Torque converter (or clutch), trans, or dirty fluid/filter? - Toyota Nation Forum : Toyota Car and Truck Forums
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post #1 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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Torque converter (or clutch), trans, or dirty fluid/filter?

Hello,
1997 Toyota Camry, Auto trans, 2.2L. 120K miles.
Over the last 6 months, noticed very intermittantly (every 2-3 weeks) that in overdrive gear, if engine RPMs were around 1900-2000 RPMs and accelerator lightly touched to maintain highway speeds, I would feel a slight shudder/vibration. Above the 2000 RPM threshold, the problem did not occur.

Just went on a 1500 mile roundtrip/vacation. In overdrive gear only, problem occurred much more often (multiple times an hour), both with and without cruise control 'on'. If accelerator was hit harder (not just lightly touched) to maintain highway speeds, the shudder/vibration did not occur. Only when the accelerator was lightly touched to maintain highway speed. And, only if the accelerator was lightly hit when the car was in the 2000RPM area, and not when whe RPMS were higher.
As time passed, the problem would happen everytime the accelerator was lightly touched whenever the Overdrive RPMs fell below 2200 RPMs( and would not occur when the RPMs were higher than 2200RPMs). And then after a little more time, the problem occurred everytime the overdrive RPMs fell below 2300RPMs and we lightly hit the accelerator to maintain highway speeds. Still, if the RPMs (i.e., vehicle speed) was increased to 2600 or 2700 RPMs, and maintained at that level, the problem didn't occur when the accelerator was lightly touched or hit hard to maintain speed (and at these RPMs and Speeds, the overdrive gear was engaged).

To get home, we disabled overdrive with the button on the shift handle, and the problem did not happen. We kept the engine RPMs below 3600RPMs (which allowed us to go just below 70MPH).

The transmission fluid is brownish but does not smell burnt (to my untrained nose).and appears to be at the correct level (i.e., not too low or too high) But, as we had purchased the car in the last year or so, we have NOT changed the auto transmission fluid (and it might never have been changed, we don't know). The previous owners did tow a small boat from time to time. It could be possible (but don't know) that they towed the boat without disengaging overdrive, again don't have that information.

The transmission shifts well in/through other gears, and and in/out of reverse and park, and does not appear to slip.

So, any thoughts as to what the problem could be are appreciated. And, if it is a torque convertor problem, any guestimates as to what it would cost to fix/replace are appreciated...

Paul

Last edited by pb940072; 04-01-2013 at 11:39 AM.
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post #2 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 11:40 AM
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What I recommend is to just drain and refill the transmission with DexIII ATF. At 120K miles, the ATF is worn but still safe to change. These transmission have no filter to change (a strainer is not really a filter) but you can still drop the pan to clean the magnet. I personally like Maxlife ATF but any Dexron-III compatible ATF will work.

"Yūko" 2001 Camry 5S-FE/A140E @ 130k
"Sandy" 2002 Camry 2AZ-FE/U241E @ 180k
"Chihaya" 2012 Camry 2AR-FE/U760E @ 80K
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post #3 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 11:50 AM
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If they towed with the camry your trans is more then likely on its way out. Drop the pan, inspect and then do a few drain refills in a 5-6000 mile time period. On the last one throw in some lucas trans fix.

Valvoline Maxlife Dex/Merc is a good fluid. If you think the trans is on its death bed I would suggest Walmart SuperTech ATF to save cost.

It could be motor mounts but it does sound the like torque converter is bad. A full rebuild with a rebuilt TC is $$$ anywhere from 1500-2000.

The camry, especially the 2.2 was never meant to tow anything. Even a 300 pound U haul trailer is risking trans failure.
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post #4 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 04:35 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the input.
Is the Torque Converter actually part of the transmission itelf and only servicable with the transmission, or is it separate from the transmission and servicable separately?

The transmission seems to shift fine, even into over drive, and from overdrive to a passing gear and back to overdrive. However, when the Overdrive gear is engaged (i.e., the car is in overdrive), and the RPMs fall to 2200RPM or below, and the accelerator is lightly tapped, that is when the shuddering occurs. Once the RPMs increase to 2400 or 2500, the shuddering ends. If the RPMs are maintained at 2600 or more (i.e., traveling 75 MPH) the car runs smoothly and there is no shuddering...

