Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter: Causes and How to Fix it ?

The torque converter plays a significant role in automatic transmission vehicles. It needs to be in good working order if you’re going to have a nice and smooth ride. If it fails, you’re in trouble. The torque converter is a fluid or hydraulic coupling that converts rotating power generated by the vehicle rotating driven force to mechanical power.

The torque converter serves as an alternative to mechanical clutch disc, plate, and fork in automatic transmission vehicles. The torque converter is usually found between the transmission and the engine flexplate. After reading this article, you will know the various parts of the torque converter, the symptoms of a bad torque converter, and how to fix torque converter problems yourself. You will be able to tell a bad torque converter vs bad transmission.

Torque Converter Parts

The torque converter of every automatic transmission vehicle has four parts.

Torque converter parts

Stator: The stator is the reel conductor of the torque converter. It is the brain of the torque converter. The stator regulates the flow of fluid inside the converter, and it is in charge of the converter’s torque amplification. The fluid move through the converter with the help of a one-way clutch inside the converter.

Impeller pump: The impeller pump should be one thing to inspect first when working on an industrial torque converter. The torque converter uses an impeller pump similar to a centrifugal pump. The impeller pump, just Like the centrifugal pump, is designed to circulate fluid in a rotating pattern. Fluids enter through the middle of the pump by the vacuum generated by the impeller pump and circulate it through the converters outside the wall, where it expels the fluid.

Turbine: The expelled fluid from the impeller pump goes into the turbine’s blades. The turbine is connected to the transmission’s internal parts, it causes the transmission to spin, and provides power to the wheels.

Clutch: The clutch is used to lockup the transmission in high gears, preventing it from slipping. The clutch is usually found in the modern clutch converter. They are typically called friction clutch.

The transmission fluid: The transmission fluid is not a part of the torque converter, but it plays a significant role by providing hydraulic coupling, excellent starts, and prevents the engine from stalling when you disengage the gears. Fortunately, you don’t need to be worried about rebuilding or replacing your entire automatic transmission when the torque converter fails. Since the torque converter is a self-contained unit, you can rebuild or replace it as a single unit.

Read Also: Manual vs. Automatic Transmissions: Which is Better?

Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter

Issues with a failing or lousy torque converter are often misinterpreted as transmission problems. As a result, car owners will wind up spending thousands of dollars replacing or rebuilding their transmission. They might not know that the issues lie within their torque converter, which is lesser than the transmission itself.

If the torque converter goes bad, the vehicle engine is required to do more jobs to sustain the same engine speed. The engine will require more revolutions to operate per minute, which will reduce fuel economy and fluid pressure. In the worst scenario, the system will create more heat which could cause issues to other components. Let’s quickly look at bad torque converter symptoms.

bad torque converter vs bad transmission

Gear shift problems:

If you’re experiencing a soft or delayed gear shift, chances are, you have a lousy torque converter. This is mostly a result of lowered pressure output. Instead of having a nice and crisp transmission shift, you will experience a rough and abnormal gear shift. The best way to get that crisp and nice gear is to increase the torque converter output pressure by increasing the engine RPM.

Car speed problems:

If you have inconsistent torque converter output pressure, it could result in a sudden increase or decrease of the vehicle speed by the torque converter. At that moment, the throttle will start malfunctioning because there will be varying fluid pressure. When this happens, It could be dangerous to drive your vehicle, so don’t drive it until you fix it. You may experience a shudder feeling, but you shouldn’t forget to call your mechanic to inspect the transmission mounts and tighten them if they are loose before inspecting the torque converter.

Shuddering:

If your car vibrates or shakes while driving 30 mph to 45 mph, chances are you have problems with your torque converter. The vibration might seem like when you’re driving on a bumpy road, so you can easily spot it. The shuddering feeling will not be a consistent thing. It usually happens and goes away suddenly. You should call your mechanic to inspect your transmission once you notice it the first time.

Transmission slippage:

A lousy torque converter will easily showcase Itself because it cannot manage fluid properly. It will either take too much or too little fluid into the transmission, causing gear slippage, resulting in low acceleration. There will be a decreased fuel economy as well. The transmission fluid might reduce too. You should always check your transmission fluid whenever you notice transmission slippage.

Whining or rattling noise:

Every car has some kind of noise they make. When you drive your car for a long, you should tell when something is wrong by listening to the car noise. Likewise, when a vehicle torque converter fails, the car will give a bad torque converter noise–a whining or whining sounds like a power steering pump with little or no fluid in it. The torque converter is built with a clutch mechanism; when the mechanism fails, you’ll notice a whining or rattling noise that might not be heard when the car is in the park.

If the whining noise increases when you engage the transmission gears, it tells you to have torque converter problems. You might then ask – what causes a torque converter to fail? A torque converter can fail due to many factors. Torque converter failure can result from excessive friction, which could be caused by a damaged torque converter needle bearing. And, a lousy clutch solenoid and defective seals could be to blame.

Overheating:

some cars equipped with a transmission temperature indicator that lets the driver know when the vehicle transmission is overheating. When the vehicle transmission temperature climbs above the optimum operating temperature, you may notice your car will start acting funny, or may even go to fall date and hard shifting or gears not shifting at all.

When two issues are combined, it could be something is out of place with your torque converter. The apparent meaning of a transmission overheat is that the torque converter cannot efficiently transfer power from the engine to the transmission.

Contaminated transmission fluid:

As a hydraulic and fluid coupler, the torque converter won’t work properly without good and quality transmission fluid. Suppose the transmission fluid gets contaminated. Anything that uses the fluid will be affected to an extent. If you notice your transmission fluid is contaminated along with any of the symptoms above, chances are you have a failing or lousy torque converter.

