Your car's water pump is out of sight, but don't keep it out of mind.
The water pump plays an important role in your car’s cooling system and continually pumps coolant and water into the engine. Operated by the drive belt, blades on the pump allow coolant to flow into the engine.
Although water pumps are built to last, they sometimes break down and require replacement.
a small bit of attention can help you spot a possible problem. Water pumps can fail in several ways. They can leak and lose precious coolant, as well as fail internally with bearing and shaft issues, or have impellers fail."
"A coolant leak of any kind should never be ignored, and, when it's coming from under the timing belt cover, it's probably going to be from the water pump,” Beckwith says.
Overheating – or a sudden change in the temperature gauge – can also signal a problem.
You can also check by pulling back and forth on the water pump pulley. Beckwith says if there’s any play – or you can move the water pump back and forth – it could mean the shaft and bearings are loose.
"When this happens, the pump is inefficient at best,” she says. "The pump impellers can also fail internally, so while the pump still pumps or spins, it quits moving water through the system. It would be like having a boat that is missing part of its propeller."
How to replace a water pumpReplacing a water pump isn’t a DIY job.
However, mechanics often replace water pumps before they fail.
Beckwith says many shops recommend replacing the water pump while simultaneously making other labor-intensive repairs, such as swapping out the timing belt.
A water pump should last 60,000 to 90,000 miles, about the same amount of time as a timing belt.
"Many water pumps are located behind the timing cover,” Beckwith says. “It makes sense to replace the water pump when you have the timing cover off and are already that deep into a labor-intensive repair. You do not have to replace the water pump when you do a timing belt, but it’s certainly a good idea to do so.”
Edward Brown, owner of Wynnewood Park Service Center in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, says most water pumps aren’t visible without removing the timing belt cover. Just removing the timing belt cover to check the condition of the water pump can lead to significant labor costs.
“When you do a water pump (replacement) and you are in the area where the timing belt is, you might consider replacing the belts and pulleys and drive belts,” Brown says. “Drive belts come off when accessing the pump.”
Cost to replace a water pumpBecause of all the labor involved Brown estimates the cost of replacing a pump on a four-cylinder vehicle to be about $700.
According to CostHelper, water pump replacement averages $300 to $750, depending on the make and model and labor costs.
The water pump itself may only cost $50 to $100, but labor can run between $200 and $450, depending on the difficulty level of reaching the pump.