Symptoms of a bad or failing water pump in cars

Updated Mar 04, 2021 | Same topic: Handy Maintenance Tips

It is a key component to keep your engine cool.

A water pump is one of the most important components in your car since it is essential in engine operation. What a water pump does is pumping or pushing the coolant from the radiator to the engine to cool down the engine. Without a water pump, your car will overheat causing its engine to fail.

Water pump component

This is what a water pump looks like

It works by absorbing the heat from the engine and is returned to the radiator to be cooled. The cycle keeps on going until the accessory drive belt is turned off since it drives the water pump. Unfortunately, water pumps go bad over time which could be bad especially when you are on the road.

The last thing you want to happen is an overheating engine halfway to your destination. This will cause you to pay for a towing service since your car will overheat if you run it. As such, we have provided four signs of the water pump going bad.

You can check it yourself at home so you won’t need to visit your local shop and pay extra fees.

DIY: Diagnosing a Faulty Water Pump

4 symptoms of a bad water pump

Symptom #1: Whining or grinding noise

One of the main components of the water pump is a bearing that spins along the accessory drive belt. Once your water pump’s bearing is worn out, it will produce a whining or grinding noise that is noticeable even you are seating in the cabin. Some car owners share that they hear a ticking noise, while some hear a growling noise.

An engine with an accessory drive belt

A loose accessory drive belt will also produce noise

To make sure that the unwanted noise comes from the water pump, open your car’s engine bay while the engine is cranking so it drives the accessory belt. Observe closely which accessory the noise is coming from. This symptom is one of the earliest signs of a bad water pump.

Cause: A damaged or worn-out bearing will cause a noise once the accessory drive belt is operating. It is common after running for a very long time. But if you think that you replaced your bearing just recently, another cause of the noise could be a loose accessory drive belt.

>>> Related: 'Is it safe to use water as car radiator coolant?' [Newbie Guide]

Symptom #2: Overheating

Overheating is a common occurrence among car owners especially those who own a second-hand vehicle. There are, however, various factors that can attribute to engine overheating while driving. One of which is a bad or failing water pump.

The reason why a bad water pump causes an engine to overheat is that the main function of a water pump is to cool down the engine. A water pump helps circulate the coolants filled in the radiator to the high-temperature operating engine for heat absorption and back again to the radiator for cooling.

A rusty engine

Rust and corrosion can cause your water pump to be faulty

Without a water pump, your engine will overheat which can cause other components to fail as well due to the high and extreme temperature. As such, always check your car’s instrument cluster and observe the engine temperature reading. If the needle points way past the midpoint, then it could mean that you have a faulty water pump.

Cause: Due to the bad water pump, it is not supplying enough power to push the coolants around the engine cooling system. Without a proper cooling system, the heat from the engine operation inside the cylinders will be dispersed to the engine bay.

Failing water pumps are a common issue due to their high-speed operation to keep the coolants moving at an ideal pace.

Symptom #3: Leaking gasket

Sealing two metal parts together is almost impossible especially when dealing with high pressure and temperature. As such, gaskets are used to fill the space between two surfaces. If you see that your water pump’s gaskets are leaking coolants, then it is a strong indicator that your water pump is bad.

This is why it is important to know the color of your engine coolant. You will see it probably in the morning on your way to work or school underneath your car’s engine if the water pump is leaking. Losing engine coolant would eventually result in engine overheating.

Cause: Gaskets, or seals, will wear out or break eventually. Once you replaced the gaskets and see that the engine is operating smoothly without overheating, then it could mean that you won’t need to replace your water pump which could be expensive including labor.

Symptom #4: Steam

The last common sign of a bad water pump in the car is when steam is coming out of your engine bay. You will notice this especially after a long drive as the heat from the combustion engine is built up. You should your car pull over once you see steam and wait until the engine is cooled off.

An overheating engine

Let your engine cool off first once it overheats

You can either have your car checked if there is an automotive shop near the location that you pulled over or you can call for a towing service. Just don’t drive your car if you see steam for safety purposes.

Cause: A leak in your engine cooling system is one of the main causes of steam due to the extreme temperature that is not dampened off properly. Another cause for steam is that your car’s oil system is faulty which causes your car to overheat since metal parts are rubbing off against each other.

>>> Related: 4 signs of a sick cooling system

What should I do?

Different component failures can happen once you run your car with a bad water pump. These include a piston failure, blown-out gaskets, all ultimately resulting in a totaled engine. Your car indeed needs to be heated up to run in an ideal condition, but too much heat will destroy it.

Never run your car with a bad water pump. This car component is essential in keeping your car moving even if it does not drive your wheels or turn your car sideways. Consider that driving your car with a faulty water pump is as bad as driving it without tires.

Pouring coolants to a cooling system

Follow the regular maintenance schedule for your cooling system to avoid engine overheat

Water pumps last for around 95,000 km to 145,000 km. After those mileages, you can expect the said symptoms to appear in your car. To avoid these problems, observe the signs of the water pump going bad.

Water pumps are priced around Php 5,000 depending on the model of the car you are driving.

Water Pumps: FAQs

Q: What is a water pump?

A water pump is used to cool down the engine by circulating coolants from the radiator to the engine and back.

Q: What does an accessory drive belt rotate?

It powers various car components such as a water pump, air conditioning system, and alternator.

Q: How much is a water pump in the Philippines?

You can get a water pump in the Philippines for around Php 5,000. Some are even priced higher depending on the build quality.

Q: Can a bad water pump result in engine overheating?

With a bad water pump, your car’s engine will overheat since water pumps push coolants to the engine for heat absorption.

Q: How long do water pumps last?

On average, water pumps last for 95,000 km to 145,000 km, depending on how you drive your car.

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Rex Sanchez

Rex Sanchez


Rex Sanchez grew up in Saudi Arabia where he saw and got into the automotive scene. He started his career for an aviation company in the said region, writing about turbines and rotors which are later distributed for educational purposes. And now, he joined as a staff writer. Currently, he is the youngest on the team and is more than ready to grow in the field.


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