Fluid leaks:

if you experience fluid leaks dripping from between the transmission and the engine, there are chances that you have damaged torque converter seals. Several factors can negatively affect the torque converter seals and cause them to leak. When you experience fluid leaks, the torque converter isn’t retaining the right amount of transmission required to transfer power from engine to transmission. This will cause damages to the transmission and the engine in the long haul.

Read Also: Transmission Shifting Hard From 1st To 2nd: Causes and How to Fix

How to fix torque converter problems

Fixing a lousy torque converter problem requires dropping down your entire transmission and replacing or rebuilding the torque converter. However, there are tried and tested quick fixes that you can utilize to fix transmission problems.

What you should do to fix shuddering and slipping: The first thing you want to do when you notice your transmission is shuddering and slipping is to check your transmission fluid level. You probably won’t know if the slipping or shuddering has to do with your torque until you check your fluid level. Kindly note that shuddering and slipping symptoms usually come up when you have extremely low or wrong transmission fluid type.

What you should do to fix overheating and fluid leaks: low transmission fluid level is usually caused by fluid leaks, which could result in overheating. Aside from overheating, low fluid can also cause shuddering and slipping. To fix this problem, you have to find why the fluid is leaking (usually a damaged seal) and replace it.

 What you should do when you have a contaminated fluid: If you find out you have grits and grime in your transmission fluid, it indicates a more significant issue in the transmission or torque converter, and you should never ignore it. This shows things are going out of place, and you should take the below step or contact your mechanic.

Generally, the below steps explain what you should do yourself once you notice things are out of place. You know that the torque converter is a complex device, and when it fails, you have to remove the torque converter, drain the fluid and rebuild or replace it with a new one. This trick will help you fix your torque converter problems in less than 10 minutes without having to remove the torque converter.

Things Needed

  • Floor or hydraulic jack
  • Jack stands
  • Wheel blocks
  • Funnel
  • Socket wrench
  • Legend instant shudder fix
  • Transmission fluid
  • Oil Catch pan
  • Mechanic lay-board
  • Ratchet handles

Step 1. Pack the park and lift it:  Park the vehicle on hard and level ground. Then, block off the wheels and lift the car so you can quickly go under the vehicle. Remember to support the car with Jack stands. Car Jacks alone are never enough to support a vehicle. Grab your mechanic lay-board and slide it under the car.

Step 2. Drain the transmission fluid: Slide under the vehicle and unbolt the transmission sump to drain the fluid. Ensure you position the waste oil catch pan directly under the transmission so you won’t mess up the garage floor. After the drain, fill the fluid in a container and dispose of it later. Put the sump back in place and snug it with your hand. Take the right tool you used earlier and torque the sump.

Step 3. Fill in new transmission with the recommended fluid: Get the recommended fluid for your vehicle and fill the transmission until it gets to the standard gauge. The recommended transmission fluid for vehicles is usually written on the transmission dipstick. If you can’t find it on the transmission dipstick, you may visit your owner’s booklet or manufacturer’s website.

Step 4. Lower the Jack and start the engine: Now, you would want to remove the Jack stands and lower the vehicle. Start the engine and re-gauge the transmission fluid. Add more fluid if need be. Once the fluid is gauged, you then move to the next step.

Step 5. Add legend instant shudder fix to the transmission fluid: Instant shudder fix is a perfect product specifically made to fix torque converter problems. The product is usually thick and a bit difficult to pour into the transmission. To make things a lot easier, boil a quart of hot water and power it in a small bowl. Then, put the instant shudder fix in the bowl and allow it to stay for 5-10 minutes. Once the product dissolves to a liquid form, locate your vehicle transmission dipstick and pour the instant shudder fix into the transmission fluid. Put everything back in place, and test drive your vehicle for 10-15 minutes.

Common Torque Converter Issues and How to Avoid Them! YouTube Video 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does a bad torque converter sound like?

It is known that every vehicle makes a sound. Knowing your vehicle’s sound will save you a lot and tell you when something is wrong. If the torque converter starts failing or it’s completely gone, it will give some odd noise like whining or rattling noise. The sound will come on and suddenly disappear within seconds.

Will a bad torque converter throw a code?

The query, will a bad torque converter throw a code – has been a concern to an average car owner. This question has been asked zillion times in automotive forums. A lousy transmission solenoid will register a diagnostic trouble code (DTC) which will trigger the check engine light to pop up.

Will a bad torque converter make a knocking sound?

A bad TC will make an odd sound like a piston slap or a knock con-rod if you have loose torque converter bolts. But it’s just the torque converter hitting the flex plate. Fixing this sound will only require tightening the bolts as long as it hasn’t affect anything yet.

Can a bad torque converter damage transmission?

Absolutely yes. A lousy TC can cause transmission fluid degradation, overheating, and friction damage. The more you ignore the torque converter problems, the more it causes damages to the transmission.

 Final word

Torque converter problems can be averted once you know the symptoms to watch out for. Once you notice the symptoms, it is important to fix them.  You’ve now known what causes a torque converter to fail, symptoms of a bad torque converter, and an easy-fix method to fix a failing or lousy torque converter. If you’re not confident enough to carry out the repair process yourself, call your mechanic to handle the repair.

The repair or replacement cost of the torque converter is inexpensive compared to the damages it could cause to the transmission if ignored for long. Therefore, it is important to diagnose and fix torque converter problems in the earlier step.

Osuagwu Solomon

Osuagwu Solomon is a seasoned automotive technician for the past 9 years, and a technical writer. He loves writing about auto professional repair guides, DIY repair guides, and buyer’s guide. After spending six years in the automotive workshop, he decided to impact his knowledge to people aside his domain, and he has achieved this by centering his Automotive writing skills on REPAIRS.

Recent Posts