Can You Drive a Car With a Bad Water Pump?

There is no reason why you should want to drive a car with a faulty part let alone a water pump

However, it’s understandable if you have no choice and need those few extra miles before getting the water pump fixed. 

So you may find yourself wondering now whether or not it’s ok to drive your car with a bad water pump and, if so, for how long?

If your car’s water pump is bad, you need to get it replaced quickly or you’ll risk damaging your engine. Depending on a few factors, you can probably drive your vehicle 5-20 miles with a faulty water pump, which should be enough to get you to the nearest mechanic to replace it.

A water pump is vital to a car’s cooling system. It controls how the coolant flows around the engine keeping its temperature at optimal levels.

It pumps the coolant through the hoses into the radiator and the engine block to keep the engine cool for it to operate properly.

Keep reading to understand the importance of a water pump in your vehicle and how to know when it’s time for a change. 

You will also get an answer on whether a bad water pump will prevent you from driving your car or not.

How To Tell If Your Water Pump Is Failing?

The water pump is an important part of the engine ecosystem and if it fails, there are bound to be some noticeable signs. 

These signs will tell you that it’s time to get your car in an auto repair shop and have it replaced. The signs of a bad water pump include:

1. Steam or smoke coming from the radiator

A common sign of a bad water pump is steam or smoke gushing from the radiator. 

Smoking often signifies that there is damage to the engine and the pump’s fan isn’t working properly. 

The smoke could either be white or dark in color. Both these colors could indicate that your vehicle has a bad water pump.

This is a very serious problem and you shouldn’t attempt to restart the engine. You should allow the engine to cool off before doing anything

2. Engine Overheating

The engine should ideally operate at a specific temperature at all times to prevent damage. 

However, if the water pump is faulty, it will not do its job which is cooling off the engine

The result is always an overheating engine.

3. Irregular Temperature Gauge

The temperature gauge keeps the temperature of the engine in check. 

You use it to check if the engine’s cooling system is working. 

Because of a faulty water pump, the temperature gauge isn’t allowed to do its work properly.

The temperature gauge will start acting abnormally with its needle running back and forth. This usually means that the water pump is faulty.

4. Coolant Leaks From the Front Center of the Vehicle

Leaking coolant usually occurs when the gasket and other important seals have worn out or are damaged. 

In a working system, the seals and the gasket work to ensure the easy flow of coolant to the engine from the radiator.

Look out for any red or green liquid leaks which shows that the coolant is indeed leaking. 

This means that the water pump is faulty and needs immediate replacement.

5. Unusual Sound From the Engine

An unusual sound coming from the car could mean that the water pump’s pulley system is loose. 

The belt and bearings coming loose could cause an unusual sound. 

This means that the water pump needed immediate replacement.

6. The Check Engine Light

You might also need to pay close attention to the check engine light on the dashboard. 

It might not necessarily indicate that your water pump is damaged but it means that something is wrong and needs immediate attention.

The light may turn on when an overheating engine causes an engine misfiring. 

There may be a myriad of problems that could lead to a faulty part of the engine. 

It’s therefore important to have a mechanic run a diagnostic scan to ensure that the water pump isn’t the culprit.

How Long Will a Bad Water Pump Last?

Your vehicle won’t operate with a faulty water pump for long. 

Therefore, you need to make arrangements to see your trusted mechanic for repairs. 

Experts will advise you to also change the timing belt when you are replacing the water pump. 

These two parts operate on the same service life.

When you put in a new part with an old part, it will cause stress on the new part, significantly reducing its lifespan. 

Because of the workload involved when replacing a water pump, you will likely pay about $800 including parts and labor.

A good quality pump will range from $50-$100. A cheap water pump will be costly in the long run because it won’t last long

How Far Can I Drive With a Blown Water Pump?

It’s common for race car drivers to remove water pumps from their cars to increase the horsepower of their engines. 

Therefore, it’s possible to drive a vehicle with a faulty water pump.

However, it’s important to note that driving with a damaged water pump isn’t advisable. 

Once you spot any of the signs above and conclusively determine that your vehicle’s water pump isn’t working, then, take your car to the nearest auto repair shop.

There are important parts that will determine how far you can drive with a blown water pump. 

Without any of these parts, you stop driving your vehicle immediately. 

If you insist on driving while these parts are not working, you not only risk further damaging your vehicle but also endangering your life and that of other road users.

Look out for:

  • Coolant leaks
  • Overheating engine
  • Timing belt fails

There are also other factors that will affect your ability to drive a vehicle with a broken water pump. 

They include:

Type of vehicle

The distance you can cover with a damaged water pump will heavily depend on the type and condition of your vehicle. 

The majority of the old models (made before the 2000s) are sturdy and can still go a longer distance than the newer models.

Many of the new models have air-cooled engines that will only cover a few miles before failing. 

Therefore, consider your vehicle’s make and condition to determine if you can still drive. 

Remember that the pump still has to be repaired even if you have an older model.

Climate

The weather conditions will also play a key role in determining whether your vehicle will travel a great distance or not. 

Cool weather will help regulate your engine’s operating temperature through airflow to the engine. 

If you can manage to maintain the lowest engine to the highest gear turnover ratio, then the vehicle can still cover many miles before stopping.

On the contrary, a hot day with a low gear to high engine turnover ratio isn’t a good day to drive. 

The vehicle will not cover a long distance because the engine is susceptible to overheating because of the bad water pump.

Is a Car Drivable With a Bad Water Pump?

The answer to this question will depend on the factors explained above as well as the full extent of the damage to the water pump. 

The time of day and the terrain on which you are driving will also determine whether your vehicle covers a short or long distance.

An estimated distance of travel with a faulty water pump is 5-20 miles. 

The more stress exerted on the engine, the shorter the distance you can drive.

While driving, you have to keep a close eye on the coolant temperature. 

If the coolant temperatures are too high, you risk causing irreparable damage to your engine. Ensure that the coolant temperature remains below 112o C to avoid expensive repair costs.

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Hi, I'm the founder of VehicleAnswers.com! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!