Bad Torque Converter vs Bad Transmission Comparison Guide

Bad torque converter vs bad transmission is a very important comparison as these are two important car components that can cause different problems with your car if any goes bad. Torque converters help in transferring rotational energy to the engine’s transmission. Knowing their differences and what happens when they go bad is important. 

Comparison of Bad Torque Converter vs Bad Transmission

This article will show you the differences between a lousy torque transmission and a bad torque converter and their respective symptoms. 

Description Bad Torque Converter Bad Transmission
Symptoms Overheating, slipping, and shuddering Fluid leaks, cracking sounds, and very slow acceleration
  • Increased friction from bad bearings
  • Dirty or contaminated fluids
  • Damage or breakdown to core components
    • Low transmission fluid
  • Torque converter problems

What Are the Differences Between Bad Torque Converter and Bad Transmission?

The main difference between a bad torque converter and bad transmission is that a damaged torque converter can cause difficulties engaging the gear, or the transmission to slip, while a lousy transmission can cause the vehicle to lurch or jerk when changing gears. 

A torque converter is an essential function because it is designed to help the transmission to engage and disengage different gears efficiently. Therefore, torque converter failure can cause the transmission to slip or experience difficulty when engaging gears. Also, a bad torque converter can cause the vehicle to stall or rev up persistently when idling

On the other hand, bad transmission causes more problems, affecting the vehicle’s ability to drive. It controls the speed of the vehicle and provides power to the wheels. Therefore, a failure in the transmission will cause the vehicle to lurch or jerk when changing gears. A bad transmission can also increase wear and tear on the engine and fuel efficiency due to overrev when the engine accelerates. 

Symptoms of Bad Torque Converter

A torque converter is basically a hydraulic or fluid coupling that converts and transfers rotating mechanical power (torque) from the engine to the transmission. Therefore, it is located between the transmission system and the engine. This component ensures that your vehicle functions as expected and moves smoothly. 

Specialties of Bad Torque Converter

Consider getting a torque converter replacement if you notice any of the torque converter symptoms below. Here are some common torque converter problems to look out for: 

– Transmission Fluid Leak

Most drivers don’t take fluid leaks seriously, but it’s an issue that shouldn’t be ignored, especially if it’s from the transmission area. Transmission liquid is required for the efficient performance of the torque converters. 

If all the transmission fluid should leak out, it will cause the converter to stop functioning. This can eventually lead to transmission overheating and other transmission problems. Damage to the torque converter seals, aging, and stress are factors that can cause transmission fluid leaks. 

– Shuddering/Shaking

This is also a sign that indicates that your vehicle’s torque converter has gone bad and needs to be replaced. Shuddering occurs when your car shakes persistently, even when you are driving on a straight and smooth road. This problem occurs when the lockup clutch does not make a smooth transmission.

– Gear Shifting Difficulties

You’ll know you have a failing torque converter when the gear stops shifting. Gear shift problems can occur when you want to engage a forward gear or a reverse gear. It’s important to take this problem seriously and avoid DIY practice because it can only make matters worse. 

– Gear Slipping

Unlike gear shifting, this problem occurs when the gear slips while shifting. In automatic transmission vehicles, the gear shifting when accelerating or decelerating is automatic. However, with a bad converter, you’ll notice that the gear switches more than usual. Always look out for this inconsistency because it indicates a faulty torque converter

– Overheating

Engine overheating can occur as a result of different factors, among which includes a bad torque converter. If your torque converter is bad, it can cause the transmission to overheat and ultimately cause engine overheating. Always pay attention to the temperature gauge to easily know when your car is overheating

– Strange Noises/Unusual Noises

Driving with a bad converter causes cracking sounds, mainly when fluid doesn’t flow properly within the converter. This increases friction and causes the unusual cracking sound you hear when driving. 

Symptoms of a Bad Transmission

Don’t wait until you observe or see all the symptoms we’ll highlight below before you know your car’s transmission system is failing. It’s advisable to act immediately if you notice any of these signs. Here are the typical bad transmission symptoms to look out for:

Features of Bad Transmission

– Check Engine Light

The check engine light is one of the first signs indicating a faulty transmission. This light only illuminates your dashboard when there’s an issue with any core component, like the transmission. Check all engine fluids when you see this light on your dashboard. 

– Shuddering and Unusual Sounds

When your car lacks sufficient transmission oil or when the transmission is faulty, the friction within internal components increases, thereby causing cracking sounds. You might also notice your car shuddering when you drive on a smooth road. Shuddering can also occur when your torque converter fails

– Overheating

As mentioned earlier, many factors can cause overheating, and a failing transmission is one of these reasons. Always remember to check and ensure that all your fluids are within their recommended levels. 

– Fluid Leaks

Like bad torque converters, fluid leaks are also a symptom of a bad transmission. This problem should be taken seriously to avoid damage to other engine parts. Always look out for leaks while driving or when your car is parked. In addition to checking for leaks, it’s essential to check for contaminated transmission fluid.

– Irregularities

In addition to all the symptoms above, it’s important to also look out for irregularities that affect the performance of your car. Abnormalities in the performance of your car, like gear shifting issues, transmission slipping, and unresponsiveness, are signs of a failing transmission.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How Do You Check a Torque Converter? 

To check a torque converter, start the engine first and wait for the engine to warm up. Once you observe that the RPM gauge has leveled out, press the brake pedal, and shift the gear to drive. If your torque converter is good, the RPMs will drop. 

2. What Does a Failing Torque Converter Sound Like?

Unusual sounds are common with bad torque converters. If you start to hear cracking, whirring, or rattling noise, especially when you accelerate, it may be that your torque converter is failing. 

3. Can You Drive with a Bad Torque Converter or Bad Transmission?

No, if you continue driving with a bad torque converter, it may cause considerable damage to other parts of the vehicle, including the transmission.

Although you can drive with a bad transmission, you must be aware that it’s possible to damage other vital parts of the vehicle. 

4. What Is the Replacement Cost for a Torque Converter?

Torque converter replacement cost is usually between $100 to $500 if you decide to fix it yourself. However, you will spend between $600 to $1,000 if you take your car to a transmission shop. 

5. What Is the Role of Torque Converter Clutch Solenoid?

The torque converter clutch solenoid is designed to activate the torque converter clutch and prevent slipping when moving at high speed. Overheating is one of the signs of a bad torque converter solenoid. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Torque Converter and How Does it Compare to a Bad Transmission?

A bad torque converter and a bad transmission can exhibit different symptoms. The symptoms of a bad torque converter may include a delayed or jerky gear shifting, stalling at idle, or overheating. On the other hand, bad transmission signs typically involve slipping gears, difficulty shifting, or a burning smell. It is important to address these issues promptly to avoid extensive damage. Remember to consult a professional for accurate diagnosis and bad tie rod symptoms and replacement costs.


Although a bad torque converter and transmission can lead to serious problems, the two differ. The main difference between the two is that a damaged torque converter can cause difficulties engaging the gear, or the transmission to slip, while a lousy transmission can cause the vehicle to lurch or jerk when changing gears. 

The need to ensure that your transmission and torque converter work properly cannot be overemphasized. However, with the symptoms above, you can easily identify when your torque converter or transmission goes bad. 

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