CVT TRANSMISSION FAILURE

80

Asked by Jan 12, 2016 at 09:57 AM about the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Limited Hatchback

Question type: Maintenance & Repair

The CVT transmission on my 2012 Subaru Impreza completely failed at
55,000 miles and luckily was replaced under the 60,000 mile powertrain
warranty. It was $7500.00 job ! My 5th Subaru and the third to have a
tranny fail. First was a manual on my 2002 WRX, second the auto tranny on
my 2007 Impreza, now the CVT on my 2012 Impreza. Subie and their
trannys have problems, don't keep one past the 60,000 warranty limit !!!!

57 Answers

95,225

Sounds like you need to change to something a little more heavy duty than a Subuaru.

80

Hell I'm an old (64) year man and drive very easy. I guess Cadillac is my next purchase......LOL !

95,225

I'm 62 and just plain got tired of the newer foreign cars and the faults they seem to developed as mileage increases, so I no longer buy Foreign vehicles, and I am very picky about the US made vehicles too, so far I have had extremely good luck with Jeep and GM trucks and SUV's. HTH

4,580

Bonjour Monsieur Breyette! Ca va? CVT failures are starting to pile up, but it's early yet. Both the early manual and 4EAT boxes are pretty durable, but I do rarely see the latter wear from lack of clean ATF. Usually the AWD transfers get sticky, or a dried seal causes unsafe drivability from throttle-lag. I've seen a few torque-converter lockup failures in the 2.5i CVT, but only one screwed up, loudly buzzing 2.0 Imp CVT. How did your fail? I've a couple of 2011+ Legs w/ 125k on their CVTs with no issues; indeed the great majority of them are fine. I change the CVT fluid prophylactically. I don't think that idiosyncratic failure is about wear (mileage), but I do hear that there may be a "soft" bushing that's causing CVTs to bind up at idle. I'm hoping we're not trading old HG failure frequencies for CVT horror shows. The efficiency and drivability of the system is so good that I'm still recommending them (despite the 2.0 being a bit weak to wind it up; the 2.5i CVT is a FAR more optimized drivetrain). Tennis: Didn't know Indiana was a foreign country....

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
80

My Subaru dealer does all the service and assured me that this CVT was sealed and did not require any maintenance for 100,000 miles. Mileage at failure was 55,500......???????

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
65,785

My Subaru dealer recommends changing the CVT fluid regardless of what Subaru says. If you plan on keeping it then maintain it! My 2003 Forester automatic had 200,000 miles on it when I sold it and it worked perfectly.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
65,785

Stephen - what kind of driving do you do? Did your other cars fail at low miles?

80

I asked the dealer about changing the CVT fluid when I had the differentials done, they said it didn't need any servicing until 100,000 miles. I went with their expertise and now this! I'm 64 and drive city/highway about 50/50. No jackrabbit starts, I store it in a heated garage. Drive moderately but I do run 80 on the highway if it's a long trip. Car is always warmed up. My 2002 WRX had a recall which replaced the flywheel, pressure plate and clutch disc with STI parts under warranty @ 60,000. My 2007 Impreza had to have the auto tranny rebuilt before 36,000 miles, then my 2012 Impreza Limited had the CVT fail at 55,500 miles. Don't know what else I could do, all are always serviced according to schedule at the local Subaru Dealer??

65,785

I would love to hear from our resident Subaru cheerleader on this one.

4,580

Salut, Stephan. Be assured that there was NOTHING you could've done to prevent your CVT failure. It probably just had a goofy throttle body...which is the expensive electromechanical internal "brain". Somehow you've been extraordinarily unlucky. I'm not as familiar with the WRX driveline foibles, but suspect that the tranny couldn't handle the boost. That the '07 Imp 2.5i cooked a 4EAT is also idiosyncratic...fairly rare. But the CVT crapping out after 3 years scares me indeed. We'll see what the future portends. My understanding is that the actual CVT drive is ok, but only TB's are failing. probably typical Toyoburu cost-cutting. Sigh....

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
65,785

Extended warranties for CVT's are probably a good idea.

