What Does A Torque Converter In An Automatic Transmission Do And How Do You Know If Yours Is Starting To Fail?

When you're driving a car with a manual transmission, there's a clutch that connects the engine to the transmission. Pushing down on the clutch pedal breaks the connection between the transmission and the engine, and letting up on the clutch pedal will connect them again.

In a car with an automatic transmission, you don't have to worry about managing the clutch pedal. Instead, the engine and the transmission are linked by a component called the clutch converter. It uses transmission fluid to send power from the engine to the transmission, making shifting possible without any direct connection between the two.

The torque converter is a very important part of your car's transmission since it's how your vehicle receives power, so a failing torque converter will result in serious problems with how your car drives. To learn more about this part of your car's transmission and how you can know if it's failing, read on.

How Does a Torque Converter Work?

A torque converter allows power from the engine to be sent to the transmission with no direct link between the two. A torque converter has an impeller connected to the engine shaft and a corresponding turbine connected to the transmission shaft. When the engine is on, it will spin the connected impeller. The impeller sends high-pressure transmission fluid to the turbine, causing it to spin and rotate the transmission shaft. The rotating transmission shaft is what transmits power to your car's wheels.

The spinning impeller and turbine will heat up the transmission fluid due to friction. In order to avoid overheating, the torque converter will engage its clutch when you're driving at highway speeds. This directly connects the engine to your transmission, much like how a manual transmission operates. Once the engine and transmission are directly connected, the transmission fluid will stop circulating and have a chance to cool down.

How Do You Know if Your Torque Converter Is Failing?

One of the most common symptoms of a failing torque converter is a sudden vibration when you're driving at highway speeds. When you're driving that fast, your torque converter will try to lock the engine and the transmission together. If any bearings in your torque converter are worn, however, then the friction from the worn bearings rubbing up against the engine shaft or the transmission shaft will result in you feeling a sudden jolt in the steering wheel. When this happens, you may also hear a squealing noise caused by the worn bearings rubbing against the shaft.

Your torque converter may also be failing if your engine stalls when your car comes to a complete stop. This happens when your torque converter can't unlink the engine and the transmission. When you come to a complete stop, your wheels aren't rotating anymore, and this causes the transmission shaft to stop rotating. When it's still linked to the engine, it will cause the engine shaft to stop rotating as well. This causes your engine to stop, and you'll need to start your car again in order to continue driving.

If you have either of the above problems, you need to take your car to a transmission repair shop as soon as possible. If your car stalls whenever you come to a stop, you're facing a major safety hazard. If your steering wheel is vibrating due to worn bearings, the friction between the bearings and the shafts can result in shards of metal flaking off and being thrown deep into your transmission, causing worse damage. In order to keep you safe on the road and to prevent your transmission from being destroyed entirely, it's important to have your torque converter inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

For more information, reach out to a local service, such as AC Transmission Centers North.