Torque Converter

Torque Converter Symptoms, Problems, Location & Replacement Cost

In Transmission by 14 Comments

If you are into cars, you have probably heard about the torque converter before and the problems associated with it.

Torque converters can be found in almost all cars with automatic transmission. This is probably one of the reasons why you have heard of so many failed torque converters.

In this article, you will find all information you need about the torque converter. You will find information about how it works, the most common symptoms, problems, location, and how to test the torque converter. You will also find the replacement cost.

Top 6 Bad Torque Converter Symptoms

Several strange symptoms can occur with a faulty or failing torque converter.

The most common symptoms of a bad torque converter are transmission slipping, rough idling, rough acceleration, car won’t move at all, or noises from the transmission.

Here is a more detailed list of the most common symptoms of a bad torque converter.

1. Transmission Slipping

Car Losing Power Acceleration

A widespread symptom of a defective torque converter is that the transmission slips when accelerating.

You can feel this when the engine revs up when in gear, but the car does not accelerate. Often you need to have a good feel for your car to detect a slipping transmission.

The torque converter needs to build up pressure inside of it to move your car forward, and if it doesn’t, it may slip when accelerating.

2. Rough Idling

Car Engine Rough Idle

Rough idling is another common symptom of a bad torque converter. If you feel that your idle is a bit jumpy and sometimes too low and sometimes too high, it could be a torque converter problem.

If the torque converter is faulty, it might create unexpected pressures inside the torque converter, which can cause rough idling.

3. Rough Acceleration

Slow Car Acceleration

Rough acceleration is also a known symptom when it comes to defective torque converters. Different pressure peaks can cause this in the torque converter and the fact that the torque converter slips, as already mentioned.

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If you feel that you are experiencing rough acceleration, check your RPM meter to see if it jumps a little when accelerating. If this is the case, a faulty torque converter is probably the cause.

4. Car won’t move in drive or reverse

Gear In Drive

If your car does not move at all in drive or reverse gear, a completely failed torque converter could be the cause.

However, a car that does not move in gear can be caused by many different things, and it should be properly diagnosed before replacing anything.

5. Transmission overheating

Gearbox Symbol

If the torque converter slips while driving, this can lead to unnecessary heating of the transmission fluid, which at some point can even become so hot that it boils.

A slipping torque converter will wear out the transmission very quickly. In some cases, you may have temperature sensors that cause the transmission control unit light on your dashboard to flash, which indicates that your torque converter is slipping and overheating the transmission.

6. Noises from the transmission

Car Engine Noise

Check whether you can feel or hear strange noises from the torque converter both when idling and accelerating. Listen in the middle of the car under the gear stick to see if you can hear knocking or other strange sounds.

If you hear any noises, lift the car and check if other things could be causing the noises before replacing the torque converter.

Torque Converter Function

Torque Converter Function

The torque converter is the unit that gently transmits power from the engine to the transmission gears. In short, the torque converter is filled with transmission fluid and has a “fan” or turbine-like unit inside. The more it rotates, the more pressure it creates inside the unit, and the more power is transferred from the engine to the transmission.

For example, if you run two fans against each other and start one of the fans, the other fan will also begin to rotate, but not directly at the speed the other fan has. This is precisely how a torque converter works.

As you can probably figure out, this gives you a very smooth power transmission between the engine and the wheels.

4 Common Torque Converter Problems

Torque Converter Problems

When it comes to torque converters, some common problems can be encountered. In general, the torque converter is not a very advanced part of older vehicles, and there are not many parts that could fail.

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Sometimes you can find cheap full replacements for torque converters, in which case it is often not worth taking it apart and replacing different parts; rather, it’s cheaper and quicker to replace the whole thing.

1. Bad Torque Converter Bearings

A widespread problem is that the bearings in the torque converters are worn. This does not cause slippage or other transmission problems but can cause bearing noises from the transmission.

If you hear bearing noises from the transmission, check the transmission fluid, and see if you can see metal parts inside the transmission fluid. If you find metal parts, they are probably from a defective torque converter bearing.

2. Damaged Torque Converter Seals

A faulty seal of the torque converter will cause the transmission fluid to leak out of the torque converter, and thus the pressure inside the converter will be lost.