4,580

I suspect that Subie will have to offer "soft" goodwill warranties for 8yrs/100k to "juicy" customers. Not good enough for me, as I need to have these be 200k trannies.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
65,785

I define a "good "car as being able to go a minimum of 200k with few if any major repairs if maintained properly and not abused. Most of my cars have been "good". Toyota's, Ford's and Subaru until the new lemon I got last year.

65,785

At $7,500 a pop, these had better be 400k tranmissions. If you have a CVT go out at 150k you might as well scrap the car.

4,580

I would hope that the market settles in at about $1500 for a good used one so that replacement could sit just under $2k. 4EATs are much less than that by now, but we'll see what the demand curve looks like soon enough!

80

Just a follow up here: The "new Reman CVT tranny" that Subaru installed failed catastrophically at 75 MPH after 8 days and less than 200 miles. This last CVT tranny mishap almost killed me. Subaru now has a brand new CVT trans coming for me. I have traded the car and once I finally get it back (it's been another 2 weeks without my car), hopefully the car will at least make it to the dealership where I have my new car ordered.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
4,580

Ha! Here comes the CVT failure curve...it's interesting to note that the prior indie SOA used for rebuilding 4EATs is no longer contracted to them. Hmmm.... An indie in Maine has successfully replaced throttle bodies in errant CVTs, as I would think that the mechanical drive system itself is robust...but I guess yours wasn't! Yech....

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

We just had the "clicking" sound in our 2014 Impreza Sportwagon with 48K miles. Dealer replaced the tranny under the warranty, and then the "new" tranny bit the big one 10 miles down the road. The differential locked up all four wheels at speed in the high speed lane of the interstate during high traffic time. Luckily my wife didn't get rear-ended, but the newly installed CVT tranny was locked completely, so she couldn't even move out of the high speed lane of travel. Towed back to the dealer.....now trying to decide if we trust this particular Subaru, as I'm concerned that the sudden lock up of the transmission may have damaged other components in some manner.

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
4,580

I wouldn't be overly worried about peripheral driveline damage, and suspect that any such involvement would be audible. I'm fearing that CVT failures will follow the dastardly HG history. Still early....

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
20

My 2012 Subaru Impreza hatch back has been one GIANT headache. We are a 5 subaru family, but this one has been a nightmare. First we had the oil consumption issues and (after about a years worth of oil consumption checks every week or so) the engine was rebuilt. How could anything else go wrong? Well at 90K the CVT has failed and the rear suspension needs to be replaced. The Subaru corporate says they will give -$2000 off of the estimated $9200 in repairs.... So DISAPPOINTED. When is the class action lawsuit going to start!?!?

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
4,580

I'd push SOA on the CVT. By rear suspension do you mean simply the sway bar bushings, perhaps a noisy wheel bearing (like the one I just replaced), or actually the struts (which would be much less common...so far). If SOA won't help further you can find a used CVT and have it swapped in for $2-2.5k. Curious: SOA replace the short block or actually swapped out the rings?

40

I have a 2012 Subaru Outback with 73,000 miles and 5 years old. The car was working fine until I turned into my neighborhood and heard a noise. I made it home and then had to have it towed to the dealer. They said it failed internally and will cost $8900 to replace. No reason given why it failed. I called SOA and I am waiting to hear if they will pay. It is out of warranty. If they only offer $2000 I will have to put in a used one and sell it. I am not buying a Subaru again.

4 of 4 people found this helpful.
10

2013 Subaru Legacy Premium with 2.5i engine. Car well maintained, has had all its service checks completed at the right intervals. CVT Transmission failure at 58,300 miles. I was driving on the highway when I noticed the front left wheel felt like it was shaking. Then a minute later the entire transmission locked up while I was going 70 mpg. Car has been towed to my local Subaru dealer and I am waiting to hear what they say.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
4,580

To all you CVT-plagued users: just keep pushing, as SOA will have to cave and extend warranties sooner or later.

3 of 3 people found this helpful.
10

Was just told today by dealer that my 2012 Impreza CVT transmission has to be replaced. Just under 68K miles on it. Transmission hasn't failed yet, but it was making a bad winding/grinding noise. I believe it's covered under an extended warranty I reluctantly purchased. Any guidance on how to ensure I'm getting the right solution from the dealer? I'm also concerned about continuing to drive it on the highway for 2-3 weeks while the dealer gets a replacement. Thanks.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
65,785

Travis - I would not settle for anything less than a new transmission. Then you can sell it with a clear conscience which I would do ASAP after getting it back from the dealer..

