Toyota Torque Converter

2014.5 Toyota Camry LE
4-cylinder engine
6-speed transmission
8,300 miles
Owned since new in April 2014

Just received the letter from Toyota regarding extension of warranty on the transmission torque converter due to problems with the torque converter flex lock-up.

In recent weeks I have noticed a subtle change from previous performance of my Camry. When accelerating at low speed around 25-30 mph it feels like the road has suddenly become bumpy but that smooths out once speed exceeds that lower range. Twice last week I also experienced a momentary loss of power when accelerating from a stop light when I hit about 25 mph.

Frankly, I have wondered if it were my imagination. But these are sections of road I drive daily so am familiar with how cars feel when driving there in all types of weather and road conditions.

Winter snow plowing has been rough on local roads and I had wondered if the brief bumpy road roughness feel is due to that. I have to find a smooth parking lot or really smooth newer stretch of road to experiment on for comparison.

So far this occurs only in the 25-30 mph range. Not at lower speed or higher speed. It occurs whether starting up from a stop or if already at speed in traffic that has slowed and I am accelerating slightly back up to normal speed. However, this is not a consistent problem and so far is minor so a test drive by a mechanic may or may not duplicate the occurence.

I have repeatedly checked tire pressure and the oil; both are spot on. Cannot check trans fluid as there is no dipstick for owner access. Reminder: I have severe arthritis and no means of accessing the trans from underneath.

Car is due for its 12 month oil change / tire rotation in a few weeks. (I am a low mileage driver so maintain on severe use schedule based on time.) I plan to take in the letter from Toyota and document on record my observation of what I have experienced the car doing so it is on official record at the dealership.


1: Is what I have described consistent with a problem with the torque converter flex lock-up?

2: Anything more / different I should do besides both road test on a smooth level surface somewhere and also document in writing for the dealership service?

…still reading, still learning…

Sounds like it could be that problem. You’re doing all the right things.

You really need to stay on top of this Marnet and document it all the way. A shudder (even intermittent) can be caused by a converter or converter circuit related issue. My Fords have been the same way and I can tell when a fluid change is due at 35k miles as the transmission at times has a tendency to develop a very subtle and not present all the time shift flare or rumble. At 8kmiles any fluid condition should not be an issue.

There is one thing that bothers me in that bulletin and that’s the part about additional magnets being added to the pan. Magnets will not attract debris in a transmission unless it’s ferrous metal.
It’s unclear to me whether this ferrous metal they’re aiming to snag is from a potentially bad converter or something else in the transmission.

I had wondered about how Toyota started with a software update a couple years ago to now extending warranty to put extra magnets in the pan. Does it need more magnets because the trans is grinding into pieces at an above normal rate?

Thank you for the warning. I will definitely document this in writing and do so asap at the dealer.

This started only a few weeks ago, so faint and intermittant I thought I was imagining a bogey man, given a bit of paranoia after the maintenance headache of the previous Impala. I don’t want to be a mechanical hypochondriac. But when I got the letter from Toyota yesterday I have wondered if what I have felt is the shudder referred to.

@OK4450 What is a transmission flare? Would that be the tiny loss of power at shift points as if the engine was in neutral for a second? It happened twice under acceleration and once under non-braking deceleration when a shift point was reached. That happened once three days ago and twice two days ago. No clue about rpms but I did not hear/feel any advanced revving and both times it was in that about 25-30 mph range. The bumpy shudder started occurring several weeks ago.

I did notice the shudder and flare (?) prior to receiving the letter and wonder if they are the symptoms referred to. If so, talk about spooky timing of the letter.

I suggest you look this up on the toyotanation forum if not already done. We are in the process of getting a newer car and test drove a 2012 Camry; the shifting was just bizarre and the torque converter felt noisy. We have a 2005 Camry so I was expecting a similar ride. When I posted on the forum, I was told that the transmission behavior is a bit different. I have also been following the Highlander forum there and quite a few owners on the new generation are complaining of droning around 1750 RPM related to the TC. Not sure if it is related to the Camry problem.

@Marnet, a shift flare can be caused by any one of a number of things. A shift flare could be made of the following example. You start off in low and as the transmission automatically shifts into second gear there may be a slight abnormal rise in RPMs and a hesitation before it shifts on into second gear. This can apply across the board to other shift points and may not even be present all the time.

This can be caused by aged fluid (not in your case), programming, pressure issues in the valve body for whatever reason, slippage, etc, etc, etc.

I wouldn’t worry too much at this point though. Hopefully Toyota is not going through another iffy transmission spell like they did about 8 or 9 years ago. Follow through on the bulletin and go from there.

In the meantime, take a deep breath. Walk around to the back of the car. If the badge says “Impala” then you need to really start worrying… :smiley:

(Just kidding… )

Thank you Galant. I will look that up.

