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Is My Water Pump Going Bad In My Car?

There are some parts of a vehicle that you can wait to replace, but a water pump is not one of those parts. When it fails, it needs to be replaced immediately. An overheating engine, leaking coolant, rust, steam, and noise are all symptoms of a bad water pump.
Is My Water Pump Going Bad In My Car?
Is My Water Pump Going Bad In My Car?

A failing water pump may cause your engine to overheat which could cause damage to other components or to the engine itself. Replacing a water pump isn’t always a quick job, but could save you from having to do a much larger repair, such as replacing your engine. There are some parts of a vehicle that you can wait to replace, but a water pump is not one of those parts. When it fails, it needs to be replaced immediately.

To avoid those sorts of massive and expensive repairs, maintain your water pump with just as much care as you maintain your vehicle’s oil. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an auto expert to recognize the signs of potential water pump failure.

1. Leaking Coolant

One of the first signs of a potentially faulty water pump is a puddle of coolant on the ground where you’ve parked your car. The pump is made up of several different gaskets and seals that will eventually dry out, crack or break. When this happens, the coolant will leak from the pump. If you see a puddle of orange, green, pink or blue liquid when pulling out of your driveway after your car has been sitting for a while, bring your car into a repair shop as soon as possible. Your mechanic will be able to identify the issue and replace the gaskets and seals — a relatively easy, minor fix.

2. Deposit or Rust Build-Up

When the water pump has a small leak, there will be a gradual build-up of gunk or rust on the pump itself. This can be caused by using non-compatible coolant or a defective pressure cap that allows air into the system. Either way, your pump will become less efficient at moving coolant through the engine, eventually causing complete failure. The water pump is usually pulley-driven by the accessory drive belt, serpentine belt, or timing belt. A worn out belt can prevent your water pump from operating at peak efficiency. Internally, there is an impeller that keeps the system circulating. Over time the impeller can actually wear down due to contaminants in the coolant. Cavitation can also cause the impeller to erode and lose the ability to pump coolant.

Lifting your hood and checking over your engine is a good habit. You’ll be able to recognize problems as they crop up, instead of waiting for the dreaded “check engine” light to come on. If you see rust, pitted areas or build-up around your pump, it’s time to take your car in to get the water pump replaced.

3. Noise

A loose accessory belt will cause a whining noise that increases with acceleration. The fix for this could be as simple as tightening the belt, replacing the belt, or replacing the belt tensioner. If you hear a grinding or growling noise from the front of the engine, however, that could indicate a bad bearing. There are other bearings on the front of the engine that can fail, but in any case you should immediately bring it to us to confirm and repair any problems.

4. Overheating Engine

Have you noticed the temperature gauge in your vehicle rising? It may be an indication that your water pump is on its way out. An overheating car runs the risk of engine failure. As soon as you notice that your car is overheating, bring it in to us at Mission Auto Repair to take a look ASAP.  Once the water pump fails there is no safe amount of time you can run the engine without possibly causing serious damage. While turning on the heater may help cool down an engine with radiator issues, without a pump to circulate the coolant this trick won’t help.

5. Steam

This one is a classic, and I think we all know that if you see steam billowing from underneath your hood, it’s a sign that something has gone seriously wrong. When a water pump completely fails, it is no longer able to move coolant through the engine; this causes the engine to overheat. If you see steam, pull over immediately and call your mechanic for assistance—continuing to drive with an overheated engine can damage it to the point that it will need to be completely replaced.

What To Do If You See Signs Of A Bad Water Pump

If you see any of the five signs above call us at Mission Auto Repair for an inspection of your vehicle. Because it’s located in the front of the engine behind the fan or crammed next to a strut tower, accessing a bad water pump can sometimes involve a significant amount of tear down. In general, proactive and preventative maintenance is a much more affordable part of car ownership than repairs. By catching the problem early, you can save time, money and hassle. Do yourself a favor and pay attention to the warning signs before it’s too late for your engine.

Make an appointment to come into Mission Auto Repair, conveniently located in Winchester, VA to receive a diagnostic inspection. We’ll help get you back on the road as quickly and safely as possible!