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Ford Freestyle CVT Transmissions



  • nutabug, There will only be a recall if a high enough percentage of CVT Freestyle transmissions are failing. So far, that appears not to be the case. For the record, I had a transmission go out on me when merging on to a freeway a few years ago, and it was a conventional (non-CVT) automatic tranny in a Mitsubishi Galant. Also, my parent's '91 Ford Taurus had the tranny go out on them, and it was not a CVT. From these experiences we could all conclude that "All '91 Taurus transmissions and all Galant transmissions will strand you.", but we are smarter than that. Percentages are all that matter. My '05 F150 and '05 Freestyle have been nearly flawless, BTW.
  • The Freestyle/Five Hundred is not a rare beast at all so why not avoid the $6300 reaming and consider buying a used CVT transmission from a recycler for $800-1000? Most recyclers even offer a short warantee so you can see if the unit works well. I ran a search and there were dozens of used low-mileage CVTs available.
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    I was crossing a busy intersection yesterday when my 06 Freestyle simply stopped. A semi is heading towards me and I feel my heart rate triple (at the very least). I turned the car off, quickly restarted in, threw it in gear and consider myselft MOST fortunate that it BOLTED across the street. Otherwise, there was really NOTHING that semi could have done to prevent what would have certainly been an awful accident. The engine light came on, as well as the wrench light. I made it back to my office and did some quick research on what these symbols were an indicator for....I thought to way can it be transmission. Hell, I've all ready had to replace the rear brakes (odd for a front wheel drive vehicle).

    I took it to a local repair shop near my work because where I purchased it is 45 miles away and the vehicle was in "safe" mode. I did call the dealer where I bought it and spoke to the Supvervisor of Repairs. I'm sooooo glad I called there otherwise I would never have known that the reason there are so many repair shops across the US is because cars break down. A TRUE genius right there !!!!!

    Diagnosis.....The transmission is completely shot ! I're all shocked. ;)
    $5600 to buy a new one....2900 to buy a re-manned one ( from FORD) natually. 3600 for the remanned, installed. This decision to move forward came ONLY after I called every tranmission shop listed to see if they would work on it....The second you say these three letter C-V-T, they immediately lose any interest. That says it all !!!

    Seeing how FORD stopped using these in 07 I hold FORD accountable for my near miss and for everyone on this post who has been in the same position. There is a right and wrong and people ought to know the difference.

    I will push this as far as I possibly can.
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    I'm with you on this one, nutabug. I just sent an email directly to the FORD headquarters regarding this issue. ( as my 06 Freestyle sits in the repair shop waiting 4-5 days for a remanned transmission (from FORD) to arrive. I did receive confirmation that I should hear back from them in 2 business days.
    I will post their response.

    They should be accountable for thier product - PERIOD ! There is a right and a wrong and people just ought to know the difference.

    A :lemon: is a :lemon: .
  • I guess both of my cars are worthless pieces of junk!! Let me explain......

    First of all, the CVT transmission is very similar to what a snow-mobile uses, or a hydrostatic transmission on a lawnmower - couple belts/chains sliding around to what the driver desires for speed. This is nothing new in terms of technology........

    Ford's CVT was designed in part by ZF, a respected German company, to be manufactured in the United States. This transmission is very similar to what Audi has used in the past.

    This transmission, like any modern transmissions is expensive. Ford had sourced an Aisin, which builds Toyota and many other transmission brands, for the other D3 FWD models. This model is very expensive to replace as well. After Ford had the JV transmission with GM, the Aisin was no longer needed, and dropped as a result. Ford terminated this transmission for two main reasons: cost and a new engine. This transmission is very unique, rare and costly to produce (dis-economies of scale). Ford also came out with a new generation of Duratec engines that would not tolerate the transmission because of the torque they produced.

    Ford renamed the Freestyle the Taurus X after Alan came over and took the helm; he wanted the Taurus name back because of the strong brand name that had been built, and destroyed in the name of cost cutting.

