Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter


 Vehicle repair and maintenance may not seem like a complicated task when looking in from the outside. However, there are multiple issues you might have to consider when dealing with this responsibility.

Not every part of a vehicle is as famous as the engine, meaning there are some elements you might come across for the first time if you have not owned a car for very long. A good example of this is the torque converter.

In simple terms, a torque converter is used to transfer rotation power from a main source to a driven load. Learning more about these couplings can help you determine if this is a section that requires attention during your next checkup.

Automobiles can be a fascinating subject, and some knowledge in this sector can come in handy when dealing with your own vehicle issues. One of the main topics of concern involves the control management of power from your car’s engine to the transmission.

In older models, this was previously accomplished via the use of a clutch. The modern developments made in the industry have, however, improved this approach through the implementation of an automatic transmission.

Current models lack a clutch to perform any manual management of the transmission. As such, these new models implement a torque converter in their workings.

 What is a Torque Converter?

In layman’s terms, a torque converter cuts the connection between the engine and the transmission – to allow the engine to keep running when the car is at a standstill. In situations where your vehicle might remain idle for a short time, such as stop signs – the torque converter minimizes the amount of power coming through.

This allows you to stay at a standstill by applying minimal pressure on your brakes. When you release the brakes and step on the gas, more power is released and transferred to the wheels.

A torque converter is made up of couplings that implement hydrodynamics to its operations. The engine speeds up by pumping more fluid into the converter and slows down by minimizing the amount of fluid available.

Though this may sound like issues only a technical expert should know – familiarizing yourself with this side of your car can save you a lot of money on unnecessary repairs. It should also be noted that a vehicle can’t function with a defunct torque converter – so its overall importance in a car should not be undervalued.

Signs of a Failing Torque Converter

It’s recommendable to keep in mind that some symptoms of a bad torque converter can be similar to a failing transmission. Though getting a new converter may not be cheap, it’s definitely not as expensive as buying a whole new transmission. Some of the signals related to a failing torque converter include:

  1. Gear Problems

One of the main signs that your torque converter is having problems is when you keep experiencing gear trouble. In most cases, these problems present themselves in two forms.

‘ The first involves the gears in your transmission slipping. Unfortunately, this might not always be recognizable from the start if you’re not an experienced driver. You can watch out for changes such as how smooth your vehicle is running, or if the engine noise has changed in pitch.

The second problem deals with when you’re having problems changing gears. If you experience a continual strain whenever you’re changing gears, or you even hear a strain when the shift occurs.

In both circumstances, you might be having a fluid problem. Torque converters cannot operate efficiently without sufficient fluid to support the strain involved with their activities. Thankfully this is an issue that is addressed with some ease by visiting a qualified technician.

  1. Overheating

This is another common symptom of a problem with your torque converter. A lack of adequate fluid pressure will cause a problem with your converter. It’s also easy to identify as the engine has a signal that goes off whenever your vehicle is overheating.

The transmission can also experience inadequate throttle response and enhanced wear and tear if the issue is left unattended. As with the previous complication, it’s relatively comfortable to address when you know what the problem is.

  1. Acceleration Problems

As mentioned earlier, one of the torque converter’s primary functions is the control and management of the power going through the transmission. In simple terms, it helps to slow down and accelerate the vehicle.

If you happen to have problems accelerating or experience sudden changes in the speed of your car – you might want to examine the fluid pressure in your vehicle. This is one of the more serious signs of a potential problem – and you should never operate your car under such conditions.

  1. Shuddering of the Vehicle’s Body

If your torque converter is starting to fail, you could begin to experience a shuddering when traveling at speeds of between 30 to 45 miles per hour. This is arguably the easiest symptom to detect as it feels as if you’re suddenly travelling on a rough patch of ground.

In most cases, this shaking is caused by the converter experiencing a difficult transition to direct drive due to a worn out lock up clutch. The feeling does not always last very long and can occur abruptly. However, if you experience this sensation multiple times on different types of roads – then the problem is likely to be with the clutch.

  1. Sudden Surges or Lags when Driving

If you experience sudden surges in your acceleration or unexplainable lags as you drive, the vehicle’s torque converter may be a good place to start your diagnosis.

Finely tuned systems will maintain a steady rate of increase during acceleration or decrease when slowing down. If your car suddenly surges forward when you tend to increase your speed, it could be a sign that the flow of transmission fluid is inadequate.

  1. Dirty Transmission Fluid

As you might tell, the transmission fluid plays a large role in the operation of a vehicle’s transmission and torque converter. Thus, it can be argued that the first place to look when seeking potential issues would be in this sector.

Replacing this fluid is also easier than having to change your converter or entire transmission system. You can check this issue by simply draining the fluid and examining it for any black specks or other visible contaminants.

It is always advisable to replace the fluid during this process no matter the results. You should keep in mind that many contaminants are not always readily recognizable to the inexperienced eye. Ensuring you have fresh fluid in your transmission allows you to tick off that particular checklist – and begin the search for any other underlying issues.


Ensuring that you regularly maintain your transmission can help you avoid such complications in the future. Simple mistakes like using the wrong fluid or putting inadequate amounts can do some long-term damage to your car.

It’s quite easy to forget this part of the maintenance if you’re not dedicated to maintaining the efficiency levels of your vehicle. Having a professional handle such matters is the best way to ensure you don’t make any mistakes during this process.

Choosing an established provider in this industry is your best shot of making sure you don’t get played. Going for the cheapest option in the market will more than likely result in you enjoying the cheapest solution. Identifying mechanics that offer added incentives such as warranties and the like can add further protection in case of unsatisfactory results.

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Steven Reilly
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change'.


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