Symptoms of a Bad Car Water Pump

What Does a Water Pump Do in a Car?

In order to run cool on those hot summer days, your engine needs to have a consistent flow of coolant supplied from the radiator throughout the engine. The water pump is the primary component responsible for maintaining this flow. When it works properly, your car will maintain a consistent operating temperature, run smoothly, and take you anywhere you need to travel. When the water pump fails or is beginning to fail, it can lead to complete engine failure.

When the water-cooled (as opposed to air-cooled) engine was introduced, many automotive experts believed that the water pump circulating coolant through the engine block was just as critical to engine protection as oil. This philosophy holds true even as technology improves over the years to create more efficient cooling systems in today's modern cars. Your car’s water pump is the key to making the entire system work. It is an impeller pump and is usually buried under the timing belt cover on the side of the engine. The pump is operated by the engine’s drive belt – as the belt turns, the pump turns. Blades on the pump force coolant to flow through the engine and back to the radiator to be cooled by a forced air cooling fan.

In most modern cars, trucks, and SUVs water pumps will last a long time, but they are by no means indestructible. Like any other mechanical device, water pumps will produce a few warning signs of failure, so that car owners can contact a local mechanic to replace the water pump before additional engine components are damaged.

The 4 most common symptoms of a bad water pump are listed below.

1. Front-Center of the Car Has Coolant Leaking

The first symptom of a bad water pump is a coolant leak at the front-center of your car. The water pump consists of multiple gaskets and seals that keep coolant contained and ensure that consistent flow of coolant is delivered from the radiator to the engine. Eventually, these gaskets and seals will wear out, dry up, crack or break entirely. When this happens, coolant will leak from the water pump and drop to the ground, typically in the front of your car and in the center of the motor's location. If you notice there is a leak of coolant (which will appear to be green or sometimes red in color) under the center of your car, truck or SUV, contact a professional mechanic to inspect this problem Most mechanics will recommend replacing the water pump anyway as the pumps are not that expensive but the labor to access the gasket is.

2. Water Pump is Rusting, Has Deposit Buildup or Corrosion

The next sign of a bad water pump has visible rusting, deposit buildup, or corrosion. Gradual leakage over time will cause different minerals to build up around the pump. Check under the hood, and you may notice rust on the pump’s surface from contaminated or non-compatible coolant mixtures or a defective pressure cap that lets in excess air. The wrong coolant will also cause deposit-buildup inside the pump, which slows the ideal process of engine cooling. In addition to these signs of wear, you may also notice small holes from corrosion in the metal, or cavitation – vapor bubbles in the coolant liquid that collapse with enough force to create cavities on the mounting surface. Should you notice these symptoms, replacement of the pump should be sought out immediately.

3. Loose Water Pump Pulley or Whining Sounds

Another symptom of a failing water pump is if the water pump pulley is loose of making whining noises. From time to time you might hear a high pitched sound that comes from the front of the motor. This is typically caused by a loose belt that creates a harmonic buzzing or whining sound as it circulates. The loose belt is commonly caused by a pulley that has become loose or that the bearings that operate the water pump assembly are wearing out. Once the bearings fail inside the water pump, it means the unit cannot be repaired and will need to be replaced entirely.

If you notice there is a loud whining sound coming from the front of your motor that increases in volume as you accelerate, contact a mechanic as soon as possible to inspect your water pump pulley.

4. Extremely Hot or Overheating Engine

Another symptom of a failed water pump is if the engine is extremely hot or overheating. When the water pump fails completely, it will not be able to circulate coolant through the engine block. This results in an overheating situation and if not repaired or replaced quickly, can cause additional engine damage like cracked cylinder heads, pushed head gaskets, or burnt pistons. If you notice the engine temperature gauge runs hot on a frequent basis, it's more likely than not a problem with the water pump. If you notice steam coming from the front of your motor, you should prevent the engine from overheating more and pull over to a safe area to contact a mechanic as soon as possibleYou should contact a mechanic to inspect this problem and replace the water pump if needed.

Anytime you notice any of these warning signs, contact a local certified mechanic so they can repair or replace the water pump and get your car back onto the roads without delay.

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23 years of experience
Audi A4 Quattro L4-2.0L Turbo - Water Pump - Surprise, Arizona
Greg was awesome, very knowledgeable and went the extra mile to make things perfect. No bolt was left unturned, really cared about finishing and making sure everything works.
Toyota Camry - Water Pump Replacement - Phoenix, Arizona
Attention to detail and provided clear information to his findings. Acted in a Profesional manner throuout


47 years of experience
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47 years of experience
Buick Lucerne V6-3.8L - Water Pump Replacement - Sand Springs, Oklahoma
This guy is what I am looking for in a mechanic. Experienced, knowledgeable and up front and honest. He will get to know my car very well it looks like. Thank you for your awesome job and coming to my job to help me. 😊
Kia Rio - Water Pump - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Walter was prompt, professional, and made sure he showed me every step of what he was fixing on my vehicle. He even found that the original part that I thought I needed wasn’t the issue. Once he found that out he went and found the correct parts, and my car has been running smooth as butter since. I am so grateful that he was able to come to my work and fix my car. I don’t know how I would have gotten it fixed without having him come to where I was. Thank you Walter, you were a life saver!


10 years of experience
28 reviews
10 years of experience
Toyota Camry L4-2.4L - Water Pump - Rockville, Maryland
Adrian was very professional, polite, and timely, and did a very fine job. I plan on using him again if possible.


30 years of experience
329 reviews
30 years of experience
Toyota Corolla L4-1.8L - Water Pump - Colton, California
Marco fixed the water pump faster than I could have ever imagined. The man is knowledgeable, professional and pleasant. Would be very glad to have Marco preform any work on my car in the future. Thank you!

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