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Should you Replace Your Water Pump with the Timing Belt?

Should you Replace Your Water Pump with the Timing Belt

When it comes time to replace the timing belt in your car your mechanic will likely recommend that you get your water pump replaced at the same time. Ultimately, on the off chance you need your water pump replaced first, your mechanic will recommend the opposite that you have your timing belt swapped out of the same time as well. Whenever one goes the other typically goes with it. You may be wondering if there's any reason behind that, however.

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Mechanics didn’t come up with this idea randomly and they're not necessarily trying to scam you out of extra money for doing work that you don't need done. There is a good reason why most mechanics will recommend having your water pump swapped out when you need to get your timing belt changed. A good rule of thumb is that you really should get one changed alongside the other.


Why Do You Replace a Water Pump and a Timing Belt at the Same Time?


You're well within your rights to ask any mechanic why they would want to change your water pump alongside your timing belt. After all, these two items don't do the same job in your engine. But they do have a few things in common which is why they are often replaced together.


The water pump is directly adjacent to the timing belt in most engines. Because getting to the timing belt is such a labor-intensive job, many mechanics will often take this opportunity to replace the water pump at the same time because of the effort required to get down to either one of these items.


Your timing belt is what drives your water pump is well, so it makes sense to keep them both fresh at the same time. Since they have similar life spans, a brand-new timing belt should be paired with a brand-new water pump. That way you don't need to try to figure out how much life one might still have compared to the other 


Another factor that comes into play when you have to swap out either the timing belt or the water pump is that both of these items tend to have a similar life span. Changing out your timing belt is a part of routine car maintenance and depending on the make and model of the vehicle you drive your timing belt probably is going to need to be changed between 60,000 miles and 100,000 miles. Some of them will last a little bit longer but for the most part you can count on your timing belt needing to be changed somewhere in that window. You can check your owner's manual to find out for sure exactly what the manufacturer recommends in terms of a lifespan for a timing belt.


Water pumps follow more or less the same kind of life span as a timing belt so if you're changing one you might as well change the other at the same time. It's going to save you time and money to get them done together and we'll see why when we get into exactly what goes on when you replace the timing belt.


Another thing to keep in mind is that there are some other parts such as tensioners and idler pulleys that are involved with your timing belts function that should likely be replaced at the same time as well. Getting everything done at the same time is the smart play.


How Much Does It Cost to Have a Timing Belt and Water Pump Replaced?


Replacing your timing belt and water pump is not a cheap job by any means. When it comes to getting this work done, you need to be a little suspicious of any shops that might offer you a too-good-to-be-true deal. Typically, when you get this work done, you're looking at a cost between $500 in $1,000. On some models this can get as high as $2,000. That's an incredibly steep repair bill, but it reflects the amount of labor that goes into this job. As we said, the mechanic really has to get into your engine in an in-depth way to get a timing belt out. And that's why getting the idler pulleys and tensioners in the water pump out at the same time makes sense. You wouldn't want to have to pay to get each part removed separately at different times.


If a mechanic offers you a deal on getting this done that's significantly lower than what we've mentioned here, as in maybe only a couple hundred dollars, you should be wary. Although it is less common these days, especially since online reviews are so readily available so that you can research a mechanic ahead of time and know what they're like, it was not unheard of in the past for mechanics to try to rip off some customers with this kind of work. They would quote you the price of a timing belt replacement and then, when you went into the shop to get it done, they’ll tell you that you also needed to get a water pump replaced  and your tensioners replaced and the cost would skyrocket from there.


A trustworthy mechanic will let you know ahead of time that they're going to be looking at all of these parts at the same time, and you should know that  it's normal for all of these parts to  be replaced at the same time as well. 


What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Timing Belt Going Bad?


Timing belts in your engine connect the crankshaft and a camshaft together to ensure precision timing of the combustion reaction that powers your vehicle. If your timing belt breaks or starts to wear down it will throw off this precision timing which in turn can greatly affect the performance of your engine. You start suffering engine misfires, poor fuel economy and more. That's why it's important to make sure it's maintained and in good working order.  If you notice any of these problems, there's a good chance you've got a problem with your timing belt.


