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September 2019

Torque Converter Problems: Symptoms & Replacement Costs

Torque Converter Problems Symptoms & Replacement Cost - Gearstar

It may be a bit challenging to ascertain if the problems with your car are originating from its torque converter or transmission. As such, mistaking the symptoms of a failing torque converter for that of the transmission could lead to a waste of time and resources – without getting the solution that was expected.

A repair shop, on the contrary, will be able to determine the root cause of the problem just by analyzing these signs. That does not mean that you too can’t tell if the problem is from the torque converter. However, it begins by knowing the symptoms of a faulty torque converter and the replacement cost that will be needed.


What Are Torque Converters?

A torque converter is a device that is situated between the engine and the transmission. This device transfers the engine’s power to the transmission as such; it has replaced the clutch used in manuals. Also, the torque converter helps to keep the power output of the engine in the optimum range by multiplying the torque at low RPM.


Symptoms of Torque Converter Problems

Some symptoms of torque converter problems have been outlined below. These are the signs you should be on the lookout for to ensure your car does not fail when you least expect.


1. Slipping

A torque converter can slip out of gear or delay a shift its fin or bearing is damaged. This is because the torque converter changes the engine’s torque into hydraulic pressure that is required to ship the transmission’s gears.

In the same vein, inadequate or excessive fluid in the transmission can cause the gears to perform in an unexpected manner. One of such is slippage which is evident in the car’s loss of acceleration and reduction in fuel economy.


2. Overheating

Another sign of a problem in the torque converter is if your car’s temperature gauge indicates that there is overheating by flashing a transmission control unit light on your dashboard. This sign may be triggered by a decline in the fluid pressure or a malfunctioning solenoid.

Slipping while you’re driving can also lead to overheating. On the other hand, overheating is not a good thing for your converter since it can lead to the wear of the transmission’s internal components. Moreover, the converter will not be able to carry out its primary function of transferring power from the engine to the transmission.


3. Contaminated Transmission Fluid

A torque converter is filled with Automatic transmission fluid (ATF). If the fluid contains debris, grime, or a black sludge, it is contaminated, and this is a sign that the transmission is damaged. Also, dirty fluid can impact the components of the torque converter such as the stator’s bearings and turbine’s fins.

To prevent either of these from happening over time, you need to ensure that you have high-quality fluid in your transmission at all times. Keep in mind that you can save a lot of money by just replacing the dirty fluid.


4. Shuddering

Your car is shuddering when you’re moving on a smooth road, yet it feels like you’re on a rocky surface which makes the ride bumpy – it is a sign that there could be a problem in the lockup clutch located in the torque converter.

What happens here, is the difficulty of the lockup clutch to enable the converter to make a smooth transmission to direct drive. Thus, if you experience this occasionally, employ the services of a local repair shop.


5. Increased Stall Speed

The point at which the engine’s RPMs are high enough for the torque converter to transfer the engine’s power to the transmission is called stall speed. A damaged torque converter will be unable to provide a seamless transfer of the engine’s rotational force into hydraulic pressure.

The downside to this is that there could be an increase in the normal stall speed, and as such, it could take the transmission more time to engage the engine.


6. Unusual Sounds

A bad torque converter will emit noises, and that is an obvious sign that it needs to be checked. Therefore, if you hear a whirring or clicking sound, either from the damaged bearings or broken turbine fin, you need a replacement.


Causes of Torque Converter Problems

Before your torque converter shows signs of failure, you need to be wary of what could lead to it. Thus, the following are some of the causes of torque converter problems.


1. Damaged Torque Converter Seals

If the torque converter seal is damaged, it could cause the transmission fluid within the bell housing to leak. When that happens, the torque converter will be unable to provide a smooth transfer of power from the engine to the transmission. As a consequence, there could be overheating, slippage, higher stall speeds, among other problems.


2. Damaged Torque Converter Clutch Solenoid

The torque converter clutch solenoid is an electronic component that helps to measure the fluid pressure and regulate how much fluid the lockup clutch receives.

If the solenoid is faulty, there won’t be an accurate measure of how much transmission fluid is a need which could lead to abnormal fluid pressures. As a consequence, there could be irregular behaviors such as poor gas mileage, engine stalling, among others.


