As you might imagine, given the name, an internal combustion engine can get very hot – and without a functioning cooling system, your car can get into big trouble. Fortunately, your car is designed with an efficient system for keeping your engine from overheating; and by understanding that system and catching problems when they develop, you can protect your car from heat damage.
What is a Water Pump?
Your car’s water pump is like the heart of your car’s cooling system. It works to circulate coolant through the engine and back to the radiator, which releases the heat of recycled coolant so it can make another trip through the engine.
Despite the name, a water pump usually pumps coolant (antifreeze) rather than water. This allows it to be efficient year-round, in any temperature.
Signs You Need a New Water Pump
In general, a water pump should last 100,000 miles or more. In some cases, they may fail earlier. Otherwise, if you have an older car, it’s a good idea to have it inspected for signs of wear and consider repairs or replacement if necessary.
The most common water pump problem is seal failure. The seal on the pump shaft prevents coolant from leaking; this seal can become worn down by rust, sediment and other contaminants as well as friction from the fans and belts connected to the cooling system. Other issues include corroded impeller blades, a loose impeller or a broken shaft.
Signs to look out for include:
- Coolant leaks, particularly around the timing belt cover. This is usually a sign of a leaky or failing gasket.
- A loose pulley for the pump. Check for play in the pulley as well as a grinding noise when the engine is running.
- Temperature fluctuations. Keep an eye on your temperature gauge; it should stay relatively stable. If the needle fluctuates a lot, cooling system problems could be the culprit.