The following are the key takeaways from this article:
- A torque converter converts the engine’s torque into hydraulic pressure to shift the gears.
- The important parts of a torque converter involve the stator, impeller pump, turbine, clutch, and transmission fluid.
- The causes of torque converter failure include increased friction, contaminated fluid, and damaged components.
- The symptoms of torque converter failure include gear slippage, shuddering sound, transmission overheating, and fluid leakage.
- The possible solution to torque converter problems includes checking the transmission fluid, replacing damaged seals, and replacing the torque converter.
- The cost of repairing the torque converter can range between $50 to $1000.
The bigger engines produce more power, requiring a bigger torque converter to translate the torque and vice versa. The torque converter is an intelligent device designed by automakers to overcome the problems of automatic transmissions, such as low fuel average, shaky transmission, etc. (1) Torque converter problems can be critical as they can restrict your vehicle’s performance. This article will discuss the causes of torque converter failure, common symptoms, and possible solutions to these problems.
Important Parts of Torque Converter
The following are some important parts of the torque converter:
The first part of the torque converter is the stator, also known as the middleman of an automatic transmission system. The stator receives transmission fluid and sends it back to the impeller pump.
When the impeller pump receives transmission fluid, it spins and provides the force. So, when the engine revs up, it spins and causes fluid to flow faster and harder.
These splines further connect with the transmission shaft, so when the turbine rotates, the internal components of the transmission move, and gears are shifted directly with the engine load (1). Hence, power is provided to the wheels.
Friction clutch also decreases gear slippage to increase transmission efficiency.
Fluid couples the engine with the transmission and smoothly drives the vehicle without stalling. In addition, engine stalling is avoided when the vehicle is stopped in a particular gear.
An advantage of the torque converter is that it is a separately attached component to the transmission (1). As a result, the driver does not have to replace other transmission components in case of any damage to the torque converter. However, the transmission components might get damaged if the vehicle is driven for longer distances with a damaged torque converter.
Role of Torque Converter
The torque converter is an important transmission component that is filled with fluid. It is a coupling between the transmission and engine to convert the torque into hydraulic pressure.
Another impressive aspect of the torque converter is that it can increase the torque when the engine revs up. With this technology, automatic cars have become particularly effective as the problem of inefficiency and jerky gears does not occur anymore. Another plus point of the torque converter is the increased fuel average of the automatic vehicles. Previously, drivers avoided automatic vehicles due to low fuel mileage. Still, with a smart component such as a torque converter, the fuel average of automatic vehicles surpasses manual ones.
Causes of Torque Converter Failure
Following are a few reasons for torque converter failure:
Torque converter comprises five main parts: clutch, bearing, turbine, stator, and impeller.
This is when the internal parts of the converter start rubbing against each other, increasing the friction. This can even lead to the failure of the torque converter. A common symptom of converter friction is the cracking/sliding sound when accelerating your car (1). It is an indication that there is inadequate fluid to lubricate transmission parts. In some cases, the bearing has failed, and the internal friction between the converter components has increased. Therefore, it is recommended that the drivers replace the faulty bearing to avoid the failure of the converter and the entire transmission system of the car.
The contaminated fluid particles can include carbon, lead, steel, etc., that can get stuck between different components such as bearings, stators, impellers, etc. The driver should replace the transmission fluid at regular service maintenance to avoid this problem. You can consult the vehicle’s instruction manual to know about the regular service maintenance mileage. In some cases, the fluid might get contaminated due to some broken component that might leave its particles in the fluid.
One major symptom of the damaged converter components can be oil leakage. If you can spot oil leakage near the converter area, it is a sign that the converter is damaged. If oil leakage is near another transmission component, it will depict damage in that particular area.
Symptoms of Torque Converter Failure
Following are a few symptoms of torque converter failure:
Further, an increased noise will indicate that the gears are slipping. The torque converter acts as a coupler between the transmission and the engine (5). It functions to convert engine torque into hydraulic pressure resulting in transmission shift. In case of converter failure, the gears will slip into overdrive.
A shuddering sound can be an indication of gear slippage as well as the breakage of some converter component that is causing trouble in driving (2). In any case, the driver must not drive for longer distances with shuddering sounds as it can further damage the transmission system.
An overheated transmission can act like an overheated engine or brake pad, where it ceases to function. So, you might experience your car stuck in a particular gear. Some other day, you might notice that the gears shift abnormally due to an overheated transmission (2). If your car does not have an automated transmission temperature indicator, you can stop the car to check the transmission temperature manually.
So, fluid leaking around the transmission indicates that the torque converter is failing. You can take action to change the torque converter seals before the problem aggravates, and you have to change the entire torque converter or the transmission system of the vehicle (3).
Possible Solutions to Torque Converter Issues
Following are a few solutions for the torque converter issues:
Check the Transmission Fluid Level
Gear slippage and shuddering sound indicate that the torque converter is failing. However, this issue can be resolved with less effort than checking and filling the transmission fluid reservoir (4). Less fluid in the transmission reservoir can cause both of these problems. So, fill in the fluid and test-drive the vehicle for a few miles. Similarly, you can also check the color of the transmission fluid (2). It is generally reddish, but the contaminated fluid will be darkish black/brown. In this case, you should change the transmission fluid earliest to avoid further issues.
Replace the Seals
If you are experiencing a sudden drop in the transmission fluid, it is better to replace the torque converter seals (3). These seals are commonly available in the market or on different eCommerce platforms, given your vehicle’s make, model, and variant. Unfortunately, repairing the seals is almost impossible, so replacing them with new ones is recommended instead of wasting money on seal repair.
Replace the Torque Converter
An average torque converter is designed to last for 150,000-200,000 miles. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of damage in the torque converter, then it is better to replace the converter. A damaged converter exerts pressure on the engine and transmission system, so it is better to replace the converter at the earliest (2).
The first step should be to replace the transmission fluid, followed by the replacement of seals (4). If the torque converter problem persists, then consider changing the torque converter to avoid complex transmission problems.