Water Pump Problems & Repairs
Your car has many important parts that must work to ensure a safe time on the road. One of the more vital ones is the water pump, which emits coolants that keep your engine from overheating and failing. You don’t want to have issues with it … especially in the middle of nowhere.
While looking at multi-purpose pumps might be a good idea, you want to ensure that you care for the one in your car. If there are problems, there are ways that you can troubleshoot them before you need to take them to a professional.
Here are common water pump problems and how you can troubleshoot them.
What Happens With The Water Pump?
The way that it works is that your engine has various passages in it that allow the coolant from the pump to flow through it. A thermostat in the engine checks the temperature of the coolant and then lets it flow in through the radiator hose into the radiator.
The pump itself is an impeller pump. It usually is right under the timing belt cover and is operated by the engine’s drive belt.
Then several things work together simultaneously – the coolant, the radiator, a cooling fan, and air flowing in from the outside through the grill – to lower excessive temperatures. The pump pushes the coolant back through and makes the process repeat itself.
How To Tell If There Are Problems With Your Water Pump
There are ways to have a good idea of whether you must replace your car’s water pump sooner than later.
The first way is to look at your car’s temperature gauge. A warning light on your car’s dashboard will flash if there’s a problem with it. You may even have something on your screen saying something like “low on coolant.”
When you see that, the immediate response should be to pull over to the side of the road and turn off your engine immediately. If you then happen to see that there’s smoke coming out of the hood, then you need to get away from the car and wait for things to cool down. Otherwise, you could wind up being burned by hot coolant.
If you don’t see any lights flashing while driving, that doesn’t mean nothing’s happening under the hood. Listen out for any noises from that area, including groaning, squeaking, or squealing.
No, there’s no ghost in the car – something happens when the RPMs increase or decrease. If you’re worried about this, it would be a good idea to keep the radio off so you can listen out for possible warning sounds.
Another sign is that your heater might stop working properly. If you turn it on on a cold day and it blows cool air into the car rather than hot air, something’s going on with how the coolant is circulating or if there is even any coolant in the first place. Don’t wait – pull over and turn off your engine.
You can also check your water pump pulley. This task is simple – just put on gloves and grab the pulley. If it wiggles back and forth, something is happening with the water pump.
If this movement is coupled with the noises we mentioned above, then that’s a pretty good sign that you will need to replace the pump.
Some more obvious signs, like leaks, show up before you even know that your engine is in danger of overheating. It usually pools underneath the car at the front of it when it’s been sitting for a while. If it has a sweet smell, chances are very good that your vehicle's coolant leaks.
When it comes to finding the source of the leak, the best places to check are the gasket or the weep hole. They act as a vent, and if something happens to them, then the leak starts. Another possible reason is that there might be mineral buildup around the pump, which shows itself as rust.
There is one thing to keep in mind here, though – checking that area for leaks can be difficult if it turns out that you can’t see the pump without taking off the timing cover. That can take a long time, and having a professional do it for you is better. Also, if the leak starts from the weep hole, then that means that the coolant itself is contaminated or dirty.
You can also check the coolant reservoir. This is a tank that’s in your vehicle that holds any coolant that overflows. It’s fairly easy to spot since it’s clear and near the radiator; you will see that the cooling system is attached to it.
Mistakes People Make With Water Pumps
The person preparing this must ensure they drain, flush, and refill the cooling system with the original equipment. They also need to mix the proper amount of coolant and water. If the coolant is contaminated, that can cause a lot of problems, including corrosion, cavitation (which is when the liquid turns to vapor due to low pressure),
One reason that the coolant could be contaminated is if it’s past its expiration date. Also, using coolant that is not made for that particular engine could cause a lot of problems. It’s the little things that can screw things up badly.
If they don’t use the right sealant paste for those engines that don’t have gaskets, you could wind up having issues with your engine sooner than later. An experienced person will know what to do and ensure they do everything right.
Another mistake they make is not properly turning the pump by hand until it’s full. Otherwise, there is the risk of it having a dry rotation, which can have a cascade effect of damaging the seal and leading to coolant leaks or the engine making noises.
Finally, they may not properly put the pump where it’s supposed to be about the timing belt. In the past, this used to be a separate thing, but now they tend to be put in together at the same time. If anything is incorrectly done here, that can lead to major problems.
Things You Might Not Know About Water Pumps
While we have listed things that could show you that your water pump isn’t working, there are times that you could be driving around completely unaware that you have a malfunctioning pump. Then it’s often a very nasty surprise when that engine light comes on … and if there’s no specific notification about coolants or the pump, then you could be left wondering what’s going on until a professional take a look at it.
Another interesting thing is that the bearing is the main factor of every water pump. If it’s acting up, chances are very high that the water pump and engine will have issues soon afterward.
The best way to keep that from happening is to ensure the pump is installed correctly, which will increase the probability that the pump will work properly for a very long time.
Also, as far as the bearing goes, you should ensure that the pump you get is from a well-known manufacturer with a good reputation in the field. That way, you know that you have something that is high-quality, designed well, and put together with good material.
Who doesn't like to save time and money when it comes to having work done on your vehicle? If you are having something somewhat related to the water pump fixed, then you should have the pump replaced. That can save you from a major disaster for your vehicle and bank account.
Let’s take the timing belt – if that needs to be replaced, chances are good that you’ll need to change the water pump. The two tend to last about the same amount of time, so having them simultaneously swapped out makes sense.
The water pump is also a lot more complex than people think. Like many pieces of equipment, it looks deceptively simple – just a few parts, including its housing. But many things have to work … over and over and over consistently, and … you get the point.
When you’re driving your vehicle, there are a lot of inner workings related to the RPMS of the engine, which affects the flow of the coolant. The pump also has to be efficient in terms of its noise since if it’s loud even when it’s working well, that could affect how you feel while you’re behind the wheel each day.
Another interesting factoid is that electric cars also have a water pump. It has a different appearance than regular cars but does the same thing. That means that when you bring in your electric vehicle for servicing, you should ask them to look at the water pump to see if there are any issues.
Ultimately, there are many things to know and look out for regarding your water pump. It’s one of the most important parts of your vehicle since if it doesn’t work; you can wind up having an entire engine replaced if there’s a catastrophic failure.
This doesn’t mean you need to be paranoid about how your engine is always working. Pay attention to how it’s behaving; if anything out of the ordinary seems to crop up, you should take it to a professional.
There’s no shame in doing that – the people there have most likely worked with cars for a lot longer than you have owned them and are familiar with every potential problem, including those affecting your water pump.
Once you have that taken care of, you can return to driving and enjoying being on the road with your vehicle.
David has been involved in the family-owned business Ken’s Distribution Company for more than ten years. He deals with residential and commercial water pumps.
He specializes in water pumps and repair parts for Monarch water pumps, Franklin electric water pumps, Red Lion Products, and Generac, also known as CH&E or Magnum Diaphragm Pumps.