3. Degraded Torque Converter Clutch

Torque converter clutches help to lock the transmission and the engine into direct drive. However, a damaged torque converter can cause the car to stay in gear even when the driver has come to a stop. This converter also can lock into direct drive especially if the clutch plate’s friction material has worn away.


4. Faulty Needle Bearings

The needle bearings separate the stator, turbine, impeller, and converter housing. Alternatively, faulty bearings could lead to the creation of noises while driving. It could also lead to the accumulation of metal chips in the transmission fluid due to metal to metal contact between these components of the torque converter.


Torque Converter Replacement Costs

It is less expensive to replace a torque converter compared to a transmission. For starters, the torque converter costs between $150 to $350. Therefore, if you are currently experiencing any of the symptoms of torque converter problems, you may need a good idea of how much it’ll cost to get it fixed or replaced.

If you plan on fixing it yourself, then you’ll spend around $150 to $500. On the contrary, taking the vehicle to the transmission shop may require $600 to $1000 to cover the repair costs. It’ll also take about 5 to 10 hours to get the job done.


The Bottom Line

Torque converter problems can be avoided when you know the symptoms to look out for. Once these signs are evident, it is needful to get the unit fixed or rely on the expertise of a professional.

The replacement cost of a torque converter is inexpensive, especially when you compare to the damage it could cause to your car’s transmission if it is not fixed on time. It is, therefore, needful for you to spot these signs and take action immediately if any of the symptoms are evident.

The 4L80E Built With the Latest and Greatest Parts

4L80E Transmission The Latest and Greatest Parts - Gearstar

The 4L80E may be an old transmission from General Motors, but it has been revamped with the latest and greatest modern parts to boost its performance. As a result, performance enthusiasts may not think twice before settling for this old transmission.

Several remanufacturing companies are continually developing parts to work alongside the transmission and bring out its best functionality. We’ll be taking a look at these parts and generally, what makes the 4L80E the right choice out of a range of transmissions that were also launched in the 90s.


4L80E Transmissions 101

The 4L80 is a series of automatic transmissions designed by General Motors. The nomenclature stands for a 4-speed transmission, longitudinally-mounted, and for handling GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) up to 8000 lb. Thus, the 4L80-E is an automatic transmission, and it featured four forward gears and was tailored for longitudinal engine configurations.

Upon its launch in 1991, the 4L80E was used in vans, Chevrolet/GMC pickups, commercial vehicles, and the Hummer H1. It was later adopted in the Rolls Royce in 1991, and after extensive testing, it was also used in the Bentley Continental R and other Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Jaguar, and Bentley vehicles.

Generally, the 4L80E is an evolution of the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 automatic transmission. Why is that? It featured the 400 parts and strength; however, it came with a lockup torque converter, added overdrive gear, and advanced electronic controls.


Application of the 4L80E

The 4L80E found application in several vehicles for 22 years before it was replaced in 2013. That length of usage and its popularity can largely be attributed to its improved fuel consumption as a result of its overdrive gear, ability to handle more torque, its durability, amongst other benefits.

Before this time, the transmission was meant to be used in the duty range of 4L60E and the Allison series transmissions. Allison transmissions were employed at the time in medium-duty class (4000 series) trucks. For this reason, the 4L80E was mostly resorted to, and it was available with the Big Block 7400 gas and 6.2L / 6.5L diesel.

Despite the advantages the 4L80E had over its predecessors, it still came with its problems such as losing the reverse gear and experiencing hard shifts. Nonetheless, the latest parts have been designed with seeks to handle these problems.


4L80E Performance Parts and Upgrades

Upgrades to the 4L80E have been made possible with the use of the following high-end components from different manufacturers of hardware devices. These parts include:


1. Pistol-Grip Shifter for 4-Speed Transmissions

The GM four-speed automatic transmissions with forward-shifting valve bodies such as the TH700R4, 4L60E, and 4L80E transmissions can feature a quarter stick shifter. The shifter also comes with a detent activation to curb missed shifts, neutral safety switch, and an NHRA- and IHRA-compliant reverse lock-out.

