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There are a lot of things that can go wrong with your car. Your engine can overheat or break down, and the battery could die. You could also get a flat tire in the middle of a drive. All these problems are pretty common, but on the bright side they’re quite easy to diagnose and to fix as well. You don’t get this type of luxury for other things that go south with your car; one such problem is a failing water pump. So if you don’t know how to tell if your vehicle’s water pump has something wrong with it, let along how to fix it, you’ve come to the right place.

What is a Water Pump and What Does it Do?

Before we talk about how to identify the symptoms of a car water pump gone bad, we need to talk about what that part is first and what it does. The water pump may look like it only plays a small part in keeping your car running, but in reality, this tiny and unassuming piece plays a vital role. It is what delivers the coolant all the way from the radiator to the engine. This allows the car to keep its cool even while you’re driving on a hot summer day, and in the winter prevents the liquid from freezing.

Some car enthusiasts even think that the coolant this part delivers is as important as the oil change on a regular basis. This is a testament to just how crucial a well-functioning water pump is in keeping your car’s reliability, which is why you should learn how to identify the following common symptoms. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take a dedicated gearhead to recognize these warning signs when they pop up. Once you learn about them, you’ll be pretty surprised about how obvious and easy to spot they actually are.

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An Overheating Engine

First off, if your engine is overheating it may be due to a failing water pump. An overheating engine means that the water pump is not doing its job to the best of its ability. You should quickly get to fixing this problem since it can lead to more damage to your engine including ruined head gaskets, cracked cylinder heads, and burnt pistons. If you don’t get an overheated engine attended to immediately, the impellers and seals inside the pump itself will be destroyed. Your engine may also break down completely if you don’t attend to this as soon as possible.

Modern cars have an internal monitor, which can check if the engine reaches a certain temperature. This makes it easy to tell if your engine is overheating due of a water pump problem because of the warning signs that’ll be flashing on your dashboard. If your car is an older model, you can tell if your car is overheating if it’s hot to the touch after only a few minutes of use. An engine that’s overheating will also run slower compared to one that’s receiving an ample amount of coolant.

A Loud Whining Due to a Loose Pulley

Another easily identifiable problem caused by a failing car water pump is a loose pulley. The reason why you can quickly tell if your car has this problem is due to the whining sound that the loose water pump pulley will make. It’ll be hard to miss even if you’re revving your car pretty hard. This sound actually gets louder as you accelerate so it’ll be more obvious if you decide to drive faster, which may cause further damage. So don’t push your car too hard if you hear something like this.

As we’ve mentioned, this loud whining or buzzing is caused by a pulley on the water pump coming loose. This, in turn, could be caused by bearings wearing down or also coming loose. If this happens, these bearings know that these bearings can’t be repaired of replaced on their own – no matter how hard you try to convince the auto shops in and around your area otherwise. You’re going to have to get a brand new water pump installed in your vehicle, which is the best course of action so you don’t encounter these problems again for some time.

A Coolant Leak

The next car problem that could be caused by a malfunctioning water pump is a coolant leak near the front and center part of your vehicle. This is primarily caused by wear and tear of the gaskets and bearings holding the water pump together. Regular use does this to a car over time; so do things like introducing foreign substances to it, which we’ll talk more about in a short while. When these gaskets and bearings finally give out, coolant will start leaking and go to places where it shouldn’t be to begin with, which may cause serious issues.

Coolant is typically red or green in color, so if you see any coming out near the part where your car’s water pump is supposed to be, call a mechanic to get the problem diagnosed without any further waiting. Stalling for even a bit longer could result in problems that are more difficult to fix. A lack of coolant could lead to your engine to get too hot – a problem whose effects we’ve already discussed previously. You wouldn’t want any of those things happening to your car, so routinely check your water pump.

Steam Coming Out of Your Car

A visually identifiable symptom of a problematic water pump is steam coming from the radiator or the engine bay. This is arguably the most serious problem caused by a malfunctioning water pump. As we’ve said, a coolant is the substance that’s primarily responsible for keeping your engine’s temperature down and that the water pump is the one responsible for delivering this coolant. So if the latter is not working properly, steam may appear around the engine because it’s not getting enough coolant.

If you notice this, stop your car and pull over immediately to the side of the road. If you keep driving, you’re not only putting yourself and your passengers in danger, you’ll also be putting the motorists your sharing the streets with in peril. Plus, if your car breaks down in the middle of the road, you’d cause a traffic jam that may inconvenience a bunch of people. Get in touch with a towing company to move your car. Or simply book a cab or ride with a friend to get home instead of taking such a risk.

What to Do If Your Water Pump Malfunctions

These problems may happen simultaneously or appear one at a time. Whether the former or the latter occurs, you should always remember to change your coolant on or before the date the manufacturer told you to do so. Getting new coolant put in your vehicle is far cheaper and is less of a hassle compared to getting its radiator replaced. If you do need to get a new water pump, make sure that you get a high-quality one so you don’t encounter problems such as this one ever again. You should also have an overheating engine fixed immediately as well.

Similar to what was discussed earlier, you should also replace old belts on or before the date recommended by the manufacturer. Worn out belts should be replaced with those that have the appropriate tension. You should also make sure that the belt you get lines up well with the car’s pulley system. This greatly reduces the chances of the belts coming off again any time in the near future. In the off chance that they do, the bearings, gaskets, sealants, and pump shafts could all be ruined. Take this advice to heart so none of these will happen.

In case your car needs a new timing belt, what we recommend for you to do is to get a new one at the same time you replace the water pump itself. This is because these two engine parts have roughly the same length of service life. An improperly installed timing belt on a previously leaking water pump may lead to a bout of cross contamination. If this happens, your new belt won’t last as long, so you’ll have to get a new one sooner than you’d expect. You’ll be spending a lot more of your hard-earned money if you do, so try to avoid it at all costs.

Don’t let deposits build up on your water pump because, again, this could shorten its life span significantly. Get the right kind of coolant as well, since getting the wrong one will have the same unwanted effects. Lastly, if you’re not confident with your mechanical skills it’ll be for the best if you hire a professional to do the job. Because your car’s engine is potentially on the line here, it may not be the best time to practice.

That’s how you identify a failing water pump. We’ve also thrown in a couple of things you can do if this ever happens to you. Just remember to refrain from operating a vehicle if its water pump is malfunctioning.

Sources:

  1. How to Diagnose a Faulty Water Pump – Your Mechanic
  2. Water Pump Failure – What Are The Failure Symptoms – Danny’s Engine Portal

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