The torque converter is a susceptible, complex, but essential component of traditional automatic vehicles. In technical terms, a torque converter is a form of fluid coupling generally known as ‘hydraulic coupling.’ It is a perfect alternative to the mechanical clutch you find in manual transmission. In ideal working conditions, torque converters multiply torque at lower revolutions per minute. This enables you to generate more power than possible via simple fluid coupling. When a torque converter goes bad, it can severely damage the transmission. A faulty torque converter can also result in overheating, friction, and degradation of the transmission fluid.
How Does a Torque Converter Work?
Torque converters operate in three distinct phases, as outlined below.
Whenever you brake at a red light or come to a halt when you come across a ‘stop’ sign, your car engine still runs or idles. The torque converter applies power to the independently-rotating impeller without coupling with the turbine.
As soon as the red light turns green and you press down on the gas pedal, the impeller responds immediately by rotating at very high speeds. Since the turbine often rotates slowly, torque multiplication is generated instantly.
The turbine rotates at approximately 90 percent of the impeller speed when your automobile starts moving at a fast clip. This results in torque multiplication. The lock-up clutch efficiently locks the turbine to the impeller at this point. This provides greater efficiency while preventing slippages.
The Torque Converter and Components Around It
The torque converter is often positioned between the transmission and the car engine’s flex plate. It comprises the following different components below.
The impeller is mounted on the torque converter housing. The latter is connected to the engine.
The impeller is a vital component that comes with curved blades and is usually filled with fluid. When the impeller’s blades spin, the impeller sends forth fluid via centrifugal force. The faster the blades rotate, the more fluid is forced backward, resulting in energy transmission to the turbine.
The stator is a component conveniently interposed between the turbine and impeller. It receives fluid and turns the flow of fluid at nearly 90-degree angles. This results in torque multiplication.
The turbine is positioned opposite the impeller. It comes with curved blades designed similarly. The turbine receives fluid from the impeller and rotates as this fluid flows against the blades. The turbine trades the fluid back and forth, which transmits rotating mechanical power via fluid coupling.
Turbine Output Shaft
The turbine output shaft connects the transmission and turbine and the vehicle’s wheels. These are the components that surround the torque converter. If any of these components suddenly fail, your torque converter will go bad, too.
6 Telltale Signs of a Faulty Torque Converter
The following are the top common signs of a faulty torque converter you should know.
1. Loss of Acceleration
If you notice that your vehicle shudders when you step on the gas pedal or feel somewhat sluggish or find it difficult to accelerate, your transmission may have a problem. In many cases, the key culprit behind such developments is the torque converter.
2. Leaking Transmission Fluid
The transmission fluid is essentially the ‘blood’ of the transmission. It is crucial to the overall health and extensive performance of the torque converter and the entire transmission system. If torque converter seals get damaged or worn out over time, it may lead to transmission fluid leaks. This is why you shouldn’t take any chances whenever you notice that your transmission fluid is leaking. Leaking transmission fluid indicates something is wrong and must be addressed immediately. This helps avoid significant internal damage and costly repairs if ignored for a long time.
3. Slipping Between Gears
Automatic vehicles are primarily designed to shift seamlessly between gears. Most drivers feel this smooth movement, especially when they decelerate or accelerate quickly. However, if you feel your vehicle slipping between gears or find it challenging to stay in a specific gear, you may have a torque converter problem. You should arrive at this conclusion when the shifting also feels strange or rough.
4. Contamination of Transmission Fluid
Transmission fluids can get contaminated. Therefore, it is a big sign of trouble if you suddenly notice that your transmission fluid looks milky, burnt, dark, or filled with debris such as metal fragments or shavings. You need to service your transmission right away. This could be everything you need to get fresh transmission fluid flowing through the system again. Bad transmission fluid could also imply issues with the torque converter or other internal transmission problems. Getting an expert transmission specialist to perform proper inspections is essential.
5. Overheating Transmission
Your vehicle transmission comes with an ultra-sensitive temperature gauge. This gauge warns you as soon as your transmission starts overheating. It is not ideal for your transmission to overheat. If it does, it causes serious concern. Therefore, get your vehicle to the best transmission specialist in your area. A failing torque converter – or internal damage – may be the culprit behind an overheating transmission. Let the issue be addressed as soon as possible to avoid extensive and costly repairs.
6. Refusal of the Vehicle to Shift
The most prominent sign of a faulty torque converter is when your vehicle refuses to shift into a particular gear. If you cannot get your car to shift into forwarding drive or reverse or refuse to engage, something is wrong with the torque converter. It must be inspected immediately by a specialist for prompt repairs.
The Bottom Line
These are some of the top common signs of a faulty torque converter. Therefore, if you notice any of the symptoms discussed above, find your way to the nearest local mechanic as soon as possible for multi-check inspection and road tests. Make sure you work only with certified torque converter technicians as they know how to perform minor repairs and simple component replacements. They can also complete overhauls if required and use only brand-new tools, diagnostic technology, and equipment.