As technology and innovation continues to rise in the automobile industry, the vehicle got improved. The shift from the clutch to the torque converter is such an example. Being a wonder in the industry, it is only normal that this component gets enough attention. As such, this article gives a complete guide on the torque converter, including the cost of repair.
One of the best things about this component remains the fact that it is purely mechanical. Both in structure and function. Its nature helps the torque converter to carry out its function smoothly and seamlessly. Whenever you drive, and that acceleration comes smoothly and deceleration, remember this component that made it possible.
What are torque converters?
As a replacement for the clutch in manual vehicles, torque converters regulate and transfer power from the engine to the transmission. They allow the engine to keep running while the vehicle tires slow down or when the vehicle stops.
Being a type of fluid coupling allows the engine and transmission to operate independently of each other to some extent. You will find this component situated between the engine and the transmission system of the vehicle. This location makes sure that the two parts of a car do not contact each other. The converter carries out any required connections. This part of the car remains one of the least understood components in an automatic transmission vehicle.
Components and structure of torque converters
Torque converters are made up of an impeller, turbine, transmission fluid, stator, and torque converter clutch.
This component is attached to the engine’s crankshaft. It also spins with it all the time. When the impeller starts to spin, it catches the transmission fluid. The generated centrifugal force moves the fluid to the edges of the pump. The force with which the fluid moves depends on the speed at which the impeller spins. The turbine -which also spins- receives the fluid from the impeller.
The turbine faces the opposite direction of the pump. As soon as the transmission fluid gets to the turbine’s blades, it causes them to start spinning. The blades' rotation sends the fluid to the turbine’s center and then pushes it back to the stator and pump. This occurs as a cycle between the impeller and the turbine. Also, while the impeller acts as the part attached to the engine’s crankshaft, the turbine does the same but for the rest of the transmission.
Sometimes known as the converter's reactor, the stator sits centrally between the turbine and the pump. While the stator resembles the impeller, it is different in size and function. The stator is smaller than the pump, and it collects the fluid coming from the turbine.
It also regulates and decides the rate at which the transmission fluid flows back to the impeller. The stator structure forces the fluid to flow back to the pump more slowly compared to when it's flowing to the turbine. This occurrence significantly increases the torque.
This is the fluid found inside torque converters. It flows from the pump to the turbine and back. In so doing, the transmission fluid spins the blades of both components, multiplying the engine’s torque. However, kindly note that the fluid can get contaminated and when this happens, make sure to change it.
Torque converter clutch
The primary function of the clutch is to lock the impeller and turbine. This lock makes them rotate at the same speed till the clutch disengages. Before the addition of the clutch, torque converters could not deliver optimally due to energy loss. When the car begins to slow down and stops because of the absence of a clutch, energy gets lost.
With the addition of the clutch, torque converters can now maximize their efficiency. Because now, energy isn’t needlessly lost. For more on torque converter clutches, check out this article put together to explain this component better.
How torque converters function
For the torque converter, the engine can connect to the rear wheels to control them. Also, to allow the engine to disengage from them to keep running while the car stands still. To achieve this, there are a couple of processes going on inside the converter.
Let us take a look at these processes. Firstly, the impeller connected to the engine begins to spin as soon as the engine starts up. Its blades build up centrifugal forces that push the transmission outwards and towards the turbine blades.
Next, the turbines (which is connected to the rest of the transmission) have their blades funnel the fluid to the center of the turbine and then push it back towards the impeller through the stator.
In turn, the stator decides the amount of fluid reaching the impeller and the speed of the fluid. Flowing back to the impeller at a slower rate greatly multiplies the torque. This continues as a cycle. In this way, the fluid acts as the medium through which energy is transferred from the engine to the transmission.
The place of the torque converter clutch
Now, the clutch comes into play when the car is moving at high speed. At this point, the engine and the transmission need to rotate at the same speed. The torque converter clutch locks the engine and the transmission via the impeller and turbine to achieve this and prevent energy loss. In their locked state, they both rotate at the same rate.
Thus, all the energy coming from the engine gets transferred to the transmission of 100%. When the car starts slowing down, the clutch disengages, and the engine and transmission begin to spin independently of each other again.
The clutch can detect when to engage and disengage based on the torque converter clutch solenoid's existence. This piece can receive inputs and notify the clutch. Check out this article for a better understanding of the solenoid.
Symptoms of bad torque converters
From shuddering to unusual sounds and even overheating, several signs suggest a bad converter. Check out this well-written article on the various symptoms of a bad torque converter. The article also explains the various factors that damage torque converters.
