Why Does a Torque Converter Whine?

by Rob Wagner

Automatic transmission torque converter whine is a common ailment in cars, but it doesn't necessarily mean a transmission overhaul. Instead, the whine could be a result of too much space between the converter pads and flex plate.

After Installation

Often torque converter whine occurs after the installation of a new or repaired transmission in which the measurement between the converter pads and flex plate is not correct.

Not Engaging

Too much clearance will prevent the converter from fully engaging the front pump during acceleration, which causes the gear to rock and whine.

Damage Possible

Driving the car with a torque converter whine may damage the transmission, so it's imperative that proper clearances are determined immediately.

Proper Clearances

Proper clearances from bell housing to pads for the General Motors Turbo Hydramatic 350 are 1 1/8 inches; GM Turbo 400 is 1 3/16 inches; GM Powerglide is 1 1/8 inches; and most Fords at 1 inch, according to partshp.com.

Other Causes

Tripleedgeperformance.com reports that roller bearings supporting the drive and the sprockets the drive chain rides on may also cause whining, and neglecting the problem may cause severe damage.

The Pump

The front transmission pump, and not the torque converter or roller bearings, may also be the whining culprit, and require a simple replacement.

About the Author

Rob Wagner is a journalist with over 35 years experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines. His experience ranges from legal affairs reporting to covering the Middle East. He served stints as a newspaper and magazine editor in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Wagner attended California State University, Los Angeles, and has a degree in journalism.