Low pressure inside the torque converter will cause slippage, overheating, and other strange symptoms. This is actually one of the most common problems when it comes to a faulty torque converter.

3. Faulty Torque Converter Clutch Plate

There are several clutches in a torque converter. If the torque converter is locked in the drive or idling gear and does not release the transmission, you most likely have a problem with the converter clutch.

A faulty torque converter clutch can also cause other symptoms such as slipping and rough acceleration.

4. Faulty Torque Converter Clutch Solenoid

The torque converter clutch solenoid is a common part that fails within the automatic transmission. The solenoid valve controls the fluid pressure of the hydraulic transmission, which enters the lock-up clutch.

This can cause various symptoms, such as slipping, overheating, and rough acceleration.

How to Test a Torque Converter

Test Car

There are not many things you can do to test the torque converter without taking it apart. But there is a way to check the torque converter for signs of wear.

Here is a method I usually use to check for problems with the torque converter.

1. Start the engine and let it warm up

First, you should start the engine and let the transmission oil warm up to around 40 degrees.

This can take a long time, and it is recommended to check the temperature of the transmission oil with a diagnostic scanner to make sure that the transmission oil is warm.

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When the transmission oil is warm, it is time to move on to the next step.

2. Move shifter into gear

Now you can try to apply the drive gear and listen carefully if you can hear any signs of noise from the torque converter.

The torque converter should move the car forward with just a light touch of the accelerator pedal. Shift between the other gears (Drive and Sport, if you have it) to see if you can hear any other sounds from it. If everything seems to be fine, you can go on to the next step.

3. Test drive

Now it’s time for you to drive the car at a higher speed. Keep an eye on the tachometer and speedometer. If the car revs up significantly without actually accelerating, the torque converter is slipping.

All older automatic transmissions slip a bit when accelerating, but if you have owned the car for a while, you probably know how much it should slip. If you are not sure, let a mechanic test drive your car and see if he hears any noise or can feel slipping.

Torque Converter Location

Torque Converter Location

The torque converter is located between the engine and the automatic transmission.

To diagnose it correctly and carry out a visual inspection, you must remove the vehicle’s transmission and engine. Some older American cars have a cover plate that you can remove to inspect the torque converter. But even with them, you will not see much because the torque converter is a sealed unit.

I do always recommend to remove the torque converter from the transmission to diagnose it properly.

Torque Converter Replacement Cost

A new replacement torque converter costs between $100 and $400, depending on the vehicle model and converter type. The labor cost to replace the torque converter is between $200 and $1000, depending on the vehicle model, and the workshop will make the work.

You can expect a total torque converter replacement cost of 300$ to 1500$.

The transmission does often have to be removed to replace or inspect the torque converter for any problems.

To replace the torque converter, it will take between 3-12 hours, depending on your skills and experience.

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14 thoughts on “ Torque Converter Symptoms, Problems, Location & Replacement Cost ”

  1. Hello ,excellent article,I have a 2008 Mercedes b200 cvt it has no drive forward or reverse ,no noises,p2008 code, has this box got a pressure test port? It seems like nothing is moving in the gearbox in drive under acceleration,The drive shafts are ok, I bought the car with no drive and was told it had intermittent drive then nothing,thanks Brian

  2. Author

    From the information I can find, the P2008 on Mercedes is referring to the electronic selector lever module – control unit fault. There is a known problem with the shifter itself. Sometimes liquids could get into it and destroy it.

    I think you should let a mechanic take a look with a Mercedes diagnostic tool, in this case, to test out all the maneuvers of the transmission with the tool.

  3. Hi I have Camry le 2014 and when I take my feet of the pedal and when it drops to 40 The car slows down takes a bit of load and then it suddenly goes free after the Gear shift is done. I went to the dealership and they say it has faulty torque converter but I’m worried the transmission is faulty and very soon the warranty will be over. The car shudders when I accelerate but I don’t understand why it feels uneasy for the car to have a downshift of gears. Can you recommend why car is uneasy while I slow down . Please guide

    1. Author

      @Veneet If they are replacing the torque converter on warranty, you should absolutely do it. A faulty/Leaky torque converter can also cause pressure losses in the transmission and give a lot of strange symptoms.

      However you could also try with a transmission flush/fluid and filter replacement first, but if they have diagnosed and found a problem with the torque converter, it may be so.

