Nissan vehicles that have a CVT-style transmission are prone to a myriad of issues. If you have been having problems with your CVT transmission lately, the stepper motor may be to blame.
Replacing this motor is a much less expensive alternative to replacing the valve body or the entire transmission.
Typically, you will have to replace your CVT stepper motor yourself. You can usually find a replacement stepper motor online for between $30-$40, although some sellers charge up to $100.
Nissan does not readily supply this part themselves, so a third-party vendor is your best bet.
Keep reading below to learn more about replacing your Nissan’s CVT stepper motor. We will discuss everything you need to know, including how to find this part, signs you may need to replace it, and how to change it yourself.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace a CVT Stepper Motor?
When your stepper motor stops working correctly, your check engine light will come on. If you bring your car to a Nissan dealership or third-party mechanic, they will likely tell you that you need a whole new transmission or valve body.
However, it is possible in many cases to solve this issue by replacing the stepper motor yourself. A new transmission can cost you anywhere from $2,000-$4,000, while a new valve body typically costs around $800.
Replacing the stepper motor, on the other hand, costs under $100, including all the tools you need.
|CVT Stepper Motor||Average Cost|
Most repair shops, including a Nissan dealership, will not sell you this part or replace it for you. They claim that the only true way to fix the problem is by purchasing a new transmission or valve body.
In order to save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars, try replacing the CVT stepper motor yourself first.
What is a CVT Stepper Motor?
The stepper motor is a piece of equipment on all Nissan models that have a CVT transmission. This type of transmission features less moving parts than a traditional automatic transmission.
Instead of using up to nine fixed gears to transmit power, a CVT uses just two pulleys (variable in diameter) and a high-strength belt or chain.
In a CVT (continuously variable transmission), the stepper motor connects to the ratio control arm and ratio control valve. Most older vehicles with a CVT transmission have a stepper motor. However, it has been phased out on some new vehicles.
The ratio control valve changes the transmission ratio by adjusting the amount of pressure in the pulleys.
The transmission control module sends a specific pattern of signals to the stepper motor, allowing it to extend or contract to change the ratio control valve’s position.
When your transmission detects an issue with these ratios, it sends either a P1778 or P1777 error code to the vehicle’s computer. This will illuminate the check engine light, and let you know there is a problem with the vehicle’s transmission.
Symptoms of a Bad Stepper Motor
Most Nissans that use a CVT transmission include a stepper motor. Many owners of these vehicles, especially older ones, have reported significant issues when accelerating.
Some of these problems include
In some cases, owners have even experienced premature failure with their CVT transmission. Nissan addressed this issue by making some significant hardware updates, starting with their 2013 models. However, older vehicles are still very susceptible to these types of problems.
What Nissan Models Use a CVT Transmission?
Nissan first began using CVT transmissions in 1992. Because there are fewer moving parts, experts believed that it would reduce the amount of friction and heat inside the transmission. This suggested that CVT transmissions would last longer than typical automatic transmissions.
The first major application of this technology was seen on the 2003 Nissan Murano.
While it may vary based on the year of your vehicle, the following models usually use CVT transmissions
Currently, the Nissan Armada, Frontier, Leaf, Titan, 370Z, and GT-R are the only models that do not use a CVT transmission.
If you are not positive whether your vehicle uses a CVT transmission, check your owner’s manual. You will find all the information you need here.
When to Replace Your Nissan’s CVT Stepper Motor
Replacing your Nissan’s CVT stepper motor is a fairly simple job. It will only take approximately one hour for the average person to complete.
In some cases, changing your transmission fluid is all you will need to do to fix the error. OEM Nissan CVT transmission fluid costs between $20-$30 for one quart. Make sure to use only OEM fluids, because you do not want to accidentally make the problem worse!
If you still have the issue after changing your transmission fluid, you can move forward with the stepper motor replacement. Before you begin, however, you may want to test it to be sure the stepper motor is the cause of the problem.
How to Test Your Stepper Motor
You can check to see if your CVT stepper motor is functioning correctly by testing its main circuits. If the resistance between the pins is off, replacing the stepper motor will likely solve your transmission problems.
To test the main circuits, you will need to get an ohmmeter. These tools can vary widely in price, but basic models usually only cost between $10-$20.
Once you have your ohmmeter, check the resistance between each stepper motor pin. You can do this by looking into the stepper motor connector.
The stepper motor’s winding one pin numbers are one, two, and three. The winding two pin numbers are four, five, and six. The resistance between each pair listed below should be 15 ohms:
The resistance between each pair listed below should be 15 ohms
1 and 2
2 and 3
4 and 5
5 and 6
The resistance between pins 1 and 3 should be 30 ohms. This should be the same between pins 4 and 6. If your ohmmeter tells you that the resistance between pins is anything else, it may be time to replace the stepper motor.
How to Replace a Nissan CVT Stepper Motor
Most mechanics, including those at the Nissan dealership, will refuse to replace a CVT stepper motor. Instead, they may push you toward purchasing a new transmission or valve body. Because of this, you will likely have to replace the stepper motor yourself.
Make sure to be extremely careful while replacing this component. Your transmission is a very delicate (and very expensive!) piece of machinery. You never want to make any mistakes that will worsen your problem.
Before you begin, gather the following tools and materials:
|Product Name||Average Cost|
|Nissan OEM CVT transmission fluid||$20-$30 per quart|
Once you have your tools, you can remove and replace the stepper motor. Carefully follow the steps below to do so:
- Drain the old transmission fluid from your vehicle.
- Remove the transmission fluid pan, then clean it out with brake cleaner.
- Next, loosen the three bolts that hold the transmission filter onto your vehicle. Once the bolts are loose, remove the filter.
- Take out all the bolts that are holding the valve body to your vehicle. Typically, you’ll have to loosen approximately 11 bolts. Now, you can remove the valve body.
- You will find the stepper motor located at the top of your valve body. To remove the old motor, you will have to loosen the two bolts holding it onto the body.
- Install the new stepper motor in place of the old one.
- Using about a foot-long piece of dental floss, hold the spring-loaded arm back against your new stepper motor. Carefully reinstall the valve body back onto your transmission with the floss still in place.
- Once you’ve replaced all the bolts on your valve body, remove the dental floss. Then, fully tighten the bolts.
- Reconnect your transmission filter, making sure each bolt goes back into place.
- Replace the transmission fluid pan. Then, refill it with your CVT transmission fluid.
This whole process is relatively quick, and should not take you any longer than an hour. However, it is critical that you take as much time as you need to do everything carefully.
Your transmission is one of the most important components in your vehicle, and any damage will be expensive to repair.
The Bottom Line
It’s only natural to feel frustrated, anxious, and upset when you find out that your vehicle is having transmission problems.
Replacing a transmission or valve body can be prohibitively expensive, but replacing the CVT stepper motor may solve the problem.
The stepper motor itself should not cost you more than $30-$40. The materials and tools you need to do the job will cost a total amount of $35-$75.
While a new transmission or valve body can cost thousands, replacing the stepper motor will cost under $100 when all is said and done.