What is a water pump?

Every car has one. It's a belt-driven device that transfers water from the radiator to the engine, which keeps your car cool. Water pumps vary in design, but mostly function the same way. Your car's water pump is located near the front or side of the vehicle, just behind the fan belt. Its appearance is often described as resembling an octopus, with arms reaching outward. One arm is connected to the engine and the other to the radiator. The arms connected to the radiator and engine are hollow pipes, and the others anchor the water pump in place. An axle grows out of the central disc, and a fan belt or secondary adjacent belt rises out of the axle.

How does it work?

When your engine is running, centrifugal force turns the fan belt and consequently, the axle at the center of the water pump. The axle is connected to vanes that turn along with the axle. Water is suctioned up from the radiator and into the pump. When the water arrives, it turns and splashes against the outer wall and travels down a drain, delivering it to the engine block. It then travels into the cylinder heads and drains into the radiator once again. The process repeats itself over and over.

How do you know if you have a leaky water pump?

Leaks occur when your water pump has aged and begins to wear away. Water pumps have a component called a weep hole, which is only a few millimeters in diameter. It is located on the side of the pump or is turned toward the ground. The weep hole is preserved by a gasket. Wear and tear causes the gasket to erode and coolant to leak out, rendering the water pump unable to perform its key function. If you continue to use your car without resolving the issue, you may cause irreparable harm to your engine.

Signs your water pump may need to be replaced:

  • Leaking on the ground (check your usual parking place for coolant pools) or in the vicinity of the radiator
  • Repeated overheating
  • A malfunctioning air conditioner
  • Unusual noises originating from your heating and cooling vents