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Understanding And Troubleshooting A Car's Water Pump

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For first-time car owners and those who don't have a lot of mechanical understanding, navigating the issues under the hood can be intimidating. For example, one part that's often misunderstood is the water pump. Your car's cooling system requires a water pump to keep the coolant cycling, but if you don't know how it works and how to know when it's failing, you could find yourself with an overheated engine and potentially blown seals, all of which can be costly to repair. Here are a few things you should know about the water pump in your car's engine.

Water Pump Basics

The water pump is usually found on the front of the engine. It's easier to spot than some parts, because it is one of the few belt-driven parts. You should see a pulley on the front of the pump with a belt on that pulley. Inside the case of the water pump is an impeller. The blades, typically plastic or metal, push coolant through the system when the impeller is turned.

Water Pump Failure

There are two common causes of water pump failure. Understanding both of those can help you to identify a potential problem early enough to have it repaired before your engine overheats and suffers lasting damage.

Impeller Issues - Prolonged coolant exposure can gradually cause erosion on impeller blades that are made of plastic. This can hinder the coolant circulation or stop it completely. It's not easy to actually detect damaged impeller blades since they are inside the water pump case, so you need to know what signs to watch for. The most common issue that you'll notice is that your car will start consistently running water when you're driving. Make sure you know generally where the temperature gauge runs when your engine is at normal operating temperature so you can spot when it's running consistently warmer.

Seal Trouble - The impeller inside your water pump attaches to the pump with a shaft that contains a seal and bearing. The purpose of the seal and bearing assembly is to keep coolant from flowing through that chamber. If the seal starts to deteriorate, it can allow coolant to seep past the seal. The gradual coolant loss can hinder your engine's cooling. You can spot this kind of trouble by being attentive to any signs of leaks under your car and checking your coolant levels regularly. If the coolant level is dropping, it's likely leaking somewhere. A mechanic can trace the leak.

Any time you see any of these signs or others that seem out of the ordinary, you'll want to talk with a local mechanic, such as Jensen Tire & Auto, as soon as possible. He or she can assess the cooling system with dyes to spot leaks and pressure tests to identify other problems.