95,225

If this making that kind of noise I doubt it will last much longer, let alone 2 or 3 weeks.

4,580

CVT noises are almost always worn inner bearings; the noisy result doesn't actually effect the operation of the tranny, but of course will eventually fail. I don't know of anyone who waited that long, though, as it's a very annoying big-cat whine, eh?

4,580

Replacement of a failed torque converter (stalling, etc) is possible, and reasonable. But drive bearing friction-noise requires tearing the entire CVT down, which so far we've learned should NOT be done; hence full CVT swap is indicated.

80

They replaced my original at 52,000 mile with an "official" Subaru rebuild with failed catastrophically at 80 mph just 200 miles into it. Replaced that with a third "official" Subaru rebuilt CVT tranny which was also probably junk but I traded the car immediately after the third was installed. 55,000 miles and 3 CVT trannies and I'll never own another Subaru AGAIN! Each time I INSISTED on a NEW CVT tranny and they said they would only warranty a rebuild swap. FU Subaru !!! Car ran and shifted like crap after the swaps.......

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
4,580

Well...that's why they replace them whole now.

10

Anyone have CVT issues with their 2016 WRX?

1 of 1 people found this helpful.

2013 impreza 2.0 cvt 140k. Some kind of whistle noice coming from the car when driving, gets louder when let of gas. Noice go away when put in neutral while driving??? Any clue what it could be?

4,580

I'd guess a CVT bearing. If fluid is original DEFINITELY drain and refill pronto, and hope for the best.

10

Newer Subaru cars with the CVT are garbage. I have a Crosstrek that vibrates and shutters since new and has gotten worse at 50K miles. Three dealer service centers say its normal. Subaru Of America is no help. No more Subaru cars for me

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
4,580

Anyone test drive it with you? Happens at what speeds? Try to have differentiation between wheel bearing ($200), bad half-axle ($200), and inner CVT bearing (ouch!).

2015 WRX with 42k miles is stalling when coming to stops after being driven long distances. On a drive from SLC to Boise yesterday cruising at 80mph the AT OIL TEMP light came on. Pulled over and let car idle in park for a few minutes to keep the fluid circulating and cool down. Happened several more times. I suspect the torque converter locked up and stayed locked up causing extra stress on the trans. After the car stalled, it started right back up. Put in gear and immediately stalled again. I "powered braked" the car and got it to move but it was slow to pull. This basically confirmed to me that the TC was still locked up and is failing.

10

Update- getting a used transmission installed this week under the extended warranty. They would not cover a rebuilt transmission at ~$7500, only a used one at ~$2500.

4,580

You're better off with a used one, as they do NOT suffer a "rebuild" successfully!

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
4,580

Sorry Dan. I suspect that the CVT simply can't handle the WRX's boost.

10

Update- used transmission was installed today by the dealer. Before they even pulled it out of the garage it failed due to a cracked casing that resulted in transmission fluid leaking everywhere. The dealership is now arguing with the extended warranty company (First Warrant - purchased through the Subaru dealer at the time of purchase) about replacing this one. I've been without my car now for nearly four weeks. This is so disappointing. Any advice on how to approach SOA about this?

4,580

The source of the used trans should have a usual 6 mo wty?

80

I bought a new car. One without a "snowmobile transmission" but a REAL automatic transmission.........That solved my problem with Subaru CVT trannys......

2 of 2 people found this helpful.
4,580

So what'd you get? The new CX-5 is so far my favorite, excellent handling, AWD 'cute, as I'm still put off by the Audi Q5's cost and poor serviceability. I'm still "off" any new Subie because of compromised handling, but maybe the new 2017.5 Indiana-Imp could be a winner...but of course it uses sliding cones too.

80

Mazda 3 hatchback with automatic transmission

4,580

Good for you! My favorite FWD ecobox. I semi-race a supercharged Miata, and still regard Mazda as my favorite manufacturer. Though poor, now ell-separated from Ford, I hope they can survive, as handling, efficiency and reliability are their primary motivations. I think the new CX3 is perhaps overpriced, but it must be a fun AWD driver...did you consider it?

80

Considered the CX 5 actually.......

