Car Maintenance And Repairs

Torque Converter Failure Symptoms And What To Do

Mike Cross
Updated October 18, 2020

A torque converter is one of the more important parts of your vehicle that you need in full operation. Especially if you are driving a vehicle with an automatic transmission. However, it might be a bit hard to spot torque converter failure issues if you are not mechanically inclined enough to know whether or not that something is wrong. We’ll be talking about what a torque converter does and what kind of symptoms you need to look out for when potential failures arise.

What Is A Torque Converter?

A torque converter is a circular device that is attached between the engine and the transmission. The purpose of the converter is to transfer the fluid (with the help of the engine’s power) the transmission itself. At the same time, the torque converter makes it so that the fans located inside the engine are in full working order so the engine doesn’t overheat. It should also make sure that the fans are spinning in the same direction simultaneously. If you are driving an automatic transmission vehicle, the torque converter is basically the replacement of the clutch that you’ll find in a manual transmission vehicle.

How Do Torque Converters Works?

An example of this, we’ll be taking a look at two fans facing each other. One fan will be blowing air at a high rate of speed to a point where the blade’s of the second fan will slowly move. Even if you hold the second fan in place, the first fan will still move in working order at its usual pace. The first fan is connected to the engine while the second (but slower-moving) fan is connected to the transmission. These fans or turbines will allow the vehicle to move unless it’s in neutral or park.

Symptoms Of Torque Converter Failure

We’ll be taking a look at some of the most common symptoms of torque converter failure. It is important to know what these are so you are able to make the determination of whether or not it needs to be repaired or replaced. Here are some of those symptoms

Overheating: Obviously, overheating in a vehicle is a serious symptom. You will be aware of any overheating with the use of your car’s temperature gauge. You may also experience a drop in fluid pressure as well. If you see these two signs, then torque converter failure is almost a certainty. Overheating will not allow the engine to transfer power to the transmission. If the problem continues, you may also experience other issues like damage to the transmission’s inner workings and throttling issues.

Slippage: One of the major causes of a converter slipping out of place might be due to a fin or a bearing being damaged. Also, you may experience a delay in shifting as well. However, slippage may also be a common symptom if you are running low on transmission fluid. It’s important to check your transmission fluid levels before you can rule out that issue. If your transmission fluid levels appear to be in good shape, then your concern should shift to the torque converter.

Bad transmission fluid: As mentioned before, checking your transmission fluid will be key. If you see any signs of fluid contamination, then chances are your transmission will suffer some serious damage. Signs of contamination include black colored sludge and excess debris. At this point, you’ll need to change the transmission fluid to see if the problem goes away. After replacing the fluid, go for a test drive. If your fluid continues to be contaminated, then you’ll need it to be serviced.

Shuddering: If your vehicle reaches speeds of 35 to 45 miles per hour and you feel or hear some kind of shuddering, then that could be the lockup clutch showing signs of malfunction. To translate it in plain English, if it feels like you are driving down a flat road and it feels like you’re going over a lot of bumps then you are dealing with shuddering. If these occurrences continue constantly, then you might want to get it to a mechanic immediately.

Strange noises: Of course, hearing strange noises under the hood is a common symptom for a ton of mechanical problems. But you should listen for any noises that may sound like “whirring” or “clanging”.

Increased stall speed: If you’re experiencing a delay in shifting, then that’s a sure sign that the stall speed of your vehicle is higher than normal. Typically, your vehicle’s stall speed should be anywhere between 2000 to 2500 RPM. Anything higher than that will certainly be an issue.

torque converter failure symptoms
Torque converter failure symptoms

How To Diagnose Torque Converter Failure

If you want to diagnose the problem, it’s important to listen to unusual noises that may be coming from your vehicle’s engine (like clanging, whirring, etc.). Other noises like slipping and shuddering might be something to look for. Using best obd2 scanner also a good change. Here’s how you do a diagnosis:

  • Start your vehicle and let it idle for two to three minutes
  • Lightly press down on the gas pedal multiple times
  • Shift the car into drive like you normally do in an automatic transmission vehicle
  • Slowly shift through every gear
  • Take a short drive (a mile round trip) and listen for sounds or noises coming from your engine when you accelerate

What could be causing Torque Converter Failure?

What could be causing Torque Converter Failure
What could be causing Torque Converter Failure

There are plenty of issues that could lead to a torque converter to fail. This may include a bad converter clutch, needle bearings, and seals. For example, if you are experiencing reduced levels of power or strange grinding noises, your needle bearings may be the problem. If you are experiencing any overheating and contamination of transmission fluid, your converter clutch may need to be looked at.

DIY vs Professional Mechanic Costs

If you are more mechanically inclined, you can replace the torque converter yourself. It will cost you no more than $150 for a replacement part. If you opt for a mechanic to do the job for you, the price will be anywhere from $500 to $1000 depending on the shop.


A torque converter that has gone bad will need to be taken care of as soon as possible. You must never drive your vehicle with this issue until you are able to fix it. Doing so will cause the engine and transmission to sustain further damage and render the vehicle useless. Be sure to check your transmission including the torque converter on a regular basis.

Mike Cross
Life is too short to drive with stock audio

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