The torque converter is a complex, highly sensitive, and vital part of your vehicle. A hydraulic coupling transfers your engine’s power to the transmission. Torque converters can perform this function because they are filled with automatic transmission fluid. On a fundamental basis, the torque converter is an excellent alternative to the mechanical clutch in standard manual transmissions. This is because torque converters in perfect working conditions multiply torque at lower revolutions per minute (RPM). This allows for more power than is usually possible via simple fluid coupling. However, when torque converters go bad, it can be worrisome. This is why it is crucial to know bad torque converter symptoms. This will make diagnosing it easier, and proper steps can be taken to fix the issue.
Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter
These are the symptoms you should take note of as they inform you that your torque converter may have gone bad:
Illuminated Check Engine Light
The transmission control module (TCM) monitors the operation of torque converters in modern vehicles. If this module notices an issue with the torque converter or control circuitry, the device immediately switches on the Check Engine Light. It will also rapidly store a DTC (diagnostic trouble code) in its memory. Some vehicles switch on a dedicated transmission light when there’s a torque converter problem.
Slipping between Gears
Automatic cars are designed to shift smoothly between gears. You can feel the seamless transition, especially when you step on the gas pedal or decelerate quickly. However, suppose you feel your vehicle slipping between gears when it shifts. If you experience difficulty staying in a particular gear or the shifting feels somewhat strange or rough, there’s a great chance you’re plagued with a torque converter issue.
This is a relatively common torque converter issue that often results in vibration, usually before or after the clutch lockup of the torque converter. If you own an older automatic vehicle, you may notice this vibration when driving at 40 to 50 MPH, which is when lockup occurs. But if you drive a late-model car, the shuddering may occur at different speeds since these vehicles usually apply the torque converter clutch gradually.
Leaking Transmission Fluid
The transmission fluid is crucial to a torque converter’s overall health and performance, including the entire transmission system. Unfortunately, torque converter seals can get worn out or damaged over time. This makes them prime sources of transmission fluid leaks. If your transmission fluid starts leaking, you shouldn’t waste time or take chances. Something is wrong with your torque converter, and a professional must check it out as soon as possible.
Loss of Acceleration
Is your vehicle feeling more sluggish than usual, and acceleration is now a struggle? You could have transmission issues, and the torque converter is the most likely culprit behind it.
Your vehicle’s transmission comes with a highly sensitive temperature gauge that quickly detects when the transmission is overheating. It warns you of this development so that a certified transmission professional can get your vehicle looked at as soon as possible. Your torque converter may fail, or internal damage may require urgent attention.
There may be trouble if you suddenly notice a whining noise from your torque converter. This whining noise implies that the pump within the torque converter is no longer functioning as designed. The noise could imply that the blade assembly no longer receives enough fluid. This can cause everything to run together, which is not supposed to be.
Diagnosing a Bad Torque Converter
You don’t need a professional to diagnose torque converters issues. This is something you can do by yourself. However, you will need the professional assistance of a certified torque converter technician to confirm your suspicions and fix them as soon as possible. Follow these steps to diagnose the issue and listen carefully for unusual occurrences like shuddering, strange noises, slipping, etc.
- Start your vehicle and allow the engine to run for several minutes.
- Apply light pressure on the gas pedal a few times.
- Push the vehicle’s brake and shift the gear into drive.
- Shift through each gear slowly.
- Drive around the neighborhood and listen attentively for unusual sounds each time you accelerate.
These steps may appear simple, but they can distinguish between driving with a bad torque converter and a good one. It is also easy to confuse torque converter issues with transmission problems. This is where the professional assistance of a torque converter specialist comes in. A specialist knows what to do to check for torque converter problems.
Fixing a Bad Torque Converter
Fixing a bad torque converter may save you a few bucks, especially if it is so damaged that you need to replace it with a new one. However, fixing or replacing a bad torque converter is more cost-efficient. If you keep driving your vehicle with a bad torque converter, the latter will cause considerable damage to the components within your transmission. You will spend a lot of money fixing those issues and still fix or replace the damaged or bad torque converter. A stitch in time, they say, saves nine. Therefore, get your vehicle to the nearest auto mechanic shop and get the torque converter specialist to look it over. Share your suspicions with the professional, as this will make it faster for them to readily diagnose or confirm issues using special equipment.
You can avoid torque converter problems if you know the symptoms to watch out for. The most obvious signs have been highlighted above. However, if you notice any of them, it is high time you get your vehicle’s torque converter checked out by a certified and trusted specialist. The cost of fixing or replacing your torque converter should not be an issue, especially if you consider the severe damage it may cause to your transmission if you don’t fix it on time. Therefore, always watch out for these signs each time you drive your vehicle. As soon as you notice any torque converter trouble shared above symptoms, take the necessary action.