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Used Cars with Serious Transmission Problems to Watch Out For

Have you been hesitant to buy any used car that has a CVT (continuously variable transmission) because of what you may have heard about its history? Here’s the latest that discusses what the problem was and what model and years of vehicles had serious CVT transmission problems…and which models don’t.


A Very Brief Breakdown of Common Transmission Types

Aside from used vehicles that are notorious for blown head gaskets and other serious engine damage events, paying for a damaged transmission can be equally as expensive. Which is why when shopping for a used car, you need to consider what type of transmission it has and whether or not is has a history of problems.

Related article: Ford Mechanic Talks About Transmissions That Self Destruct

Possibly the majority of bad press about transmissions that you have heard anything about is the one referred to as a “CVT” transmission.

The Continuously Variable Transmission basically is a transmission designed to use pulleys connected via a steel band, rather than employing fixed gears. This was the next step up in transmission development from the traditional hydraulic powered transmissions that used a hydraulic system to engage the gears in older model cars and trucks.

The main advantage of an automatic transmission is that it makes driving simpler for car owners---especially if the driver has some physical limitations that make pressing in on the clutch pedal of a manual transmission vehicle repeatedly very difficult.

However, today the move to a CVT is more about economy. The benefits of a CVT over a traditional automatic transmission is that it increases fuel economy, uses fewer components, is cheaper to manufacture, and is significantly lighter in weight. The tradeoff of a CVT is that it limits the power of the engine used and has a higher maintenance requirement.

As it turns out that “higher maintenance requirement” is the rub with CVT complaints and its history among car owners---especially with Honda owners.

Related article: The Sealed Transmission White Lie

But is this still true today with modern cars?

The Peoples’ Mechanic Sets the Record Straight

To understand a little more about the CVT problems car owners had and what years of cars this affected, here is a recent Scotty Kilmer YouTube channel posting where he talks about CVTs and how his opinion of them has changed.

The value of the video is that it not only explains CVT tech and problems, but also alerts you to potential problems you can expect in some used cars but not others depending on what year of vehicle you are looking at and the transmission type it carries.

Related article: Six Vehicles with Fatal Engines or Transmissions to Avoid

Cars That Have Serious Transmission Problems (Do Not Buy)

And finally…

For additional articles about transmissions, here are some selected articles that should prove helpful:

Used Car Transmission Problem Options You Need to Know

Servicing Your Vehicle’s Automatic Transmission Can Be a DIY Project That Saves You Money

Transmission Problem Diagnosis with This Simple Tool

COMING UP NEXT: Consumer Reports Most Satisfying New Midsized SUVs

Timothy Boyer is a Torque News automotive reporter based in Cincinnati. Experienced with early car restorations, he regularly restores older vehicles with engine modifications for improved performance. Follow Tim on Twitter at @TimBoyerWrites for daily new and used vehicle news.

Image Source: Pixabay


Stan Moore (not verified)    May 25, 2022 - 3:26PM

CVTs don't really require more maintenance. For Honda at least you change the fluid every 25K that's all. They are harder and more expensive to repair. They also have nothing to do with making driving easier, for the driver it's not different than a regular automatic tranny.