What are the signs of a water pump going out?

The water pump is a critical car component that supplies your engine with coolant from the radiator and helps you maintain a stable vehicular temperature. Without a properly functioning water pump, your engine will overheat in the summer or freeze in the winter. 

So how do you identify bad water pump symptoms? 
And what are some possible causes of water pump failure? 

In this article, we’ll discuss the five warning signs of a failing water pump and its underlying causes. Additionally, we’ll highlight the location of your vehicle’s water pump so you can investigate the reason in case of a failure. 

The earlier you spot the signs of a faulty water pump, the sooner you can bring the car in for inspection. 

So here are the five symptoms you should be wary of: 

One of the most obvious indicators of a damaged water pump is a puddle of coolant on the ground where your car is parked. 

The water pump consists of multiple gaskets and seals to ensure the coolant is securely contained inside and flows from the radiator to the engine without leaking. However, over time the gasket may wear out or develop cracks causing the fluid to drip underneath your vehicle,  reducing your coolant level. 

Owing to the coolant leak, you’ll notice a puddle of orange, green, pink, red, or blue liquid in front of your car towards the center. 

Consult a certified mechanic when you spot a low coolant level due to leakage and have the gasket and water pump seal replaced. Do this before taking your car for a long drive or an extended road trip. 

2. Rusty Water Pump

Constant coolant leakage can lead to rust formation on the water pump. The rust can also form when you use an incompatible or polluted coolant or a defective pressure cap that allows air into the cooling system. 

A corroded water pump will be less efficient at pumping coolant through the engine, causing engine overheating and potentially car engine failure. 

In case your car is experiencing this water pump problem, it’ll flash the check engine light. On opening the hood of your vehicle, you’ll see rust stains or tiny rust holes on the pump.

This calls for an immediate installment of a new water pump. 

3. High-Pitched Engine Noises

A loose accessory belt will cause your vehicle to emit a high-pitched, whining noise that becomes more pronounced with acceleration. The loose belt is commonly caused by a water pump pulley that has become loose with age or when the water pump bearings are worn out.

A constant coolant leakage can affect the bearings of your engine’s water pump, thereby generating a squealing noise when the cars engine is in motion. This water pump issue can be fixed by belt tightening, belt replacement, or water pump replacement. 

Any unusual sound coming from your car engine is one of the tell-tale signs of water pump failure, and you should get it checked by a professional mechanic. 

4. Excessive Engine Temperatures

One of the most common symptoms of water pump failure is a noticeable rise in the temperature gauge on your car’s dashboard. It’s because a faulty water pump won’t be able to circulate coolant through the engine block, resulting in an overheating engine. 

An overheated engine can cause widespread damage to the head gasket, cylinder head, and pistons. In the long run, it can even reduce your vehicle’s life expectancy. 

To avoid further engine overheating, you should visit a certified mechanic for a proper diagnosis of the situation. 

5. Steam Emerging From The Radiator

If you observe steam or white smoke coming out of your radiator, you are dealing with a failing water pump and an overheated engine. 

In fact, the radiator cap is quite important for a properly operating cooling system. Further, a faulty radiator cap can result in loss of coolant.

At this point, it’s best to pull over your car and call roadside assistance. Continuing to drive with an overheated engine can damage it to the extent that you’ll have to replace it entirely, which can prove expensive. 

Now, knowing about bad water pump symptoms to watch out for leads us to one very important question. 

What Causes Water Pump Failure?

The water pump is vital to your vehicle’s operation. So you should be aware of the underlying causes of water pump failure to take appropriate preventive steps. 

Here are a few:

1. Damaged Seal

A worn-out or broken seal will lead to coolant leakage or even contamination of the fluid. As a result, your water pump won’t be able to maintain sufficient coolant flow, likely leading to engine overheating. 

2. Loose Water Pump Pulley

Over time the bearings of the water pump pulley can become loose. This can reduce the pump’s efficiency. The pulley’s unstable condition can also cause the water pump’s impeller to become imbalanced, leading to complete failure. 

3. Misaligned Drive Belt

When a belt is too tight, it exerts too much force on the water pump’s bearings, leading to premature failure. If the belts are too loose, the belt tension is insufficient to turn the pulley and pump coolant through the engine. 

So, unless the belt sits perfectly, you can end up with a non-operative water pump. 

4. Worn Out Axle

The serpentine or timing belt drives the water pump, giving it the power to pump coolant through your vehicles engine. But when the water pump axle wears out, it may cause a loose belt, interfering with the water pump’s ability to function properly and affecting the coolant flow. 

Consequently, you can end up with an overheated engine and risk warping your cylinder head or engine block. 

To verify, you’d need to remove the serpentine belt and check for signs of axle damage. Depending upon your engine, the serpentine belt may be located at the front of the engine bay or along one side. If your engine has covers on the top, you’d have to remove them as well.

NOTE: Only do this if you know how to re-install your serpentine belt. Otherwise, get a professional to perform the check.

If you detect a worn-out axle after removing the belt, you need to go for a water pump replacement at the earliest.

5. Corrosion In The Cooling System

Corrosion occurs when the coolant is contaminated by mixing with other fluids or tap water. It creates rust holes in the water pump, making it completely ineffective. 

Let’s see if water pump failure affects immediate drivability. 

Can I Drive Without A Working Water Pump? 

Even though you can drive your vehicle without a water pump, it’s better if you don’t. 

In the late ’90s, it was common practice for a muscle car owner (like a Mustang, Firebird, Camaro, or any other racing vehicle) to remove water pumps for additional horsepower.  However, it led to multiple problems, including a bad case of an engine overheat. 

