The Best CVT Fluids: Top Picks for Lubrication

These top CVT transmission fluids will keep your car running smoothly.

Best Overall

Valvoline Continuously Variable Transmission Fluid

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Best Value

Cam 2 Full Synthetic CVT Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Castrol Transmax Universal Fluid

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Unless you‘re a diehard proponent of a stick shift and are holding steadfast to traditional gear changing, your car probably has a CVT. These transmissions smoothly move between an unrestricted number of gear ratios during driving, resulting in increased fuel economy and an easier time with hilly terrain. Now, a CVT system won’t work its vehicular magic on its own — you have to feed it a healthy supply of transmission fluid. 

And, if you really want your transmission to hum, using the best CVT fluids is the only way to go. To help you along, we’ve sourced the best CVT fluids on the market, along with tips on taking care of your transmission. 

Types of CVT Fluid

CVT-Specific Fluid 

Not all continuously variable transmissions are made alike. In fact, there are three subtypes of these transmissions: pulley, toroidal, and hydrostatic. The first is also called a belt-run system. It uses interconnected pulleys as opposed to gears to complete transitions. Toroidal models rely on rollers and discs to get the job done. A hydrostatic model relies on pumps to control fluid and rotational movement. Because of the different hardware employed to achieve gear transitions, there are available fluids to accommodate the specific target friction coefficient of each subtype. If you are looking to go the extra mile in caring for your transmission, though these might cost a bit extra, the specialized formula often makes it worth it. 

OEM Transmission Fluid 

This type of transmission fluid has a big market share, partly due to its compatibility with service contracts. It’s usually made by a subsidiary of the manufacturer itself, meaning the formula is curated to that exact vehicle — factoring in things like heat dissemination and engine model. There are some OEM transmission fluids that are fairly versatile, boasting a long list of vehicles with which they are compatible, while others only work on select models. 

Universal Transmission Fluid

There are two ways to break down the concept of universal transmission fluid. The first is the most common: CVT fluid that works on all continuously variable transmissions. If it’s touted as a universal model, you can expect it to work whether your car relies on a pulley system or hydrostatic setup. Preferred to those newer to car maintenance, you can find high-end formulas, complete with effective base oils and efficient additives. 

The other approach to universal transmission fluid is when the formula reportedly works on both ATF and CVTs. Some companies have achieved impressive results with these synthetic formulas; but, unless the product has proven itself on the market, avoid this type. If you end up with a solution that is actually meant for an ATF transmission, you could do serious (and irreparable damage to the vehicle). If you’re looking for universal use, make sure it is a CVT-specific universal application. 

CVT Fluid Pricing

  • $15 to $20: This is typically what you will pay for a quart of CVT fluid. A manufacturer’s “genuine” CVT fluid maybe a little more expensive than a universal brand.
  • Over $50: Expect to pay this amount for 6 quarts of transmission fluid.  Pay attention to the quantity because some brands sell quarts, while others sell gallons of transmission fluid. European brands favor liters.

Best CVT Fluids Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall

Valvoline Continuously Variable Transmission Fluid

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Best Value

Cam 2 Full Synthetic CVT Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Castrol Transmax Universal Transmission Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Amalie Universal Synthetic CVT Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Idemitsu Type N Plus Transmission Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Lucas Synthetic CVT Fluid

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Honorable Mention

ACDelco Dex-CVT Fluid

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Honorable Mention

Red Line Non-Slip Continuously Variable Transmission Fluid

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