Today, I put a treatment into the transmission fluid that in limited cases, could eliminate the shuddering (something to do with lubricating the Torque convertor clutch I think). It did not work, but was in my opinion, worth a try...

So, of the Trans seems to shift (and not apparently slip) into all gears smoothly, including overdrive, and even from overdrive to a passing gear and back into overdrive, does this lean more to a torque converter (and possible a torque converter clutch) issue?

There are no Check Engine lights that are illuminated, so does this rule out some of the various speed sensors and transmission solenoids?

Thanks again for any input.

Paul
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post #5 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 04:37 PM Thread Starter
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Carsrus said:

"...but it does sound the like torque converter is bad. A full rebuild with a rebuilt TC is $$$ anywhere from 1500-2000."

Does this means that the Trans AND the Torque convertor would need to be rebuilt, or just the torque convertor.

Thanks!

Paul
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post #6 of 12 Old 04-01-2013, 04:45 PM
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They are separate parts. The trans has to come out to access the torque converter. If the TC clutch is fried chances are the rest of the transmission is on its way out.

Do some drain and fills and add some lucas trans fix and drive ti until something bad happens. Replacing the TC alone might be a long term fix and it might not be. There is a chance the TC is not at fault as well.
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post #7 of 12 Old 04-02-2013, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks!

If my understanding is correct, the torque converter clutch can only engage in overdrive (i.e., to physically couple the transmission to the engine by connecting the two parts of the torque convertor together, as opposed to if the clutch is not engaged where the torque converter drives the transmission through hydrolic pressure and not a direct physical connection)- is this correct?

Or, does the torque convertor clutch engage based on the engine RPMs, independent of the gear the transmission is in?



The reason I ask, is because if the latter is true, it may rule out a torque converter (i.e., with overdrive disengaged, the car did not have the problem, so if the torque converter clutch can engage in a gear other than overdrive, and the problem did not occur through the full array of RPMs with the overdrive disengaged, then the problem may be other than a torque converter or torque converter clutch).

Sorry of my understanding is incorrect, and thanks for any input or correction to my understanding.

Paul
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post #8 of 12 Old 04-02-2013, 05:20 PM
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The torque converter locks up at cruising speed, in overdrive.
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post #9 of 12 Old 04-02-2013, 09:55 PM
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Unplug the TCC lock up solenoid connector behind the neutral safety switch. See how the transmission behaves in OD.
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post #10 of 12 Old 04-04-2013, 03:23 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks again for everyone’s input! I’m going to give some details for others having a similar problem to try to let them know my thought process (for right or wrong), and why I took the action I did.
2 days ago, the shuddering problem would happen almost everytime the car was at cruising speed (50 MPH and above) and the RPMs fell below 2200 and I lightly hit the accelerator to get back up to cruising speed. The shudder would occur for about 1-2 seconds while the car RPMs increased, and when RPMs went beyond around 2400 RPM, the shuddering would go away. If I maintained the cruising speed in overdrive with the RPMs around 2600 or more, the problem never happened. The shudder felt pronounced, as if I was going over the warning strip at the side of the road, or even a washboard.
Status update: I took the car to a mechanic who did complete trans fluid flush, dropped the pan and replaced the gasket, and replaced the screen/filter, and added 2 two ounce tubes of shudder guard (or something like that… Mechanic pulled a code P1210 (using code scanner), but the code didn’t cause the check engine light (which works) to illuminate. He said that with a quick search, he couldn’t really find the meaning of that code for a Toyota, but found 2 other reports that had the code with similar symptoms as my own. In one of the cases, the code was cleared, seemed to solve the problem, but another code showed up 2-3 weeks later indicated a trans solenoid.
Mechanic said that the shuddering was most likely torque converter clutch shudder, and wouldn’t damage the transmission if it continued. Said it is likely NOT the transmission. He said that it is possible that new trans fluid (and shudder guard) could help lube the torque clutch solenoid, and clean it out to help it out. He said that it was likely that the solenoid was sticking slightly, or getting lazy, or both, causing the clutch to be a bit lazy in engaging and disengaging (thereby causing the shudder). The complete trans flush with 4 oz of shudder-guard. I drove the car on the highway for about 30 minutes, and *might* have felt an extremely slight shudder (when I’m trying to make it happen). So at this point, I’m going to go into waiting mode to see what happens – I have a 500 mile round trip next weekend that could give it a good test.

