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Getting Back to the Basics of Torque Converters

Torque Converters: Getting Back to the Basics - Gearstar Performance

Cars have come a long way from not only offering high horsepower, low emissions, but driveability which was once a bone of contention. These days, fuel economy, power, and speed can be found in auto shift-cars and for those who may have had a hard time abandoning their gearshift, there should be no second thoughts given these enhancements.

However, to get the benefits from today’s technology, you need to select the right torque converter for your automatic. This is because a torque converter does not only link the engine to the transmission, it tunes the connection to give the most power while minimizing heat.

The power of driveability and reliability lies in its hands and as such, choosing the wrong torque converter can twat your dream of a stout gear-bangin’. For this reason, if you have plans to speed up your car and get some fuel mileage irrespective of the shift pattern you’ve settled with, then it begins with falling back on the torque converter basics.

What Is a Torque Converter?

A torque converter transmits the engine’s torque to the transmission which enables you to move along the road. What this means is that it connects the power source to the load by transferring rotating power from a prime mover to a rotating driven load.

Torque converters can be found in automatic transmission vehicles and as such, they replace the clutch in manuals.

How Torque Converters Work

A torque converter’s mode of operation is similar to fluid coupling because it multiplies torque when the rotational speed is low to the point that it allows the fluid that is coming off the curved vanes to deflect off the stator.

A quality converter will minimize stall in other to prevent slushing that may lead to overheating. It can also ensure that the right power band is selected to get you into gear and the stall required is used to enable you to halt when necessary.

Major Parts and Components

The major parts you’ll find in a torque converter are impeller or pump, turbine, and stator or reactor.

The pump is similar to a centrifugal pump and it has several longitudinal fins which help to move the fluid around its outside diameter to the turbine. The turbine is connected to the drivetrain through the input shaft of the transmission and as this component moves, so does the car. The stator, on the other hand, is the fluid director and what it does, is to change the fluid flow between the pump and the turbine.

The Must-Knows

Engines and transmissions have evolved over the years, and so have torque converters that aid in the functionality of the duo. That is why you will find a number of high-end street cars today powered with the same converter that was once considered race-only converter. The latter are converters that use the same technology as steel stator designs to give them the strength to withstand the applications they are used.

Now that’s out of the way, here are some ways on how to speed up your car using the torque converter basics. Today, there are great cars with a promise of high horsepower, speed, and fuel economy, however, car enthusiasts’ expectations for these cars have also soared.

To meet these expectations, there are a number of torque converter basics that can give your car an edge in the competition with millions of others out there. The goal is to aim for the right torque converter, and not just one that is a perfect fit between the engine and the transmission. Accordingly, the basics you should keep in mind are:

Use quality fluid and filter to service your unit.

The use of fluid and filter of good quality can never be overemphasized since it can help to combat excess heat. One thing you may want to be on the lookout for is the amount of heat produced by your car since it could affect how long it services your needs.

Use a cooling system for your transmission.

A cooling system will also help to regulate your engine’s temperature and prevent overheating. Keep in mind that no matter the quality of torque converter you settle for, more priority has to be given to combat heat. Thus, this calls for a cooling system to be paired with quality fluid and filter.

Provide all the necessary information to your technician.

Torque converters may strive to achieve the same purpose, but they are not all built to fit the same car.

Your car being the same as your buddy does not mean that you can use the same torque converter as them since no two cars are the same and one size cannot fit them all.

At this juncture, it is good to know that there are companies that specially design torque converters to fit how the car will be used and the driver’s needs.

These companies have tech lines which you can use to reach out to them to provide as much information as possible about the torque converter you need to be built.

Remember, information can never be enough and the most important include rear end gear and tire size, camshaft specs, and engine size.

Use a lock-up converter.

For reliability, increased fuel mileage, and driveability, a lock-up becomes needful.

It can greatly reduce the transmission’s heating issues as a result of too much slippage from a higher-stall converter.

You’ll find a lock-up converter in an overdrive-style transmission and the converter features a clutch that when engaged, creates a near direct drive effect.

What this does is reduce slippage to a minimal level irrespective of the stall speed which, in turn, helps to combat the heat that could potentially kill the transmission.

Consider the camshaft.

Camshafts and converters have a close relationship and they may be helpful in selecting the right converter.

A camshaft can greatly determine the powerband of the engine combination and as such, it plays an important role in helping you select the converter.

Matt Kehoe from B&M, for instance, outlined that before its company can provide accurate converter recommendation, they need to know the exhaust and intake duration at .050-inch lift.

In his opinion, a 2,000 or 2,400-stall converter is a good choice when one considers cam duration up to 248 degrees.

On the other hand, a 2,400 or 3,000-stall converter is a better option for cam duration up to 268 degrees while a 3,000 to 3,600 stall converter is a good way to go for advertised cam duration over 272 degrees.

These values may look vague, but what they actually mean is that to get optimum performance, you need a torque converter with just the right amount of stall that will not generate heat.

There’s also the benefit of allowing the engine to sit idle in gear especially if a stock camshaft is used.

Determine the right stall speed, then choose wisely!

We’ve stressed the need to get the right stall speed in order to prevent overheating, but it might be difficult to ascertain when the stall is right.

That’s no longer the case when you consider a number of factors. The first is determining if your car currently has the right stall speed by determining:

        • If your car clunks when its put in gear.
        • If it slips when accelerated on the highway.
        • If it heats excessively after being driven for long.

Research all your power-adder predicament options.

Performance-enhancing add-ons such as blowers, turbos, nitrous, etc. have a unique torque curve which varies depending on the type of power adder. As a result, if you plan on using any of these, then you need to ensure that your torque converter of choice has been customized to meet that torque curve.

Bringing Speed and Drivability to Your Ride

These torque converter basics will ensure that you get a unit that is just right for your car which is one that can provide optimum performance. You will also be able to determine if the camshaft in your car is the right one and if there are needs for a replacement. It all boils down to this: there are important factors you need to consider before settling for a torque converter that will make you enjoy every minute you’ll spend on the road.

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