Types of CVT Oil

by Holly Huntington
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No one wants to pay higher fuel costs for operating their vehicle, even when gasoline prices are at their lowest. Some automobile manufacturers have begun to address this fuel efficiency concern in recent years by putting CVT (continuous variable transmission) into new vehicles instead of manual or automatic ones. CVTs keep your vehicle's engine working in the most optimum power range, according to Edmunds.com. But just as cars vary, so do oils for them.


Vehicle transmission types vary from manual to semi-automatic, as well as automatic and continuously variable (also known as CVT). Each transmission type benefits most from a transmission fluid created for that particular machinery. For example, German-made BMWs with CVTs need CVT oil, not the automatic transmission oil used in an older model Nissan Sentras, like the 2006.


Lubricating your vehicle transmission (CVT, manual, or automatic) with oil meant for a different type of transmission is like expecting low-performance tires to give you the same result as high-performance tires on your sports car. Each vehicle is manufactured based upon performance objectives of the car manufacturer and the transmission -- and the oil used in it -- will impact those expected results.

CVT Oil Types

In the past, any transmission fluid on the market could be used for your vehicle, as long as it met the basic criteria: manual transmission fluid for manual transmissions and automatic transmission fluid for cars with automatic transmissions. According to Arts Automotive, that changed in the 1980s, when Honda introduced the marketplace to "specialty" fluids. Now car manufacturers stipulate newer car owners must use their proprietary specialty fluids (live CVT oil) to maintain the best performance (and not violate the warranty). This means CVT oil types are as diverse as car manufacturers: Nissan's CVT oil is known as NS-2 and costs approximately $20 a quart, and Honda's Genuine CVT fluid will run you approximately $6.22 direct.


The downside to each car manufacturer creating its own transmission and other fluids is that consumers must purchase these items for the life of their vehicle from the manufacturer to ensure expected performance -- and to maintain their warranty coverage. That generally means getting the repairs done at the dealership, too, where cost effectiveness might not be a benefit. In addition, your car might not perform any worse using CVT transmission oil that isn’t proprietary to your make and model. The problem is the consumer doesn’t know for sure and few want to risk their transmissions to find out.

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