Toyota RAV4 CVT Transmission Problems: What You Need to Know

Toyota RAV4 CVT Transmission Problems: What You Need to Know

Toyota’s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) is highly dependable, making the brand a top pick for smooth acceleration and better fuel efficiency. However, some Toyota owners have reported issues with their CVT gearboxes that need to be addressed.

Typical problems with Toyota’s CVT transmission include overheating, delayed movement, producing whining and rattling sounds, and loss of speed. The car’s gearbox could begin to shake or slide, and the check engine light may switch on because of a malfunctioning CVT transmission. Repairing a CVT transmission can be costly and is often nearly impossible.

To prevent issues with the Toyota CVT transmission, it’s important to ensure the engine has enough fluid, avoid towing, and properly maintain the transmission. Let’s discuss this in more detail.

Common Toyota CVT Transmission Problems and Solutions

The CVT gearbox has a simpler design and fewer parts than other types of transmissions. If you own or plan to own a Toyota with a CVT gearbox, you should be aware of these CVT transmission problems:

1. Overheating

Your Toyota’s CVT transmission might overheat due to continuous gear ratio changes. Misuse, like hauling large loads, particularly with low or used-up fluid, can also result in the CVT transmission getting too hot. A defective cooling system or oil pump can damage the transmission fluid and cause the transmission to overheat.

Signs of an overheated CVT transmission include a burning smell and a warning light on the dashboard.

CVT Transmission Overheating If the transmission overheats from continuous driving, let the CVT transmission cool down before driving the car again. If the overheating is due to a more complex issue, take the car to a service center for repair or replacement of the transmission.

2. Delayed Movement

Adequate and healthy transmission fluid keeps the transmission cool and prevents mechanical damage. However, if you use incorrect or old transmission fluid, it can damage the transmission’s components and cause delayed movement. The transmission fluid can also wear out, and your Toyota car might leak fluid, resulting in a CVT transmission problem.

If you see red fluid leaking from your Toyota car and smell a sweet odor, there might be a problem with the transmission fluid. Contaminated transmission fluid can also cause CVT transmission problems and other issues like the car shaking, jumping, lurching, and surging.

To avoid this problem, regularly check the transmission fluid and replace it at the right time, following the manufacturer’s recommendation. A lot of Toyota owners frequently change the transmission fluid as needed to maintain the good condition of the CVT transmission.

3. Hearing Whining and Rattling Noises

Faulty CVT transmission fluid can produce strange sounds like clunking, whining, and rattling while driving the car or even in neutral mode. This symptom indicates that the transmission components are worn out or that there is not enough fluid in the transmission.

In this case, you should contact a professional mechanic, as it requires a thorough diagnosis. The strange sound from the car might come from bad suspension, faulty wheel bearings, or a damaged braking system. So you might need to top up the transmission fluid or replace the worn or damaged components.

4. Loss of Acceleration

CVT transmissions are known for providing smooth acceleration when pressing down the pedal. It can fail or take longer to accelerate if the system is damaged.

5. Gear Slipping or Jerking

Your CVT transmission might slip or jerk a lot due to its weak structure. A lack of transmission fluid can also disrupt the steady adjustment of the transmission’s belt, pulley, or pulleys, causing the transmission to jerk or jump. The symptom includes a rise and fall in the RPMs while the speed stays the same. If you don’t address this problem, it can break the chain or belt.

So, if you notice the transmission jerking or jumping, stop the car and have it checked to fix the problem. However, a small amount of jerking is normal when shifting the CVT gearbox between low and high. A bit of car jerking is also normal at low speeds.

6. Check the engine light.

Cars like Nissan, Ford, and Honda turn on the “check CVT transmission” light if there’s a problem with their CVT gearbox. Since Toyota doesn’t have this specific light, it turns on the check engine light for the same problem. Other symptoms include changes in engine revs and shifting lag. You must properly diagnose the transmission to identify and fix this issue.

7. Control Module Issues

The CVT has a transmission control module (TCM) that gathers signals from various sensors and determines how the transmission should react. A damaged TCM can cause unusual behavior in CVT transmissions, like excessive slipping and delayed engagement. While a faulty control module can cause immediate electronic problems, it takes time to damage the structure.

