5 Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter (and Replacement Cost)

In this article we are going to talk about the part of the automatic transmission called the torque converter. After reading, you will know how a torque converter works, symptoms of a bad torque converter, and its average replacement cost.

How a Torque Converter Works

torque converter replacement cost

Basically, the rotational power of engine torque is transferred to the transmission from the engine using a torque converter. This converter is installed and mounted onto a flex plate in between the transmission and engine. The crankshaft spins the flex plate to create the conversion effect.

Underneath the cover of the torque converter is a pump which contains a bunch of blades. These blades spin like a propeller in sync with the engine crankshaft. This causes fluid from the transmission to flow onto the blades of the impeller.

This particular blade assembly is attached to the input shaft of the transmission. The speed and gear of the vehicle is determined by how much hydraulic pressure is generated inside of the transmission through this process.

Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter

Problems with the torque converter create symptoms that are often misconstrued as being a transmission that’s failing. As a result, people will end up paying thousands of dollars just to replace their transmission or have it rebuilt.

What they don’t realize is that it may be the torque converter malfunctioning instead. The cost of replacing the torque converter is much less than replacing the transmission.

When the torque converter becomes faulty, there is more work required to be done by the vehicle just to sustain the same speed levels. The operation of the engine will require more revolutions to take place per minute, which will decrease the transmission fluid pressure and fuel economy.

what is a torque converter?

Worst of all, the system generates more heat which could create even more problems in other areas too. Here’s a list of the typical symptoms you’ll find with a faulty torque converter:

#1 – Slipping of the Transmission

When a torque converter has problems, they will show themselves quickly because it won’t be able to manage the fluid properly. Either too much fluid or not enough fluid will go into the transmission, causing the gears to become slippery which results in a decrease in acceleration.

The fuel economy of the vehicle will decrease as well. There could be a low amount of transmission fluid too, so you should first inspect the fluid as soon as you notice slipping taking place.

#2 – Problems with Gear Shifts

Any delayed or soft shifts could be the symptom of the torque converter’s lowered pressure output. Instead of the transmission shifts feeling nice and crisp, they will be rough and won’t engage the way they’re supposed to.

The best way to assist the transmission so it can shift its gears properly is to increase the torque converter’s output pressure. The only way to do that is to increase the RPM of the engine.

#3 – Vehicle Speed Problems

When the torque converter’s output is not consistent, it can result in the transmission decreasing or increasing the speed of the vehicle. Meanwhile, the throttle won’t have any concurrent changes because there will be varying hydraulic pressure.

Driving conditions could become dangerous when this happens, so don’t operate your vehicle on the road until the issue has been repaired. The variation experienced may have a shudder feeling, but it is still a good idea to have the transmission mounts inspected and to tighten or repair these mounts if need be prior to inspecting the torque converter.

#4 – Shuddering

If you drive at around 30 mph to 45 mph and you start to feel shudders, shakes, or vibrations, the reason might have to do with problems with the torque converter. The feeling will usually resemble that of moving over a bumpy road, so it should be easy to notice.

The act of shuddering will happen suddenly without warning and then go away suddenly. But you should definitely get your transmission inspected by a professional after the very first time you experience these vibrations.

#5 – Noise

When a torque converter goes bad, there are many different kinds of noises that can be made. First, there may be a whining noise that sounds like a power-steering pump with little fluid in it.

The assembly’s motor contains a mechanism that has clutches. When this mechanism goes bad, a rattling noise can be heard. This noise might not be so loud when the vehicle’s in park. However, once the transmission is put into gear, the frequency and volume of the rattling noise will increase, which spells trouble for your converter.

Torque Converter Replacement Cost

If you have experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above, then your torque converter possibly is at fault. The cost of getting your torque converter repaired will actually be more than just replacing the converter. However, have a mechanic or auto expert look at it first before making any decisions.

Most auto repair shops will charge someone anywhere from $600 to $1000 for a torque converter replacement job. If you would rather do the replacement job yourself, then a new torque converter will cost anywhere from $150 to $500.

The exact cost depends on the make and model of your vehicle. At least you’ll be cutting out the labor costs if you do it yourself. It is a big job though because the transmission will have to be removed so that the torque converter can be inspected and then replaced so if you’re a beginner, it’s not something you probably want to tackle.

 

Comments

  1. Hi i took my car to the main dealer to be checked out and i was told my gear box is gone (need replacing it) which cost a lot of money so i decided to take it to All gear specialist who advised me it needs torque converter, so i gave him a go ahead to replace it costing nearly £1000 but a few weeks later the car developed some kind of vibration when i am driving at speed of 30-50 mph, is it to do with the replacement of torque converter or could be something else, please advise.

