared miles to come.

Honda CVT Reliability: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you’re curious to learn more about Honda CVT reliability, our FAQs here might help…

Are Hondas Reliable

Based on a recent 2022 RepairPal survey, Honda ranks 1st out of 32 other automakers for reliability. Note, this was gauged as an average across 345 unique Honda models. Though, this same survey also noted that Hondas have above-average ownership and running costs. Specifically, they’ve found that annually, owners had to spend an average of $428 to repair, service, and maintain their Hondas. Regardless, RepairPal also notes that Hondas are less likely to need a visit to a workshop, and when repairs are needed, a smaller percentage of them tend to be as severe as competing brands.

Are CVT Transmissions Bad

In many ways, CVT transmissions are a positive step forward compared to conventional automatic transmissions. They’re often more fuel-efficient and tend to be smoother when it comes to changing gears. Moreover, they’re also more compact and have fewer moving parts, which theoretically means that they should be more reliable. Although, CVTs also have their downsides. For instance, they’re noisier than conventional automatics and are usually rather dull if you’re keen on driving enthusiastically. Moreover, they’re also more expensive to repair and maintain, owing to their complex design.

What Cars Have A CVT Transmission

Honda is among the widest adopters of CVT transmissions among mainstream automakers and it’s featured prominently throughout their line-up. This not only includes regular CVTs but also Honda’s all-new e-CVT, which pairs a CVT gearbox to a hybrid powertrain. The Honda models that you can expect to have a CVT include the Civic, Accord, Fit, HR-V, CR-V, Insight, and Clarity. This encompasses the majority of Honda’s present line-up, although not all of them. For example, their sporty Civic Type-R can still be had with a manual gearbox instead of a CVT automatic.

How Long Do Transmissions Last

CVT transmissions can typically last at least or around 100,000 miles before a serious rebuild is necessary. Depending on how often you drive, this could be as soon as 5 to 10 years. Although this expected lifespan is not a given across all CVTs, on average, it’s typically not as long-lasting as a conventional automatic transmission. This could vary wildly depending on how well you service your CVT, however. Frequent transmission fluid changes alone (usually done every 25,000 miles) will easily help to prolong the lifecycle of your CVT.

What Does The Transmission Do

The transmission in your car is responsible for moderating and managing the engine’s power before passing it off onto the driven wheels. Otherwise, if the engine’s power is transferred directly to the wheels, the uncontrollable torque would easily overcome your tires’ traction. Therefore, the transmission works by taking in the engine’s power, and using specific gearing ratios, would be able to control that power to ensure that only the right amount of which is sent to the driven wheels. Thus, making sure that your car is getting the ideal amount of power and torque given a specific situation.

How Long Do CVT Transmissions Last

Typically, CVT transmissions can last between 60,000 and 100,000 miles. Regular maintenance, such as changing the transmission fluid, plays a significant role in extending the lifespan. The longevity also depends on driving habits and conditions.

Why Are CVT Transmissions Bad

Some people criticize CVT transmissions because they offer a different driving experience. Drivers often report a ‘rubber band’ feeling during acceleration. Additionally, CVT systems can produce more noise than traditional transmissions. Lastly, early CVTs faced durability concerns, though many modern versions have addressed these issues.

Are Honda CVT Transmissions Reliable

Yes, Honda’s CVT transmissions have gained a reputation for being reliable. Honda has made various improvements over the years to address initial problems. Proper maintenance is crucial to ensure their longevity and optimal performance.

Why Does My Transmission Jerk When I Put It in Drive

A jerking sensation when putting a car in drive can stem from several causes. Possible reasons include low transmission fluid, faulty torque converters, or worn-out transmission mounts. It’s essential to diagnose and fix the issue promptly to avoid more significant problems.

What Year Honda Accord to Avoid

The 2003 Honda Accord received numerous complaints related to transmission failures. Therefore, this year might be one to consider avoiding if you’re looking at used models. However, it’s always a good idea to review individual car histories and have any used vehicle inspected before purchase.

Are Toyota CVT Transmissions Reliable

Toyota, like Honda, has invested in CVT technology, and their CVT transmissions are generally considered reliable. Toyota has a solid history of producing durable vehicles, and their CVTs are no exception. As always, regular maintenance is key to ensuring the transmission’s long life.

When Did Honda Start Using CVT Transmission

Honda introduced its CVT transmission in the early 1990s. The first Honda model with a CVT was the 1995 Civic VTi in certain markets. Since then, the technology has evolved and been incorporated into various models across their range.

Do Hondas Last Long

Yes, Hondas are known for their durability and longevity. With proper care and maintenance, many Honda vehicles can exceed 200,000 miles. Their reputation for reliability is one of the reasons they remain popular among consumers.

Who Makes the Best CVT Transmission

It’s subjective to determine the ‘best’ CVT transmission, as it often depends on individual preferences and specific vehicle applications. However, brands like Subaru, Honda, and Nissan have invested significantly in CVT technology and are often recognized for their advanced and refined CVT designs.

