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Water Pumps

The water pump, or coolant pump, is a rather simplistic yet imperative part of a cars motor. The water pump essentially pushes the coolant or anti-freeze (a mixture of water and ethylene) through the cars cooling system. The water pump is located towards the front of the engine right next to the radiator and is powered by the timing belt or fan belt. The reason the water pump is next to the radiator is because once the coolant is pumped through the vehicles cooling system, the coolant is then pumped back into the radiator where it is cooled so the cycle can recommence.

There are a few common causes for a water pump to malfunction or start leaking. Like most mechanical parts involving the flow of a liquid, there is a seal involved. We all know that rubber seals with years of wear and tear, whether it be from particles or rust in the coolant, or just natural deterioration from age, can and will eventually lead to erosion. The second possible cause for water pump failure is the destruction of the bearings attached to the water pump. The third cause for water pump failure is impeller failure.

The impeller is a fan blade like piece inside the water pump which passes the coolant through the cooling system. Picture a watermill collecting water while it rotates, it is the same concept here. The important factor to note about the impeller is that some are made from plastic instead of metal to increase efficiency and decrease resistance because plastic is lighter. The reason this is important to notice is because the impellers made from plastic tend to break more quickly than those made from metal.

How to tell if your water pump is malfunctioning:

There are several indicators that you may have a bad water pump. However, the most obvious is, as you may have guessed, a stain on the driveway or in the garage. Now, since stains are so common, it is important to notice the color of the stain before any conclusions are made. If it is a leak in the cooling system (likely the water pump, but not a guarantee) then there will be a green, somewhat viscous, liquid (coolant) on the ground. If this is the case then open the hood and try to see where the liquid might be coming from. If it is indeed the water pump then discern how steady the leak is and take the vehicle to a mechanic immediately. Before driving the car, please make sure that the leak is in fact a slow leak so that the engine does not overheat. Need a mechanic?

If the problem is a coolant leak it is very important to check the coolant level in the radiator since some fluid might have been lost. If there is a significant amount of coolant missing, add bottled distilled water and more coolant in a 50/50 ratio to the radiator and take your auto to the mechanic immediately. *It is very important to only use bottled distilled water because tap water and drinking water contain minerals and impurities that can be damaging to the parts of a car’s cooling system.

The second indicator that you may have a malfunctioning water pump is if the water pump becomes noisy. If you hear a loud (or even not so loud) noise coming from your water pump, especially if it is a grinding noise, this could be an indicator as mentioned above that either the bearings in the pump went out or the impeller has a break in it. The best way to tell if it is the bearings is to just give the belt attached to the pump a slight tug. If there is any play this could mean that the bearings are bad. The belt should always be tight with little or no play. If it does not seem to be the bearings, it may be the impeller, which is located on the inside of the pump. Either way, at this point the pump needs to be replaced.

The last way to discern a water pump malfunction is the last way you want to realize you have a cooling system/water pump malfunction. This is when the temperature warning light illuminates. By now, it is likely that there is a significant amount of coolant that has leaked out of the cooling system, if not all of it, and the vehicle should be pulled over to the side of the road until water or coolant can be added. At this point the car should be taken immediately to a local mechanic.

Sometimes a pump repair instead of a pump replacement is an option, however, the cost is too similar to having a brand new one installed for us to ever recommend it. The water pump is attached to a diverse important pulley system connected by the timing belt or fan belt, and may include parts like the alternator, the air conditioning pump, maybe the power steering pump and more. Since this is the case, it is not uncommon for the water pump to go out as early as 50,000 or 60,000 miles, although, the fact of the matter is that most are designed to last over 100,000 miles. If you are one of the lucky ones or one of the unlucky ones, either way we hope we have been of assistance to you in your water pump diagnostic. If you are interested in replacing the water pump yourself, click here.

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