  2. 2014 Ford Escape – 56,000 miles-bought new – was it defective or? Seems like not too much mileage for this part to be replaced? Will the car be the same – or will I continue to have problems with the transmission going forward – should I get rid of this car? What do you think? Dealership will be doing the repair which fortunately is covered till 60,000 but not far from getting to that mileage where the transmission will no longer be covered. What do you think?

    • Depends how much you’re in it for. If you’re deep underwater on your loan, which you almost certainly are with a Ford, you have no choice but to keep it on the road until it’s paid off. If you have to go into more high-interest debt for the repair bills, but can’t afford to pay it off, park the car in the backyard and get a late-model Honda Fit or Kia Soul, though avoid the infamous Theta engine on the Soul. No bank will finance an LTV that high without a way to hide the negative eqity in rebates. The only cars that meet that criteria are the Nissan Rogue, Mitsubishi Outlander, and Dodge Journey, all of which make your Ford look like a Toyota by comparison. You’d probably end up paying double the car’s value in interest too, if a high LTV forces you to go with the dealer’s financing.

    • If the car’s paid off though, then yeah get rid of it ASAP. Consider this a lesson learned about the big 3: they can make great cars, but they do it inconsistently, and because the NHTSA for protectionist reasons avoids issuing recalls on American cars until PR pressure gets too high to avoid it, if anything goes wrong you’re on the hook. We’ve all owned a Ford, Chrysler, or GM at one point, but unless it’s one of their famous performance bargains or fairly solid full-size trucks, most people don’t buy a second. You’re very fortunate that the Ford didn’t destroy your finances, so take advantage of that to get a good interest rate on something else. A torque converter should last the life of the car, and the life of a well-built modern car is a bare minimum of 200k miles. Anything you take care of should easily go over 250k, though it might need a new transmission on the way. Imports can be dicey sometimes too, but as long as you avoid Nissan, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and VW it ought to work out. Plenty of Hondas, Kia/Hyndais and Toyotas are made in America.

  3. Acura charged me $1234.43 plus tax and said that was 1/2 price. I think it should have been under warranty for a 2005 MDX

    • I have a 2013 ford escape and its vibrating when i drive, im about to have the torque converter replaced, am i wrong or not i was also told to have the transmission flushed since i have over 100,000 miles on it

      • Stay away from your escape. run fast. I replaced the transmission twice in two years and it was a 2013 with under 100k

  4. My co-worker was just quoted around CDN$5000 (US$4000) to have his 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee’s torque converter replaced. This sounds outlandish to me, but he’s very trusting of the referral he got to this mechanic. I’m wondering if there’s more wrong than he’s told me. Any thoughts?
    Calgary, AB

    • If it’s just replacing the torque converter, that price is ridiculous. The cost of labor is not cheap though since they have to pull the tranny. They might also be rebuilding the tranny though. I’d recommend taking it to a transmission shop for quote.

    • The torque converter itself new costs about $800, so that’s an awful lot of labor to drop the box and swap it out. Oh, plus some trans fluid. Imho.

  5. Hi. I have a 2003 Ford F250 5.4 I had a transmission line brake while driving and draining the Transmission. I didn’t realize it BROKE until the truck stopped. Iri replaced the line filled the transmission. When I put it in gear it won’t move. And dosen’t make a sound.

  6. youa re basically better off gettung rid of any car thats has any type of transmission failure
    they can never be replaired thouroughly properly or competently unless they are replaced totally as one complete new unit from the dealer
    sorry but sometimes the truth hurts

  7. Thanks for the article!! Clearly knowledgeable! I have a Honda accord 2007 auto. The box shifts fine, nothing seems to be having issues at all other than a rather loud whining sound in second and third gear only. No whine in neutral, or other gears. Now the reason i am suspecting the converter, is this whining sound is almost like fan blades hitting the edge of something. For me to describe this whine is almost impossible, but its not really like a standard bearing whine at all.. Of course as its 2nd and 3rd, it would likely eliminate the TC (but that is my question) as i would expect it be all gears. The whining started about 10 000 km’s ago, barely noticeable but is building up to pretty noisy. Could the TC be the culprit? Or am i dreaming here! Thanks very much

