A water pump plays an important role in the overall operation of a car’s cooling system. It is responsible for making the coolant circulate continuously from the car’s radiator to the engine block. It is done to make sure that the car won’t overheat and experience problems. While the water pumps today are made to be more durable, they can still fail due to poor maintenance, corrosion, broken belt, bad seal, loose drive pulley, or cavitation inside the cooling system. Signs you may have a bad water pump include rust and deposit build up, coolant leak, broken shaft, overheating engine, whining sounds, and steam coming from your radiator.
If your car shows signs you may have a bad water pump, it is best that you don’t ignore it. Have it checked and repaired immediately. When your car’s water pump fails, it can result in overheating, poor engine performance, and can even leave you stranded somewhere. Since it keeps the engine cool, when the water pump fails completely and is ignored for a while, your engine can fail or catch fire on the road. It can compromise your safety and the safety of your passengers.
Signs You May Have a Bad Water Pump: How Can You Tell If Your Water Pump is Bad?
You will know if there is something wrong with your car when you notice any of the signs you may have a bad water pump like coolant leaks or engine overheating. But before we discuss that, we might need to understand how a water pump works first and why it is important.
A car water pump provides the engine its needed constant flow of coolant from the radiator throughout the engine. The engine needs this constant coolant flow to make sure that it is always operating within its normal operating temperature range. This can be done with the help of the water pump which is the main component responsible for maintaining the said flow.
How the water pump works is pretty simple and straightforward. It has an impeller which is placed on one end of a centered shaft. This impeller is the one that pushes the coolant throughout the engine, radiator, heater core, connecting hoses and lines. There is a pulley on the other end of the centered shaft which is supported by a bearing or two to move the rotating force to the water pump’s impeller. The water pump may be run by a drive belt, serpentine belt, or timing belt depending on your car’s make and model. Its housing is built with a weep hole or relief port located at one side or the bottom of the housing to enable the coolant to flow if the water pump suffers a leak.
The water pumps equipped in cars today are designed and built to be sturdy and durable, but just like any other component of a car, it can become faulty over time and can suffer wear and tear. There are common signs you may have a bad water pump that can alert when it is due for a replacement. The signs you may have a bad water pump as well as their causes and solutions include:
- Coolant leaks
Since the water pump is equipped with a number of seals and gaskets to keep the coolant contained and make sure that there is a constant coolant flow supplied to the engine from the radiator, it can happen that these seals and gaskets wear out and become damaged over time. This can result in a coolant leak. You will usually see the leak in the front of your car and in the center of where your engine is located. You will know if there is a coolant leak when you see a green or sometimes red colored fluid underneath the center of your car. When this happens, you will have to have it checked and repaired to prevent any further damage.
There are also some instances when you experience a coolant leak when your water pump is new. The leak will be from the weep hole and it is completely normal since the new pump will need to be operating for about ten minutes for its mechanical seal to seal itself properly. It is somewhat its break-in period. However, for leaks that occur after the break-in period or for leaks that result in large coolant bleed marks somewhere around the weep hole, it is not normal anymore, and this is one of the signs you may have a bad water pump.
When this happens, your coolant may be contaminated before you have installed the new water pump. To correct this problem, you will have to thoroughly flush your cooling system prior to installing a new water pump and then refill it with the right coolant recommended by your car manufacturer. Bear in mind that you should never run your water pump without an appropriate amount of fluid since it may damage its mechanical seals.
Improper installation of water pump, seals, gaskets, or sealant can also cause coolant drips or large amounts of coolant leaks on or around the housing’s mounting surface to occur. To correct this problem, you will have to remove the newly installed water pump and check it thoroughly before reinstalling it. You need to follow the torque specifications as well as make sure that all gaskets and seals are not damaged. They also have to be installed properly. When sealant needs to be used, you need to clean the parts’ rims and mounting surface before applying the sealant evenly. However, if the coolant leaks are not caused by improper pump installation, you may have to replace it with a new one.
- Rust, deposit build up, and cavitation
One of the signs you may have a bad water pump is when you notice rust, deposit build up, or cavitation on your water pump. This can happen when there is a gradual leakage over time. It can result in different mineral build ups around the water pump. You can check under the hood and look for any signs of rust or build up on the water pump’s surfaces or on its impeller wings. If there is, your water pump may no longer be capable of moving the coolant through the system.