 Engine Misfires


When the teeth of your timing belt wear down or it stretches out too much to maintain the tension between the crankshaft and the camshaft, it can cause the valves to open and close at the wrong time in the cylinders of your engine relative to the movement of the pistons. This in turn means that the fuel and air mixture will be off, and the spark could potentially be igniting at the wrong time as well. If the timing is bad enough, you are looking at misfires in that cylinder. Prolonged engine misfires can cause serious damage to your engine.


Rough Idling


Rough idling typically happens when you've lost a few teeth on the inside of the timing belt so they can no longer firmly grip the gear. It can result in your car shaking excessively and vibrating even when you're just sitting still in the driveway. This jolting can get so severe that your engine may stall out on you.


Engine Noises


When your timing belt begins to fail on your it will make a distinct sound in your engine. Usually you're going to hear a repetitive ticking sound at a high rate of speed, usually caused by the teeth coming loose from the timing belt. The sound is kind of like the sound a roulette wheel makes when you spin it.


Occasionally you might hear a squealing sound as well from a timing belt as it begins to fail. Unlike the ticking sound, this would be a more intermittent sort of noise but it's also a similar noise to what you might hear from your serpentine belt or other belts that are as well.


 Oil Leaks


If the timing belt cover that is over your timing belt begins to come loose then oil can leak out around the bolts. You may notice this in the form of the drops of oil on the driveway under where you park, but it could also spread around the engine and even get on the timing belt. Over time this will considerably weaken your timing belt and cause it to wear down much sooner than it should.


Signs and Symptoms of a Bad Water Pump


Just like when your timing belt because they go bad there some size you can be on the lookout for it to let you know that the water pump is gone wrong.




Unlike the ticking sound that you're going to hear from a bad timing belt, if the water pump pulley has come loose it’s going to start producing a distinct high pitched whining sound. This will be coming from the front of your motor and is usually the result of the loose belt when it spins. Often it is caused by a pulley that needs to be fixed. The sound will usually increase in volume as you go faster. This is a good way to help you figure out exactly what it is that you're hearing.




If your water pump has failed completely that it's simply not going to be able to do its job which is to help circulate coolant through the engine. That's going to cause your engine to overheat fairly quickly which is definitely something you don't want to experience because an overheated engine can lead to cracked cylinder heads, blown head gaskets and burnt pistons. The cost for repairing some of these can stretch well into the thousands of dollars. If you're seeing that your temperature gauge is running hot consistently then you'll want to get your water pump checked out. 


Steam from the Radiator


If you are noticing steam coming from the front of your motor while you're driving but that's definitely a sign that you have an overheated engine. This very likely related to the water pump failing although it could have some other causes. In any event, any time you notice steam coming from your radiator you should get your mechanic as soon as you can as your chances of overheating within moments are fairly High. It's possible that you need a tow truck to get you where you're going if this is happening when you're up on the highway for instance.


Coolant Leak


If some of the seals and gaskets in your water pump begin to fail then you may notice coolant leaks coming for the water pump and end up pulling on the ground beneath your car. It will be located near the front of the engine and will probably be either green or red depending on the colour of coolant that you use in your vehicle. If you are experiencing coolant leaks you need to get these cleaned up as soon as you can because not only are you going to suffer from an overheated engine fairly quickly, the coolant is dangerous to leave around as many animals will be attracted to it and if they drink it, it could very likely kill them.


The Bottom Line 


Replacing a water pump and a timing belt at the same time is extremely commonplace practice. In fact, if you head to Autozone you'll see that often timing belts are sold as part of kits that include the tensioners required to make them operate as well as the water pumps. It's just a more convenient way to get things repaired if you take care of it all at the same time, saving yourself the cost of some very steep repair bills down the road by doing each job separately. Remember, it's less the material cost that you're paying for here than the labour cost and the labour in this case is going to take several hours to complete which is why the price is so high.


There's always a possibility you could try to save yourself some money by handling the repair job like this at home, but this is definitely an advanced level kind of a job. If you don't have a lot of experience doing auto repair, it's best to leave this one to the professionals. Even though the price is steep, it's a lot easier to leave it up to somebody who has experience doing this and knows how to handle the task. 




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