  4. Hi Magnus i have a Nissan sentra 3 when i put on drive it doesn’t go unless if i shift the gears from 1,2 then on drive and on reverse it needs revving then it can go without revving it doesn’t go.what is the problem

  5. I got a 2012 E71 X6m last month. Face a problem when sudden load of my throttle at 6th gear then gear will drop to 4th and when shifting to 5th gear will got a heavy pull back feeling after that if I continuse heavy throttle again will come out transmission faulty. So will jam at gear 4th then must restart the car will back to normal. If I normal drive is like a totally no problem at all. The problem came in when a sudden load. My gearbox is ZF 6 speed auto transmission.

  6. I have a IZUSU ELF.
    What is it, when vehicle trying to shut off when you are on the road? It shut off when I apply clutch or brake.

  7. Thank you for that information which has helped me to know the problem of my vehicle which is a CRV RD 1. I am now going shopping for a torque converter which I think is the problem, my question is, does it affect the automatic transmission box?

  8. Hello Thank you for that excellent piece of article. I used a Launch X431 do diagnose a 2010 Camry. I popped up P2757 Torque converter clutch control solenoid control circuit performance or stuck off error, which I had wiped but keeps showing up after about 10km drive. Please I need your advice

  9. Am experiencing heat on my transmission oil. I just repaired my transmission but have not change the torque converter. The truck will not move until I accelerate a bit and when I put the gear on reverse the truck moves even without acceleration and you will notice it and when I put the gear on drive you will not notice it. The truck is Ford Explorer Sport trac 2005

  10. Hi i have a E240 W210 1999 model it has a 722.6 5 speed automatic transmission in the kilos are 331000 , the car keep on going into limp mode and is stuck in second gear ,i took it to a mercedes mech and the fault code says its the solenoid and it does not clear ,apparently there are water inside the box ,so i immediatly stop the car, i have replaced the radiater 4 years back , so my question is will it be worthwile to change the transmission fluid and filter as well as the 13pin plug ,i saw before it all start there was a red oil leak on the garage floor.The car shifting of gears were 100% and the reffs did not run away when i pulled away at a robot ,but now it does not want to shift from 2nd to 3rd its in limp mode how will i know if the clutches are okay Regards Hennie

  11. I have a 2007 Volvo XC90 V8 with a Tf80sc transmission i keep having problems with the metal clad seal on the pump backing into the torque converter seal causing a big leak this has happened 6 times I don’t know what or why this is happening can u please enlighten me on this because I’m going absolutely crazy trying to figure this out thanks Chris..

  12. I have 350 turbo transmission driving fine then at stop light gave some gas very won’t move tried all gears and reverse nothing towed home checked fluid out looks good and at proper level what would be the cause

  13. Howdy, I have a 2005 F150 4×4 with a 5.4, 4R75E trans, 3.73 gears and 35″ tires. Trans was replaced by the dealer at 86k miles with a used 50k mile unit, at 130k now. Replaced the filter and fluid after I had it for a few months. Don’t know which Torque Converter they put in, original, used that came with the trans or new. Full disclosure found all the pan bolts loose a few days ago, only about .5 quart low but shifting was weird especially at lockup speed until I retightened the pan bolts. Now its acting like the TC is stalling early, won’t speed up past 1/3 to 1/2 throttle even when I put my foot on the floor, RPMs don’t go up like a slipping unit, rear tires hard to spin on dirt and grass, almost like it has a constant heavy load on it when accelerating but at any speed small throttle movements act normal. Shifts, idles, and locks above 40 just fine. I still get 16mpg on average if I keep my foot out of it. I’ve tuned and replaced all engine control, ignition system and fuel system electronics, including the throttle body and fuel pump. True dual exhaust with cats replaced. Engine purrs and idles at 500-550 rpm normally when warmed up, neutral, drive or reverse. Come to think of it acceleration in reverse seems better. Computer isn’t throwing any code, engine diagnostics all look fine. Tranny fluid is pink, no bubbles that I can see. My assumption is the torque converter but is there something else I’m missing? Do I need to try a flush first because of the loose pan bolts? And if I did replace the TC would I benefit from the low stall or mid stall unit? I’m assuming (again) the low stall was for the 5.4 and the mid stall was for the 4.6 and/or v6 engines.

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