Replacing a Water Pump

Engines and Overheating

Because it has moving parts and is burning fuel, an engine heats up to a very high temperature. This is normal; in fact, engines run better at a fairly high temperature than cold.

However, it can also get too hot. This results in damage ranging from something as minor as the need for fresh engine coolant, to complete destruction of the vehicle's engine, including fire. So the car also has a cooling system to keep things at just the right temperature.

The system can (and will) break down, though. Overheating can be caused by many different problems within the system. If you suspect a water pump is the culprit in your cooling system failure, this article is for you.

Before You Replace a Water Pump

A water pump replacement is a repair that may be undertaken by an experienced home mechanic. If you are confident in your car maintenance skills, this is a task you can complete in a few hours; however, if you're not comfortable you should definitely take it to the shop.

Before you get started, here are a few things to consider.

Disposal of Coolant Water

Since the water in a vehicle's cooling system contains antifreeze, don't wash it down the drain. Antifreeze is hazardous waste and must be disposed of properly. Determine the proper method for disposing of antifreeze-contaminated water in your community, including and necessary containers for disposal, before you begin draining the vehicle's cooling system.

Read the Service Manual

A service manual is an instruction book for the various repairs that may be necessary on a specific make and model vehicle. These repair instructions will outline the parts required, the necessary tools, and the steps to take in order to accomplish the task. In many cases, there are helpful tips and hints included in order to make the job a bit easier to complete. But a manual isn't a shop class.

Determine if this is indeed something that you can undertake. If one of the steps is "Remove the timing belt", and you do not have the ability to properly reinstall the timing belt, then now is the time to abort your mission. Have a professional accomplish this task for you. If you improperly reinstall a timing belt, you may cause severe internal engine damage.

Replacing Hoses and Belts

When replacing the water pump, professional mechanics suggest replacing the hoses and belts for the cooling system. It may seem like an effort to get you to part with more money than is necessary, but it's a very good idea. Belts and hoses are actually somewhat fragile, and can easily be damaged during removal or while putting them back on the engine. While they're off, the must not come in contact with grease, antifreeze, oil, or gasoline; not always easy in a repair situation.

New hoses and belts are not expensive, and it's always better to spend a little more and replace them, just to be on the safe side.

Get Your Tools Ready

  • Container large enough to catch the water and antifreeze as it drains from the system.
  • Correct water pump for your vehicle.
  • Tools as listed in your vehicle's Service Manual.
  • Supply of shop rags to clean up spills.
  • Any other belts or hoses you wish to replace at this time.
  • Additional parts as called for by the vehicle's Service Manual.
  • Replacement antifreeze. Check the Service Manual for the correct type of fluid.
  • Gloves to wear while draining the system.

Keep in mind: the additive used in the cooling system is very slippery. If it is spilled, clean up as soon as possible.

Accessing the Water Pump

Many of today's vehicles require the removal of the alternator, and in some cases various other parts, in order for you to access the water pump.

Before you begin, make a list of any parts that will require removal, then check the service manual for instructions on how to remove them. Again, be sure you have all the required tools and that you understand the process for the removal of these before you begin.

In addition, be sure to disconnect the negative battery cable before you start as a precaution. This is a good safety measure for any automotive repair, whether you are working with the electrical system or not. Install a memory saver if you have one, and disconnect the under-lamp so as not to drain the memory saver battery.

Replacing the Water Pump

While many motor vehicle engine repairs can be spelled out in a simple step-by-step format, a water pump replacement is not one of them. This is because there is so much variety in the placement of and access to water pumps between vehicles, no one simple set of directions may be applied to all vehicles. So you'll have to follow your particular manual here.

Finishing Up

Once you have replaced the water pump, belts, hoses, and any other components, replace the antifreeze and water in the system according to the directions in the manual and on the antifreeze container. Be certain to dilute antifreeze to one part antifreeze, one part water. More is not better when it comes to antifreeze. Store any unused antifreeze out of the reach of children.

If you have pets, be aware that animals are very attracted to the scent and taste of coolant/antifreeze; however, it is highly toxic if ingested. If you have transferred the old water and fluid into closed containers such as gallon-size plastic water bottles, seal the bottles with a strip of strong material such a duct tape and keep them out of reach until you can dispose of them properly.

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