Common Problems with a Torque Converter

A torque converter is used to transfer rotating power from a prime mover, which would be your gasoline engine, to a rotating driven loan. The torque converter simply takes the place of a mechanical clutch, which then allows for the loan to be divided from the power source. The beneficial part of a torque converter is that it is able to enhance torque when there is a difference between the input and output speed of rotation, which then provides what would be about the same as a reduction gear. A torque converter can be and is often used not only in automobiles but also in boats and in buses used for public transportation.

Of course, with the benefits of the torque converter there are also some problems that may arise. Care must be used when you use a torque converter, but you also need to know the actual limits of your converter. When you know the limits of your converter you can help to avoid torque converter failure, which is more common than you might think. Of course, most of the failures can be avoided by simply knowing the limitations and capabilities of your converter.

One of the most common torque converter failures is overheating. If there are continually high levels of slippage this may exceed the ability of the converter to dissipate the heat. If continuous levels of high heat are present it may cause damage to the elastomer seals that help to keep all of the fluids within the converter. The result is that the unit will leak and then stop functioning as a result of too little or no fluid within the converter.

Another common issue with a torque converter is the stator clutch breaking. When there is a sudden application of power it can shock the stator clutch with a heavy load and will actually cause it to break. When the stator clutch breaks it will allow the stator to rotate the pump in the wrong direction and there will be no transmission of power. When the stator clutch breaks the vehicle will not be able to move on its own.

In addition to the stator clutch breaking it can also seize, or simply stop working. The way that this works is that the inside and outside components of the clutch actually get locked together, which keeps the stator from rotating during the coupling phase. Seizure of this nature usually occurs when there has been sudden and severe loading. Usually a seized stator clutch will result in very little efficiency during coupling, and the fuel consumption will increase as a result.

Yet another common issue with a torque converter is blade deformation or even fragmentation of the blades. These issues can occur with the blades when there is sudden or excessive heating of the converter, at which time the pump and turbine blades can become deformed. Often times, the blades will actually pull away from the hubs or rings or can simply break into fragments. This can often cause irreparable damage to the torque converter.

Ballooning is another common problem with torque converters. This problem is caused when there is an excessive load placed on the converter or when there is a sudden load. Ballooning may also occur when the converter is used at a very high RPM. Ballooning can even cause the converter housing to expand or even rupture, causing the converter to cease working.

All of these problems can occur when you least expect it, which is why you need to understand how your converter works and how you can avoid failure. Most failures can be avoided, it simply comes with knowledge and experience. Be sure to learn as much as you can about your specific converter.

There Are 3 Responses So Far. »

  1. '07 Dodge Nitro. Automatic transmission. Suddenly did not engage gears. No issues prior to event. Dealer states torque converter broken and damaged pump. Don't know what type of damage as described in this article.
    thank you

  2. I brought my ford windstar SEL 2000 to the Ford dealership for repairs concerning the flashing overdrive light in the dashbaord. Some repairs were done and the torque converter was not repaired at this time (Wednesday). When we picked up the vehicle we said we were going on vacation and wanted to know if we could take the vehicle without having the torque converter repaired at this time. The service technicien told us that there would not be problem that it would get us from our location to Boston and back (about 600 miles) without any problems - GUARANTEED!! Well guess what, on our back home and roughly 2 hours from home our vehicle began losing transmission oil. We pulled off to the side of the road and called for road-side assistance, hide our car towed to a garage (in the middle of nowhere) and made other arrangements to get home.

    The car dealership serevice technician at FORD said this was not there problem because they could not foresee this happening. What do you think?

  3. Have a 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee with 184,000 miles on it. I'm having trouble with the RPM'S fluctuating when I'm on cruise control. I had the torque converter replaced at 164,000 and it's still fluctuating when I'm on cruise control, do I have another bad torque converter? Any help, Thank you.