What to Look for in a Failing Water Pump

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Water pumps and freezing temperatures!

Severe cold like we experienced recently can cause some systems in your vehicle to fail. What causes the failures?
In particular, we saw several water pumps that sprouted leaks. Since the water pump

Water Pump

is  essential in keeping your car from overheating, severe engine damage can occur if it is not working correctly.

What to watch out for if your water pump is beginning to fail:
  • Coolant leaks. Keep an eye under where you routinely park your car for fluid leaks. If the fluid has color, think a coolant (antifreeze) leak. Most coolant used to be green in color, but different vehicles now use a variety of colors.
  • Groaning or grinding sounds. As the bearing in the water pump wears out (from lack of grease), it may (or may not) make noises. Pay attention if you hear sounds you are not used to hearing. This grinding noise may increase with increased engine speeds.
  • Temperature fluctuations. If you notice the temperature gauge on your dashboard going from hot to cold and vice versa, something is amiss in the cooling system. Low levels of fluid can create air bubbles that cause the temperature to rise and fall.
The water pump circulates anti-freeze/coolant through the engine and radiator to prevent overheating in the engine. When temperatures dip very low, seals on the water pump can become brittle and can crack. The seals may already be worn from age, rust and dirt. Add on very cold temperatures, and the seals may fail to do the job they are intended for – to keep the anti-freeze contained in the cooling system. Leaking coolant can then wash the grease out of the bearings in the water pump, losing essential lubrication.
Defective water pumps must be replaced, as they are  not repairable. Drive (serpentine) belts that operate the water pump may also become cracked and worn with time and miles.
If your vehicle is leaking coolant, the low level of coolant can allow overheating in the engine – never a good thing. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge. If the temperature is elevated, stop driving immediately. Severe damage can occur, resulting in bent or damaged valves, warped engine head(s) and significantly increased repair costs (possibly engine replacement).
Improper concentration of anti-freeze (coolant) and water can also cause problems. If there is too much water in the mixture, the liquid can freeze. Expansion of anti-freeze/water mixture in the radiator, hoses, engine or water pump can create cracks in any of these components. Coolant should generally be diluted to a 50/50 ratio (may vary if you live in a VERY cold climate).
We hate to see engines that have overheated in the shop. It generally means an expensive repair (often an engine replacement) for our customer, and loss of use of the vehicle for a couple of weeks. Let us help you keep your vehicle in good working order, and repair those leaks BEFORE they cause extensive damage.

Your “Corner Mechanic”


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