Well, the 2014 Impala already has 11 recalls which include some potentially dangerous defects. The 2014 Camry has three recalls for lesser issues covering fewer vehicles, torque converter excepted. So I am still quite satisfied with my choice. I will take that deep breath and motor down the road happily. :slight_smile:

There’s not a car made or has ever been made that doesn’t have a list of recalls and service bulletins attached to it.

Guess it’s a good thing you don’t have a 2014 Impala. Those recalls involve some potentially lethal problems.
GM has a recall out on electric steering issues from 8 to 10 years ago. At some point you would think the R & D work and using the customers as lab rats would cease.

I am not thrilled about the torque converter but figure, as you note, all vehicles have some problems.

The late Impala had a failed power steering pump and failing steering rack replaced weeks after warranty which GM went ahead and honored warranty on as well as a failing intermediate steering shaft replaced earlier under warranty which was going bad a second time when I unloaded the car. Those were real safety issues in addition to the plethora of other mechanical and electronic issues from the first 3k miles.

So, yes, I look at the current Camry badge on the car and heave a sigh of relief. :slight_smile:

Nothing wrong with proper recalls. It shows the manufacturer wants to fix a problem. My 8 year old Toyota has yet to have a repair, but the computer was recalled for a possible connection corrosion problem that might leave the car stranded!

Completely painless process.

90% of the cars will be fixed with the software update. If your car still shudders after the reflash then the converter will be replaced and magnets added to the pan. Take it in sooner rather than later.

Check to see what the Consumer Reports Reliability Guide publication says about this too. It might offer add’l info or a better explanation of what the expected symptoms are.

UPDATE (LONG) & Questions:

Eight days ago I finally had the appointment to have the torque converter fixed and also to get the oil changed and tires rotated at the same time. I waited an hour, was told the car was ready only to discover nothing was done about the torque converter problem because the mechanic couldn’t duplicate the problem.

I politely reminded the service advisor they have on record I have been complaining about the exact symptoms Toyota detailed in the letter I received. And I reminded him I had specifically said when I arrived for the appointment that the previous evening when I had shifted from reverse to drive that the transmission did not engage, merely let the engine rev high, that I had checked to be certain the gear selector was properly seated, and finally had to shift out of drive to neutral and back into drive to get the transmission to engage.

The young man who was the service advisor I was dealing with told me that “many women have trouble properly shifting” and that extensive test driving by the mechanic did not duplicate the problem. I rather tartly replied I have been shifting cars for forty years without any problem. He never would say whether or not the recommended car computer software upgrade was performed. He then stated I could start writing down a log of all malfunction occurences and come back with that at the next oil change (which based on my low mileage driving would be six months.) I asked for the manager only to be told he wasn’t available.

I left quite ticked off only to discover when I checked the odometer that the so called “extensive” test drive was barely four miles. (And yes, I did check the oil dipstick right there in the dealership parking lot to verify the car had clean oil up to the proper full mark before I started the car to leave.)

Since then I had driven only three times for less than forty total miles until today when I had to make an almost forty mile round trip. Less than halfway outbound one of the hubcaps went flying off and clattered bouncing away. I was in heavy traffic and could not safely pull over to search for the lost hubcap.

So after I completed my business at my destination I used my cell phone to call the dealership service department. The young woman who answered was a sharp tongued unhelpful dingbat. I explained that after they rotated tires the hubcap came off and that I had NOT hit a pothole nor driven but very few miles. She said that rotating tires has no affect on hubcaps. I pointed out that accessing lugnuts and pulling and remounting wheels can easily affect a hubcap. She replied lugnuts have nothing to do with tires or wheels. (Really!?? Lugnuts have nothing to do with tires and wheels!?? Dingbat clearly did not know the difference between hubcaps and lugnuts.)

She put me on hold for six minutes only to then tell me the service advisor I had dealt with previously wasn’t there and I could call back another day. I said then please let me speak with the manager. She said that she didn’t have time to find him as she was leaving in ten minutes to which I replied then she had ten minutes in which to have the manager call me back or they could deal with me in person and it wouldn’t be another day. She said she was leaving. I said the manager had ten minutes, gave my phone number, and she hung up on me. I waited fifteen minutes, no call back received. I drove straight to the dealership.

I would have been less irate over the hubcap were I not already dissatisfied about the torque converter.

When I arrived I made a point of being courteous albeit rather concisely stiff about my belief there is apt to be a correlation between the tire rotation and subsequent flying hubcap. (Although I am quite aware it is also very possible it is an unfortunate coincidence.)

This time I dealt with a more mature, more pleasant service advisor. He looked at the wheel and suggested someone had perhaps tampered with the hubcap. No, the car stays in a locked garage. Perhaps at work. No, I am retired (sort of). Well then at the grocery store, you do drive to the grocery store don’t you? Wordless stare from me while I silently thought does he really want to stick with that line of theory. He then excused himself briefly and returned to say they would take care of it at no cost to me and likely it was a faulty clip to blame. No hubcap was available in stock in the parts department so he opened a work order.