I’ll back-up now, and give more details about the last couple of days…
I took car to small trans shop. No test drive, just listened to me describe the symptoms. Recommended to get trans fluid flush (which will replace 100% of the trans fluid, as opposed to dropping the pan and topping off the trans fluid which replaces around 1/3 of the fluid), and a 2oz tube of shudder-guard. I said thank you and went to trans shop #2 (Mr. Transmission). I left, but did nothing at this point (i.e., no trans fluid change or adding of shudder guard).
Trans shop 2owner listened to me describe the symptoms and said it is almost never the torque converter, and likey a transmission problem in the over drive gear. Recommended his own trans lube/cleaner product (a 10 oz black bottle that I don’t recall the name of), and said if it helps, it will do so pretty quickly. Also recommended against any transmission fluid change (for any car at any time, as it just causes problems). I put the 10 oz translube/cleaner and drove it for hour. The shudder occurred, not quite as bad, and much less frequently (maybe 20% of the time it previously had). I went back to trans shop and arranged for a test drive.
Trans shop 2 did a test drive. Problem (shudder) did occur. Tech (supposedly 20 years experience with trans) said it could be a torque converter, or could be a trans problem, didn’t know. Returned to shop, and owner (not tech that drove the car) said again, probably not torque converter, but trans. Would recommend removing torque converter and trans, replacing torque converter ($700), and would inspect rest of transmission for problems. If transmission problem, would rebuild for $1400-$1800 (so really $1800 in my mind at least). I said thanks and left. One thing that bothered me about the tech, was that he said that the torque converter clutch could lock out of overdrive gear, and was dependent on other things. This seemed to be different to everything I had read (that the torque converter clutch only locked the engine to the transmission when the car was in overdrive.
A day later I went to mechanic. Picked this mechanic because he does transmission work, and 4 of my siblings have used him for various car repairs. One sibling was told by a different mechanic that her engine repairs would run $2000 to replace a part. Sibling came to this mechanic that there is a bad section of the part, but that the part could be separated, and fixed. Mechanic ‘fixed’ the part for $350 in parts and labor and a few thousand miles later, the car is functioning fine…
So, between trans shop #2, and mechanic, I did some internet research. Found out that there are two schools of thinking about transmission flushes.
School one: Where transmission is neglected (i.e., over 100,000 miles since transmission fluid change), a transmission fluid flush causes problems. Essentially all the detergents in the new trans fluid break loose miles of gunk/buildup (and overheated trans fluid residue) and that circulates in the trans and causes problems. So, unless fluid smells burnt, don’t change it. If the trans is not neglected, a flush probably does no harm. I don’t know exactly why trans shop #2 recommends against trans fluid changes, nor will I guess why, but there *might* be some limited support for it. I guess that it may give trans shop #2 more business later in rebuilding transmissions, but who knows…
School two: Change the fluid...
Well, I also read about torque converters, and Torque conv clutches. One site said if the shudder is occurring like in my situation (i.e., 55-60MPH), tap the brake pedal likely while on the accelerator, and if the problem stops, it could be a clutch issue…Another said in some circumstances, an engine mount could cause a shudder when certain RMS were reached. Another said to rule out wheel being out of balance (esp if the shudder gets worse as vehicle speed increases).
I considered doing a pan drop and replacing 1/3 of fluid and adding shudder guard from trans shop #1 before going to mechanic. Decided against this. First, I wanted to make sure that new trans fluid wouldn’t break loose gunk, and give me a problem. Second, I didn’t want to clean the trans pan because I thought that the mechanic would find it useful to see what was in the pan to make a diagnosis.
So, the mechanic did the trans flush and said that he’s done quite a bit with Camry’s and never had an issue about school-of-thought #1 and doing a trans flush, even on a neglected trans. He also said that there were 2 trans pan bolts missing, and other of the trans pan bolts were not really tight, leading him to think that a trans fluid change may have occurred in the past.
So, at this point, trans fluid flush/change ($200 + tax for flush, gasket, filter/screen, 1 tube shudder guard (I already had one that I gave the mechanic) and labor) and 2 two ounce shudder-guard tubes really helped the problem (and virtually eliminated it?) for now. Time will tell. I’ll try to remember to update if I find out more. In any event, it doesn't sound like the shuddering will do permamnet damage to the trans. And the mechanic said in extreme cases, if the clutch completly sticks, it could cause the car to stall. He mentioned that could put the car in neutral and rev the engine a bit shifting into gear to disengage the clutch and then drive with overdrive disengaged until the problem fixed. He said, often it will stick for much longer and then release onits own, at which time disengage overdrive, and then get problem fixed (i.e., have torque converter looked at, or the solenoid depending on where it is located).
He said that he would do nothing more at this time unless the problem gets substantially worse...
Every situation is different, and it is always best to have a mechanic/shop that you trust look at the problem so you don't possibly make a minor problem a major porblem... Mechanic also mentioned that driving the car with overdrive disengaged (and getting up to 3500 or 3600 RPMs to go 65-70MPH on the highway would not harm the car for short-term periods, but said if you did it over several thousand miles (he said 50,000-100,000 miles), it wouldn't be great for the engine.
Paul