Who Makes the Most Reliable CVT Transmission

Honda and Subaru are frequently praised for the reliability of their CVT transmissions. Both brands have made consistent efforts to enhance the performance, efficiency, and durability of their CVTs over the years.

Why Do CVT Transmissions Fail

CVT transmissions can fail due to several reasons, including: 1) Inadequate maintenance, particularly not changing the transmission fluid at the recommended intervals. 2) Overheating, which can damage the belts and other components. 3) Manufacturing defects or design flaws, especially in earlier versions. 4) Excessive strain, like from towing weights beyond a vehicle’s capacity.

How Long Does a Honda Civic Transmission Last

The transmission in a Honda Civic can last between 150,000 to 200,000 miles with proper care and maintenance. It’s essential to change the transmission fluid regularly and address any issues as soon as they arise to ensure the maximum lifespan.

Are All CVT Transmissions Bad

No, not all CVT transmissions are bad. While CVTs have faced criticism due to early reliability concerns and a different driving feel, many modern CVTs are both reliable and efficient. Advances in technology and design have improved their performance and longevity.

How Long Do Nissan CVT Transmissions Last

Nissan CVT transmissions have been a topic of discussion regarding their longevity. Typically, with regular maintenance, they can last between 60,000 to 120,000 miles. However, some older Nissan models faced CVT issues earlier in their lifespan, leading to criticisms. It’s essential to maintain the transmission and address any potential problems early.

What Does a Bad CVT Transmission Sound Like

A failing CVT transmission can produce high-pitched whining or droning noises, especially during acceleration. This is often due to worn-out belts or pulleys. If these sounds are noticeable, it’s advisable to consult a mechanic promptly.

How to Tell If Honda Transmission Is Bad

Signs of a bad Honda transmission include: 1) Slipping gears or difficulty in shifting. 2) Delayed or harsh responses when shifting. 3) Unusual noises, like grinding or whining. 4) Transmission warning lights on the dashboard. 5) Fluid leaks or a burnt smell from the transmission fluid.

Does Honda CR V Have CVT Transmission

Yes, newer models of the Honda CR-V are equipped with CVT transmissions. Honda introduced the CVT in the CR-V starting with the 2015 model year as part of their effort to improve fuel efficiency.

Does Hyundai Have CVT Transmission

Yes, Hyundai has introduced CVT transmissions in some of its models, which they refer to as an ‘Intelligent Variable Transmission’ or IVT. This system aims to improve fuel efficiency while maintaining a responsive driving experience.

What Car Has the Most Transmission Problems

Historically, certain models from various brands have faced transmission issues more than others. The specific model or year can be subjective and often varies based on consumer reports, user feedback, and recall data. For instance, older models of the Nissan Altima and Ford Focus had well-documented transmission concerns. It’s always crucial to research specific models and years when considering a vehicle purchase.

What’s Wrong With CVT Transmission

CVT transmissions faced early criticisms for a few reasons: 1) Different driving feel, sometimes described as a ‘rubber band’ sensation. 2) Increased noise levels compared to traditional automatic transmissions. 3) Initial reliability concerns, especially in early models. 4) Limited manual control for drivers who prefer gear shifts. 5) However, many of these concerns have been addressed in modern CVT designs.

What Year Camry Has CVT Transmission

The Toyota Camry primarily used traditional automatic transmissions. However, the Toyota Camry Hybrid does utilize a CVT. It’s always good to check the specific model year and trim to determine the type of transmission.

How Do I Know If My CVT Transmission Is Going Bad

Symptoms of a failing CVT transmission include: 1) Whining or droning noises during acceleration. 2) Jerky or delayed acceleration. 3) Difficulty in shifting or unresponsive gear changes. 4) Warning lights related to the transmission on the dashboard. 5) A decrease in fuel efficiency. 6) Slipping, where the engine revs but doesn’t translate to movement.

Are Mitsubishi CVT Transmissions Reliable

Mitsubishi’s CVT transmissions have generally been considered reliable in their newer models. However, as with all car parts, reliability can depend on regular maintenance, driving conditions, and habits. It’s good to maintain the transmission and attend to any concerns promptly.

Do CVT Transmissions Make Noise

Yes, CVT transmissions can produce noise, especially a high-pitched whining or droning sound during acceleration. While some level of noise can be typical for a CVT, excessive or unusual sounds may indicate a problem that needs attention.

Can a CVT Transmission Slip

Technically, a CVT doesn’t ‘slip’ in the way traditional automatic transmissions do, since they don’t have conventional gears. However, drivers might perceive a slipping sensation if there’s a problem with the transmission belt or pulleys, or if there’s low fluid pressure. If the engine revs without a corresponding increase in speed, it might feel like slipping.

