Torque Converters and Jeeps Stalling in Reverse – Here’s What To Do!

Anytime a vehicle has a problem, it can be extremely frustrating.  Trying to find the right answer can cost valuable time and money. In this article, you will learn why your Jeep stalls in reverse.

Why Does My Jeep Stall In Reverse?

The most likely cause of your Jeep stalling in reverse is a problem with the torque converter. This important piece of equipment is paramount for ensuring your Jeep functions properly. Torque converters are complicated mechanisms, so it’s likely best to bring your Jeep to a mechanic.

But what exactly is a torque converter and why is it responsible for causing your jeep to stall in reverse? Keep reading to find out the important role the torque converter plays in your car’s operation.

What is a Torque Converter?

When you come to a stop, you don’t want the engine to die.  Manual transmissions have a clutch to prevent this from happening.  However, in an automatic transmission, a torque converter is used for this purpose. The torque converter is what makes the automatic transmission in your Jeep keep moving.

The Make-Up of a Torque Converter

Inside the housing of the torque converter are five parts:

  • Impeller
  • Turbine
  • Stator
  • Clutch
  • Transmission Fluid

The impeller is a part of the torque converter somewhat resembling a fan with its blades.  The engine causes the impeller to turn. Transmission fluid is pushed through its blades as it spins.

The turbine is where the fluid from the impeller begins to enter.  This piece sits across from the impeller. It is connected to and makes the transmission spin.

The turbine makes your car move. Since the blades of the turbine are curved, the fluid must change directions before it exits the center.

This is what makes the turbine spin. The turning of the turbine also turns the transmission shaft and pump of your Jeep.

The fluid leaves the turbine in the opposite direction than when it entered.  The fluid hits the impeller again.  The stator comes into play at this point.

The stator is located at the center of the torque converter. It has angled blades that reverse the direction of the transmission fluid when the fluid flows into the blade.

The stator plays an important role in keeping the transmission fluid from hitting the converter housing and slowing it down.

Attached to the engine along with the impeller, the torque converter has a housing. And lastly, the torque converter generally uses a lock-up clutch.

This clutch will lock the impeller and turbine together at high speed for increasing fuel efficiency.

How a Torque Converter Works

There are three phases to the working of a torque converter.  These phases are:

  • Stall
  • Acceleration
  • Coupling

During the stall phase, both the engine and impeller are turning. However, since the turbine can’t turn at this point, your Jeep will still be stationery. The stall also occurs when you have your Jeep turned on and in gear, but your foot is on the brake.

Acceleration is the next phase.  The impeller starts to move faster as the RPMs increase.  The turbine is also moving faster. However, the impeller is still moving faster than the turbine.

When you drive your Jeep at high speeds, this is when coupling occurs.  With coupling, the speed of the impeller and the speed of the turbine are almost the same. At this point, some torque converters use a clutch to maximize efficiency.

Signs Your Torque Converter is Going Bad

  1. Shuddering

This is an obvious sign something is wrong.  When your car shudders, it will feel like the car is vibrating.  Even if you are driving slowly, your car may still vibrate.

  1. Transmission Fluid Leakage

If there is damage to the torque seal, fluid will leak from your vehicle.  When your transmission fluid leaks, you won’t have the proper amount in your Jeep.  Since this part transfers power to the engine and transmission, this can cause damage to both the converter and the transmission.

If My Transmission Leaks When It Is Parked, Is It Serious?

You will also notice that the shift of power from the engine to the transmission will not be smooth.  Other issues caused by the transmission leakage can be the vehicle getting too hot, extra slippage, and increasing stall speeds.

  1. Overheating

When this part is not able to properly transfer power from the engine to the transmission, overheating will occur. If your Jeep’s temperature indicator light is on, this could mean a problem with the torque converter.

  1. Drop in Fuel Efficiency

If your stator clutch seizes or breaks, then you will probably notice a huge difference in your Jeep’s fuel efficiency.  When the clutch seizes, both the inner and outer components of the clutch can become forever locked, resulting in this issue.

Another reason for this drop is deformation and fragmentation of the blade. Remember, most parts of the torque converter have blades. So, any damage to a blade can result in the torque converter not working at its best, causing gas mileage to go down.

If the clutch solenoid is damaged, this can lead to decreased gas mileage as well. This part measures fluid pressure electronically.  It also controls the amount of fluid the clutch receives.

If this solenoid is damaged the amount of transmission fluid needed will not be accurate.  This inaccurate reading could cause unusual fluid pressures.  The instability of fluid pressures will result in poorer gas mileage.

  1. Slipping

Slipping is when your Jeep’s torque converter slips out of gear, or there is a delay in the shift. The torque converter changes the engine’s torque into hydraulic pressure. The hydraulic pressure is necessary to shift the gears in the transmission. So, a damaged torque converter can’t properly make this change.

  1. Transmission Fluid Contains Contaminates

The torque converter in your Jeep is full of transmission fluid.  If this fluid contains contaminants, then chances are you have transmission damage.

Other parts can be affected by the contaminated transmission fluid.  The bearings of the stator and the fins of the turbine are two parts that can be damaged by contaminated fluid.

Needle bearings that are faulty can cause metal chips accumulation in the transmission’s fluid. These bearings separate the impeller, turbine, stator, and housing. Faulty bearings will cause the metal to meet metal between these parts, leading to metal accumulation.

  1. Stall Speed Increases

The stall speed is where the converter shifts power from the engine. The engine power is then sent to the transmission. An impaired torque converter can’t properly make the engine to transmission conversion.

Regular stall speed can increase if this occurs.  This results in the transmission taking increased time to grab the engine.

  1. Weird Sounds

A malfunctioning or damaged torque converter makes strange noises. Some of these sounds include whining or clicking noises.  These sounds result from the bearing being damaged or the turbine fin being broken

Faulty needle bearings can also lead to strange noises while driving.  As mentioned above, these bearings separate the parts of the torque converter. If you have metal chips in your transmission fluid plus strange noises, this is likely the cause.

  1. Car Stays in Gear While Stopped

The transmission and engine are locked by torque converter clutches.  If the clutch of the torque converter has been damaged, your Jeep will still stay in gear even when you have come to a complete stop. 

If the friction of the torque converter clutch’s plate has worn away, this can also cause the converter to lock into drive.

How Much Will This Cost Me?

Now that you have established this converter is to blame for your Jeep stalling in reverse, it is now time to go over the dreaded cost.

First, determine if there has ever been a recall for your Jeep for this issue.  If there has, verify your Jeep did go into service for this issue.  However, if you are having the stalling issue, this is probably not the case.

If there was a recall and your Jeep was never taken in for service, talk to the dealership or manufacturer.  If the recall is newer, there shouldn’t be an issue with getting the service performed at no charge. 

Is your Jeep under warranty?  If your Jeep is still under its powertrain warranty, you will want to check to see if this part is covered under warranty.

If there is no recall, and the warranty has expired, then you will have to pay out of pocket. If you are good with car repair, the cost will be as little as $150 up to $500.  If you take it to a shop, it will cost between as little as $600 up to $1000.

Next Steps

If your Jeep is stalling while in reverse, it is more than likely the torque converter causing the issue.  Is your Jeep displaying any of the signs of a bad torque converter? If so, be sure to communicate this to your mechanic.

You may run into a mechanic who doesn’t believe this is the case. Or maybe they think you couldn’t possibly be correct in your assumption.  In either event, it is your money and your decision whether you want to listen to the mechanic or take your business elsewhere.

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