Best CVT Fluids: What are they?
The term “CVT” stands for Continuous Variable Transmission. A CVT is a type of automatic transmission which allows the driver to select between two different driving modes – Normal or Sport mode. In normal driving mode, the car will move at its own speed with no input from the driver. When the accelerator pedal is pressed, it starts moving forward automatically; when released, it stops and returns to neutral position. In sport mode, however, the car will accelerate at a set rate depending on how hard the accelerator pedal is pushed down. If the accelerator pedal is not depressed all the way down, then it slows down gradually until it reaches a certain speed whereupon it resumes its original speed.
In both cases, there is no clutch pedal to engage and disengage and thus no need for manual shifting or gear selection. The driver simply presses down on the accelerator pedal and the car moves forward.
A CVT is typically used in cars manufactured before 1997, but newer models may have them as well. They are generally more fuel efficient than their manual counterparts because they do not require drivers to shift gears manually.
Some manufacturers even include CVTs into their hybrid vehicles.
Nissan Altima CVT Fluid
For a long time, Nissan has been manufacturing their own line of CVT fluids under the name of NS-2. This fluid is available in most parts supply stores and is relatively cheap to purchase.
However, there are several problems that arise with using the factory-recommended fluid. For one, this type of fluid tends to be very thin, almost like water. This is a problem because the CVT needs a thicker fluid in order to operate effectively. Using thin fluids can cause wear and tear on your CVT, which will ultimately shorten its lifespan.
Also, using the factory-recommended fluid can lead to clogging in the trans cooler line. This line runs from the radiator to the trans cooler and then onto the transmission.
Other CVT fluids are not as prone to clog because of their slightly thicker design. When this line gets clogged, the trans cooler cannot release heat as effectively, and this leads to overheating.
Valvoline CVT Fluid
The best fluid for your car’s CVT is without a doubt Valvoline Maxlife CVT. This fluid is available almost anywhere automotive parts are sold and can be found at most local auto parts chains.
This fluid is quite similar to the factory-recommended fluid but boasts a much higher boiling point and thus a much higher melting point. This means that it is less likely to break down and leak as quickly as the factory-recommended fluid.
This fluid also boasts a high detergent content which helps clean and protect your transaxle. Using this fluid will help keep your car running in top condition for many miles to come.
With proper fluid changes every 30,000 miles or so, your CVT should last much longer than it would with the factory-recommended fluid.
Nissan Altima CVT Fluid Change Cost
The cost to have your Nissan Altima’s CVT fluid changed varies from place to place but generally costs between $100 and $120. This cost can vary due to the area you live in as well as the dealership you take your car to.
If you take your car to a Nissan dealership, for instance, you can expect to pay more than if you took it to a local auto parts store.
Nissan Altima CVT Fluid Change Cost: Parts
The parts needed to complete this procedure should cost no more than $20. The most expensive part being the NS-2 CVT fluid itself, which should cost no more than $15.
The other parts needed are an oil drain pan, new washers for the drain plug, a 17mm wrench to remove the drain plug and a clean towel to wipe up any spilled fluid. Some people choose to also replace the filter at the same time but it is not necessary. This part costs around $8.
Nissan Altima CVT Fluid Change Cost: Labor
Labor to change the fluid on a car can vary from place to place, but you can expect to pay no more than $75 to get this procedure done. The lower end of the price range is for auto shops that charge per hour while the higher end of the scale is for places that charge a flat rate for the entire job.
How to Change the CVT Fluid
Park the vehicle on a level surface and pop the hood. Locate the CVT fluid pan beneath the car and remove the bolt with a 17mm socket and ratchet.
There is only one bolt and it is in the front middle of the pan. You will need to use a shallow oil pan or a cookie sheet to catch the fluid once you remove the bolt. Slowly allow the fluid to drain out completely. Once all the fluid has drained out, replace the bolt and wipe up any spilled fluid. Replace the fluid with the Valvoline Maxlife CVT fluid, replace the bolt and clean up any spilled fluid once more. Finally, start the engine, check for any leaks and then drive the vehicle for at least ten minutes to allow the new fluid to enter the transaxle.
These are just some of the most common problems you may run into while driving your Altima. Of course there are other problems that may occur, but these should be the most common ones you will experience.
If you do experience another problem, take a look at our article on how to troubleshoot car problems.
Sources & references used in this article:
Testing the Torque Capacity of CVT Fluids by J Thomas, B Constans, E Gresser, M Maillard… – 2004 – sae.org
The development of CVT fluids with higher friction coefficients by DR Vermilya, WC Ward – 2003 – sae.org
The effect of belt-drive CVT fluid on the friction coefficient between metal components by T Ishikawa, Y Murakami, R Yauchibara, A Sano – SAE transactions, 1997 – JSTOR
Friction characteristics and topography of tribofilms from anti-wear additives applied to metal V-belt type CVT fluids by K Narita, M Priest – Tribology letters, 2009 – Springer
USCAR traction test methodology for traction-CVT fluids by LD Wedeven, GG Wedeven, SH Kratz, TE King… – SAE Transactions, 2002 – JSTOR
CVT lubrication: The effect of lubricants on the frictional characteristics of the belt‐pulley interface by RF Watts, KM Richard – TriboTest, 1999 – Wiley Online Library
Comparing a CVT to a Four-Speed Automatic Transmission on Stress to the ATF by SH Tersigni, RN Iyer, TA McCombs, MS Jones… – 2002 – sae.org
Statistical Methods to Formulate Belt Drive CVT Fluids with High Friction Coefficients by CLC de Groote, WC Ward – 2000 – sae.org