Similarly, the pistol grip shifter is CNC-machined from billet aluminum that has been anodized black, and it comes with replaceable side plates. Within this shifter’s installation kit are components such as a 5-foot, heavy-duty shifter cable, hardware, a mounting bracket, and an instructions manual to makes its installation a breeze.


2. An Independent Transmission Controller

A car enthusiast who intends to upgrade to any of the GM transmissions including the 4L60/65/80/85E can take advantage of a stand-alone transmission controller. What this controller does is to enable users to adjust shift points and feel. Adjustments can also be made to the torque-converter lockup using the supplied touchscreen controller.

Over and above that, adjustments enable accommodation for the gear-ratio, and changes to the tire-diameter. On the other hand, the controller comes as a kit featuring the touchscreen display, output for a speedometer, windshield mount for the display, and complete wiring harness.


3. GT Sport Chassis for 1963-1967 Corvettes

The need for a memorable ride while driving a classic car like the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray can be attained without suffering the limitation of the car’s original architectural design. The latter is made possible with an AME GT Sport Chassis that helps to improve the ride’s quality, handling of their rides, and its stance.

For instance, AME’s Multi-Link independent rear suspension system with a Sport IFS upfront is used to replace the car’s rear suspension. Also, the overall track width is slightly narrower compared to that of the factory-made, which is in a bid to provide wider wheel fitment and lower ride height.

On the other hand, the gusseted and triangulated frame has 0.180-inch-wall-thickness frame rails, and it is paired with exhaust passages that have been built into the crossmember.


4. Classic Mopar Gauges

Classic Mopar Gauges that still maintain the factory resemblance can be used in a car featuring the 4L80E transmission. Like the factory gauges, the red, white, and blue Mopar logo radiates on the black dial underneath the needle’s pivot. Some companies have taken it one step further to ensure that these gauges have been officially licensed by Mopar.

As such, if you’re a purist bent on finding a set of gauges that are close to factory-made ones to ensure efficient performance, this would be it.  What do these gauges offer? You may wonder! They provide full electric movements that are backed by several hours of track-tested accuracy.

Similarly, the gauges you can find are oil pressure, fuel level, water temperature, and a voltmeter in 2-1/16-inch diameter. There are also a programmable speedometer and tachometer in a 3-3/8-inch diameter.


The Bottom Line

Each of these components is evidence that the 4L80E transmission can be built with the latest and greatest parts to improve its performance. The ability to do so has prevented this transmission along with other GM four-speed transmissions from going into extinction.

On a timely basis, different manufacturers of hardware are constantly developing parts to handle their performance and even take it one step further. That being the case, settling for the 4L80E transmission in the current year would still be a good choice given the performance upgrades and the revamped components in the market that can be used on it.

Thus, it is now left for you to decide which manufacturer can give you the part you desire and has built it to be durable and handle all the power that will be put on it.

Was Your Transmission Rebuild Dyno Tested?

Was Your Transmission Rebuild Dyno Tested? - Gearstar Performance Transmissions

Whether your transmission rebuild is working perfectly today, or it is already giving you problems, great thought has to be given to its dyno-testing because only a few companies go through the dyno-testing process.

Here’s what we’re getting at, it is essential to know if your transmission rebuild was dyno-tested for internal pressures and leaks, hydraulic, and system controls. The aim is to ensure it stands the test of time and does not break down when you least expect.

Re-manufacturers or transmission rebuild shops, for instance, will either give you a guarantee or assurance of a dyno test, but it is easy to confuse one with the other as an accurate measure of quality. While a guarantee says a cost-effective solution for your car needs was provided, a dyno test comes with a promise that the gearbox will not fail unexpectedly before reaching its full life expectancy.

This is because the transmission has been tested under operational conditions to ensure it has been built to work properly, reliably, and give you life expectancy. But more about that later!

What Is a Transmission Rebuild?

A transmission rebuild are those that have been dissembled entirely in a bid to replace its worn and damaged parts with new ones. The rebuilding process also involves the inspection of parts for possible wear occurring in the future. A transmission component that may be vulnerable is then replaced with a better part.