Rust and deposit build ups can be caused by a defective pressure cap, contaminated coolant, non-compatible coolant, or when you are mixing different kinds of coolants with different chemistries. Deposits, sludge, and other build ups on the inside of the water pump can clog it and hinder its individual components’ functions. It slows the ideal engine cooling process which can have a negative impact on your engine and its performance.
Cavitation on your water pump can also occur. Vapor cavities or bubbles in the coolant caused by a defective pressure cap that lets air in which can result in bubbles to form at the pump’s coolant inlet. When the pressure grows in the system, these bubbles may implode and cause problems. When these vapor cavities in the coolant collapse or implode, it can affect the individual components of the water pump, pockmark them and cause them to corrode.
To correct these problems, you will have to replace the corroded or damaged water pump. But before you replace the faulty water pump, you will have to flush the cooling system first and refill the cooling system with fresh çoolant, the one recommended by your car manufacturer. If the pressure cap is defective, you will also have to replace it.
- Whining, rumbling, or screeching noises
A high pitched sound coming from the front of the motor is one of the signs you may have a bad water pump. This can happen when your water pump has a loose belt. It tends to produce a whining or buzzing sound when it circulates. The belt becomes loose when the pulley is also loose. A belt that is misaligned can also cause excessive wear while an over tensioned belt can lead to overloading on the bearing which can cause premature wear. When the bearing becomes worn out it can also cause these unusual noises to occur.
You can check the condition of your bearings with your engine off. Check them and look closely for any side to side play at the shaft. You can try to apply hand pressure to check it. If it is working well, there should be no play at all. If you notice this one of the signs you may have a bad water pump, you need to have your water pump replaced immediately. You also need to make sure that you thoroughly check the belt, tensioner, and pulleys as well as the belt tensions and alignment.
You need to check the belt tensions and alignment since an over tensioned belt can also cause the shaft to become broken or damaged. However, if the damaged shaft has a blue color, it means that the damage on the shaft happened gradually. It means that there was an excessive heat build up before it became broken.
- Engine overheating
Since the water pump is an important component of your car’s cooling system, when it becomes bad or is failing, it won’t be able to circulate coolant through your car’s engine and this can result in overheating. The hotter it gets, the greater risk of severe damage such as blown head gaskets, cracked cylinder heads, or burned pistons.
If you are not aware that your water pump is failing or of any signs you may have a bad water pump, then an overheating engine is one of them and it is something you don’t want to ignore. If you notice that your coolant light is illuminating, you need to slow down, pull over, and check for any leaks. Top it off with coolant and call for help. It is best that you don’t attempt to drive it to prevent any further damage.
- Steam coming from the radiator
Steam coming from your radiator or engine bay can be caused by an insufficient amount of coolant circulating through the engine block. It can also mean that the pump seal is damaged and hot fluid is escaping from it. Steam coming from your radiator or around the engine bay can also mean that your engine has overheated.
When this happens, whatever the reason may be, you need to pull over immediately and call for help. This can happen when your water pump no longer functions and can no longer help maintain the engine’s normal operating temperature. It is something you don’t want to ignore since failing to address this issue can lead to severe damage that can be very expensive to fix.
Signs You May Have a Bad Water Pump: How Much Should it Cost to Fix a Water Pump?
If you ask, “how much should it cost to fix a water pump?”. The answer can vary depending on your car’s make, model, size, and age, but it usually costs around $300 to $750. You can buy the parts for around $70 to $400 and do the water pump replacement yourself. However, experts recommend that the replacement should be done by a professional since the process requires some skills.
The process involves completely draining the old coolant from the vehicle and removing components such as the belt or timing chain. Thorough inspections on the water pump and its surrounding components should also be done and if needed, they will be replaced too. Then after the inspections, removals of old parts, and installing the new ones, a new coolant will have to be added and other tests will be done to check for leaks.
Signs you may have a bad water pump include overheating engine, weird noises, coolant leaks, and corrosion – problems that can severely damage your engine and its components when left unrepaired. That is why it is important to take your car to an auto repair shop and have your faulty water pump replaced immediately the moment you experience any of these signs.