Your cooling system is very important. It circulates coolant through the radiator and your engine to protect your car from overheating. There are five main components to the cooling system:
- the radiator
- the radiator cap
- the hoses
- the thermostat and
- the water pump
The water pump’s like the heart of your cooling system, circulating the fluid throughout. It’s a small pump that’s driven by the engine; usually by belt, but sometimes by a chain or gear.
The water pump only operates when the engine’s running. Water pump failure is pretty routine. Some start failing at around 40,000 miles, but most fail by 100,000 miles. Consult your owners’ manual or service technician to see what’s recommended.
Since a water pump either works or it doesn’t, you need to change it when it fails. Water pumps fail in one of two ways: the bearings fail or they begin to leak. It’s possible to have a leak from a cracked water pump, but it usually leaks at the gasket where it attaches to the engine.
So how can you tell when the water pump is failing? If you can hear a low-pitched grinding sound coming from the water pump – it’s got a problem. If you can see coolant in that area, you’ve got a leak.
Some water pumps are driven off the timing belt. They might be under a plastic cover so you can’t see the water pump. Look for coolant on the driveway. If you see some, have your service center check it out.
Most timing belts need to be changed at 60,000 miles – some longer. It’s a good idea to change your water pump at the same time if it’s one of those that’s driven off the timing belt. To start with, 90% of the work’s already done with the timing belt change. And, if you don’t, and develop a leak later, you’ll have to change the belt again along with the water pump because the belt will have been contaminated by the leaking coolant.
You can replace your water pump with a brand spankin’ new one or with a rebuilt pump. Rebuilt will save you some money, but ask your technician what he thinks. Don’t feel too bad if your water pump gives out. They will all wear out eventually. Your service technician can get you back on the road and on with your life.