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Some noises from a car are normal. Some are not! Is the noise coming from your vehicle's torque convertor normal, and how can you tell?

Car issues can be a little dicey. You aren't sure if your vehicle has an expensive problem or if vehicles just make noises anyway.

Torque converter sounds are often a sign of having too much clearance between your converter and the front pump on your transmission, especially in recent installations. Common reasons for noise amongst non-new converters include the wear of roller bearings or the front transmission pump.

We'll review what a torque converter does, what sounds you should expect to hear, and the signs that the part might be failing. We'll also help you figure out a plan in the event your vehicle has a problem.

We've worked within a mechanics shop before, and understand the concerns owners have about their vehicles making unusual noises. Let's dive in!

Table of Contents

What is the torque converter?

The torque converter is an essential part of an automatic transmission. The somewhat donut-shaped part rests at the back of your engine and connects the engine to your transmission, along with a fluid pump. The converter itself is full of transmission fluid which creates hydraulic pressure, which leads to the vehicle being able to shift.

Like any other part of a vehicle, the torque converter can make noise – and can have problems that lead to its breakdown.

What noises should a torque converter make?

In a newly installed transmission, you might hear some whining out of a converter that is installed with too much clearance. This prevents the converter from fully working, though it can be fixed by decreasing the gap between the converter pads and flex plate. This will cause further issues.

Ideally, your torque converter shouldn't make any noise. The noise you are hearing might also be from the transmission pump – which is connected to the torque converter and sounds like the same area. A transmission pump can be replaced, and often more easily than the rest of the transmission.

What are signs of a failing torque converter?

Loss of acceleration/accelerating slowly

Your vehicle should be able to accelerate smoothly and evenly. Any shuddering or struggling in the vehicle could indicate that the torque produced by the engine isn't being transmitted to the transmission properly.

Gear slips

If your vehicle feels shaky when switching between gears – you'll notice. You might feel a bit of a jump, or a lack of the typical, smooth shifting feel that comes with a well-tuned transmission.

Won't shift

This one will be very obvious. If your vehicle won't shift into drive or reverse, you probably have a problem within your transmission – including within the torque converter.

Bad fluid

Check your transmission fluid if you are hearing something unusual or if your vehicle is shifting in an unusual way. Open the hood and check the transmission fluid dipstick. If it is burned, dark, or has debris, you might want to get fresh fluid in there. The converter uses this fluid to function and it needs good fluid. Metal debris in your transmission fluid is not a good sign and means that parts are bumping together and causing extra friction, which results in more damage in the long run.


The torque converter can leak. If you see transmission fluid leaking from your vehicle, it is definitely causing for alarm because that is one of many fluids that should not escape your vehicle, and is a sign of serious wear.


This can be a bit more difficult to detect if your vehicle doesn't have a gauge on the dashboard to indicate excess heat. Overheating often means that the torque converter and transmission cannot efficiently move the torque being provided and are overheating themselves as a result.

What should I do if I hear my torque converter?

Bring the vehicle to a shop – especially after a recent transmission change. A vehicle is capable of making lots of noises, and the torque converter might not be the problem. The problem could instead be sourced to something else within the transmission, like the fluid pump.

One problematic area is when you hear your torque converter whining while you are shifting gears because that is a sign that something has worn that is causing the converter to lose power with the rest of the transmission.

Should I drive my vehicle if my torque converter is failing?

Generally speaking, if your vehicle is having transmission symptoms, you should either drive it slowly to a mechanics shop or have it towed. While you aren't likely to do more damage to an already damaged transmission, you put yourself at risk by driving on public roads with a car that might have a serious issues accelerating or even running.

If you just hear whining, bring the vehicle in as soon as you can, but prepare to need a tow truck in the even that problems get worse. While the vehicle might actually still run, you still run the chances of breaking down at speed because the vehicle may develop a bigger problem at any time.

The best case scenario

Ideally, we'd like your whining noise to come from the front transmission pump. Replacing a part like a pump is relatively easy compared to replacing the converter itself or the roller bearings that help the transmission operate.

Do torque converters fail suddenly?

They certainly can – and make some noise while doing so. You'll often receive a warning light on your dashboard – though it may be general if the transmission is having an issue. The unfortunate part is that the converter can fail suddenly and cause the overheating and friction damage we mentioned earlier, making the transmission problems extend beyond the converter and to the rest of your vehicle.

We aren't saying you'll have a total transmission failure within moments, but the longer you wait to get your car into the shop, the worse things could become.

When should I listen most for my torque converter?

Listen especially when your vehicle shifts gears during normal acceleration. The speeds depend on how many gears your vehicle has, but you should expect to feel shifting starting at 15 miles per hour on up. You won't likely hear your torque converter doing much while you are traveling at speed because your vehicle is not actively shifting.

Why Does My Car's Torque Converter Make Noise? (Solved)

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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