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Can You Drive with a Bad Torque Converter? (Answered)

Torque converters are generally seen in automatic transmission vehicles which function as a clutch in a manual transmission vehicle. This function prevents the engine from stopping even if the wheels are stopped. In this article, we will discuss the torque converter.

Can you drive with a bad torque converter? 

You can drive with a bad torque converter. But driving for a long time might break the torque converter down and cause serious damage to your cars, such as transmission fluid degradation and engine overheating. Dirty transmission fluid is one of the main reasons why torque converters go bad. 

You should never drive with a bad torque converter. Generally, a torque converter is filled with fluid and its function is to maintain the connection between a vehicle engine and the transmission as a hydraulic pump.

The basic job of a torque converter is to convert engine torques into hydraulic pressure that will be used to shift gears while driving and prevent the car engine from stalling. It means it will help your engine to keep rolling even if the wheels are stopped.

So even if you want to drive your car with a bad torque converter, driving too fast or too long can ruin it. However, if your car does not have an auto transmission, you can drive your car without a torque converter.

It does not affect your engine; it is a part of the transmission. Most of the time the torque converter issues are noticed in trucks and pickup vehicles.

Once the torque converter starts malfunctioning, you should immediately stop driving and repair the transmission, or else it will cost you an expensive repair.

What happens if you drive with a bad torque converter

A bad torque converter can cause serious damage and degradation of performance to your vehicle. A damaged or bad torque converter will be unable to supply hydraulic pressure to your transmission from the engine torque.

This might result in taking more time to shift a gear or losing it, engine overheating, and engine malfunctioning. Eventually, these problems will damage your transmission and reduce the vehicle’s overall performance.

When driving with a faulty torque converter, you might hear noises as well as miss the gear shift while changing it in some cases. Some of the other problems are:


If there is a problem with your torque converter, your engine and transmission will malfunction and your temperature indicator will immediately respond with flashing lights.

This is because the converter is failing to supply the power from the engine to the transmission. So, this could be another symptom by which you can easily identify the issue of a faulty torque converter.

Vibration and noise:

As you drive, you notice that your car is vibrating much more than usual. At the same time, your car will have frequent lag. You will also hear noise from the engine compartment while driving which is a sign that the torque converter is bad.

How long can you drive with a bad torque converter? 

You can drive with a bad torque converter until it is completely damaged. Because a bad converter is not related to driving or the engine. This is a transmission-related problem.

It is not possible to say how long you can drive with a bad torque converter in your car. It all depends on the type of car you drive.

In many cases, it is possible to drive a car with a bad torque converter for three months and even after driving for two days, it is likely to break down.

So, you need to repair the car as soon as you find out there is something wrong going on with the torque converter. 

What are the symptoms of a bad torque converter?

Your torque converter might be performing unusually if there are some issues regarding it. You might feel shaking when passing through a smooth road. This happens when the lockup clutch in your torque converter is malfunctioning.

Because the functionality of a lockup clutch is to smoothen the transmission when driving. The most common symptom that often occurs to a bad torque converter is when you hear unusual sounds such as whirring or clicking.

This is caused by a damaged bearing or broken turbine fin in your torque converter. Some of the symptoms are discussed below: 

Shift delay:

As the torque converter is related to the transmission of your vehicle so the first symptom, you’ll see is unusual behavior from your vehicle while shifting gears. Your car will miss gear when shifting.

This is one of the main reasons why your vehicle has a bad torque converter.

Polluted transmission fluid:

Your vehicle’s torque converter contains Automatic transmission fluid. It has grime or black sludge mixed in it. Contaminated liquid causes your transmission to get damaged.

Also, it will affect the major components of your torque converter such as turbine fins and the stators’ bearings as well. So, immediately get your torque converter repaired to avoid damage to your transmission and torque converter. 

What problems can a bad torque converter cause? 

The torque converter is a key component that connects the engine and transmission to make your vehicle ride smoothly and efficiently.

But a bad torque converter can cause serious problems to your vehicle as well as result in expensive damage that will need immediate repair to run your vehicle.

So, you need to figure out the problems that are related to the torque converter and causing your vehicle to malfunction. Here are some of the problems caused by a faulty torque converter: 

Damaged seal:

The damaged seal of a torque converter might end up leaking transmission liquid.

As a result, the torque converter will fail to transfer power from the engine to the transmission. This may end up increasing the normal stall speed and the transmission will take more time to sync with the engine.

Damage inner components:

The damaged or faulty torque converter causes problems to the inner components.

Running your vehicle for a long time with a bad torque converter will damage the inner component such as the needle bearing, stator, turbine, impeller, etc. As a result. It could lead to serious damage to the transmission of your vehicle.

How do you check a torque converter?

You can simply check your torque converter without taking it out. You can test the transmission by doing a stall-speed test. But it might ruin the transmission if you keep it running for more than 5 seconds.

You need to prepare your car for the test and then follow the steps accordingly. The checking techniques are discussed below:

Start engine and press accelerometer:

First, turn on the engine by pressing the brake pedal and shift gears to the transmission to drive. Hold the brake pedals pressed. Now, press the accelerator for 3-4 seconds with the other foot.

Make sure not to press it for more than 5 seconds.

Analyze the result:

You’ll see an RPM reading at the gauge. Lower RPM indicates that your torque converters need to be fixed. Then again, a higher RPM indicates that you might miss transmission while shifting gears.

Can you replace just the torque converter in a transmission?

First of all, you need to take out the transmission to replace the torque converter as it is placed between the engine and transmission.

If the torque converter is the only component that is malfunctioning, you can simply take it out along with the transmission and replace it. The torque converter alone can be replaced.

But you need to inspect whether the issue is only with the torque converter or the transmission too. If you have issues with the transmission, you might need to take it out as well and fix it. Usually, the replacement work takes around 5-10 hours to get done.

How expensive is it to replace a torque converter?

If your vehicle shows symptoms of a bad torque converter, you need to get an idea of how much will it cost to fix your torque converter. It might need to be fixed or replaced. It costs around $350 to replace a torque converter.

When it comes to fixing, you can fix it yourself or get the work done by a mechanic. It takes around $100 to 500$ if you want to fix it. A mechanic will charge $500 to $1000 to fix the torque converter.

It is recommended to get the job done by a mechanic because you might need to take out the entire transmission to fix it. So, it should be given to someone who has expertise in such an area.

Final Thoughts

Torque converter works as a coupling between the engine and transmission and it is more related to the transmission. So, driving with a bad torque converter will not affect your driving, but in long run, it might cause serious damage to your car. So, it is better to get fixed or replaced.