How to Tell if A Water Pump is Bad – Learn to Read the Signs

November 5, 2020Car Care and Revamp
Hannah Michaelson

Hannah is a freelance relocation writer from NYC that has become an expert on packing and unpacking.

The last thing you want happening to you is to discover that your water pump has gone bad and to have to pay for repairs or replacement. Or even worse – suffering the consequences of a bad water pump on the road, behind the wheel. It’s wise to know how to tell if the water pump is bad and to check it and fix it before the move, if necessary. We’ll introduce you to the symptoms and signs of a failing pump.

man fixing car

What Does a Water Pump Do?

The water pump is a crucial component of your car’s cooling system. It takes the water from the radiator, moves it through the coolant system, and back around to the radiator. Because the water from the radiator heats up while it runs through the motor – your car needs the water pump to cool down the water and maintain it at an optimal temperature, no matter the weather. This is the main task of a water pump, simply put.

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What Can Happen if the Water Pump Goes Bad?

If you keep driving one of your popular import cars (or any car for that matter) with a bad water pump, your engine could overheat, resulting in complete damage. Then you would have to either buy a new engine or pay for expensive repairs. That’s why it’s important to know how to test if your water pump is bad before you move a car to another state or even worse, drive your car yourself and end up being stuck on the road on some of the famous routes in the US and have to deal with driving anxiety and the road rage from fellow drivers, only to end up receiving a huge bill for repairs and/or towing.

How Long Does the Water Pump Last?

Water pumps last for a long time, but they do have a lifespan. Of course, it depends on the maker and the type of the vehicle, so it’s best to check your manual. On average, it can last for somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000 miles. Because it’s driven by the timing belt – it’s usually best to replace it at the same time you replace the belt. Sometimes, they can go bad before that, so it’s good to know how to tell if a water pump is working or not and to pay close attention to the signs.

person buying a car
To know whether your water pump is bad, you have to pay attention to the signs

How to Tell if Your Water Pump Is Bad?

While you are checking car transport open vs enclosed> to see which way works better for you, it would be good to know how to tell if a water pump is pumping, to avoid adding repair or replacement cost on top of your car bill of lading. Ensuring that your car works properly before shipping a car cross-country is equally important whether you choose open carrier auto transport or enclosed auto transport. Your car will give you signs that there’s something wrong with the it, all you need to do is learn to read them.

A man next to a vehicle
Learn to read the signals and signs your car gives you

Coolant Leakage at the Front of Your Vehicle

The water pump consists of multiple components. Seals and gaskets are parts that make sure that the water from the radiator is consistently flowing to the engine. When these parts wear off, the water will start leaking from your engine to the ground. This is the first telltale sign of a faulty water pump, so watch out for any orange or green puddle beneath the front of your car. If you notice the leakage and address the problem timely, you will be able to simply repair the water pump rather than completely replacing it.

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What Does a Failing Water Pump Sound Like?

Loud sounds coming from the engine are an alarm bell for car trouble. If you hear a high-pitched, whining sound that increases as you accelerate – it could indicate a faulty water pump. These sounds are caused by a loose belt and the belt becomes loose when the pulley is loose or the bearings are wearing out. There are many bearings in your engine that can fail and cause noise, so take the vehicle to the mechanic in the first instance of any loud sound to confirm the problem and have it fixed as soon as possible to avoid further damage and costs.

Inspecting the vehicle carefully
Take your car to the mechanic in the first instance of a loud sound coming from the engine

Engine Overheating Is The Red Flag

Another red flag and a thing that is sure to cause driving stress and car trouble is engine overheating. If you have failed to notice all the other signs and notice that your engine is overheating frequently, contact a mechanic as soon as possible. This happens when damage is already done, and the water pump has likely failed. When the pump fails, it’s unable to do its job – circulate coolant through the coolant system. The ‘Low Coolant’ light will turn on to notify you of the failure and you should add coolant and call the mechanic to replace it.

Steam From Your Radiator Is Always a Bad Sign

Even worse than engine overheating is seeing steam or smoke coming from under your hood. This is always a sign of trouble and likely severe damage to the engine. When this happens, you should pull over immediately, as it is not safe to drive a car that has steam coming out from the hood. Contact the tow truck to take the vehicle to the nearest mechanic – while this is expensive, it is the best solution. You could get hurt or the engine can get totally damaged if you continue driving, which will only end up costing you more money. So, calling a tow truck in the first place is actually a cheaper solution and definitely the safest one.