Then he asked if there was anything else. I told him the transmission problem continues to occur intermittently but was told last week the mechanic could not duplicate. He asked if the computer was flashed. I said I did not know but was told nothing can be done unless they can duplicate the problem (which, by the way, I realize is reasonable). While I was answering he was looking at their computer record of my service. I also said I still haven’t pinpointed a pattern to the problem except for one thing. Before I could say what that is he asked if it is when I have eased off the accelerator momentarily then try to speed back up. Yes! That is exactly when it most occurs.

He said don’t worry they know how to make it occur on a test drive. I said but the mechanic couldn’t last week and the problem of the one instance of not shifting into drive was ignored. He replied that this time a journeyman will be check driving and working on it and not an “express man” like last week and when I come back I will be dealing with him as my service advisor and not someone else. If a computer software flash doesn’t fix it they will replace the torque converter.

He asked when I can leave the car for a day ot two. Answer is I will need a loaner as I have no other transportation. So between my schedule and their openings I am scheduled to return in six days prepared to wait at least two hours to find if they need the car longer. I assume that is time to test drive and diagnose, flash the software, retest drive. If that does not work then the replacement will require they keep the car and I get a loaner (at least I better get a loaner like the corporate letter says will be provided if necessary!)

So…a new hubcap is on order at their cost and, far more importantly, the transmission problem will be looked at again, this time by a journeyman rather than an express man. I assume that means last week an inexperienced cadet changed the oil, rotated the tires, and declared the transmission a non issue but that next week a more experienced mechanic will check the torque converter performance.

Sorry to be so long winded.

I do wish to ask you wonderful regulars a question, please:

Am I unreasonable to think there is apt to be a connection between the tire rotation and subsequent flying hubcap?

Okay, done venting now. But I would appreciate feedback if any of you have endured reading all the way through this epistle diatribe.

…still reading, still learning…

You are 100% right on all counts.

Call Toyota customer sat before your next visit and inform them of the situation. I would also ask to have a TAS case started. It sounds as if you have 2 issues the torque converter will cause a shudder when shifting, the trans not engaging is a different issue.

The trouble with any large organization is that often you must deal with several people before you find the one that is capable of and willing to address your concerns. I don’t have much dealership experience but in my opinion, the express lube tech has no business investigating your torque converter complaint. That should fall to a general repair tech, trans specialist, or diagnostic technician if they have one. The fact that service writer #2 was aware of the problem, how to make it happen, and has a journeyman tech to work on it tells me that his team is the one that should have had the car from the beginning. Sounds like poor service from the dealer, but now you have found the service team that can help you.

Sure, the wheel cover could have been a coincidence, but when that happens here–as it does, though rarely–I’ll get a matching wheel cover no charge. Just because it’s good business.

Funny coincidence, just yesterday someone came in complaining about a missing hub cap after we patched his tire and I told him I wouldn’t help him. He wanted to know if we had forgotten to put his wheel cover on after we fixed a flat. I told him no, we don’t have any hubcaps laying around. Then he said we must not have put it on properly then because it’s missing now. He then pointed at one of my guys and said “The guy with the glasses fixed it, he’ll remember.” I asked Randy and he didn’t remember fixing a tire on a Prius recently. I looked up the license plate and found an invoice from September 2014 for a tire repair.

“We patched your tire in September and in April you look down and see a missing wheel cover?”

“Well that’s the wheel you worked on.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t be responsible for what happens to your car 6 months after I work on it. I’ll be happy to get you another one, probably be $50 or so. That’s the best I can do.”

He declined.

It’s entirely possible (and quite likely in my opinion) that whoever rotated the tires did not fully seat the hubcap after rotating the tires. It was bound to come off at some point just as many others have done.

A steel wheel can flex a small amount while in motion with the weight of the car applied to it and combined with a hubcap not fully seated it can flex the hubcap right off of it. A few thousandths of an inch can make a difference.

What would grate on me is the disdain and talking down to you by the dealer and apparently by more than one person. From the “many women can’t shift…” and lugs nuts having nothing to do with the wheels the BS has been handed out a bit thick.

Time to elevate this to Toyota and per the usual, make sure it’s all documented with copies of repair orders and so on.

I tip my hat to you. You are an exceptionally aware, thorough, and sharp poster. And you are absolutely correct on all points… including the carefully selected adjectives.

The only thing I can add to what’s already been suggested by OK4450 is that if it were my vehicle I’d want to check the lugnuts to be sure they’re torqued and you don’t have any loose ones. My confidence in this dealer den of questionable repute would be shaky. That’d give you a chance to reseat the remaining hubcaps too, before you lose another one.