How Does a Torque Converter Work?

By Mister Transmission

Torque converters are sealed units; their innards rarely see the light of day, and when they do, they’re still pretty hard to figure out!

Imagine you have two fans facing each other. Turn one fan on, and it will blow air over the blades of the second fan, causing it to spin. But if you hold the second fan still, the first fan will keep right on spinning.

That’s exactly how a torque converter works. One “fan,” called the impeller, is connected to the engine (together with the front cover, it forms the outer shell of the converter). The other fan, the turbine, is connected to the transmission input shaft. Unless the transmission is in neutral or park, any motion of the turbine will move the vehicle.

Instead of using air, the torque converter uses a liquid medium, which cannot be compressed – oil, otherwise known as transmission fluid. Automatic transmission cars use a torque converter. This article will discuss why automatic transmission cars need a torque converter and how a torque converter works.

The torque converter in an automatic transmission serves the same purpose as the clutch in a manual transmission.

The engine needs to be connected to the rear wheels so the vehicle will move, and disconnected so the engine can continue to run when the vehicle is stopped. One way to do this is to use a device that physically connects and disconnects the engine and the transmission – a clutch. Another method is to use some type of fluid coupling, such as a torque converter, which is located between the engine and the transmission.

There are three components inside the very strong housing of the torque converter which work together to transmit power to the transmission:

  • Pump
  • Turbine
  • Stator

The pump inside a torque converter is a type of centrifugal pump. As it spins, fluid is flung to the outside, much as the spin cycle of a washing machine flings water and clothes to the outside of the wash tub. As fluid is flung to the outside, a vacuum is created that draws more fluid in at the center.

The fluid then enters the blades of the turbine, which is connected to the transmission (the spline in the middle is where it connects to the transmission.) The turbine causes the transmission to spin, which basically moves your car. The blades of the turbine are curved so that the fluid, which enters the turbine from the outside, has to change direction before it exits the center of the turbine. It is this directional change that causes the turbine to spin.

As the turbine causes the fluid to change direction, the fluid causes the turbine to spin.

The fluid exits the turbine at the center, moving in a different direction than when it entered. The fluid exits the turbine moving opposite the direction that the pump (and engine) are turning. If the fluid were allowed to hit the pump, it would slow the engine down, wasting power. This is why a torque converter has a stator.

The stator resides in the very center of the torque converter. Its job is to redirect the fluid returning from the turbine before it hits the pump again. This dramatically increases the efficiency of the torque converter.

In brief, the torque converter is a type of fluid coupling, which allows the engine to spin somewhat independently of the transmission. It is responsible for pressurizing automatic transmission fluid, a pressurization that supplies the force necessary to shift transmission gears.

A worn or dysfunctional torque converter can prevent transmission fluid from being properly pressurized, which in turn negatively impacts transmission gear function and operation. A systematic checkup by a professional is the best way to isolate the cause of the operating problems and recommend the most effective solution.

If properly tuned, this complex device can have a tremendous impact on your vehicle’s performance, economy and durability, and turn your automatic into a powerhouse!

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Customer Reviews
Frank Matchett - You fit our vehich
Karen D
Frank Matchett - You fit our vehichle (Toyota Celica) into the Coquitlam Shop so quickly on Monday, June 29th. I am from Kamloops. This was during Canada Day week too. You found a transmission on Vancouver Island and even offered to pick it up yourself if possible. You personally dropped me off and picked me up at the location I was staying at on Port Moody. I so appreciated that kindness. You went above and beyond and kept me, reassured that I would be home on Thursday. My husband was not with me yet you communicated the updates with both him & myself (he was in Kamloops.) You were wonderful with your communication, swiftness in finding the part, I\'m grateful that you fit my car in during this holiday week & your kindness to drop me off & pick me up was so appreciated. So thankful for all that you did Frank Matchett. Sincerely - Mrs. K Devlin
Date: July 3, 2020
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Frank and the crew in Coquitlam did
Harold P
Frank and the crew in Coquitlam did a great job and very quickly repaired my Jeep.
Date: July 2, 2020
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Andrew Ouellette was amazing. Serv
Steve R
Andrew Ouellette was amazing. Service was booked the next day. dropped the car off at 1pm. Received a call on the work required by 2pm and picked up the car by 4pm. A great service experience!
Date: July 1, 2020
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Great customer service
Darin K
Great customer service
Date: July 1, 2020
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Great service
Greg K
Great service
Date: June 30, 2020
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Ken is great - knowledgeable skille
Kyle T
Ken is great - knowledgeable skilled friendly and honest and fair. What more could you want?
Date: June 30, 2020
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Chris & Kurt were Awesome they both
MARC M
Chris & Kurt were Awesome they both went above and beyond ! From Kurt using the Diagnostic tool before they opened as I needed to get to work by 8:50 AM to Chris looking into my options & working on my Transmission They are both incredible ! you have a set of Ambassadors for Mister Transmission that live a vision of caring for the well being of their clients. I will defiantly refer people to them as they are without a doubt the best of the best ! Thank you again Kurt and Chris ! You guys deserve an Award ! Regards Marc
Date: June 29, 2020
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Pleased with professional and frien
Kim G
Pleased with professional and friendly service and same day repair
Date: June 27, 2020
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As always the service was great, th
Tyson T
As always the service was great, the right work that needed to be done was done.
Date: June 27, 2020
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So far, repair seems fine
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So far, repair seems fine
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