Top 8 Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter
The torque converter is a critical part of automatic transmissions for the smooth operation of the transmission.
This component is a hydraulic or fluid coupling that converts the generated power to mechanical power.
The torque converter is an integral part of automatic transmissions, and it can be utilized to replace the mechanical clutch disc, fork, or plate.
Let’s talk about the various components of the torque converter, the symptoms of a bad torque converter, and how to fix them yourself.
Table of Contents
- What Causes a Torque Converter To Go Bad?
- Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter
- Torque Converter Replacement Cost
- Torque Converter Parts
- Where is the Torque Converter Located?
- How To Test a Torque Converter
- Best Car Deals by Category
What Causes a Torque Converter To Go Bad?
Before you start experiencing issues with your torque converter, you must identify the potential causes of the problem.
1. Damaged Torque Converter Seals
The damaged seal of the transmission fluid could also cause it to leak. This issue could damage the torque converter, causing other problems, such as higher stall speeds and overheating.
2. Damaged Torque Converter Clutch Solenoid
The clutch solenoid is a component of the vehicle's electronic system that controls the flow of fluids through the lockup clutch.
If the clutch solenoid is defective, it could prevent the vehicle from adequately calculating the amount of fluid needed to maintain its condition. This could cause various issues, such as engine stalls and poor gas mileage.
3. Faulty Needle Bearings
The condition of the needle bearings, which separate the turbine, converter housing, and other components, could also affect the vehicle's operation.
If the bearings are defective, it could cause the transmission fluid to accumulate metal chips.
4. Degraded Torque Converter Clutch
The clutch plate and the other components of the vehicle's drivetrain are responsible for keeping the car in gear until the driver stops.
If the clutch plate's friction material gets worn away, it could cause the converter to lock up and go into direct drive.
Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter
Unfortunately, many car owners ignore the symptoms of a poorly performing or failing torque converter.
They often fail to realize that the problems they're experiencing lie within the converter. This can result in costly repairs.
The failure of the converter could affect the vehicle's performance and fuel economy. It could cause the engine to perform more revolutions to maintain the same speed.
This could cause the vehicle's fluid pressure and fuel economy to drop. In the worst-case scenario, the system could create excessive heat and cause other issues.
These are the most common symptoms of a bad torque converter;
1. Car Speed Problems
If the output pressure of the converter is inconsistent, it could cause the vehicle to experience a sudden decrease or increase in speed.
This issue could also affect the throttle and cause it to malfunction. Before experiencing this issue, ensure you have the necessary tools and inspect the transmission mounts.
2. Transmission Slippage
A poorly performing or failing torque converter can easily exhibit its shortcomings because it can't properly manage the flow of fluids into the transmission.
This could cause the vehicle to slip and decrease its acceleration. It's important to regularly check the transmission fluid to ensure it's flowing properly.
3. Gear Shift Problems
If you're experiencing a delayed or smooth gear shift, you have a poor-performing and defective converter.
The lowered pressure output could cause this issue. To avoid experiencing this issue, increase the output pressure of the converter.
Some vehicles have a temperature indicator that can be used to tell the driver if the transmission is overheating.
If the transmission's temperature exceeds the recommended operating temperature, it could cause the vehicle to start acting funny or go fall date.
If two of these issues are combined, it could be a sign that the vehicle's torque converter is not working properly.
This issue could prevent the transmission from properly transferring power from the engine to the car.
5. Fluid Leaks
If you're experiencing frequent fluid leaks between the engine and the transmission, it could be a sign that the vehicle's torque converter is not working properly.
This issue could cause the vehicle to lose the power it needs to transfer from the engine to the car.
6. Whining or Rattling Noise
Every car has its type of noise. When driving a car, you should always listen to the car's noise to determine if something is wrong.
A failure of the vehicle's clutch mechanism or the failure of the vehicle's torque converter could cause a whining or a rattling noise while the car is moving.
These noises are created when the clutch mechanism or the vehicle's hydraulic system fails.
If the whining sounds persist after you've engaged the transmission's gears, it could be a sign that the vehicle's clutch is not working properly.
A poorly performing or defective converter can also cause various issues. One of the most common reasons a vehicle's torque converter might fail is excessive friction.
If the car trembles or shakes while driving at speeds of 30 to 45 mph, it could be a sign that the vehicle's torque converter is not working properly.
The vibration might seem like it occurs when driving on a bumpy road, but it usually goes away after a while. You should contact your mechanic if this happens to you regularly.
8. Contaminated Transmission Fluid
The quality and quantity of the transmission fluid are two of the most important factors that the vehicle's torque converter needs to operate properly.
Contaminated transmission fluid can affect various parts of the car. If you notice these symptoms, it could be a sign that the vehicle's torque converter is not working properly.
Torque Converter Replacement Cost
The cost of replacing a car's torque converter can vary depending on the model and the labor costs. A new converter costs around $100 to $400, while labor costs are around $200 to $2,000.
Usually, the transmission will have to be removed to allow the technician to inspect and replace the converter.
It can take around 3 to 12 hours, depending on the skills and experience of the person doing the work.
Torque Converter Parts
The torque converter is made up of four different parts. They include the following:
1. Impeller Pump
One of the first things to inspect when it comes to replacing a torque converter is its internals, the part known as the impeller pump.
Like a typical pump, the variable speed motor that powers a torque converter uses an electric motor designed to circulate fluids in a rotating pattern.
The vacuum created by the movement of the fluid in the middle of the pump is then used to expel it through the converter's outer wall.
2. The Transmission Fluid
Although the transmission fluid is not a component of the torque converter, it plays a vital role in the engine's performance by providing excellent starts and hydraulic coupling.
If the converter fails, it can cause the car to stall and prevent the engine from starting. Fortunately, since it's a self-contained unit, you can easily replace or rebuild it.
The clutch is a component of the torque converter designed to prevent the transmission from slipping. It's commonly referred to as a friction clutch.
The fluid from the outer wall of the pump is then sent through the turbine's blades, which are connected to the transmission's internal components. This component provides power to the wheels and helps the transmission spin.
The rotor of the converter is known as the stator. It's a vital system component and responsible for regulating the flow of fluids inside the converter. Through its one-way clutch, the fluid can move through the converter.
Where is the Torque Converter Located?
The torque converter is located between the automatic transmission and the car's engine. You must first remove the car's engine and transmission to properly diagnose and inspect it.
Some older cars have cover plates that can be used to examine the converter, but even with these, you won't be able to see much because it's a sealed unit.
How To Test a Torque Converter
Although it's impossible to test the entire converter without taking it apart, there are several ways to check its condition. They include the following:
1. Start the Engine and Let It Warm Up
After starting the engine, it's important to warm up the transmission oil to around 40 degrees. Doing so can take a long time, so it's recommended to use a diagnostic scanner to check the oil's temperature.
2. Move Shifter Into Gear
After applying the drive gear, try to hear if the converter makes any noise.
If the noises aren't clear, try shifting between the other gears to check if the converter is making other sounds. The car should move forward with just a touch of the accelerator pedal.
3. Test Drive
After reaching a higher speed, it's essential to check the car's speedometer and tachometer. If the car's revving up without accelerating, the converter might be slipping.
Although older automatic transmissions are prone to slipping when accelerating, most people know how much they should slip. If you're unsure about the issue, have a mechanic test it.