    As an owner of a 05 Freestyle SE and 05 Five Hundred SE (both with CVT), and another family member who owns a 05 Five Hundred with 200,000 + miles , I can attest that this transmission in terms of ownership, is no diferent than my previous vehicles that required 30,000 mile service.

    Yes, the valve body (Mechatronic unit) was replaced on my 500 and the one with 200k (at 185k), at a cost of ZERO dollars to me because of a warranty, and a cost of 1300 dollars to a car with 185k on it, that was a little expensive for a valve body. Pretty low cost of ownership I'd say........

    The key to a long lasting transmission is to change the fluid, filters at or before the suggested interval. Problems do happen, but the ZF CVT is no more or less reliable than any other of its peers.....If something does happen to any modern (sorry, the good old GM Hydramatic that is still used today doesn't count!) transmission, its going to cost the owner some money. The good thing is that these happen few and far between; and the tradeoff is long life.

    I just wanted to set the record straight :)
  • 01taurussel, I agree. I had heard the CVT is no longer in production because Ford didn't like the cost to make it compared to the cheaper 6-speed tranny they shared the development costs with GM to put in almost all their vehicles. Economics. And, notice that Consumer Reports has surveyed thousands of people over the last few years and found that the CVT breaks down less often than the average of all automatic transmissions out there.

    Thats not to say that I don't sympathize with those who have had a CVT fail. Its just that we need to have the perspective to understand that ALL automatic transmissions (of any design) can fail suddenly for any reason, and a certain percentage do! Its kind of like tires on cars: Michelin and Goodyear, for example, know that a certain percentage of their tires will blow up on the road. As engineering companies, they know they can't keep 100% of their tires from blowing out, so they won't really investigate hard if only 0.1% or so of their tires out there blow out for unknown reasons. Now if that 0.1% number rises to, say, 1%, then Michelin or Goodyear will take notice and investigate, finding the root cause and doing something about it. Also, the NHTSA is there to do something when those companies might try to cover a high failure rate up or make excuses. Even the NHTSA doesn't really care if the failure rate of those tires is low enough!
  • had our 2005 FS in for the 60k service on Friday at the dealer we bought it from and which has done all services so far. When i picked it up i expected a heavy bill but not so. I didn't find the CVT fluid change on the list.

    I asked and the service manager told me that transmission is a sealed unit ("it doesn't even have a dip stick") and it does not require a fluid change. I told him i knew it different and even pointed out that it's mentioned in the maintenance booklet. He insisted that it's just a generic maintenance booklet and that this particular transmission does not require the fluid to be changed. Never - unless something goes wrong.

    He even put that statement and his name on the bill so i am covered in case something goes wrong. I did not discuss it further, seemed to be useless. Although i must say that i'm a bit puzzled now by this very strong statement.

    This is a major Ford dealer in Houston and i am sure they have sold plenty of FS and 500 with the CVT. This experience just tells me that they still don't know much about the CVT. Lack of training or interest?

    Now imagine how much they can do wrong if they do work on it. I still want the fluid to be changed and i'll try to find a dealer who can handle it. Any suggestions from other Houstonians?
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    People WON the class action lawsuit against Saturn for the very same transmission.

    I just spoke to the top rated transmission specialists in the State of Florida and even HE will not touch it. He actually suggested the law suit.

    FORD has a monopoly on everything. You want to replace your CVT ? You have to go through FORD ! You want to get a re-manned one ? Go through Ford ! You want ANY work done on the CVT......SURPRIZE !!! Must go through FORD. I will be posting the response I got from FORD addressing this issue.

    Oh, and they attached a link so that I can view and get a good deal on a new FORD. Are they F*&%! kidding me ? :lemon:
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    It definitely has a dip stick. Why would they NOT check it ? The CVT transmission has had sooooooo many problems, I believe it was a lack of knowledge OR more likely, a lack of interest!

