Torque Converter Shudder: Is it a big deal?

Let me guess… your car is doing some sort of weird vibration thing and you think it might be torque converter shudder. 

In this article, you’ll learn how to identify torque converter shudder, how to fix it, and what you need to do to stop it from coming back.

What is a Torque Converter?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, you might want to know what a torque converter is. 

Simply put, a torque converter is a device that helps transfer the power made by your car’s engine to your car’s transmission. 

Your torque converter also manages the power link between your engine and transmission. To illustrate, think about when your car is shifted into park or sitting at a stop light. 

Your motor is running, but the car isn’t moving. This magic happens because of your torque converter!

It’s important to note that only cars with automatic transmissions have torque converters. Manual transmissions are a different beast.

That’s all you really need to know about a torque converter. If you’d like to geek out and learn all about torque converters, check out this YouTube video. This dude explains it way better than I ever could. 

How to Spot Torque Converter Shudder

Pinpointing torque converter shudder can be a bit of a pain in the ass. 

You’ll probably feel little spurts of vibration while driving. The feeling is similar to the vibration felt when you drive over rumble strips on the side of highways. 

You know… those things that remind  you to focus on the road when you swerve out of your lane because you’re busy texting while driving.

Quick Three Bay Garage PSA: Please don’t text while driving. It’s stupid. And dangerous. Just don’t. Please.

To make diagnosis even trickier,  torque converter shudder happens randomly. It may take you a while to realize you’ve got a problem. 

You’ll likely start to notice it when you dirve under acceleration. 

Another typical time you might get a shudder jolt is  when you’re on the highway and hit about 45 mph. 

How Big of a Problem is Torque Converter Shudder?

In most cases, torque converter shudder can be treated with a transmission fluid flush. So it’s not a big deal. 

An advanced DIY’er can probably do a transmission fluid flush at home.

And if you take you car to a mechanic, you’re looking at an hour or two of labor plus the cost of fluid. So it will be easy on your wallet.

Risks of Waiting

If you think you have torque converter shudder, don’t put off having it fixed. 

While you can safely drive with torque converter shudder, putting off having it fixed could cause bigger problems. You might have to replace your torque converter. 

Or worse, you can cause transmission damage. Not fun!

What About Additives?

There are some additives on the market like Shudder Fixx that claim to fix torque converter shudder. 

These products can, and often do put a stop to torque converter shudder. 

However, I would use them as a band aid to fix your problem.  If you haven’t been keeping up with transmission maintenance it’s still a good idea to do a full fluid flush and fluid filter change (if your transmission has a filter).

What if Additives and/or a Fluid Flush Don’t Help?

If additives and a transmission fluid flush don’t put a stop to the shudder, I hate to tell you, but you’ve probably got a mechanical problem with your torque converter or transmission. 

Bring your car to a transmission pro for advice on what to do.

What causes torque converter shudder?

Torque converter shudder typically arises from a few key issues in your vehicle’s transmission system. Here’s what could be causing that annoying shake.

Low Transmission Fluid

If you’re noticing a shudder, the first thing to check is your transmission fluid level. Low fluid can prevent proper lubrication and cooling, leading to your torque converter struggling to do its job.

Contaminants and Debris

Sometimes, it’s not about how much fluid you’ve got but what’s in it. Contaminated transmission fluid – can hinder the torque converter’s performance. If you’ve got dirty fluid, I’m sorry to tell you that you might have bigger problems on your hands. Something might be wearing out inside of your transmission!

Mechanical Failures

It’s a bummer, but mechanical failures like a damaged bearing or worn clutches can lead to shudder as well. These parts need to engage smoothly for the converter to transmit power effectively. If they’re worn out or damaged, they might be the reason you’re experiencing torque converter shudder. 

How to Prevent Torque Converter Shudder

Keeping up on your car’s recommended transmission maintenance is the best way to prevent torque converter shudder.

Conclusion

If you’re feeling a random shake or tremble while you’re driving, particularly under acceleration or when you cross 45 mph, it might be torque converter shudder. It’s your car’s way of asking for a little tranny TLC. Generally you can fix it with a simple transmission fluid flush.


About the Author

Kevin

Hi I’m Kevin and I’m a car guy. I first got the bug as a kid when I helped my dad rebuild the motor in his 1969 Mustang. I shadowed him for countless hours doing all kinds of hands-on work in the garage. As I got older, I started working on my own cars – from new transmissions to stereos to fine detailing. I started this website to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years.

Leave a Comment