6 Signs of a Bad Torque Converter

A torque converter is opened up for inspection.

A properly working torque converter is something your car’s transmission needs to function. If there is a problem causing it to malfunction then there are some symptoms that your car will exhibit. Here, you will get a brief idea of what a torque converter is and some of the most common ways to tell if yours is going bad. Keep in mind that other problems with your vehicle might show these same signs, so it’s best to check for more than one of these symptoms to confirm that the cause lies with your torque converter.

What Is a Torque Converter?

In an automatic transmission, a torque converter is a part that takes the place of a manual clutch, allowing the engine to move somewhat independently of the transmission. This is what allows the engine to idle instead of cut off when your wheels and transmission stop, such as when you’re at a traffic light.

The housing of a torque converter, which connects to the flywheel, contains three parts: the pump, turbine, and stator. If any one of these parts isn't working right, the flow of your transmission fluid will be compromised and many other problems will follow.

1. The Gears in Your Transmission Slip

If the gears in your car’s transmission are slipping, then you might have an issue with the converter. If there isn’t enough pressure to control the flow of the hydraulic transmission fluid, too much or too little will get into the transmission and cause the gears to slip as it shifts. This can often be due to low or bad fluid as well, so be sure to check that first.

2. Your Car Doesn’t Accelerate Properly

With gear slippage, you may also feel a loss of acceleration. This is because a torque converter controls hydraulics, and if it’s bad, it won’t allow enough pressure to go to the transmission and this causes the car to accelerate poorly.

3. Your Car Doesn’t Shift Gears Easily

Similar to gear slippage, if the flow of your transmission fluid is compromised, you might have a hard time shifting gears at all. The transmission might even strain as it shifts.

4. Your Transmission Surges or Lags

Again, because a bad torque converter means that your flow of transmission fluid isn’t what it’s supposed to be, you can also have issues will transmission surges or lags while you drive. This will be especially noticeable at times when you’re maintaining a consistent speed.

5. Your Car Shudders

When driving at a lower speed, around 30 to 45 miles per hour, you may feel a shudder, as if you’re driving over bumps. One thing that might cause this is a bad torque converter.

6. Your Fluid Is Dirty

Check your transmission fluid. If there are a lot of black flecks in it, your transmission clutches could be the problem. Drain the fluid and replace it once you have addressed the issue to make sure there isn’t another cause.