Moreover, if you own a car for daily commute, you should fix the faulty water pump or install a new water pump before taking it out for a drive. It protects your engine from overheating and improves the lifespan of your vehicle. 

Wondering where exactly your vehicles water pump is located? 
Let’s find out. 

Where Is The Engine Water Pump Located?

Some water pumps are located near the serpentine or drive belt, thereby installed on the front of the engine. But if your water pumps are driven by the timing belt, placing them may be slightly more difficult, and you’ll have to uncover many layers to locate the water pump.

Knowing the location of water pumps is quite important for any car owner. It can help you investigate the cause of a failing water pump. Consequently, you can decide if the water pump needs a complete replacement or a simple repair.

Closing Thoughts

A failing water pump may exhibit symptoms like a whining noise or engine overheat. Unless fixed at the earliest, a water pump problem can cause severe damage to other car components like the head gasket, pistons, and more.

On detecting any bad water pump symptoms, get it checked without further delay — and that’s where our expert team of mechanics at RepairSmith can help you. 

With RepairSmith, you get:

  • Easy online booking 
  • A 12-month or 12,000-mile service warranty on any repair
  • ASE-certified technicians to perform maintenance and repairs
  • Competitive pricing for maintenance and repair services

Contact us today to get professional assistance with your engine water pump replacement. Be it a broken water pump, a faulty radiator hose, or a worn-out spark plug, our expert mechanics can handle any service your car may require.

In order to run cool on those hot summer days, your engine needs to have a consistent flow of coolant supplied from the radiator throughout the engine. The water pump is the primary component responsible for maintaining this flow. When it works properly, your car will maintain a consistent operating temperature, run smoothly, and take you anywhere you need to travel. When the water pump fails or is beginning to wear out, it can lead to complete engine failure.

When the water-cooled (as opposed to air-cooled) engine was introduced, many automotive experts believed that the water pump circulating coolant through the engine block was just as critical to engine protection as oil. This philosophy holds true even as technology improves over the years to create more efficient cooling systems in today's modern cars. Your car’s water pump is the key to making the entire system work. It is an impeller pump and is usually buried under the timing belt cover on the side of the engine. The pump is operated by the engine’s drive belt – as the belt turns, the pump turns. Blades on the pump force coolant to flow through the engine and back to the radiator to be cooled by a forced air cooling fan.

Although the water pumps in most modern cars, trucks, and SUVs will last a long time, they are by no means indestructible. Like any other mechanical device, they will produce a few warning signs of wearing out, so that car owners can contact a local ASE certified mechanic to replace the water pump before additional engine components are damaged.

Here are 5 common symptoms of a bad water pump:

1. Coolant Leak at the Front-Center of your Car

The water pump is comprised of multiple gaskets and seals that keep coolant contained and ensure that consistent flow of coolant is delivered from the radiator to the engine. Eventually, these gaskets and seals will wear out, dry up, crack or break entirely. When this happens, coolant will leak from the water pump and drop to the ground, typically in the front of your car and in the center of the motor's location. If you notice there is a leak of coolant (which will appear to be green or sometimes red in color) under the center of your car, truck or SUV, contact a professional mechanic to inspect this problem. More often than not, it's a leak from the water pump that can be repaired before it gets worse.

2. Rust, Deposit Buildup, and Corrosion of the Water Pump

Gradual leakage over time will cause different minerals to build up around the pump. Check under the hood, and you may notice rust on the pump’s surface from contaminated or non-compatible coolant mixtures or a defective pressure cap that lets in excess air. The wrong coolant will also cause deposit-buildup inside the pump, which slows the ideal process of engine cooling. In addition to these signs of wear, you may also notice small holes from corrosion in the metal, or cavitation – vapor bubbles in the coolant liquid that collapse with enough force to create cavities on the mounting surface. Should you notice these symptoms, replacement of the pump should be sought out immediately.

3. Water Pump Pulley is Loose and Making Whining Sounds

From time to time you might hear a high pitched sound that comes from the front of the motor. This is typically caused by a loose belt that creates a harmonic buzzing or whining sound as it circulates. The loose belt is commonly caused by a pulley that has become loose or that the bearings that operate the water pump assembly are wearing out. Once the bearings fail inside the water pump, it means the unit cannot be repaired and will need to be replaced entirely.

If you notice there is a loud whining sound coming from the front of your motor that increases in volume as you accelerate, contact a mechanic as soon as possible to inspect your vehicle.

4. Engine is Overheating

When the water pump fails completely, it will not be able to circulate coolant through the engine block. This results in an overheating situation and if not repaired or replaced quickly, can cause additional engine damage like cracked cylinder heads, pushed head gaskets, or burnt pistons. If you notice the engine temperature gauge runs hot on a frequent basis, it's more likely than not a problem with the water pump. You should contact a mechanic to inspect this problem and replace the water pump if needed.

5. Steam Coming from your Radiator

Finally, if you notice steam is coming from the front of your motor as you drive or come to a stop, it is an instant sign of an overheated engine. As discussed above, an engine will maintain a consistent temperature when the water pump works correctly and circulates water to a functioning radiator. If you notice steam coming from the front of your motor, you should pull over to a safe area and contact a mechanic as soon as possible. It's never a good idea to drive an overheating engine, so if you have to contact a tow truck to get the car home, this could save you significant money in the short and long term – it's going to be less expensive than replacing the engine entirely.

Anytime you notice any of these warning signs, contact a local ASE certified mechanic so they can repair or replace the water pump and get your car back onto the roads without delay.