Think of the water pump as the heart of your vehicle cooling system. Its job is to continuously circulate engine coolant through the cooling system – from the radiator to the engine and then back again. If the water pump fails the cooling system itself will fail to function. Your vehicle will run hot and possibly suffer serious damage from engine overheating.
Fortunately, a water pump that is about to give up the ghost will “bleed” – leak coolant. It may also make noise as its bearing loses its way. Telltale signs of a failing water pump are coolant leaks originating from the water pump itself or the surrounding engine area. A wet engine or a coolant weep through the vent under a water pump are also sure signs of impending water pump failure. Another red flag is if the water pump is making more noise than usual. This may be from a defective impeller or an impeller that’s no longer properly attached to its drive shaft. Finally, if you see your temperature gauge on the dash jump into the red, this is another good sign there is a failure in your cooling system. Pull off to a safe location and turn the engine off, driving any further with an over-heated engine will cause expensive damage fast!
When it comes to water pump longevity, they actually tend to last a long time. Since a water is either working or not, replacement is a matter of necessity rather than preventive maintenance. On the other hand, since often times much of the cooling system or even the engine may need to be removed to access the water pump, replacement may be a smart bet when servicing surrounding systems for example when replacing the thermostat or radiator. This will save you money on labor and from potentially causing catastrophic damage to your engine if the water pump fails. Generally it is recommended that your engine’s water pump be replaced when the timing belt is serviced. This is because water pumps are driven by the timing belt, or an accessory drive belt that spins a pulley outside of the pump which turns the internal impeller. On different makes and models of cars, these belts can last anywhere between 60,000 and 90,000 miles, so you can expect your water pump to last about that long, too. Of course, some water pumps may not last quite that long, but manufacturers make efforts to ensure water pumps last a long time due to negative effects on the engine if they fail.
To help ensure your water pump lasts the distance, regular coolant flushes help to remove contaminants that can build up in the cooling system and can cause damage to the components. You should follow the recommendations in your vehicles owner’s manual, but typically this is every two to five years depending on the type of coolant your vehicle uses.
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