When it comes to car repairs, some things aren’t an emergency. If your check engine light comes on, you usually have some time to get home or drive to a mechanic to get to the root of the problem before any serious damage is done.
But there are some cases when the problem can’t wait. If you begin to notice symptoms of a bad water pump, it’s important to have your car checked out as soon as possible.
To keep the temperature of your engine under control, especially on hot days, your car’s water pump has to function properly. It’s the primary way of cooling your engine and, if it fails, you’re likely to end up with an extremely expensive repair bill to get your car moving again. That’s why knowing the signs of a bad water pump is so important.
How Does a Water Pump Work?
When the water-cooled engine was introduced, some saw it as a game-changer. Over time, coolant became just as important to the maintenance and protection of a car engine as oil.
The water pump is the key to the entire cooling system. It’s powered by the drive belt which turns the blades on the pump, forcing liquid coolant through the engine block and back to the radiator to be recooled.
Modern water pumps are designed to last a long time but that doesn’t mean they won’t break. There are some tell-tale symptoms of a bad water pump to look for that indicate it needs some attention. If you notice any of these things while driving, it’s important to find a place to safely pull off the road and call for a tow.
Symptoms of a Bad Water Pump
1. Engine Overheating
One of the most obvious signs that you have a bad water pump is that the engine overheats. This usually happens when there is a significant problem and the water pump can no longer circulate the coolant needed to maintain a safe temperature in the engine block.
If you’re driving your car and the engine overheats, do not keep driving. When the temperature gets too high, your car will eventually stall or go into “Limp Mode.” Immediately pull over or you could cause a lot of damage to pistons, pushed gasket heads, or cracked cylinder heads. If your engine is overheating, it is not safe to drive your car so you should find a safe place to pull over right away.
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If your car doesn’t go into Fail Safe Mode, you might notice the temperature gauge consistently indicates that the engine is getting too hot when you drive. In this case, you probably have a problem with your water pump and should replace it if needed. It is always better to get it taken care of at the first sign of a problem instead of waiting until more damage has occurred.
2. Radiator Steam
Steam coming from your motor is a pretty obvious sign that your engine is overheating. It indicates that the water pump and cooling system are not working properly. If you see steam coming out from under the hood of your car, odds are that your temperature gauge is also reading that the temperature is dangerously hot. In this case, pull off the road in a safe location and call a tow truck to get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible. As we mentioned, you should never drive your car when it’s overheated as it can cause significant damage and end up costing a lot more in repairs than just the water pump.
3. Coolant Leak
Specifically, a coolant leak that seems to be coming from the front and center of your engine as that’s where the water pump is located.
A water pump has a lot of seals and gaskets designed to keep the coolant contained and flowing properly. Eventually, these gaskets and seals dry, crack, or just wear out and allow coolant to leak. When you see a puddle of red or green liquid on the ground, this is likely coolant leaking from the water pump and indicates that there’s a leak that has to be repaired before it deteriorates further.
4. Visible Corrosion, Rust, or Mineral Deposits on the Water Pump
When a small leak forms and goes unrepaired, minerals start to build up around the water pump. Open the hood and take a look. If you see rust or corrosion on the surface of the pump, there’s almost certainly a problem resulting from contamination, excess air in the cooling system, or something getting into the system that’s not compatible with the coolant. Using the wrong coolant can also lead to deposits and corrosion. If you notice small holes, this indicates that the corrosion has eaten all the way through the metal which is obviously a serious problem. In this case, the water pump should be replaced immediately.
5. Whining Sounds Coming from Your Engine
If you hear a high-pitched whining coming from your engine, it could be one of the symptoms of a bad water pump. This type of whining is usually caused by a loose belt buzzing or vibrating as it rotates and can be the result of the pulley system coming loose or the bearings wearing out. Once the bearings break, the unit needs to be replaced. That’s why it’s important to get this checked out as soon as possible. If you hear a loud whining coming from your engine, get to your mechanic as soon as possible to see what can be done.
What to Do
Learn more about car symbols that can help prevent problems before they occur.
If you notice any of these signs while driving, you should pull off the road in a safe location and contact your mechanic. They can assess the situation for you and determine whether it’s safe to drive your car to the garage or if the problem is so severe that you need to call a tow truck.
The first time you notice any symptoms of a bad water pump, call your mechanic. If you let the problem continue, it will get worse and end up causing a significant amount of engine damage.
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