For this reason, a transmission rebuild offers the guarantee of quality, unlike a used transmission. They are also faster to find than a used transmission.

What Is Dyno Testing?

A dynamometer (dyno) testing is the use of specially-designed equipment to examine the state and operation of a transmission system if it meets factory pressure specifications at operating temperatures. The hours-long process is carried out by mounting a transmission on the dynamometer and applying a rotational force and other external forces on the transmission.

On the same note, if you’re bent on knowing an engine’s horsepower, then all it’ll take is to connect it to a dyno. Here, the dyno places a load on the engine and then measures the amount of power produced by the engine against the load.

Minor repairs can also be carried out while the dyno is on the machine. Other checks that can be carried out include:

    • Stall speed
    • Converter lockup
    • Transmission line pressure
    • Shift point and response downshift

Components of a Dyno Machine

A transmission dyno machine consists of a powerful electric motor, pressure gauges, and mountings, internal combustion motor, as well as computerized operator panel and readouts. The pressure gauge, for instance, helps to monitor the pressure readings in the transmission.

Setup of this nature measures the force, the moment of force (torque), and pressure of the transmission, and it can be explicitly used on transmissions whose mountings and measurements are specific to a transmission drive.

Similarly, the test simulates a real operating environment by examining the gearbox’s speed and gear changes, design speed range in each gear, among others.

Verification of a Transmission Dyno Testing

A dyno testing proves that the transmission’s gearbox is operating according to factory specifications within its full design speed and gear range. The latter can be assured since the test measures the transmission’s pressure, force, torque, temperature, and efficiency.

In the same vein, a technician carries out a post-operational check on the bolt torque and leaks. That being the case, a dyno test allows the transmission to undergo several operational conditions and measures the output of all each state.

Can Transmissions Fail a Dyno Test?

Most certainly, not all transmissions pass the dyno test due to several conditions. In a situation where the transmission does not perform under factory specifications, then it will not pass the dyno testing. When that happens, the transmission will be stripped down and rebuilt while it is in high gear in a bid to ensure it passes the dyno-test.

It is, however, not a bad thing that it failed the dyno-test since it informs that there is a need for an improvement which could see a more revamped transmission rebuild. That being the case, you can reap the full benefits of quality transmission rebuild, which is known to be reliable.

What If Your Transmission Is Your Business?

If you’re a transmission rebuild shop or company in the remanufacturing industry, you’ll agree that reputation matters, and it begins by giving your customers quality gearboxes. How else can you assure them that the transmission you’ve handed over to them won’t fail in operating conditions?

It is through dyno testing that will check if the transmission will fail under these conditions. A dyno test will also check the transmission’s quality thoroughly to ensure that it does not fail or potentially cause more damage to the engine.

Nonetheless, bypassing this step either to cut costs or time can negatively impact your reputation in the long run. And that could be bad for business given the return that will be made, the potential for a ruined reputation, and the extra work that will have to be put into the transmission rebuild.

How to Ensure a Quality Transmission Rebuilt?

A quality remanufactured gearbox designed by professionals is one that does not only come with a guarantee, but it has been dyno tested. If it passes the test, then it could even be better than a new transmission due to its high quality.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know why it is important for your transmission to be dyno tested, it can help you to determine if the faults prevalent in your vehicle emanated from the low-quality transmission.

In the same vein, you’re aware at this point that not only is a guarantee necessary, but a dyno testing since it takes it one step further to assure you that the gearbox has been tested to meet factory guidelines.

When each of these is in place, you can have a high-quality transmission that can stand the test of time and the full functionality of other components it is paired with. For businesses, it will save your brand’s name and help spread the word that a reliable remanufacturer is in town.

Why Are Automatic Transmissions Better Than Manuals?

There’s an everlasting debate around manual and automatic transmissions, with both the types showcasing some promising pros and cons. However, modern problems call for modern solutions and hence a majority of the top-notch motor vehicle brands have adopted the automatic way of life with self-shifting gears making transmissions smoother than ever. However, if you’re a novice when it comes to car gear, we have just the list of pros and cons needed to tell you why automatic or self-transmissions will be perfect for you.

How Do Automatic Transmissions Work?