    NOBODY wants to work on the CVT. Saturn lost a class action lawsuit over this very trasmission.

    My 06 Freestyle is sitting in the shop waiting for a remanned transmission from, guess who??? FORD !!! They've got the market cornered. !

    That's REALLY bad when a DEALER doesn't even want to work on one ! :lemon:

    Not happy in Florida !
  • sinder, Wrong you are. That Saturn (GM) CVT is NOT the same CVT that our Fords have. Our Fords have the German ZF brand CVT, also found in MiniCoopers and Audi cars. GM's CVT was their own design, and it was failing in large enough percentages to create a problem.

    Also, there are a few maintenance points about the CVT to remember:

    1. The Ford CVT should never be flushed, only drained.

    2. It needs a part number FT-178 Motorcraft filter/o-ring "high-pressure filter kit" installed at 60,000 miles. (Note this is not the pan filter, which is another filter lower in the unit.)

    3. Ford says never replace the pan filter, although I might do it at 150,000 miles or so.

    4. The CVT fluid is unique, and most can be simply drained out of it, but you can't get to the fluid stuck in the torque convertor part of the unit, so just be satisfied with draining as much as will come out, and the dealer will replace the drained fluid with fresh fluid at 60,000 mile intervals. That is good enough for this CVT.

    5. The 60,000 mile CVT service costs anywhere from $290 to $400, depending on which Ford dealership you go to.

    6. Tranny shops like AAMCO, etc., for example, make a living off of "normal" automatic transmissions and don't usually know much about our unique Ford/ZF/MiniCooper/Audi CVT. They might know about the Jatco CVTs found on Nissans and Chryslers (maybe Mitsubishi, not sure...) since there are now so many out there, but most mechanics at independent shops are only trained on the old-style geared automatic "slush-boxes".

    7. I have found Ford service advisors to not be very knowledgeable about the CVT, so don't be suprised if you have to take my list here and walk your Ford service advisor through it, although the mechanics have usually had special Ford training on it and know what to do (usually!).

    8. Most, if not all, of the CVTs don't have dipsticks, as you have to remove a plug and then get a special dipstick part we don't have to check the level. Don't check the level. Just make sure you aren't leaking any on your driveway/garage floor and you'll be fine.
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    A little late there, coldcranker...My 06 Freestyle sits in the shop as we speak, waiting on a remmaned trannie because whos' got $5600 for a new one and why in the ##$$ would I want to give FORD another dime of my money?

    So, no....I am not fine.

    And if FORD dealerships/service advisors don't know about one of thier own products, then everyone on this thread needs to be extremely concerned.

    I have had my oil changed every 3k miles, without fail and have kept up with all the maintenace on my freestyle. I should NOT have learn about CVT's. I am NOT a mechanic. I am a consumer who EXPECTS the manufacturer of a product that I worked my butt off to pay for, to have just a clue about it and it's problems.

    Besides, I'm just a bit miffed ,coldcranker because I was almost in what would have certainly been an awful accident because my freestyle just stopped running. No acceleration, NOTHING and I had a semi coming my way. So, yes, I hold FORD accountable...

    The bottom line is that there is a right and a wrong and people ought to know the difference.

    CVT-VTi....yes, different makers---German vs Szentgotthard, Hungary. End result ??? The same !

    GM settles lawsuit over faulty Saturn transmissions

    Automotive News
    September 11, 2008 - 6:00 pm ET

    General Motors has settled a class-action lawsuit involving early transmission failures in the more than 90,000 Saturn vehicles carrying its VTi continuously variable transmission.

    The settlement, which has preliminary approval from a federal judge, could cost GM more than $100 million, said Rob Schmeider, a plaintiffs' lawyer from the Lakin Law Firm of Wood River, Ill.

    The settlement applies to owners of 2002 to 2005 Saturn Vues or 2003 or 2004 Saturn Ions with failed VTi transmissions, which cost around $4,000 to $5,000 to replace, Schmeider said. The percentage of individual plaintiffs' expenses that will be paid depends on the mileage of the vehicle when the transmission failed, and whether owners purchased the vehicle new or used.

