Nissan utilizes continuously variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) in most of their vehicle lineup rather than traditional fixed gears.
When operating smoothly, a CVT provides increased performance and fuel efficiency.
However, a common problem that develops, especially as these vehicles exceed 60-70K miles, is a pronounced shake or shudder when accelerating from a stop.
There are several known causes and fixes for Nissan CVT shudder and acceleration issues, as discussed below.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Process
- Nissan CVT transmissions utilize a high-tech steel belt and pulley system to provide variable gear ratios.
- This technology was adopted to improve gas mileage and responsiveness compared to conventional automatics.
- However, the pulley-based design also introduces points of failure.
Diagnosing the Problem
- Drivers may first notice a slight vibration when pulling away from a stop, which gradually worsens over time.
- Often, the check engine light activates with codes pointing to transmission issues.
- Before attempting repairs, have the codes scanned and inspected by a professional to pinpoint the root causes.
Proven Fixes for CVT Shudder
Adjusting the Fluid Level
- Improper CVT fluid level can allow belt slippage and uneven pulley wear by leading to shudder.
- Check the levels when cold and top off if the level is low by using only the factory-recommended fluid.
- However, low fluid is often a symptom of a larger issue.
Replacing the Transmission Valve Body
- The valve body regulates hydraulic pressure to key components.
- Failure here allows belt slippage under acceleration.
- While not cheap, replacing the valve body is less costly than a rebuild.
Installation of the Cooler Kit
- Insufficient cooling promotes CVT overheating and glueing of seals and bearings, which contribute to shuddering.
- Add-on transmission coolers may helps to maintain the ideal operating temps under load.
Full Transmission Rebuild/Swap
- If the shudder stems from extensive wear of internal parts like the steel belt, torque converter, or clutch pulleys.
- A complete rebuild or swap with a used transmission may be necessary. This resolves multiple issues at once.
- In some cases, revised transmission control module firmware that adjusts pressure calibration and shift points can reduce acceleration shudder.
- Dealers can reflash the software if the updates are available.
Potential Root Causes
Typical causes of shutter and vibration during initial takeoff include:
- Worn or loose CVT drive belt
- Faulty transmission valves or solenoids
- Clutch and pulley misalignment
- Torque converter damage
- Debris obstructing transmission internals
- Low CVT fluid level
- When trying to resolve persistent shudder and vibration in ageing Nissan CVTs.
- Some owners turn to third-party fluid additives that claim to stop slippage and smooth out the transmission operations.
- If the CVT shudder stems from worn internal clutch plates or seals that are allowing slippage, the friction modifiers in additives could temporarily firm up components and reduce the vibration.
- The products are also far more affordable than transmission repairs.
- However, there needs to be more clarity on the actual long-term effectiveness of worn CVTs.
- Some additive elements may also react poorly with factory transmission fluid over time.
- Most mechanics recommend completely avoiding these products.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nissan CVT Shudder Fix
Q: Does thicker fluid like MaxLife may helps to eliminate the CVT shudder issue?
A: Sometimes. Heavier fluids can increase the hydraulic pressures to firm up clutches and reduce the slippage. But they also generate more heat, which is problematically long-term. Make sure only to use the approved fluids.