6 Symptoms of a Bad Water Pump, Function & Location

Car Water Pump

A vehicle’s engine runs at a specific temperature. This temperature needs to be maintained; otherwise, the engine will overheat, which may cause serious damages to your engine.

Therefore it is vital to replace your water pump before it breaks totally, but how do you know if your water pump is about to go bad? Keep on reading!

6 Symptoms of a Bad Water Pump

  1. Coolant leak
  2. Squealing noise
  3. Water Pump’s Axle lose
  4. Overheating Engine
  5. White Smoke From The Radiator
  6. Unstable engine temperature

The symptoms of a failing water pump will tell you whether to visit a mechanic or not.

Here is a more detailed list of the 6 most common symptoms of a bad water pump.

Leaking of Coolant

Coolant Leaking E1609789888621

When the water pump goes bad, it may leak from the axle sealing or any gasket. The water pump uses gaskets that ensure the coolant stays sealed and that the flow of water is uninterrupted. However, these gaskets can deteriorate and become completely useless in time, causing the coolant to leak out from under the water pump. If you have a puddle of water or coolant below the front end of your car, you are probably looking at water pump failure, and so you need to go to a mechanic.

Squealing Noise

Engine Squealing Noise E1609789879322

When the water pump goes bad, it may leak coolant into the bearings of the water pump, which will dry out the bearings of grease and therefore create a squealing noise when the engine is running. If you hear a squealing noise from the water pump you should replace the water pump as fast as possible, as it may be fatal to your engine to keep driving – especially if the water pump is driven by the timing belt.

Water Pump’s Axle lose

Water Pump Bad E1609789871700

There is a serpentine or timing belt making the water pump turn and pump coolant. If the water pump axle gets worn out it may cause a loose belt. If this happens, you are looking at a complete replacement of the water pump. To feel if the water pump’s axle is loose, you have to remove the serpentine or timing belt. If you feel any play in the axle, replace it imminently.

Overheating Engine

Overheating Engine E1609789863111

The water pump’s primary job is to pump around coolant in the system to cool the engine. If the water pump fails somehow, you will see the temperature gauge rising on the dashboard. This can happen due to several reasons, such as thermostat failure or short electrical wiring, but you should always get it checked out by a certified mechanic. Otherwise, you are looking at widespread damage to the head gasket, the cylinders, and pistons, all of which can reduce the overall life of your engine.

White Smoke From The Radiator

White Smoke Radiator E1609789853150

If you see white smoke coming out of your radiator, you are looking at a clear sign of water pump failure. The steam in the radiator is produced from an overheated engine, which can happen if the water pump is not working perfectly. When faced with this problem, it is better to stay safe and stop driving, wait for the engine to cool down, and try to reach your mechanic.

Unstable Engine temperature

Car Temperature Meter E1609789949889

You can also notice intermittent problems with the water pump as the impeller might be loose on the water pump axle. This will cause the car to overheat sometimes and sometimes work fine for a couple of weeks. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to water pumps, though, so replace it if you think it’s bad.

What is a water pump?

Water Pump E1537623632854

The water pump plays an important role in the healthy functioning of the engine. The pump regulates the amount of coolant that goes into the engine. Its job is to constantly supply the engine with fresh and cool liquid from the radiator to work properly.

However, when the water pump fails, and they do regularly fail, the engine will not get the correct amount of coolant and heat up. That’s just how water-cooled engines work: if there is no water, the engine cannot survive.

Therefore, a well-functioning water pump is of crucial importance. If it fails, some symptoms will appear, which will prompt you to contact the mechanic to ensure the engine is in good condition.

Water Pump Location

Water Pump Location E1609828819135

The water pump is always located near the serpentine belt, timing belt, or timing chain since it is powered by one of them. This means that it is also installed at the front of the engine.

If the timing belt powers the water pump, it may be difficult to see it though. You may need to remove a lot of covers to see it.

Start by checking near the serpentine belt for the water pump pulley. If you can’t find the water pump pulley there is a big risk that the timing belt powers it.

Related: Water Pump Replacement Cost

Written by: Magnus Sellén

Founder, owner & main author of Mechanic Base. I have been repairing cars for more than 10 years, specialized in advanced diagnostics & troubleshooting. I have also been a drifting driver and mechanic for over 7 years.