    If the judge grants approval, all people listed on qualifying vehicle titles will receive claim forms for past and future expenses related to failure of the VTi transmission before vehicles reach 125,000 miles. The settlement applies to VTis that fail within eight years of the model year.

    U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb has scheduled a hearing Feb. 17 in Sacramento. Calif., to weigh final approval of the settlement.

    GM could not release details or comment on Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

    The VTi transmission, which Saturn discontinued after 2005, uses a steel belt and adjustable pulleys to keep the engine running in its most efficient rpm range. GM touted it as 7 percent more fuel efficient than the automatic transmissions Saturn was producing at the time.

    The transmission, designed by GM Powertrain, was made in an Adam Opel AG plant in Szentgotthard, Hungary.
  • Wife had an 02 Civic EX.......under warranty and the transmission slipped. Guess what? Honda Replaced it- didn't fix it. Transmissions (unless its a good old GM 4 spd), are complex these days. They have grade logic, 6-7 heck even 8 speeds in a car that costs more than my condo value.......(BTW, Honda transmissions are not GM 4L60E - they are $$$)

    Go buy a Porsche, or a Jaguar, even take a look at the equipment that I purchase for the company I work for - you have to buy the parts available (made by the manufacturer because of economies of scale and patents). We pay absurb amounts for maintaining the equipment we own because its not like a Dell computer that needs a new keyboard - can't just be replaced on a whim. Parts have to be ordered, made, etc........We save a ton on buying used equipment though :)

    Ford dropped the ball on the CVT in terms of dealership training. They use the word "tranny flush" - which is sac-religious in terms of a CVT fluid change...

    Every manufacturer has their problems (Honda transmissions anyone?), and Ford did a good job, all things considered with the CVT. It wasn't a major disaster :)
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    Ford did a GOOD job, all things considered ? Then why don't you go ahead and pony up the $5600 to have mine replaced whilst I search for a ride to work everyday, waiting on the parts to come in.

    Let's just say it wasn't a disaster for YOU ! But it is for ME !

    Would you have considered HONDA to have "done a good job, all things considered" if they did NOT replace your wife's transmission and you got on the net and found all kinds of people having the same troubles?

    Not likely! :(

    The designers/engineers seem to design NOT for the road or for a repair., but SIMPLY for the assembly line.

    Why suggest buying a Porshe or Jag.....Apparrently, I cannot even own a FORD !

    Oh, and thanks for educating me on the cost differential between a computer keyboard and a FORD CVT transmission. :lemon:

    Yes, I'm a little upset.
  • sinder, The main point is that you would have had a greater chance of transmission failure if you had bought a vehicle with a normal, non-CVT automatic transmission. This is based on surveys done every year to thousands of Freestyle owners, showing the CVT is more reliable than regular automatics. See Consumer Reports at the library. I think they come out with the auto reliability ratings every April.

    Still, it may be possible to get a class action lawsuit going if enough Freestyle/500 owners banded together. A lawyer would know for sure, but it may be difficult to convince a judge to go forward with the lawsuit and/or win it, if the fact that the CVT fails less often than regular automatics is brought up.
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    Well, coldcranker....It's NOT just the Freestyle that these CVT's are in.

    My research (and I am early into it because I will NOT let this be swept under the rug) shows these transmissions of forms of (ie TVi) in the Nissan Rogue, Sentra, Ultima, Maxima......

    All kinds of problems here as well as with the Audi, Ford 500 Mercury Montego, Ford Fiesta, Fiat Uno, Subuaru Kei.....

    So it will not just be Freestyle owners that I will be talking to. It will be as many people as I can find that have had problems with CVT transmissions.