Before we take the dive into the pros and cons, let’s get to know automatic transmissions better. Every time you change gears in your car, the power from the engine transfers to the drive axle and powers mobility in the vehicle, making it move forward. In a manual transmission, the driver has to engage or disengage gears to make it move, whereas, in automatic transmissions, multiple gears work together constantly allowing the car to change gears on its own. Because of this, drivers, usually beginners or intermediate level drivers, prefer the automatic transmission over the manual. Apart from this:

    • Automatic gears are much easier to use and are considered a safer option for unsteady terrains. The next time you plan a weekend gateway to the hills, make sure you choose automatic over manual.
    • Automatic gears can start, accelerate, and stop cars much easily because of the automatic gears, which means cutting through traffic, sudden halts, open highways, and crowded roads can easily be steered with automatic gears.

Intrigued yet? If you’re already looking at automatic transmission for sale, you’ve come to the right place. However, before you splurge on your new gears, let us tell you why manual gears too are in demand.

    • Manual transmissions are usually cheaper and come with better fuel efficiency.
    • Professional riders usually prefer manual since you can customize your gear shifts according to your needs without having a machine automatically determine.

While some cars are incomplete with an automatic transmission, the others prefer a vintage touch to their vehicles! The trick is to choose the right gear for the right vehicle, and the rides will be smoother than ever!

6 Tips on Buying Performance Transmissions Online

6 Tips on Buying Performance Transmissions Online - Gearstar

You may be torn between the decision of whether it is worth replacing or rebuilding a transmission. It may also become an important decision to make, especially if you need to get your car back on the road after its transmission has failed. However, there are several tips on buying high performance transmissions online, whether it is used or remanufactured. These tips will ensure that the rebuilder you settle for is one that saves you money in the long run.

Tips on Buying Performance Transmissions Online

There are several offers online for transmissions, which can make it a bit difficult to make a decision of which to settle. It’s even more challenging given the number of promises they all come with, and as such, you have to rely on the word of the manufacturer and the honest reviews of previous buyers.

Nonetheless, spotting a good performance transmission can be easier than you imagine by considering the following tips when buying a high performance transmission online.

1. Rely on a Local Transmission Rebuild Shop

Before heading online to search for the best performance transmission out there, your best bet would be to take a closer look at the local rebuild shop that offers a good warranty. Local shops come with a lot of benefits, and one of such is the promise of better service when its time to fall back on the warranty.

Let’s face it, while a small percentage of transmissions fail, there is still the potential for your used or rebuilt transmission to develop faults at some point. When a fault occurs when you’d least expected, a warranty becomes beneficial.

A local shop would be in a better position to fix it since the hassle to get it checked is less. Unlike an online store or out-of-state rebuilder, it would require repackaging and shipping it off just to get it checked.

2. Non-Rebuilt or Used Transmissions Are Cleaner Than Rebuilt Transmissions

When it comes to buying a performance transmission online, you need to consider if a used or rebuilt transmission is what you want. Before you make a choice, check this out!

Automakers design transmissions in clean environments, and for this reason, the fluid in a new transmission has fewer contaminants. It also means that a used low-mileage transmission from a trusted auto parts dealer or auto-recycler is cleaner and a cheaper alternative than an expensive built performance transmission that may have been opened on more than one occasion.

For instance, performance aftermarket companies that rebuild transmissions may not carry out the operation in clean environments. Also, the steps involved in tearing apart your transmission’s core and rebuilding it with replacement parts may be carried in an environment of this kind.

The result has been proven in a study that shows that for each time a transmission is opened and rebuilt, the fluid has higher contaminants than an Original Equipment (OE) manufactured transmissions.

Specifically, the test showed that such fluid could be 5 to 103 times dirtier (presence of contaminants), which could be higher depending on the transmission’s model. It’s worth noting that a transmission’s fluid is vital because it allows the power to be transferred from the engine to the pavement.

Thus, if the fluid is contaminated, it could cause bushing failure, burned clutches, worn valves, worn gears, accumulator wear, rubber seal, amongst other undesired effects. Contamination can be prevented in rebuilt transmissions by using more filters than what can be found in the OE transmission because once it is opened, it will be dirtier. In addition, you need to form the habit of checking the transmission fluid to see if there are any indication of problems.

