The water pump has a very important job in your vehicle, without a functioning water pump the cooling system in the car cannot function properly and will result in engine overheating. Engine overheating can lead to severe issues that come with the warping of engine parts. These expensive repairs can be avoided by taking optimal care of your cooling system.
The cost of replacing the water pump does vary depending on your car’s manufacturer and what mechanic you decide on. Overall cost is somewhere between $300 and $750. The part itself is usually very inexpensive, maybe $50 or $100. What really drives up the cost are the labor hours which will vary in price from mechanic to mechanic.
The water pump on a vehicle needs to be replaced every 60,000 to 90,000 miles which is the same timeframe as the timing belt. In some vehicles the water pump is behind the timing cover, making it logical to replace these parts at the same time.
What Does The Water Pump Do?
Realistically the water pump should be renamed the coolant pump. Your water pump should not be pumping just water! Ever!! It should instead be circulating a mixture of 50% coolant and 50% distilled water, with slight variations depending on the climate you and your car live in. Where is this water coolant mixture circulating? Your engine and radiator of course!
Your car engine gets HOT. And I mean hot. The controlled gasoline explosions taking place under the hood ignite at 495 degrees fahrenheit with burning temps well above 1500 degrees. The metal parts of your engine block are simply not made of a material (not much is) that can withstand that much heat, even in controlled doses on the low end of that temperature scale.
The ideal temperature for an operating engine is around 200 degrees fahrenheit. At this temp, the oil flows very well and you get excellent combustion in the cylinders. So how do we make those numbers work for the parts of the engine that are closest to the combusions taking place?
Well the geniuses behind the modern car cooling system found a way to solve this.
How the standard coolant system works, and there is little to no variation in this across vehicles, at operating engine temperature, the water pump pushes the coolant fluid out of the radiator and into the front of the engine, around the cylinders. From there it will enter the head where it cools off the valves. It then goes back out of the cylinder head and over to the radiator to be cooled down once more by the airflow created by your moving vehicle, recycled, and put back into use.
There is a thermometer which is essentially a temperature-controlled valve in the engine that reads the temperature and opens and closes a gauge, opening more when the engine is hotter allowing coolant to flow. When the engine is cold, your thermometer will signal this gauge to remain closed because we want the car to reach operating temperatures where it burns gas the most effectively, as quickly as possible.
The standard vehicle water pump is powerful! It is capable of emptying a small swimming pool in under an hour. In your vehicle this translates to full coolant circulation 20 times per minute!
A Tid Bit On Engine Coolant
I know what you’re thinking ”how could any substance come into contact with a heated surface of that high temperature and not boil?” A liquid that reaches a boiling state can no longer accept a transference of heat, meaning it’s not capable of cooling anything down. So a boiling liquid would be a catastrophe in a cooling system. A frozen coolant would likely break the water pump before causing an engine overheat.
The secret sauce is the antifreeze mixed into the coolant, a chemical called ethylene glycol. This chemical has a couple of really unique properties for a liquid. It’s freezing point is relatively low at 8 degrees fahrenheit and its boiling point is very high at 386.6 degrees fahrenheit. This makes it an ideal coolant to use.
Replacing The Water Pump
Exchanging an old water pump for a new one can be a complicated process. This is because there are so many components that have to be removed from an engine block before you can have access to the pump. For this reason this is a repair that is typically paired with another maintenance item, like engine belt replacements that also requires the engine to be dismantled.
Doing this is a great way to drive down labor hours and in turn cost. The parts themselves are pretty easy to replace, it is the taking apart and putting back together of the engine block which really takes some time, effort and expertise.
If you are interested in replacing your water pump yourself, consider watching this video as a resource:
Are There Individual Parts Of My Water Pump That Need Replacing?
A water pump designed for a vehicle is typically sealed for life. Because of this there are no replacement parts, if your water pump is having issues with a particular component, the entire pump will need to be replaced.
