Signs of a Failing Torque Converter [and How to Fix it!]

A lot of bad things can happen to your car when the torque converter starts failing. Keep reading to find out these common torque converter problems and how to fix them.

AAMCO  | 11/08/2019
Car Problems & Safety

Torque Converter on BenchAlmost no one thinks of it, but when you drive your automatic transmission car, you're master over your car’s torque converter.

That's because torque converters transfer the power your car engine makes to the transmission in your car. Hence, you've commanded your torque converter every time your car shifted gears. The torque converter is so essential to the global car market there’s a global torque converter market.

The global torque converter market continues to grow and expand at a CAGR of 4.54%, which is projected until 2021. This is due in part to the technological advances in torque converters. Torque converter problems have a high impact on your car's ability to function and drive.

Once your torque converter starts failing, you need to be knowledgeable about what torque converter problems will disable your car? You also need to move forward with viable options that will help you get your torque converter fixed. The information below will outline the most common torque converter issues and their solutions.

Torque Converter and Transmissions

Your torque converter is full of fluid, and its job is to act as a hydraulic pump and acts as a coupling between the engine and the transmission. Many times, people think there is something wrong with their transmission when the problem lies with their torque converter. The confusion stems from the symptoms of a failing transmission, and a failing torque converter is very similar and linked.

Automatic Transmission - Torque Converter Has Five Important Parts

Your car's automatic transmission has a torque converter. The torque converter is made up of five parts:

1. Stator

The stator is called the middleman. The stator is called the middleman because it serves as the conduit that reverses transmission fluid and sends it back to a turbine impeller. 

2. Impeller Pump

The impeller pump receives the transmission fluid once it's delivered. The impellers spun by the engine's crankshaft. The faster it spins, the more force it provides, which causes the fluid to flow faster and harder.

3. Turbine

The turbine has a spline that attaches to the transmission input shaft, which connects to the internal parts of the transmission to shift gears and provide power to the wheels.   

4. Clutch

Most Torque Converters today also use a friction clutch to lock up the converter at higher speeds to create more fuel efficiency and less slip.

5. Fluid

The transmission fluid is an important part of the torque converter in that it is used to provide the fluid coupling and smooth starts and without stalling the engine when the vehicle is stopped in gear.

The good news is, if it is just your torque converter that is having issues since it's a self-contained unit, you may not need to replace or rebuild your whole transmission. Torque converters can be serviced or replaced as a single unit.

Torque Converter Problems

There are many different types of torque converter problems. The problems come in many sizes, shapes, and forms. But the most common torque converter problems are listed below.

1. Slipping

Have you ever gotten in your car, started it up, put it in gear only to feel it shudder? Your car shudders almost as if it's caught the flu and has a temperature. But this shuttering is not caused by a disease. 

A malfunctioning torque converter can have a shudder that comes from the transmission. The slipping occurs while you're driving or changing gears, and it usually comes with some odd noises too. Remember, a torque converter is a coupler between the engine and transmission.

Remember, a torque converter is a coupler between the engine and transmission. Its job is to smoothly convert engine torque into hydraulic pressure that your transmission uses to engage and shift gears. When the torque converter starts malfunctioning, you may feel shuddering and even slipping in overdrive. 

2. Shuddering

You usually notice your car shuddering because it feels like it's vibrating. Your car will vibrate even when you’re not going very fast. The shuddering makes the car lag and is very noticeable. 

3. Overheating

Some vehicles have a transmission temperature indicator that will let you know when your car's transmission is overheating. If your car transmission keeps overheating, you may also notice your transmission starts to act funny, or it may even go into fail date and stay in one gear and not shift at all. When the two problems are combined, it could mean your torque converter is failing.

The end result is the torque converter isn't able to transfer that power completely and efficiently from the engine to the transmission. 

4. Your Transmission Fluid is Contaminated

Being a fluid coupler, your car's torque converter relies on transmission fluid to operate correctly. If the fluid becomes contaminated, anything that uses and relies on the fluid can be damaged. Contaminated transmission fluid can cause damage to your converter parts and your transmissions parts.

5. Torque Seal Damage

Torque converter seals can get damaged for several reasons. But once they are damaged, you will experience fluid leaks. When you experience fluid leaks, you aren't retaining the amount of transmission fluid; the torque converter needs to transfer the power from the engine to the transmission. This will cause damage to both the transmission and the converter.

How to Fix the Above Five Torque Converter Issues 

There are tried and true methods for fixing the five common torque converter issues. 

1. and 2. What to Do to Fix Slipping or Shuddering

Your first course of action, if you notice your transmission or torque converter has started to slip or shudder is checking your fluid level. You can't be sure the slipping or shuddering has anything to do with your torque converter until you check your fluid levels. Remember, you don't experience either symptom unless you have the wrong amount of fluid or the wrong fluid in the transmission.

3. and 5. What to Do to Fix Overheating and Seal Damage

It's when you have a damaged torque converter seal that fluid leaks out and causes the overheating and damage. It is the lack of fluid that causes overheating, slipping, or shuddering. To fix the problem, you need to discover the seal that's damaged and have it replaced.

4. What to Do to Fix Your Contaminated Transmission Fluid

When you have contaminated transmission fluid that has bits of this and that in it This is an indication that you have bigger problems inside the converter or transmission.  Clutch material, bearing and bushing pieces, and a shiny metal flake appearance will be an indicator that things are coming apart inside. This is a red flag that lets you know you may need an expert to repair it for you.

The Future Torque Converter

You've now repaired or replaced your torque converter if it exhibited any of the above common torque converter problems. There is more demand in today's market for increased comfort and safety in cars. That includes the advanced manufacturing technology being used in optimizing torque converters.

The torque converter, with its multiple elements, is being manufactured with an eye towards the future. The torque converter of the future will have a carefully tuned control strategy, which takes into account the torque demands of each vehicle. It will also integrate that knowledge with what type of car and transmission consumers are buying.

The result will be every car will have efficient, smooth, and comfortable rides. Reach out to your local AAMCO transmission center when you’re ready for your efficient, smooth and worry-free ride.


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