Caring for torque converters
The following are ways to care for the converter in your car. These steps will help you prevent damage to your torque converter while keeping it optimal.
Always make use of the ideal transmission fluid type.
Make sure to check the owner’s manual of your car to find the right type of transmission fluid for your car. A good idea to follow when you aren’t sure of the fluid type is to ask a professional. You can ask your mechanic or contact a repair shop or the manufacturer’s service line.
Wait for the vehicle to warm up before driving.
You should let your car warm up before driving it. This point is more important during the winter season when the environment drops in temperature. When you start your engine, wait for a few minutes to let the engine and the car warm up before driving off.
From time to time, check the transmission fluid.
A lot of modern vehicles now have an easy way of checking the transmission fluid. It is now as easy as checking the motor oil. If you find the fluid level is low, that can be an indication of a leak. You will recognize the transmission fluid because of its sweet smell and bright red color. If, upon checking, you find the fluid dark, murky, or stinking/smelling bad, take it to the repair shop for diagnosis.
If you can help it, don’t use the vehicle for heavy lifting.
This point belongs to owners of vehicles not built for towing or heavy labor. Avoid using the car for pulling or towing heavy loads as that can damage the transmission.
In hot temperatures, subjecting the car to heavy-duty can cause oxidation of the transmission fluid. This reaction will cause the fluid to burn and will deal a great deal of damage to the transmission.
Avoid changing gears while the car is moving.
Refusing to let the car stop before changing the gear will put a lot of strain on the transmission. Changing gears, in this case, refers to changing from drive to reverse and vice versa.
Putting serious pressure on the transmission from time to time will sooner or later cause serious to it. Let your vehicle stop before proceeding to change the gear.
Always change the filter regularly.
Some cars have a filter for the transmission fluid. If your car falls under this category, make sure to change the filter regularly. A good time to do this is whenever you flush the transmission fluid.
Flush the transmission fluid regularly.
You should always take your car to the repair shop and let the professionals change the transmission fluid. This change should be done regularly.
To determine the best time to change the fluid and how often, check the car’s owner’s manual. Although once a year is an ideal practice to adopt, the frequency for change heavily depends on the amount of driving involved. It also depends on the temperature within which the vehicle operates.
Replace spare tires as soon as possible
Avoid driving with a spare tire smaller than the car’s tire for long periods. The same applies to mismatched tire sizes.
Doing this will ruin the wheel alignment of the vehicle. Over time, it will begin to put a lot of pressure and strain on the vehicle’s transmission.
Regularly service your engine’s cooling system.
This part of your engine prevents overheating. Servicing it from time to time ensures that it operates optimally. With an efficient level of performance, the engine's overall temperature will remain within the ideal range.
As a result, the temperature will not rise to the level that burns or oxidizes the transmission fluid. Make sure to regularly service the cooling system to ensure that the temperature remains within the optimal range.
Repairing and replacing torque converters
When you encounter a bad torque converter, you have one of two options to make – repair it or replace it. Repairing it attracts more cost compared to replacing. To repair, torque converters have to be opened up, which is difficult in addition to cleaning and reconditioning.
In general, professionals will advise you to opt for replacing the converter. This option costs less, both financially and in terms of labor. It also avoids the risk of causing more harm than good in the long run.
While you can decide to replace it yourself, do not attempt to repair the torque converter. However, replacing the torque converter yourself will cost you around $200 to $500 in addition to about an average of 8 hours for labor.
Taking the car to a repair shop will cost around $600 to $1000. Take note that the cost of changing the transmission fluid might not be included in the amount the shop charges you.
Diagnosing issues with torque converters
While carrying out each of the steps mentioned, make sure to listen for shuddering, strange noises, or lurching constantly.
Start the vehicle and let it run for some time, warming up in the process.
Lightly press the gas down several times.
Push the vehicle’s brake, then move the gear into 'drive.'
Circle through each gear slowly. Starting with ‘drive,’ shift into the other gears till you return to ‘drive.’
Drive around while listening attentively for any strange sound or noise each time the car speeds up.
For the case where you cannot go through the entire article, this section gives you the most important points.
- Torque converters do the work of clutches in automatic transmission vehicles.
- They regulate the transfer of energy from the engine to the transmission.
- The impeller/pump, turbine, transmission fluid, clutch, and stator are torque converter's components.
- Replacing the torque converter on your own will cost you around $200 to $500 in addition to about an average of 8 hours for labor.
- Taking the car to a repair shop will cost around $600 to $1000.