  8. I’ve been having issues with my 2002 Ford F150 for at least a year. First the gear shift BROKE, I bought the part and had a town mechanic install it for $150. He said there was a hole in the hydraulic line so he replaced the hose. After I fixed all that the abs light and check engine light came on. I took to O’reillys in Temple to read the codes and they said exhaust system issue so I put some gum out and got it to Dallas. Then it died in the middle of the road! I called Triple A for a tow and got a shop referral to a shop next to my parents house in Dallas. They charged me $800 during the holidays, ouch! Then I had a medical evaluation in February so I drove to Temple, when it started choking again. O’reillys read the codes again and cyl #6 was misfiring so I bought the coil there and took it back to the shop in Dallas. I had to buy more gumout. When the shop said the same thing, I told them the coil is on the seat. They only charged me $30 to install $35 part? I wasn’t complaining! But that was February and by April my truck started choking again so I took it to the dealership between Temple and Belton, The Johnson Bros. I asked them to look at my truck and tell me WTH is wrong with it?! I know I need to replace the tires, but what will fix the abs and check engine lights? I told the dealership that the overdrive light was flashing on the gear shift, that was a first! They said the torque valve and seal needs replaced so they quoted $3k to replace the transmission. I’ve called my old shop in Cedar Park (Eagle Transmission) and they haven’t seen it yet but over the phone they’ve said $1500 to $2k. OMG! 😱 my truck barely has 130k miles on it, I thought Ford trucks were supposed to go a million miles and keep on going! I know the sway bar needs attn but will this fix my truck? I’m not a mechanic but I need my truck for building a ranch. Help? I’m thinking about getting a 2nd vehicle for backup. But I’m trying to avoid a truck payment so I can pay for the ranch and animals.

    • I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all the issues. Sounds like you’ve done everything right as far as going to multiple mechanics, having the truck scanned for codes, etc. Since you’re dealing with a variety of issues including a possible tranny replacement, you really need to consider replacing it before sinking a ton of money into it. We’re talking about a truck that’s almost 20 years old. Sure it should last longer, but unfortunately that’s not the case every time. I hear you about avoiding a truck payment but you should be able to get something comparable and even newer for only a little more than the cost of all the repairs needed.

  9. My 16 yr old son worked all summer to save his money to buy his 1st car. 5 days ago he brought a 2009 Nissan Altima for $3300 and today we find out that it needs a torque converter. They want to charge $3200 to rebuild the transmission and replace converter😡. The owner of the used car lot has declined to return his money, fix or exchange it do to it being sold as is

    • I feel bad for your son. Unfortunately used cars are almost always sold in as-is condition. Not knowing the miles or condition, that price seemed a bit too good to be true. It’s always a good idea to have a used car inspected by an independent mechanic but not many people do so. Obviously, that doesn’t help now. I’d recommend getting a second opinion to make sure the entire tranny needs replacement. But, you can also push a bit more on the owner of the car lot to at least contribute some money toward repairs. As a business, online reviews are important. If you were to tell him you’re going to post negative reviews about your experience, it might make him reconsider. I prefer to avoid that route but it’s likely that he knew about the issue.

  10. I own a 1990 Buick Regal LE. It’s been stalling on me, after driving for 3 miles or so, when I come to a stop or slow down to make a turn. Im having the transmission control seleniod replaced. What should I expect the cost to be?

  11. My 2013 Tahoe has all the above symptoms. The Chevy dealership has the torque converter on order but it will take a week (quoted at 1350.00). In the mean time, they told me i could drive it that the damage was already done. My question is: If i drive it for another week won’t that hurt my transmission more?

  12. I agree with everything that is written. Now it’s time to look at it from a shop perspective. Not that they want to take your money which I’m sure they do. But from a return perspective. Liability. Because the torque converter problems can cause or be caused by other problems. Leave a faulty torque converter in place too long you’re going to wear out the clutches. Or vice versa. So this is why you won’t find too many transmission shops willing to just swap out the converter and not do a complete rebuild. Because they don’t want the customer coming back. Gives them a bad reputation because people don’t understand. So they shotgun the whole unit to cover themselves.

  13. My 2013 Yukon xl Started making that whining noise I thought I was the steering Pump, Days later the Yukon will go only in drive or reverse for about half block and then stops then it won’t go forward or reverse till I turn it off turn it back on and then goes for another half Block, I tracked the sound to be coming from underneath the Transmission, at this point I’m not sure of the transmission is shot or I can only change that torque converter

  14. seems to me by the prices people are paying for converter replacement or a rebuild you may as well buy another transmission if you are gonna keep the vehicle!

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