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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Super proffesional, problem solved and the bill was as quoted. What else is there!
Date: May 25, 2022
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Amazing. Had another place fix...
Rob Jackson
Amazing. Had another place fix my manual transmission and it fell apart in under two weeks. So I went to the pros and that they are. Pulled it apart and had me back together in no time. The only place to get your transmission issues fixed properly and fast. Thanks guys
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Matt and his team are a breathe of fresh air to work with after years of headaches with untrustworthy mechanics & shops. I drive a lifted truck and had my transmission replaced here a few months ago and I've had nothing but great, honest service since my very first phone call with Matt. I usually do all my own maintenance but I felt so confident, I've taken my truck here 4/5 times since (unrelated issues) even sometimes for little things that I could fix myself, just because I trust them to do a thorough job and give me all the details step by step. ALSO, As someone whos had issues with mechanics "Joy Riding" their vehicles before I was ecstatic to see that Matt & his team take extreme care when test driving vehicles (hidden dashcam, so its not because they noticed they were being watched)This is the first ever review I've written for anything, ever. So rest assured the service at Mr. Transmission on Bath Road had to have been pretty awesome for me to leave this.Thanks guys hopefully I don't ever see you again LOL
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Wonderful staff very friendly, there there for you and not like many shops that’s there staffs attitude when you walk in the door, very helpful and honest! Great place
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Matt and his team are...
LovelaceBreh
Matt and his team are a breathe of fresh air to work with after years of headaches with untrustworthy mechanics & shops. I drive a lifted truck and had my transmission replaced here a few months ago and I've had nothing but great, honest service since my very first phone call with Matt. I usually do all my own maintenance but I felt so confident, I've taken my truck here 4/5 times since (unrelated issues) even sometimes for little things that I could fix myself, just because I trust them to do a thorough job and give me all the details step by step. ALSO, As someone whos had issues with mechanics "Joy Riding" their vehicles before I was ecstatic to see that Matt & his team take extreme care when test driving vehicles (hidden dashcam, so its not because they noticed they were being watched)This is the first ever review I've written for anything, ever. So rest assured the service at Mr. Transmission on Bath Road had to have been pretty awesome for me to leave this.Thanks guys hopefully I don't ever see you again LOL
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great work done there
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Dealt with Ken on two seperate occasions and both times he was honest and very helpful.Once I brought my 2003 Dodge Caravan in where I could not drive forward after a hard stop but after a few seconds it would start driving again. So I thought my transmission was starting to give up and would eventually need to be replaced but it turned out to be as simple as my transmission fluid level was low. So once he topped it up I never had that issue again and drove the van another 80k before selling it.
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I called this shop about 3 years ago when my 2010 Pontiac G5 needed a new clutch , I spoke with Jason and his price quote was $500.less than any of the other transmission repair shops I had called for quotes . The turnaround was quick and the repair was done for the quoted price and within the time they said it would take , I was extremely pleased ! When my check engine light came on last night and the cars engine power was reduced I called the shop this morning (Friday of a long weekend) and spoke with Jen , they were able to do a diagnostic test and reset , I got my car back within 3 hours when I asked how much they said no charge ! these guys and gals are the best and very trustworthy ! 10 out of 10 stars , Mike in Toronto
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