10

I've got a 2012 Impreza Sport. With a CVT Trans. I'm still paying it off (had a 6 year term for my loan). It has 94,400 miles on it. And I was just told that it needs a new transmission. Cost will be a minimum of $7,000. Which I don't have. At all. I called Subaru Headquarters and they are looking into seeing what they can do for me. Since I'm still paying it off does anyone here recommend anything specific? If I trade it in will I be limited to trading it into Subaru? Should I risk another CVT Transmission or move over to Manual? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

65,785

If you trade in a car that can't be driven you will get almost nothing in return. Installing a used CVT with warranty might be what you want. Install it and then sell while it is still under warranty. Pressure Subaru to do the right thing by you. Let us know what their response is. I personally would avoid any CVT and you have first hand knowledge of the reasons!

4,580

Payment status does not affect your freedom to trade your car anywhere. Continue to push SOA to "participate" strongly in covering your CVT. Note that used CVTs can be installed for about $2k, so it's not fatal. Do NOT "rebuild" your CVT, as that rarely works, as these are assembled new in "clean rooms"...conditions not replicable in the aftermarket. That said, newer CVTs...especially for the Imp, are supposed to be more durable. Their extraordinary efficiency can be weakly (I can see FOR's eyebrows rise!) seen as an unfortunate, but not ridiculous payback...but perhaps only in the expensive fuel environments for which they were made. At under $3/gal for fuel the payback equivalence is very weak, but at $8-10/gal (2- 3euros/liter) replacing a CVT for $2k every 100k mi approaches parity, and is certainly not a reason to regress toward a thirstier antiquated manual trans. OTOH the small Imp 2.0 motor struggles to wind up the CVT, and feels great with the 5 speed stick! Only with the larger Legacy/OB 2.5i does the CVT mate seamlessly. That this CVT's failures seem to be related primarily to either its torque converter ($$) or inner drive bearing (cheaper part) indicates that more robust engineering should be successful. But what a pain, eh? For three decades I've complained that Fuji should step up and spend more and damn the necessary 10% or so increase in list price. Now that AWD has succeeded in getting into mainstream acceptability they needn't give it away for the same price as FWD competitors. It's my understanding that SOA can be easily pushed to cover CVTs under 100k, just as they had to do so back in the nasty head gasket era. Nonetheless, I specialize in sorting pre-owned young specimens for their second 100k, and the creeping CVT failure rates do scare me. Sigh....

65,785

Good post Guru ;) lol

10

Thanks for the quick responses- F_O_R and TheSubaruGuruBoston. I did talk to my dealer and already asked them about used CVTs and they told me they don't handle them or use any used parts. My non-dealer mechanic can get his hands on a used CVT that has 40,000 miles on it- but the price was about 4 grand. And I don't know if that can be guaranteed. I think at this point I need to wait and see what SoA comes back with and go from there. I'm really hoping they come back with something good..

10

Well, SOA just called me and they are comping me a new transmission. So I'm back to being a happy girl right now! I just hope this new tranny will last me at least just as long.

1 of 1 people found this helpful.
4,580

Ta dah!

65,785

Good job Basianj!

My 2011 Outback CVT failed at 150,000 miles. I guess I'm lucky but I want to keep the car for now. After reading all the helpful posts I concluded that the car needed a transmission transplant but I would not pay the dealer $6k. SOA said they would only consider helping with cost if I submitted ALL maintenance records. Well that wasn't going to happen. I finally found a shop that would do the transplant. When the mechanic emptied the CVT oil he said it was full of crap that shouldn't be there. I found a 72k transmission from a rear end totalled outback at Butler Used Auto parts for $1400 plus $85 overnight freight, 6 mo. Warranty. My mechanic is planning on doing the transplant tomorrow. Hopefully back in the car by Friday. I am a bit nervous about taking a 150 mile trip this weekend without driving the car for a few days around areas that I'm familiar with. Some of the posts above about failures after transmission replacement are scary. Any thoughts about how to break in the used transmission to reduce my anxiety? I may delay my trip for a few days. I realize failure is not predictable. Just need to feel that I've taken a reasonably safe approach to drive testing the replacement. Typical suburban driving and 79 mph on highway with cruise control.

65,785

Good luck. A used transmission is already broken in.

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