Having a bad water pump can cause a lot of problems with your vehicle. If you’re asking “how to tell if my water pump is bad”, then you’re probably already experiencing some of the problems associated with it.
What does a water pump do?
The water pump is the main force behind a car’s cooling system allowing it to operate correctly. Every vehicle on the road today is equipped with a radiator at the front of the car to cool the antifreeze in your vehicle. In most vehicles, the water pump draws the coolant out of the radiator and pushes it into your engine block, cylinder heads and any other components that need to be cooled like an oil cooler, the throttle body or turbocharger if your engine is equipped. From there, your engine coolant is pushed, still by the pressure of your engine’s water pump, back into your radiator to be cooled and start the journey again.
If the water pump in your car fails, the motive force for the coolant quickly goes away allowing the water in the engine to heat up very quickly and your engine to overheat, possibly causing damage. There are really 3 main ways your water pump can fail, catastrophic failure, bearing failure or seal failure.
First, catastrophic failure to your water pump is possible but unlikely. This would include things like the actual pump impeller coming off the shaft, pump blades chipping or falling off or other damage that would cause water to stop flowing. Although unlikely, this type of water pump failure is the most dangerous. Catastrophic failure of your water pump will cause either a complete or partial loss of coolant flow and rapid overheating. If this happens to your vehicle, it may be accompanied by engine noise or a broken engine belt, but will definitely result in your engine temperature gauge rising quickly. If this happens to you, quickly pull over and shut down your engine.
A more likely failure of your engine’s water pump is a bearing failure. Your engine’s water pump is spinning with your engine so the bearing in your water pump can wear out the same as any other bearing in your vehicle. Your water pump bearing is either a sealed bearing or lubricated simply by the coolant so it has the opportunity to wear out much more quickly than the oil lubricated bearings in your engine. A worn bearing in your water pump will usually manifest itself as pump noise as it will allow the pump pulley to wobble as it rotates. In extreme cases, you may be able to see the pump pulley or belt wobbling as your engine idles. With your engine off and cold, you can try grabbing the water pump pulley and wiggle it to see if you can feel bearing movement. If you do, the best option is to simply replace your water pump.
The last way your water pump can fail is a seal failure. This can include the shaft seal or the water pump seal to the block. The shaft seal can fail due to wear or a bad bearing and the block seal can fail due to overheating, improper installation or simply old age.
If the shaft seal is worn and leaking in your water pump, the best course of action is to simply replace the pump. If you’ve got a water pump to block seal leak it is important to check around the water pump for cracks in your block first. The area around your water pump is due to significant amounts of stress due to the heating and cooling of your engine in that area and can be prone to cracking. A crack in this area will leak small amounts of coolant, especially when warm, and can easily be confused for a water pump seal leak.
If you do discover a cracked block near your water pump, you can quickly and easily seal the leak using BlueDevil Radiator and Block Sealer. BlueDevil Radiator and Block Sealer is specially formulated to seek out cracks in your radiator and block and form a seal and stop the leak. BlueDevil Radiator and Block Sealer seals the leak in your block without clogging or harming any other area of your cooling system!
You can purchase BlueDevil Radiator and Block Sealer at any of our partnering local auto parts stores like:
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