How your water pump works
“Water pump” is a term you’ve most likely heard in conversations about vehicles. But what is it, what does it actually do, and how do you know if you need a new one? At Delta V Motorsports in Richmond, we know the answers to these questions, and soon you will too.
What is it?
We’ll start with the basics. If you guessed that a water pump pumps water, you’re almost right. It actually pumps coolant...but in days before antifreeze, water would have been cooling your engine instead. While there are some electric water pumps these days, typically a water pump is a small encased impeller (sort of like a propeller) which is connected by a rod to a pulley on the outside of the engine, which is turned by the belt when your car is running. Generally, there is also an inlet for coolant to enter the water pump from the radiator. Water pumps come in all shapes and sizes, but generally all of them operate on the same basic design.
What does it do?
The impeller simply pushes the coolant to create a current, forcing it through your engine and radiator to keep the liquid, and by consequence your engine, from getting too hot. It’s as simple as that. Its sole purpose is to keep coolant moving.
How do I know if mine is bad?
This one can be a bit tricky sometimes. Most water pumps have a small hole on the outside, which will drip coolant if the internal seal goes bad. If it’s dripping, you need a new pump. The bearing inside can also go bad, which typically results in a roaring or grinding metal on metal sound, meaning the impeller is contacting the water pump casing. If you hear a grinding or screeching sound, the water pump is a likely culprit. Sometimes you won’t notice either of these issues, but the engine will randomly start to overheat. Depending on the car, and how bad the pump is failing, you may only notice it running hot every once in a blue moon during the beginning stages of water pump failure. Keep an eye on it; your engine may suddenly start to overheat, and you may not notice it until it’s too late. If your engine ever begins to overheat for any reason, don’t hesitate to have it looked at.
If your water pump is leaking, making noise, or overheating your car, get it replaced immediately. Your vehicle will overheat unpredictably, and could end up costing you an entire engine while you’re sitting in a drive-thru or on your way to work. If the pump is grinding, it will make short time of eating through the water pump housing, which will allow coolant into your oil and broken pieces of metal into your coolant and oil pan, where they can do extensive and expensive damage. Cost and time involved to change a water pump vary dramatically depending on how accessible the pump on your particular vehicle is, whether or not the timing belt has to come off, and a variety of other factors. At any rate, fixing the pump must be done, and is a lot cheaper and less time consuming than replacing an entire engine.
If you hear any funny noises, are experiencing coolant loss, your vehicle runs too hot, or you have any other problems that need tending to, let us know. Our technicians at Delta V Motorsports will diagnose your problem, and have it fixed in no time!
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