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
Very good owner he is...
Ahmad
Very good owner he is respectful and expert I did change A lot of parts on my transmission he is professional , if your looking for some one behave like a doctor you are in the right place .
Date: January 29, 2024
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I recently had an outstanding...
Maksim Ivanovskiy
I recently had an outstanding experience at Mister Transmission with my Ford Focus. The mechanics at Mister Transmission did a commendable job addressing issues with my car's differential and replacing the clutch. Peter, in particular, went above and beyond in providing exceptional customer service. He not only efficiently resolved the mechanical issues but also took the time to walk me through all the replaced parts, ensuring transparency and trust in their service. I highly recommend Mister Transmission for their professionalism, expertise, and commitment to customer satisfaction.
Date: January 28, 2024
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Greg and his team did...
Margi Ende
Greg and his team did a great job with my van's new transmission. Very professional, great communication and customer service. My van sounds great and runs better than ever now.
Date: January 27, 2024
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Sara GGg
They seem great
Date: January 26, 2024
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Wow what a amazing staff...
Raman Deep
Wow what a amazing staff everyone one was so helpful and friendly. Connor was professional technician who attended me and he was amazing he was very experienced and found fault right way in my car . He attended me in after hours even though they were about to close at 5:00 PM and he accepted my ford focus 2009 to change output speed sensor and Transmission oil. Really appreciate it . Thankyou again. Connor and Aki (The Manager ) you guys are great . Must visit place if you have any transmission related problems.
Date: January 26, 2024
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Fast and knowledgeable
Myles Stobert
Fast and knowledgeable
Date: January 26, 2024
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Wow, how to begin. I...
Andrew Walsh
Wow, how to begin. I brought my jeep to my regular mechanic to determine what was causing a noise. His determination was that something was up with the transmission, so he brought it to Aki and his team. When they started working on my jeep, his principal team member was away; rather than take the transmission apart, Aki asked if he could keep the jeep for a few days. This would save taking it apart with the possiblity that this was not the problem. That was good for me, and in the end, they found the problem, which was more to do with the computer chip than anything else. However the jeep is older so they had to run back and forth with colleagues to figure out why it would not program, etc. He took a lot of extra time to figure things out, keeping me abreast the entire time. For sure, I would send anyone who needs work on their transmission to Aki. He seemed to look for the best viable option rather than the most expensive, and his customer service is terrrific.
Date: January 26, 2024
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Katrena Jordan
I have never been let down by the help Mr. T has afforded me over the years. Bob and the guys are extremely helpful with customer service being top notch always with them. Ready to give knowledgable advice anytime. Definitely get your service worth at this place.
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Staff rude but they fixed my car
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The Best customer service ever...brought my car in Friday and because we were going away, they had it ready for pick up on the Tuesday...
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