It can be tempting to drive a car with a suspected faulty water pump, especially if it still runs.
However, putting your pedal to the metal with a bad unit may not be the wisest decision.
Can cars with bad waterpumps be driven? Sometimes they can, but the cost can be astronomical.
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Can cars with bad water pumps be driven or not?
Vehicle owners can technically operate a car with a bad water pump. However, doing so can remove the engine’s cooling ability. The result can include anything from a leaking head gasket to a full-blown destroyed motor. Thus a several-hundred-dollar repair can quickly worsen into the thousands.
What happens if you drive a car with a bad water pump?
Operating a car with a bad water pump is a guaranteed way to get stranded on the road. The purpose of a water pump is to circulate your vehicle’s coolant from the radiator through other components and back.
When a water pump breaks, the engine’s coolant can no longer move through the system, and the temperature rises to dangerous levels.
There’s often no way for the motor to cool itself, and thus, it continues to overheat until catastrophic damage occurs.
One of the most heinous failures that often occurs when a car overheats is a blown head gasket.
The head gasket seals the sensitive area between the cylinder head and block and keeps coolant out of the cylinders.
Repairs to this issue often cost thousands of dollars, but they are not the worst repercussions of driving with a bad water pump.
Your vehicle can also get a crack in the cylinder itself or the engine block, requiring even more extensive work or a complete engine replacement.
What are the signs your water pump is bad?
Several signs can inform you that your water pump is most likely broken.
The most common sign is a coolant leak.
You might see water dripping from the bottom of your car profusely, and open the hood to find a small waterfall.
You may also notice that your temperature gauge heads toward the red zone as you drive.
Alternatively, your water pump might choose to be nice and give you audible indicators. Maybe you’ll hear growling, whining, or another abnormal sound.
In some situations, the heater will stop working, or you’ll see a strange mix of oil and coolant. The symptoms depend on the severity of your problem and which type of engine setup you have.
An EcoBoost engine may present you with a water and coolant mix.
Can you fix a broken water pump?
It’s possible to fix a water pump, but it’s more cost-effective to replace it.
If you fix the propellers, for example, something else might break later. Thus, fully replacing the unit is wiser.
However, you will need to know quite a bit about the inner workings of an engine, as you will need to disassemble part of it.
Typically, changing a water pump requires you to remove belts, hoses, and other components that need to be reinstalled appropriately.
All vehicles are manufactured differently.
Thus, your car may have an easily accessible water pump, whereas another driver may need to dig deeper to find it or vice versa. Furthermore, you will need to drain the cooling system and go through the appropriate bleeding procedures before operating the vehicle.
DIY automotive repairs can save you money if you do them correctly. However, many things can go wrong during the process and leave you in a situation where you still need to contact a certified technician.
You don’t get a warranty on your work when you do it yourself, nor do you get help if something goes amiss.
Those are some conditions to think about while considering whether it’s wise to tackle the problem alone.
How much do new water pumps typically cost?
The cost to replace a water pump varies greatly from shop to shop and vehicle to vehicle.
The factors that play the most integral role in the overall cost are the parts, labor time, the mechanic’s skill, and any other work that may need to be done.
The cost of a water pump itself can be as little as $25 to as much as $150 or more, depending on your make or model.
The labor costs per hour can range from $50 to $150.
The labor time can fall somewhere between two and four hours.
Again, this time will depend on your vehicle’s make and model. A clearshot water pump always takes less time to change than something buried. Then you must factor in the possibility of having additional issues, such as a thermostat problem or the unfortunate need for a head gasket repair.
Labor pricing will depend on the location and the service technicians’ quality.
You can expect to pay heftier prices at a dealership that employs specially trained and certified mechanics.
A smaller shop may charge less, and an uncertified auto repair person may go even lower.
The best strategy is to find a happy medium where you can receive quality auto repair without compromising your vehicle’s drivability.
How hard is it to install a new water pump yourself?
Changing a water pump yourself has a medium difficulty level.
That means you should have an existing mechanical capability, a high patience level, and no fear or qualms about working with your hands.
Repair manuals and tutorials are available to assist you with such DIY projects.
However, you will be at a disadvantage of not knowing the technical aspects of water pump operation and what can go wrong if the job encounters issues.
You should consider taking the car to a professional if you experience nervousness or doubt about your ability to perform the tasks.
It’s okay if you can’t do it yourself, as not everyone was born to work on cars.
How to know if a water pump is too damaged to drive?
You can typically tell if a water pump is too damaged to drive by the size of the water leak and whether your vehicle is overheating at this time.
You can get away with driving your car to the nearest repair shop or driving it home if you notice only a small leak that doesn’t seem to affect the temperature gauge.
Your water pump’s gasket might have a tiny hole, or you may be losing coolant from the weep hole, but not enough to cause a waterfall just yet.
In that case, you should take the car to a safe place for repairs and then turn it off and get the work completed as quickly as possible.
What causes a water pump to break?
Water pumps can fail for myriad reasons.
Some of the most common causes for water pump failure include:
Pump Gasket Contamination
A water pump gasket can get contaminated with oil, causing its materials to break down.
When that happens, coolant can leak from the part and cause your vehicle to overheat if you don’t refill the system with coolant quickly enough.
Cooling System Corrosion
Cooling system corrosion can also occur and damage the water pump.
Corrosion is likely to build if you use the wrong type of antifreeze for your car or use hard water instead of coolant.
It can also occur if you fail to have someone clean your cooling system and change the antifreeze at the manufacturer’s recommended time intervals.
Engine System Vibrations
An unrelated problem can cause your engine and its components to vibrate more than usual, putting a strain on:
- the belt,
- water pump,
- and additional parts.
An example of such an issue is a broken motor mount.
Bad Belt Tension
You can also have a faulty belt tensioner, the wrong belt adjustment, or a worn belt itself.
All these problems can cause your water pump to fail and eventually break.
Regular belt inspections are necessary to ensure nothing like that occurs. To do this, you can look for cracks with your vehicle off and then watch for loose or uneven turning while it’s on.
Faulty Pump Parts
Sometimes, a premature water pump failure occurs because its parts are defective. A dealership can solve the problem and replace the part for you if the vehicle is under warranty.
Otherwise, you’ll need to use an alternative method to have your items replaced.
Good Old-Fashioned Wear and Tear
Water pump failures don’t always occur because of underlying issues or user errors. Sometimes they fail due to normal wear and tear.
Generally, water pumps should be changed every 60,000 to 100,000 miles, but the time interval varies across vehicle models.
Some are designed to last the life of the vehicle, but not all of them are capable of it.
You will find additional information about when to change this component in your owner’s manual or through direct contact with the manufacturer.
You should now fully understand why it’s usually not wise to operate your vehicle with a bad water pump.
Please take your vehicle to a nearby shop or contact a tow company to have them transport it.