Have you ever heard the term “torque converter”? Odds are, unless you have had a problem with yours, you are probably unfamiliar with what this vehicle component is and how it works. If you have an automatic transmission vehicle, you use this part of your vehicle every time you drive, whether you realize it or not. We are going to review what a torque converter is and touch on why it is an important part of your vehicle.
What’s the Difference Between an Automatic and Manual Transmission?
Before we dive into what a torque converter is, it’s important to note that only automatic transmissions have this component. What is the difference between an automatic and manual transmission?
Automatic Transmission: An automatic transmission (sometimes abbreviated to auto or AT) is a multi-speed transmission used in motor vehicles that does not require any driver input to change gears, under normal driving conditions. Most drivers with an automatic transmission have little to no intervention with their transmission when it comes to shifting gears. An automatic transmission has no clutch pedal and once the transmission is in “drive”, everything is automatic.
Manual Transmission: Vehicles with a manual transmission have a clutch pedal which unlocks the gears so you can safely shift from one gear into the next. With a manual transmission, the driver has to do the work to change gears and it is not involuntary like with an automatic transmission. A manual transmission vehicle requires more effort and concentration from the driver than its automatic counterpart.
With manual transmissions, the engine is connected to a transmission by way of a clutch. Without this connection, a car is not able to come to a complete stop without killing the engine. Cars with automatic transmissions have no clutch that disconnects the transmission from the engine. Instead, they use a torque converter (HowStuffWorks).
What is a Torque Converter?
Now that you understand why only automatic transmission vehicles use a torque converter, we can jump into what a torque converter actually is.
Cars with automatic transmissions need a way to let the engine turn while the wheels and gears in the transmission come to a stop. As noted above, manual transmission vehicles use a clutch; automatic transmission vehicles use a torque converter. Essentially, in an automatic transmission, your vehicle’s torque converter is the same as the clutch of a vehicle with a manual transmission; however, unlike a manual transmission vehicle, it uses fluid to transmit power to the transmission, preventing your engine from stalling and allowing the transmission to change gears.
The torque converter has several components inside it: pump, turbine, stator, and transmission fluid. A torque converter is a type of fluid coupling, which allows the engine to spin somewhat independently of the transmission. The pump basically flings the transmission fluid into the fins of the turbine that, in turn, spins or transmits the torque into the transmission.
If the engine is idling, the rate at which the transmission fluid pumps into the turbine within the torque converter is slow, thus, the amount of torque passed through the torque converter is very small. When you step on the gas, the engine speeds up and pumps more fluid into the torque converter, causing more torque to be transmitted to the wheels and allowing your vehicle to move down the road.
Do You Have Issues with Your Torque Converter?
If your torque converter is having issues, your vehicle will not drive as it should. You may notice a loss of acceleration, slipping gears, overheating of your vehicle, shuddering, unusual sounds, and just overall your car, truck, or SUV may not drive normally.
As with all parts of your vehicle, we don’t expect you to be an expert on the torque converter. Both automatic and manual transmissions are very complex and have a lot of things that work together to make them run as they should. If you have issues with your Phoenix vehicle, Advanced Transmissions & Emissions can help.