Are Mazda Transmissions Reliable

Yes, Mazda transmissions, both manual and automatic, have generally been considered reliable. Mazda has not widely adopted the CVT; instead, they’ve focused on refining traditional automatic transmissions. As always, regular maintenance is key to ensuring any transmission’s longevity and performance.


  • Mike Lord Says

    Brilliantly explained information on a very misunderstood and hated transmission

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, Mike Lord!

      Cheers, glad to bring some much-needed guidance and exposure on Honda’s CVTs, so hopefully, this would be of some help 🙂

  • John Dougherty Says

    my transmission guy doesn’t recommend them, but also recommends a trans service at 20k miles on conventional autos as well. he is the best in town so I believe. Honda is a solid company but a warrantee is a warrantee. You’ll get no love if it breaks after that.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, John Dougherty!

      True, regardless of who you’re buying from, even from a brand that’s as solid as far as reliability is concerned as Honda, it’s always good to be wary. While their CVTs are more robust than some other brands like Nissan, it’s still a good idea to keep a close eye out.

  • KBetts Says

    At 60 years old I bought a 2016 Honda Accord with CVT for my wife. I now have 143,000 miles on it. Zero issues. Best car I’ve ever owned and that’s saying a lot as I got my CDL in 1977 and driven many vehicles in many countries. The Honda CVT is a great transmission compared to the automatics I’ve owned in the past. It provides a consistent 37mpg plus on trips. This is the first CVT I’ve owned and I’ll gladly own another. It has solid acceleration by keeping the engine in the power band. It’s much much smoother in deceleration as well. It well matches the 2.4l 4cly. For maintenance, I drain and fill three times every 30k miles. Drain and fill, drive around, repeat two times. Costs about $150 for 12 quarts (3.9 quarts for each drain and fill). Total capacity for the transmission is 8qts (7.6 liters). Doing it that way will get all but around 15% of the old trans fluid out of there. This Honda runs so well I guess I keep it for a while even though it’s well past where I usually get something newer for her because of reliability concerns. So far, there are NO indications this car is reaching the end of it’s service life. Hope you all experience the same that I have. Cheers.

    • Baws Says

      I have been driving 30+ yrs old Mercedes Benz cars all my life, and you talk about changing cars every few years for reliability concerns lol. I’ve seen daily driver Mercedes 35+ yrs on almost a million kilometers.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, KBetts!

      And cheers to you too for sharing your story! Hopefully, others would share a similarly positive experience as yours. From my experience, Honda’s CVTs are among the better ones out there as far as reliability is concerned.

  • Johnny S. Says

    Probably fine for a Civic, but there’s a reason why CVTs aren’t used in high-horsepower situations. I wish more companies would develop DCTs. THAT is the normal evolution of the torque converter transmission.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, Johnny S.!

      Aye, DCTs are pretty awesome, although compared to CVTs and conventional torque converters, there are certainly pros and cons with any transmission. But I agree, in high horsepower applications, few can beat a proper manual gearbox or a CVT.

  • big meech Says

    They can last 10 or AT LEAST 5 YEARS, ahaha are you joking ? Ppl need reliable cars that would last over 20-30 years, we are not millionaires to buy new cars like cellphones.

  • Larry Says

    My daughter bought a 2014 Honda Civic CVT with 79k miles on it. There is a cap that had popped on top of the transmission and there is rubber breather opening that was clogged. Once it gets clogged I guess the pressure increases and the cap pops out. I cleaned the rubber opening cap, turned it sideways so mud does not get int again. Then I put electrical tape around the cap so it fits tighter in the opening. There were signs of auto fluid on top (some had spliced out). And there were lots of nuts on top of the transmission (squirrel or chipmunk, not sure). I was worried that maybe a bit had fallen inside through the cap opening. I changed the fluid (drain and flush) and replaced the automatic fluid filter. The fluid was very dark – it was probably never changed. After about 4K miles I looked at the color of the fluid again and it seemed dark again, so I changed it again. Very smooth so far. Told her not to do burnouts;-). Good mileage too. She is a student and does not have a Lot of money. She chose this instead of a Prius (she had a Prius before) and right after that gas prices shot up. I think all in all so far so good.

    I plan on looking at the liquid color again next summer.

  • AdamE Says

    Great explanation. I owned a 2017 Honda CRV that had a CVT. Never had a problem with it. The car was slightly boring to drive, but I don’t think it was because of the CVT.

    Just wanted to clear up one misconception. The 2003 Accord and 2001 Civic didn’t have CVTs. They came with manual or normal automatic transmissions, a 5 speed automatic for the Accord and a 4 speed automatic for the Civic. I know because I owned a 2003 Accord.

    By the way, that Accord was extremely reliable. I sold it when it had well over 200,000 miles on it and never paid for anything other normal service costs over all those years.

    • Zack Norman Says

      Thanks for the comment, AdamE!

      Cheers for the clarification, I forgot to note down that they didn’t have CVTs back then just yet. And great to hear that your Accord’s been running well all these years – they’re a pretty dependable bunch!

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