    The "normal" transmissions can generally be fixed/rebuilt etc. CVT's cannot. The parts (at outrageous prices) must come directly from FORD who then has to "special order" them....this goes for rebuilt trannies as well. Some people had to wait weeks and even months.

    And if you read back through this post, you will find that there are many FORD dealers don't even want to work on them or don't have a clue how to fix them, thereby forcing us to buy a new or used one.

    It's a faily simple concept......FORD owns your butt if your CVT fails and they don't much care what it cost US to repair it because they KNOW the money is coming back to them. :mad:

    I still say there is a right and a wrong and people ought to know the difference. the way, after contacting the FORD Headquarters directly, they "in a nut shell" said.....Hate it for you....but here's a link to our new line of 2010 Fords.... Are you kidding me??? :lemon:
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    I'm with you on this one nutabug, she said as her 2006 Freestyle sits in the shop waiting for a rebuilt transmission. (Naturally-NOBODY in the transmission business will touch the one IN the vehicle.

    Talk about "what if" ? I was almost in what would have been a BRUTAL accident. My Freestyle just stopped moving foward as I was crossing a very busy intersection. Pressed the accelerator to the floor ??? NOTHING !!!! No RPMs, nothing and a Semi truck was headed my way.

    I turned the car off, quickly turned it back on, put in into drive and then it BOLTS across the street (scary but thankful)

    Next, the wrench light came on and the engine lighe and I am running in "safe" mode a mile to a dealer. You know the rest... :lemon:

    I'm NOT letting this go !!!!!! :lemon: I have already contacted FORD and they have pretty much dismissed me because my warranty ran out at 60k and I have 67k on mine.

    Well, hate it for THEM, that's NOT a good enough answer. I am working hard to collect data and will push this as far and as hard as I can! :sick:
  • sindersinder Posts: 37
    Just called Hub City FORD in Crestview, FL and asked them (Brent) if I had any recourse regarding this issue. Brent reminded me that he did offer an extended warrantly and I declined it and that there is NOTHING else he will do about it. This is true. The car had 39k miles BUT the warrantly was still good until 60K.

    I told him I knew I didn't buy the ext. warranty but he touted the CVT as being the be-all and end all of transmissions. He was right about one thing.....It's the end all of transmissions.

    He said there is nothing he will do for me and hung up on me. Sheesh, you'd think he'd at least offer to take a look at the thing. :mad: There you have it ladies and gentleman, that's an example of Hub-city Fords customer service. :( Pretty sad to say the least.

    Let's not leave out Mike, the Supv. of Maintenance. Thank goodness for him because it was HE that educated me that the reason there are repair shops all over the United States is because cars fail. Whew...a genius right there !
  • Lets make clear that all CVTs out there are not the same design and brand.

    German ZF: Audi, MiniCooper, Freestyle/500
    Japanese Jatco: Nissan, Chrysler
    American GM: Saturn
    Others: Mitsubishi, Fuji Heavy (Subaru), etc.

    Of all those, the only CVT design that really has durability problems at a high enough frequency of failure is the GM one specifically. The MiniCooper flavor of the ZF did have some problems, but that was in some early versions only.

    The main point here: Don't lump all CVT trannies into the same category. The GM ones are the only ones that stand out as a failure in execution. The design principles are sound, as Nissan has bet heavily on the durability, using the Jatco brand units in many of their vehicles, and Nissan knows what they are doing.
  • bobw3bobw3 Posts: 2,997
    I agree. I think cost is the biggest factor that's preventing manufacturers from using CVTs, not reliability.
  • My brothers '05 Freestyle tranny dumped out on him & his family the day after Christmas in VA. It's the fourth time since he bought it in '05, all for the same reason except this time he's 2k over on his 75k extended warranty. Local Ford dealership, the place he bought it & had it fixed the three other times, are asking 6k for a new tranny or 2k for a rebuilt.

    Sucks for him. He's on vacation from NC and has to be back at work on Jan 5th. He's going to shitcan the POS and go "Japanese" ...I don't blame him.
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