DIY - Change your CVT Fluid
Ok first off I apologize for not having pictures for this. I was pretty busy this weekend and working on the car is a messy task - aka I didn't want to get my digital camera dirty.
I changed my CVT fluid this past weekend, and since I don't see a DIY writeup for this (like oil changes, brakes, or cabin filters) on the forum, here it goes. My procedure differs from the FSM, which requires more fluid. I chose a 30,000 mile interval mainly because I am still not 100% convinced of the CVT's durability and its not that expensive since I do the work myself. Some will say its overkill, but again its not like I am leasing the vehicle, nor did I pay $1500 for an extended warranty. Those who prefer to stick with extended intervals probably have their maintenance performed by the dealership and wouldn't find a DIY writeup useful anyways.
6-7 quarts Nissan NS-2 CVT fluid ($18/qt from Courtesy Nissan) - I actually used 5.5qts, but get 6 or 7 to be safe.
19mm socket wrench
Small flathead screwdriver
Copper gasket - same as the one used for the oil pan drain plug (69 cents from Courtesy Nissan)
A very narrow spout funnel (for some reason they seem to always come in orange - anyways, its $2 from Walmart)
1) Drive the car for about 15 minutes to warm up the transmission fluid - warm fluid flows faster
2) Park on a level surface, apply the parking brake (!)
3) Optional - jack up the car and place on jackstands, all four corners (remember the car needs to be level for a proper drain)
4) The CVT oil pan is located on the drivers side - easy to find because the big metal/plastic scoop we love for drawing pictures in the snow is right in front of it
5) The CVT drain plug is located on the back half of the oil pan
6) Place a large container (8 qts recommended) beneath the drain plug
7) Remove drain plug with a 19mm socket
8) Be careful! Oil will be quite warm and gushes out very quickly. You might want to wear a pair of latex gloves for this.
9) Allow 10-15 minutes for CVT fluid to drain out.
10) Important - pour used CVT fluid into separate containers - I used old 1 gallon water jugs - to calculate approximately how much fluid you should add back in - in my case, it filled a little less than 1-1/2 gallon jugs, so I estimated 5-1/2 quarts.
11) Remove the old copper gasket - I used a flathead screwdriver to pry it up, then unscrewed it from the threads
12) Replace with new copper gasket
13) Reinstall the drain plug - hand tighten with socket wrench - similar to how you hand tighten the oil drain plug (i.e. a few strong tugs after the gasket has been flattened)
14) The CVT dipstick is also the charging pipe to add new CVT fluid. It is locked into place with a plastic tab. Use one tip on the nose of pliers (opened) to push in the plastic tab facing the front of the car, then pull up to release the dipstick. I used the pliers because the first time I removed the dipstick, I used the small flathead screwdriver, and ended up breaking the plastic tab! The dealer replaced the dipstick for me for free though.
15) Using the narrow neck funnel, which should fit neatly into the CVT tube, refill with NS-2 fluid the same amount you drained out.
16) Reinsert the CVT dipstick with the plastic tab rotated 180 degrees (i.e. so it does not lock) - this makes it easier later on to check the CVT fluid level.
17) Take your MO for a test drive, and with the engine at operating temperature (again 10-15 minutes drive), shift through all the gears and then back to park (this is what the FSM says, but its a CVT, so I dunno why you need to do it).
18) With the engine idling and gear in Park, pull the CVT dipstick and check the level - it should be within the normal range. If low, add CVT fluid as required, 1/4 quart at a time (then recheck).
19) When level is correct, reinsert the CVT dipstick so that the plastic tab locks in place again.
20) Finished. Your CVT thanks you for taking care of it.
Curiously, I noticed when I checked the old fluid using the dipstick it looked clear. When I drained it, it was an amber color, slightly darker than new motor oil. The new NS-2 fluid I added was a greenish clear color.
Update: Make sure to take the used CVT oil to a local automotive fluid recycling facility (a store like Autozone or Kragen for example) for proper processing. DO NOT pour it down the drain.
2003 Midnight Blue SE AWD w/VDC
Colgan Bra, Mobil One, JWT POP charger
PAC aux input adapter, hardwired Escort Passport x50, KUDA mount for MP3 player, Porterfield R4S brake pads (now Akebono ProACT), ATE Superblue
Yokohama Envigor (much improved over stock Goodyears)
Lots of squeaks and rattles.