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Torque Converter Problems: Signs, Causes and How to Fix

torque converter problems

Photo Credit: transmissionrepairguy.com

Torque converters are regarded as one of the most complex systems in your vehicle’s operation. These are only usually present in a vehicle that has a combination of an automatic transmission with a clutch connecting it. These kinds of vehicles were not common back then.

Because it’s one of the least known parts of your car, it’s important to conduct a diagnosis to it every once in awhile. It’s an incredibly crucial part of your vehicle, so stay tuned to understand the different torque converter problems!

Understanding the Torque Converter

Some of you who are reading this might have experienced torque controller problems. However, some of you might not even know it as well. First, it’s important to remember that torque converters are a device that transmits mechanical energy to hydraulic energy.

This means that your torque converter runs a liquid that helps the other parts in the clutch to move. Hence, it’s a sub-branch of the fluid coupling family tree. With that said, the very essence of this component is that it transfers energy from a prime mover of your car.

This prime mover can be traced to the engine, where air compression mixed with fuel ignites and results in an internal combustion. As your engine approaches the combustion stage, its mechanical force goes through a torque converter and distributes it to the clutch and transmission using hydraulic power.

How To Determine and Fix Torque Converter Problems

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the parts

The first step to determine the problem is to know who’s the victim of the problem. Hence, even if you understand the torque converter as a whole, it’ll be hard if you don’t get down to the finest of its details.

While you don’t need to be a torque converter expert to do this, you do need to at least know its sub-components. For starters, imagine the torque converter as a type of turbine that uses hydraulic power.

It has a casing, a circular blade similar to a fan, and hydraulic lines where the fluid runs through. For the torque converter, the hydraulic lines are called as the impeller, which is packed of hydraulic liquid.

When the impeller releases its hydraulic fluid, it pushes it forward towards the turbine that is attached to it. This causes a rotating motion from the impeller towards the turbine. The turbine then rotates at a slower pace and returns the fluid back to the impeller.

However, before returning to the impeller, the fluid first goes through another major part called the stator. The stator is like a mini impeller situated at the center of the turbine and the impeller. This causes the multiplication and conversion of torque energy. This conversion is necessary since the turbine needs to catch up with the speed of the impeller during acceleration.

Step 2: Look out for the symptoms

Like all problems, the torque converter will show symptoms gradually once something is bothering its operation. Usually, the symptoms of a faulty torque converter lie in how the impeller and turbine interact.

Thus, that rotating motion will need to be smooth for it to be problem-free. So if your torque converter is experiencing shuddering, slippage, and mechanical noise, it’s a sign that something is wrong with it.

Other symptoms include overheating, dirty fluids, and high stall speeds.

Step 3: Test your car

Now that you’re aware of the symptoms, you’ll be closer to determining the problem. However, these symptoms don’t usually present itself in an obvious manner. Since we’re talking about the clutch and transmission here, a novice car owner won’t notice it.

Fortunately, there are simple ways to dry-run your vehicle if it has a smooth torque converter. For starters, turn on the engine of your car and leave it in idle. Once empty, slowly step on the gas and try to listen to any strange noises beneath the driver seat’s flooring. Do this as you slowly bring it back to idle.

If there’s no unnecessary sound, slowly apply the brakes as you shift it to drive afterward. This stage is crucial since a faulty torque converter will usually have a slight cranking sound when you’re doing this. If there’s still no sound, test it again by going through all the gears.

Step 4: Know the causes

If you found unwanted noise around the torque converter, chances are it’s from common causes like damaged bearings, broken converter seals, and torque converter solenoid. Below will help you understand the matching more between the causes and the symptoms of a torque converter.

Weird clanking sounds

If you hear metals grinding near the clutch, the cause of this is probably damaged needle bearings. The bearings are what separates your torque converter’s components. These are the housing, the impeller, stator, and turbine. If the needle bearings are damaged, these will cause unnecessary friction while in operation.

turbine of an automatic transmission


A broken converter seal most likely causes an abnormally hot torque converter. This component is tasked to seal any liquid in the torque converter from spilling. Thus, should the seal be broken, fluid will spill and can cause overheating given the liquid’s temperature.


If your transmission mechanism feels like it’s stalling, it could be due to a faulty clutch solenoid. This is responsible for distributing the liquid in its designated proportions to the torque controller. Should it malfunction, then it will cause irregular hydraulic power across the transmission. Thus, stalling your vehicle’s motion.

Step 5: Getting it fixed

young-mechanicTo tell you the truth, a faulty torque converter isn’t something that an average car owner should handle. This is why you won’t often see any hacks or tutorials when it comes to handling these problems. Again, this is rooted because of the torque converter’s complex operating system.

Your responsibility as a car owner is to keep your vehicle maintained at all times. If problems in the torque converter do arise, then consult with a professional. It’s highly suggested that you get the torque replaced if it has sustained a lot of damage.

An example here would be complete damage on the needle bearings. Worse, a damaged housing or impeller. The price of replacement is almost the same repair service, so better get a brand new one instead.

Wrapping it Up

With all that said, the secret to a good torque converter lies in your observation. It’s a good habit to have good alertness when it comes to your vehicle. This is because a lot of symptoms in your car can be noticed by either feeling a faulty mechanism as you drive or listening to irregular sounds.

Remember, always treat your vehicle as if it’s family. After all, the smallest observations can save you a lot of money!

Steven K. Galloway