What Are The Signs Of A Bad Water Pump
So if the water pump is so tucked away and hidden in your engine block that it is difficult to easily replace, how do you know when it needs to be? As we’ve already discussed the water pump should last between 60,000 and 90,000 miles.
Luckily there are some tell signs that the water pump is not functioning properly. If your water pump is within the expiration range stated above, you should watch out for these 6 things.
- Poor coolant circulation: As we’ve discussed earlier, the water pump is responsible for pulling engine coolant through your radiator and engine block, stealing heat from those hot engine parts, and preventing warping caused by overheating. If the coolant does not circulate properly the engine will begin to overheat starting slowly at first.
- Whining sounds: if you hear a whining coming from your engine block it could be the water pump belt that is loose or damaged. It may sound like a high pitched whine or squeal or it can come in the form of a harmonic buzz. A growling or grinding noise on the other hand is a symptom of having bad bearings. Regardless, all these issues should be diagnosed and repaired by a mechanic.
- Gunk: If you can look under your hood and visibly see gunky dried up engine coolant, you probably have a leak. It may be a slow leak and the engine coolant making it to the floor may be pretty minimal, but you still want a mechanic to check it out.
- Leaking: similar to what you read on our gunk “tell”, leaking is going to be the same issue, but more severe to the point that you are getting pools of fluid under your car. Unlike AC condensation and dripping, this fluid will be either orange or green depending on what type of coolant your vehicle takes. If you notice this issue, you want to take your car in right away. Engine coolant is toxic for humans and animals so please be cautious and do your part cleaning up the mess.
- Engine Overheating: The most common side effect of a faulty water pump is engine overheating. Without the pumping of engine coolant your engine cannot transfer off the heat it accumulates quickly enough. Have your vehicle towed into your trusted mechanic and get this issue diagnosed quickly to avoid heat warping. Whatever you do, do not run the vehicle.
- Steam: If your engine is smoking or steaming it usually means that your car is running too hot. You’ve probably already caused some damage to the internal components of your engine block at this point. It’s imperative that you pull over immediately when this happens and turn off your car to prevent further damage. Make sure you let your engine cool down completely before poking around under the hood. Call a tow truck and expect for some costly repairs.
Can I Drive My Car With A Bad Water Pump
No. A bad water pump is not one of those issues that you can slump off until next month while you continue to drive your vehicle. If you’re noticing any of these 6 tell signs and don’t want to fix or can’t afford to fix your car right now, you’re going to want to consider ulterior modes of transportation. Driving a car with a faulty water pump will lead to engine overheating which causes catastrophic damage to your vehicle.
As we’ve discussed, the water pump pushes coolant throughout your engine block and radiator, helping to keep your car from getting too hot. Without the cooling system a car’s metal parts would warp under the heat of the controlled explosions. When your car overheats, the parts that will break soon after include warped cylinder heads, a cracked head gasket, etc. Repairs will be in the thousands of dollars.
What Is The Cost Of Replacing The Water Pump
Replacing a water pump in your vehicle will run you anywhere from $300-$700 if you go to a mechanic, depending on where you live, the car you drive and the mechanic you choose. The part itself is pretty inexpensive. It is the labor that really drives up the price. This is a labor intensive repair as the water pump is often buried and requires other parts to be removed in order to access it.
Part: A water pump itself is usually in the range of $50 -$100. Pretty affordable considering the part will last you for 60,000 – 90,000 miles.
Labor: As we’ve discussed, it is the labor that is pricey for replacing this particular part. You can expect to spend at least $200 but it may cost up to $650
How Long Does It Take To Replace The Water Pump
It will take between two and three hours to replace a water pump in the standard vehicle. The actual time frame will fluctuate due to factors like the make and model of your car which will dictate where the water pump is located within the vehicle and what engine will need to be removed before the part can be accessed.
In closing, a water pump is essential to your ability to operate your vehicle. Look out for the signs that yours needs to be replaced.
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