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What Happens When Your Water Pump Wears Out?

The engine temperature gauge in the instrument cluster of a car.

Your water pump plays a key part in keeping your car running smoothly. Its main job is to move coolant from your radiator throughout your engine to prevent overheating. When it’s working, your engine runs at the right temperature. If it stops working, your car can overheat, potentially resulting in costly repairs. How do you know if your water pump is wearing out? Here are some signs that your pump is in trouble.

Coolant LeaksCoolant

A water pump has lots of gaskets that keep coolant from leaking out and help the coolant flow smoothly from your radiator to your engine. Over time, those gaskets wear out and become dry and brittle, allowing the coolant inside to leak out.

You may notice a coolant leak as a green or sometimes red puddle under the front-center of your car. You can also check the weep hole, which is a small hole on the pump. If there’s coolant leaking from the weep hole, that’s your early warning. You don’t want to ignore this problem, so take your car to a mechanic to fix the issue before it gets worse.

Engine Overheating

A failing pump can cause your engine to overheat. If you notice that your engine is running hotter than normal, even if no warning light is illuminating on the dashboard, then it’s a good idea to have the system checked. Don’t assume you have to see leaking coolant somewhere for there to be an issue. The problem could be inside the pump itself, where worn impeller blades are no longer doing their job of keeping coolant moving.

It’s far easier to take the vehicle in for service when you first notice overheating than it is if you wait for the pump to fail completely. Waiting could cause bigger problems, including cracked cylinder heads that would take a nasty bite out of your wallet. Do yourself a favor by making a note of your engine’s normal operating temperature and checking the water pump if you notice the vehicle running hot.

Buzzing or Whining Under the Hood

This can be a tricky one to figure out since there are multiple belts in your engine that make noise when they need to be replaced. However, a high-pitched squeal or rattling noises from the front of the motor could be a loose serpentine belt, a bad water pump pulley or worn bearings. The sound might not be consistent, but it may tend to get louder when you accelerate. If you hear something along these lines, bring your car to a shop to have the problem diagnosed.

A Steaming Engine

Steam coming from under the hood when you stop is a telltale sign of your engine overheating. It’s more noticeable when you stop and the air flows up from the engine rather than behind it as you drive. If this happens, you should stop driving your car immediately, so pull over someplace safe and have your car towed to be examined by a mechanic.

It’s important to maintain your car and address this kind of problem promptly rather than waiting for it to get worse. If you see signs of a failing water pump, take care of the issue as soon as possible so you don’t cause damage to your engine.

Check out all the water pump products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information about how to take care of your water pump, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy Flickr.


Nicole Wakelin View All

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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