And don’t poke around before the engine completely cools off – wait for however long it takes, if you want to inspect by yourself. It’s extremely dangerous to poke around the engine while the coolant is scalding-hot. You could get badly hurt.

Can a Bad Water Pump Cause a Blown Head Gasket?

While the water pump is buried deep inside the engine and we don’t tend to think about it – it’s still an integral part of the engine and the vehicle itself. So, a faulty one, if not treated, can cause irreparable damage to the engine and the car as well. If the failing water pump is not repaired or replaced timely, the damage to your car will only get more severe with time. So, you can expect burned pistons, cracked cylinder head, and even a blown head gasket, resulting in thousands of dollars of repairs, even more for some of the most expensive cars in the world.

Therefore, it’s always better to learn to read the signs your car gives you, pay attention to them, and pay a couple hundred dollars to get the water pump repaired or replaced than to have to deal with catastrophic consequences.

car on the street
Don’t poke around before the engine completely cools off, it could have dire consequences to you and your car

What Does a Failing Water Pump Look Like?

One piece of useful car shipping advice is to inspect their vehicles before they ship cars. There are also some tips on how to pack a car for moving, so check these out, too if you are about to embark on this journey. And here’s what to look for, in terms of appearance, in case you decide to poke around and inspect your water pump by yourself.

Gelled Coolant Deposit Around the Outside of Your Cooling System

Like we already mentioned – a faulty water pump can cause coolant to leak. Slow leaking will cause a bunch of gunk or gelled deposit to build around the pump and the outside of your cooling system. If you haven’t noticed a puddle beneath the front of your car and you notice this upon inspection – suspect a faulty pump and have it examined. At this stage, you might not have to replace it and the repairs will be cheaper, so it’s always good to be attentive.

Rust and Corrosion on the Surface

If you mix different coolants, or use tainted or inadequate ones, it could lead to rust and corrosion on the surface of your pump. You probably already know what happens if you put the wrong gas in your car, but the wrong coolant can also do a lot of damage. A defective pressure cap can also cause air bubbles and thus speed up the rusting process. Corrosion or rust will slow down or completely prevent the pump from circulating the coolant through the cooling system. You would have to replace the pump, flush the cooling system, and make sure to use the right coolant for your car. You might want to check the pressure cap, as well, to make sure it’s working properly. If it’s defective, it will need replacing, too.

Watch Out for Cavitation

Vapor pressure and the pressure generated by the pump can cause bubble-like cavitation on it. These are not bubbles but voids filled with hot vapor that can damage the metal of your pump. They can also be caused by inadequate coolant, so it’s vital to use the right one recommended for your type and make of the vehicle. The cavitation can also implode and attack the housing, front cover, and cylinder head, so it should be dealt with timely.

Broken or Damaged Bearing or Shafts

If you notice that the shaft is bent or broken or feel some side-to-side play when you apply hand pressure, the shaft or bearing could be damaged or broken. If you see a clean break on the shaft, then the damage was instant, most likely caused by a sudden overload. If there is discoloring present (usually blue,) the damage was gradual, most likely due to excessive engine acceleration. Other things can also damage the shaft or bearing – defective fan, bent pulleys, overtightened fan belt, or the fan not being mounted square to the centerline of the shart. When you replace the pump, make sure to check the belt, belt tension and alignment, the fan, and the pulleys as well.

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Ship Your Car With a Reputable Auto-Transport Company

While you are looking into how to register a car in a new state and getting ready for your relocation, make sure you choose a professional car shipping company that has years of experience in the field and will safely transport cars from state to state. While most cars are not Maseratis and don’t require exotic auto-transport, they are still one of our most valued possessions and should be left in the care of experienced professionals. Whether yours needs an open carrier or enclosed auto-transport, professionals will take good care of it and safely deliver it to your new home while you enjoy watching some of the best car shows.

If you are a beginner driver check out our how to drive a car for beginners guide before you relocate and read more about the best car insurance for young drivers and why it’s so important. And if you decide against shipping your car and choose to drive your car to your new state – don’t forget to inspect it before your trip and have a safe one!

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