What You Need to Know About the Ford CVT Transmission

Posted by on Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

Ford Five Hundred

The Ford Five Hundred, which features the Ford CVT transmission.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The Ford CVT transmission is the CFT 30. Built by ZF-Batavia, it was standard equipment in the Ford Freestyle, the Ford Five Hundred, and the Mercury Montego from a few years ago. With many of these vehicles starting to rack up the miles, it won’t be long before you start seeing them showing up in your shop. So here’s a look at the CFT 30’s design, its most common problems, and some handy repair tips.

The Basics of the Ford CVT Transmission

The CFT 30 is designed so the engine will always operate at optimum efficiency. Power flows continuously throughout acceleration and there are no discrete gears. The CFT 30 is transversely located in the automobile. It has two variator assemblies that use a belt/pulley system, with distances between the pulleys always varying, just like with other CVTs. Power flows from the variators to a single planetary gear, which transfers power to the wheels for both forward and reverse motion.

The Ford CVT transmission is controlled by a combination electronic/hydraulic assembly referred to as the Mechatronic unit, which is inside the CFT 30. The transmission uses a torque converter with a lock-up clutch.

Troubleshooting the CFT 30

The first signs of trouble with the transmission are usually odd or unexpected noises. These sounds can provide valuable clues to what is going on inside the case. Here are some examples:

  • Thumping, knocking, or whining when the vehicle is in neutral or park, but the noises go away when it is in motion? This can be caused by wear spots on the roller bearing or input shaft. Recommended procedure: use chassis ears to pinpoint the sounds; if the source is within the transaxle, then keep tabs on turbine shaft speed with a scanner.  If the noises disappear when the TSS_SRC value goes to zero and the car goes into gear, then a faulty input shaft and bearing is the cause.
  • Ticking noises as vehicle slows, especially from 20 mph to full stop? If the vehicle has front-wheel drive (FWD), and if the sounds are focused on the final drive section of the CFT 30, then the differential assembly and transfer gear are at fault. If the vehicle has all-wheel drive (AWD), then pull the power transfer unit, reinstall the half-shafts, unhook the differential electronic module (DEM), and take the vehicle for a test drive.  If the noises are gone, then the problem is outside the transmission. If they are still present, then change out the transaxle differential and transfer gear, shim the differential assembly, and set the correct reload.

Detecting Internal Leaks

The Ford CVT transmission relies on higher internal pressures than conventional transmissions, from 200-250 PSI normally. At times, however, pressures can exceed 1000 PSI. This can cause seal leaks, which normally show up as codes P0840, P0845, P0868, P0871, or P0961 on a scanner. The transmission has seven feed tubes with sealing rings, and repairing damage to these rings can often resolve the trouble codes.

If seal repair doesn’t do the trick, then the only alternative is to replace the Mechatronic unit. This can cost the customer over $1000 in parts and labor, so make sure they want you to proceed before doing the work.

The Ford CVT transmission is a well-built, reliable unit overall. As these transmissions age, however, you’re going to see more and more of them in your shop. Having the ability to service them will set you apart from competitors, increasing your customer base and, of course, your bottom line.

If you’re looking for a quality remanufactured transmission, then you won’t do better than ETE REMAN. That’s why we offer a three-year/unlimited mileage warranty on all our products. Browse our online catalog and contact us today.

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