How to Check If Your Car Transmission's Torque Converter Is Failing

Posted on: 29 November 2016

If you suspect that you have a problem with the automatic transmission, it can be difficult to actually pinpoint what's going on. As it has such an important role to play in the operation of this system, the torque converter can often be at the root of the issue. What does this part do and how can you recognise the symptoms?

How Does It Work?

The torque converter controls how much lubricating fluid is delivered to the automatic transmission system at any one time. It also permits the engine to keep running even though the vehicle is at a standstill.

What Are Some Of The Signs Of Malfunction?

If you can detect that there is a problem 'somewhere' in your transmission system AND you can see that the vehicle is overheating by looking at the temperature gauge, this could be a tell-tale sign. Overheating within the torque converter system happens when fluid pressure drops.

If the amount of fluid that is being delivered to the system is not correct, then this can cause the gears to slip and the car will not be able to accelerate properly. You will be able to detect this by listening to the engine noise and noting that the car is not accelerating in sync with the revolutions. Also, you may notice that you're not getting the same level of fuel economy as you did before.

Another symptom of a failing torque converter is a 'shuddering' effect when you're driving along at highway speeds. This sensation can come and go without any warning and it can feel as if you're driving along a rough road even when you're on smooth pavement.

It's also possible that some strange clicking noises could emanate from underneath your driving position.

Doing a Test

In order to help you pinpoint the issue, start the car and leave it run for a few minutes by itself. Then, depress the accelerator pedal lightly several times. Before the engine settles back down to normal speed, put a foot on the brakes and shift the pedal into drive. If you experience any strange clicking noises, or the engine should accelerate or lurch forward by itself, this could be an indication of a problem. If you don't see any of those issues, shift the car into reverse, listen and watch again.

What to Do Next

If you've been able to narrow it all down to a potential torque converter issue, you have the information needed to discuss this with your car mechanic. If you're still not sure, then it's time to take the car in for professional transmission service anyway.