Small parts on a car's engine are often easy to overlook, but those components are often some of the most important to keep everything running properly. In the case of keeping your engine cool, the water pump is an effective and integral part of the process. But how long can you expect it to last?
The water pump endures constant use inside an engine and allows the engine to endure the intense heat that internal combustion produces. When your engine is on, the water pump circulates coolant, or antifreeze, in the cylinder head and the engine block to cool the engine down. After the coolant passes through the engine it's sent back into the radiator to be cooled before entering the engine again.
When it comes to water pump longevity, they actually tend to last a long time. It's recommended that your engine's water pump be replaced when the timing belt is serviced. Water pumps are driven by the timing belt, or an accessory drive belt that spins a pulley outside of the pump which turns the internal impeller. On different makes and models of cars, these belts can last anywhere between 60,000 and 90,000 miles (96,561 to 144,841 kilometers), so you can expect your water pump to last about that long, too. Of course, some water pumps may not last quite that long, but manufacturers make efforts to ensure water pumps last a long time due to negative effects on the engine if they fail.
To avoid running into the problem of a failed water pump, there are a couple warning signs that you can look for. The first is if coolant is leaking around the water pump. Weep holes located on the casing of the water pump will leak coolant when the pump is failing. The second red flag is if the water pump is making more noise than usual. This may be from a defective impeller or an impeller that's no longer properly attached to its drive shaft.
It's unlikely that you'll have to diagnose your car's water pump problems yourself, but just remember it's always a good idea to have your water pump replaced when your vehicle's manufacturer recommends changing the timing belt.
For more information about water pumps and other related topics, follow the links below.
- Freudenberger, Bob. "Replacing Your Water Pump." Popular Mechanics. July 1, 2000. (Aug. 5, 2010) http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/how-to/maintenance/1272366
- RepairPal. "Timing Belt Replacement." (Aug.14, 2010) http://repairpal.com/timing-belt-replacement
- Samarins. "Water Pump, Cooling System." (Aug. 11, 2010)http://www.samarins.com/glossary/water_pump.html