Toyota recently announced a recall of about 3,400 of the recently-released 2019 Corolla hatchbacks due to a faulty component in these hatchbacks’ continuously variable transmission (CVT). If this CVT component fails while the Corolla is moving, the vehicle could lose power, increasing the risk of a crash. This risk is heightened even further if the failure occurs when the car is traveling quickly, as drivers may not have enough time (or room) to maneuver the stalling Corolla to the side of the highway.
Fortunately, Toyota has announced that repairs are coming soon, at no cost to consumers—although some drivers are worried enough about the risks of CVT failure that they’ve already opted to take out a loaner vehicle or find an alternate means of transportation until repairs can be scheduled.
What is the Problem?
Toyota’s CVT is designed to save fuel by making sure the engine works as efficiently as possible. The optimal engine speed is around 5,000 revolutions per minute (RPMs), and traditional five- or six-speed automatic transmissions may have to clumsily shift between gears to try to maintain this engine speed. For example, cruising through town at a sedate 40 miles per hour can cause your transmission to constantly shift between fourth and fifth gear as it tries to keep the engine RPMs at a steady level, reducing efficiency and adding extra wear and tear to the gears.
But a CVT has a “universal gear,” which allows it to maintain a steady RPM by making minor adjustments, not major shifts. Because they’re so easily able to remain at an efficient RPM, CVTs provide greater fuel economy than automatic or even manual transmissions and, generally, will accelerate far more quickly than automatic or manual transmission vehicles.
However, Toyota’s recall is the latest in a series of CVT-related recalls. Both Honda and Nissan are facing class-action lawsuits that allege that their CVTs are defective and have caused both physical and property damage to affected drivers. The lawsuit against Honda claims that certain CVTs will erroneously indicate that they are in “park” mode while still in “drive” mode, potentially causing the vehicle to roll away when the driver exits. Meanwhile, the Nissan lawsuit alleges more general defects like engine stalling, slow acceleration, and irregular shifting patterns.
What is Toyota’s Proposed Solution?
The recall expressly excludes Toyota Corolla sedans or Corolla hatchbacks that have manual transmissions instead of CVTs. Toyota is still working on the logistics of replacing any affected CVTs but plans to alert all owners of record as soon as it is able to repair (or replace) these transmissions. These repairs should be available at no cost to impacted owners.