What Happens If the Automatic Clutch on Your Car Begins to Fail?

If an automatic transmission is working perfectly well, the vehicle should change gears smoothly, and you may not even notice that it is doing so. These systems are very advanced and rely on a special mechanism known as a torque converter, but problems can nevertheless arise, as well-engineered as they may be. What are the signs of torque converter problems, and what could be going wrong?

Understanding the Torque Converter

A torque converter mechanism looks something like a very large doughnut, and within its outer casing are three key components: an impeller, a stator and a turbine. These components are activated by a clutch assembly whenever the system receives power from the engine's flywheel. Hydraulic fluid will then begin to spin the turbine at a very high speed, which builds the necessary pressure to change gears as needed. Gear selection will then depend on the pressure created when the turbine and stator interact.

Clutch Issues

The converter clutch can develop problems, especially if the fluid is poor. If the fluid is not able to reduce friction to acceptable levels or keep the temperatures down, the clutch may begin to burn. It could become distorted and not function correctly and may actually lock solidly in the worst-case scenario. When this happens, the vehicle will stay in whatever gear is selected at that moment even if you bring the vehicle to a full stop.

Bad Solenoid

A faulty solenoid can also cause the clutch to fail. When working correctly, this switch is meant to control the amount of fluid that passes through the clutch in order to spin the turbine. When this happens, and the fluid pressure is too low, performance will suffer, and the vehicle may have a tendency to stall all the time.

Fluid Maintenance

Every owner needs to check both the level and quality of the automatic transmission fluid. While the level should remain consistent as long as you do not have a leak, the fluid will nevertheless degrade over time. Microscopic particles of metal may peel off some of the surfaces, and these can be trapped within the converter's outer casing. The buildup will need to be removed periodically, which can only be performed by a qualified mechanic.

Acting Quickly

Suspect the torque converter at the first signs of trouble linked to your automatic transmission system. Take the vehicle to a mechanic for them to assess the situation and provide auto transmission repairs