3. Inexpensive Deal from a Local Transmission Shop/Rebuilder

Who doesn’t like return and loyal customers? Local transmission shops or rebuilders most certainly do. And that is why they may put in their best in rebuilding a transmission that can offer power and speed.

In the same vein, they are bound to offer you a sweeter deal compared to what you may find online. Look at it this way; they believe that if they do an excellent job at yours and for a good price, then there’s a high chance you’ll refer them to family, friends, colleagues, etc. There’s also the warranty benefits of sending the transmission out the door if it gives you any hassle.

An online seller, on the other hand, may already have hundreds of orders and would be trying its best to meet deadlines. In a rush, a lot can go wrong, and that would be at the expense of a transmission you are paying heavily for.

4. Prioritize Common Failure Points of the Transmission Family

It is quite easy to be carried away with horsepower and torque ratings, which is why online companies parade these terms as an accurate measure of a bulletproof transmission.

However, it is a marketing scheme because these are not the actual horsepower and torque ratings that the transmission can handle. An accurate measure can be ascertained after a reliable or valid test has been carried out to know if the horsepower and torque ratings specified are on par with what the transmission can handle.

On the contrary, the latter may not be so because not every transmission gets tested in a vehicle – because the cost and time of removing and replacing the transmission in each engine would finally take a toll on the company.

Online re-sellers also parade with the same notion that these transmissions have been dyno-tested or road-tested when in actuality, they haven’t. The big idea is, a good number of performance transmissions ship untested and there is no standard for testing transmissions, at the moment.

To that effect, resort to a local rebuilder who will fix the common failure points and also give you the warranty that it will stand the test of time within a specified period.

5. The Hype of Performance Aftermarket Companies

Performance aftermarket companies need to sell their built transmissions and if that means hyping what it can do a little, no problem. But what happens when it’s at your expense, then a lot can go wrong.

On the contrary, you need to be realistic and know what is possible even when you are promised a 700HP. It is not going to handle 700HP, even though it says so.

Look at it this way, GM an original equipment manufacturer may have spent millions on building the 4L60E and transmission family. Such a transmission may have been tailored to operate to its full potential at a particular horsepower and torque rating.

Performance aftermarket companies, on the other hand, will work on the same transmission which millions of dollars have been showered on its design, but in this case, change a few parts with low-quality hardware.

Also, not all parts are changed, which means that they have not all been toughened to handle 700 HP. In the end, what you get is a transmission where specific common failure points have been handled but without offering 700 horsepower from a 350 horsepower.

6. Check Out Customers’ Reviews and Recommendations

If you’re bent on buying a performance transmission online, you will do well to go through the hundreds of customer reviews and recommendations. You’ll be able to judge if the transmission’s specs have been hyped or if it can deliver high performance in real-life.

Your ability to know between either of these lies in the honest review of happy and displeased customers. The hard truth is, most online aftermarket performance transmission is based on hype and not facts.

Thus, you should know if the transmission can give you a performance equivalent to money’s worth, something close to it, or you’re better off staying away from it in the first place. Nonetheless, these reviews can be attributed to certain factors:

    • The level abuse the transmission will be susceptible to and if it is powerful enough to withstand.
    • How the transmission has been built to be bulletproof based on the specifications that have been outlined, and in some cases, it has not been built to meet what has been stated.
    • Sending the customer a used transmission that has been repainted instead of one that has been rebuilt to improve its performance.
    • The customer’s unrealistic expectations and sometimes based on the hype they have been led to believe.

These aside, some online and offline rebuild shops are more than willing to give you a list of customers they have sold used transmissions to. You could obtain the list and make findings for yourself if these customers were satisfied with the results they achieved.


These are the tips on buying high performance transmissions online, which will enable you to choose from a wide range of options.

Whether it’s a local rebuild shop or online aftermarket company you’ll settle with for a custom high performance transmission, you can look over the hype and know the real-life performance to expect from the rebuilt transmission.

In the end, it should be a transmission that can deliver an acceptable level of performance.