8. CVT Clutch Issue

The CVT’s clutch is situated in the space between the engine and the transmission. After pressing the gas pedal, the clutch slowly engages the transmission and engine to ensure a smooth start. But a faulty CVT clutch can cause a jumpy start, rolling forward, and delayed engagement. You can fix this problem by reprogramming the CVT clutch after changing the transmission fluid.

How to Diagnose Toyota CVT Transmission Problems

You can identify issues with your Toyota’s CVT transmission just by paying attention to unusual noises or observing any of the symptoms we’ve previously mentioned. The Toyota CVT also has an onboard computer, which makes the car more efficient.

This computer can make the process of identifying and fixing issues more complicated. In this case, you won’t be able to properly troubleshoot the Toyota CVT transmission problem in your home garage. So, take your Toyota vehicle to the nearest service center that has diagnostic technology to interface with the onboard computer of your car.

To identify the CVT’s transmission problem, they’ll connect your car’s computer to a diagnostic device and generate a code. Using the code, they’ll easily identify the underlying issues and fix them quickly and easily. They may also decide if the car requires a lift inspection or pan examination to solve the transmission problem.

If your Toyota CVT transmission was manufactured in recent years and is still under warranty, you should bring your car to the Toyota Customer Experience Center. They’ll check every possibility and solve the problem at no cost.

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

Compared to a standard automatic transmission, the Toyota CVT transmission is significantly more costly. So you might have to spend around $6500, including labor costs, to replace your faulty CVT transmission with a new one.

Cost to Replace the Toyota CVT Transmission However, the actual cost of a CVT transmission depends on the model. If you plan to repair your CVT transmission, it might not be possible. Even after spending around $1800 on repairing your Toyota CVT transmission, it might not last more than 10,000 miles.

But if you need to replace a damaged TCM, it’ll cost around $750 to $808. Replacing a faulty CVT clutch can cost between $800 and $1,500.

How Long Does a Toyota CVT Transmission Last?

Typically, a Toyota CVT transmission lasts for about 120,000 miles. After reaching this mileage, you have the option to either replace the transmission and use it for an additional 40,000 miles with potential issues, or install a new one.

In some rare instances, certain Toyota CVT transmissions can last up to 160,000 miles without any problems. The lifespan of a Toyota CVT transmission depends on several factors, including your driving habits, regular maintenance, and the type of oil used.

So, if you manage the gear ratios, regularly check and maintain the transmission, and use the correct fluid, your CVT transmission could last for significantly longer.

It’s worth noting that Toyota’s CVT is used in the Corolla, which is considered one of the most reliable cars. Toyota and Honda are the two manufacturers who design and produce their own CVT transmissions.

Tips to Increase the Longevity of Toyota CVT Transmission

A lot of CVT transmissions break down on the highway because they get too hot or they’re used to pull heavy trailers. If you’re aiming to extend the lifespan of your CVT gearbox and avoid costly replacements, you should steer clear of these harmful practices. The more cautious you are with the Toyota CVT transmission, the longer it will last before needing a replacement.

You can avoid many issues with your Toyota’s CVT transmission by ensuring that the transmission fluid is at the right level, particularly during extended trips. Here are some tips to prolong the lifespan of a Toyota CVT transmission:

Although Toyota allows you to tow a certain weight, doing so can shorten the lifespan of your CVT transmission. Avoid overloading your Toyota vehicle, as it can cause the CVT transmission to wear out faster. Instead of maintaining a single speed, vary your speed by 5 mph every 15 to 20 mph. Avoid conservative driving on rough terrain or uphill, and refrain from abruptly accelerating. Don’t use the wrong brand of oil or filter beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation. Change the transmission fluid every 100,000 miles. Regularly inspect the engine’s cooling system to keep it in optimal condition and prevent the transmission from overheating. Warm up your vehicle before starting to drive.

Final Words

Toyota is continuously working to resolve issues with CVT transmissions and enhance their performance. However, you can avoid any problems with the existing one by properly maintaining the transmission, driving safely, and avoiding towing heavy trailers. Before going on a long drive, ensure the engine has enough fluid, and if the engine gets hot, let it cool down first.

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