Last edited by pb940072; 04-04-2013 at 03:26 PM.
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post #11 of 12 Old 04-05-2013, 09:02 AM
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USA DIY flush did wonder to 96' camry 4 cyl

Greetings all,

Say, purchased a 96 camry with 132k, one owner in the Dallas area. Engine and trans. seemed to be solid, knew I had to spend $1000 on parts (4 struts and other worn items (but engine passed my srutiny) Fluid in trans. was very dark, so after reading other comments, bought 12 quarts of lowest cost SAMS trans. DEX3 fluid. Disconnected return line (one on the right) and bled pump output to clear bucket with engine at idle. Drained 3 quarts, then engine off, refill replace 3 and so on, saved one quart for top-off. All fluid clean now, did not lower pan but did drain as first step. Bolts on pan not tight at all, small leak, tightened all pan bolts to approx. 37 lbs. They had only about 12 ponds on them.

BEFORE flush:
For some reason, engine idled at 500 RPM while at stop light, there was a vibration and trans. was not the smoothest it could be. Thought vibration might be water pump or alternator bearing. (BUT IT WAS THE TRANS!)
AFTER flush:
Now trans. shifts much smoother - silky smooth, hot engine now idles in drive at stop light at 900 RPM and rough vibration at idle has been reduced by 80% while in drive!

SUMMARY,

It is critical to keep AT fluid clean, and best method is the complete DIY flush. Flush with lowest cost fluid to purge, then replace with a high quality synthetic. Will invest $50 for the Mobile 1 AT syn. and trans. likely will perform again like new. Thanks for reading...
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post #12 of 12 Old 02-13-2014, 02:42 PM Thread Starter
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Follow-up

I'm the original thread starter.

The complete Trans flush/change with shudder additive made a huge difference. The mechanic said that the trans fluid didn't look al that dirty, and that there was no abnormal metal shavings in the fluid.

I did take that 500 mile round trip the following week, and after 2 hours of highway driving (70-77MPH) I noticed the shudder but very light (nothing like it had been).

I drove the car on a 2,000 mile round trip in October. On the first 1/2 of the trip, I only noticed it again slightly after the first 2-3 hours, but noticed it a bit more on the trip home (still nowhere close to the original trip I took).

The theory right now is that after the car is driven for a long period, the fluid heats up and the viscosity reduces, causing inadequate actuation of the torque control lock-up solenoid. PErhaps there is a clog in the fluid pathway, or a lazy solenoid?

The reason I mention it now is because I'm going to be taking another 2500 round-trip in a month, so will revisit the problem, and have it looked at in more detail to get it fixed.

Just posting details for those who view the post with similar problems.
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