Blog Car Care Advice 5 Bad Water Pump Symptoms (+ Possible Causes)
Car Care Advice

5 Bad Water Pump Symptoms (+ Possible Causes)

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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. 

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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: 

1. Coolant Leak

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 AutoNation Mobile Service can help you. 

With AutoNation Mobile Service, you get:

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.