What the car pump is for and how it works

What is the car pump and why it is needed

During operation, the car engine produces a lot of heat. To allow the internal combustion engine to work in a certain temperature range (the so-called “green zone”), its design provides for a cooling system. Its main element is a water pump (aka pump). The pump in a car is necessary for forced circulation of antifreeze in the system. Thus, the hot liquid from the engine “jacket” is replaced by the cold liquid from the radiator. The pump must always be in good condition. If the device falls into disrepair, the engine begins to boil and soon fails. Well, let’s learn more about what is the pump in the car, how it is designed and what are its faults.

Design and features

The pump – one of the main components of the engine cooling system. It is a pump of the centrifugal type, which includes an impeller and a shaft with a pulley. The housing of the mechanism can be cast iron or aluminum. Also in the housing there are channels for the drain of antifreeze to the impeller. There is a gasket between the engine cylinder block and the housing, which prevents coolant leakage.

The main working element of the pump is the impeller. It generates the pressure of the liquid in the system. The impeller is mounted on the drive shaft. There is a drive pulley on the back side of the shaft.

Pump Impeller

Pump impeller

The water pump is mounted in the front of the engine, often near the thermostat. The automotive pump is either electrically or mechanically driven. The latter is more common among car manufacturers. Such a pump is driven from the crankshaft pulley by a belt. On cars with a chain timing system, this is a separate drive belt, and on belt-driven cars, it can be combined with the timing system. The principle of operation is simple: the crankshaft pulley rotates the belt, and the latter drives the pump. Electric pump has a separate electric motor with control system (such pumps are often found on German cars). The principle of its operation is as follows. Electronic sensor reads the temperature of antifreeze and gives a signal to turn on the pump only at +30 ° C and above. Then a ring diaphragm triggers and the liquid circulates in full volume in the system.

Signs of malfunction

Since a faulty pump can quickly overheat the car engine, the driver should know at what signs it is worth thinking about its repair:

  • A characteristic howling, whistling sound while the engine is running. This indicates problems with the bearing, or with the impeller. The latter may touch the housing during operation, which is why the sound is heard.
  • Pump pulley looseness. This can be detected by grasping the pump shaft with your fingers. If the pulley has a stroke, the mechanism will soon fail.
  • Traces of coolant near the pump. You may see antifreeze leaking on the impeller or where the pump connects to the block. This indicates a problem with the gasket or packing.
  • The presence of a sweet odor under the hood or in the cabin. It can get inside through the ventilation system. This smell also indicates a coolant leak.
  • Misalignment of the idler and drive pinion. This can be seen by placing a ruler in the same plane as the pump and pulleys. If the problem has been present for a long time, it can be seen by the worn corners of the belt. The situation is dangerous because the belt can tear at any time. The load on the bearings also increases.
  • An increase in the operating temperature of the motor. The water pump is unable to pump the antifreeze normally, or the coolant level has dropped due to worn gaskets.
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Pump leak

Pump leakage

Widespread breakages and their causes

A common malfunction is bearing failure. It wears out due to the high mileage of the car (usually after 100 thousand kilometers), but accelerated wear should not be excluded. This can include improper belt tension, oil or antifreeze getting on the belt surface.

The next breakdown is the seals, namely the oil seal. It fails because of low-quality antifreeze without additives. The packing “hardens” and no longer retains the fluid inside the system. The antifreeze not only gets on the belt, but also on the bearing, washing out the lubricant from the latter.

Improper installation or defective fasteners. The water pump can badly adhere to the engine block due to an uneven mounting surface (dirt, corrosion on the metal), or be originally crooked (factory defect, which is not uncommon among cheap substitutes). As a result, the pulley rotates with misalignment, putting more load on the bearing and eating the belt. Rarely, the obnoxiousness is detected after the car has been in an accident.

Another cause of pump failure is the use of sealant to eliminate radiator leaks.

The composition of this agent not only clogs the channels of the heat exchanger, but also sticks to the impeller of the pump.

Antifreeze slowly circulates in the system. If the flushing is not done in time, the pump will soon need to be replaced.

The reason why the owners may not even guess is the quality of the antifreeze. The pump has to be lubricated during operation. If the quality of the antifreeze is close to water, the seals and then the bearings will soon go bad. The formation of corrosion has a negative effect on the condition of the pump. High-quality antifreezes have a package of lubricants and anti-corrosion additives, which positively affects the pump life.

Corrosion on the pump body

Corrosion on the pump housing

Using low-quality antifreeze leads to corrosion

What are the consequences?

If the driver notices that the pump is falling into disrepair, it is necessary to begin repairing the car as soon as possible. A faulty bearing can jam on the move, and the belt can tear. In a matter of seconds, such an engine can overheat. It is not known when the moment occurs – the pump can keep for 500 km, or become unserviceable already on the second start. The consequences are expensive car repairs (boring of the cylinder block, replacement of rings, cylinder liner replacements).

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Replace or repair?

The water pump can be disassembled and repaired, but most car owners prefer a complete replacement. There are several reasons for this:

  • It’s not always possible to find the right part for a particular water pump. Often it has to be bought to order, or its cost will be unreasonably high.
  • Disassembling and reassembling the element requires more effort. If the work is done in the service, the repair price will increase.

New pump

New pump

A new water pump

Comparing the cost and time of the work, we can conclude that it is faster and cheaper to replace the water pump. The exception is the replacement of the gasket.

How often should it be replaced?

Do not wait for signs of failure. The water pump should be changed beforehand. The mileage can be different. For domestic cars it is 60 thousand kilometers, for foreign cars – 120-150. The best option – replacement along with the timing belt or antifreeze. The manufacturer of spare parts can be different. However, you need to pay attention to the quality of the part and the cost. A good substitute should not cost 3 times cheaper than the original. By installing a quality pump, you can forget about the problems in the next 3-5 years of operation.

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What is the purpose of the pump in the car and how does it work?

As part of the engine cooling system of any car has its own pump (in jargon – the pump). The element is quite reliable in operation, but requires supervision, since it plays an important role in the operation of the power unit. In case of a breakdown of the part, the car will not be able to continue on its way. Hence, the purpose of this publication is to explain to inexperienced motorists what the pump is and how it functions.

Car pump

Purpose and location of the element

The coolant is not able to circulate through the radiator and the water jacket of the engine on its own. To induce it to move, the system involves a pumping device – the pump, whose impeller (impeller) rotates the belt drive from the crankshaft. Depending on the design of the car, the pump is located in such places:

  1. In front-wheel drive cars, the element is located on the right end of the engine (when viewed in the direction of travel). Since the pump is part of the timing belt drive protected by a cover, it cannot be seen from the outside.
  2. On cars equipped with rear-wheel drive, the pump is located on the front of the power unit and is driven by the timing belt or alternator drive.

The pump, built into the engine design, is required for effective cooling of the block and cylinder head by creating a forced circulation. Thanks to it, the antifreeze flow passes through two radiators – the main one and the cabin one, where it gives off the lion’s share of heat.

The construction and principle of operation of the pump

It does not hurt to consider what the car pump consists of and how it works. The element is a housing in the form of a mounting flange with holes, made of aluminum alloy. The other parts are attached to it:

  • The main shaft with the bearing is pressed in the central hole of the housing;
  • impeller made of plastic or metal is mounted on the inner end of the shaft;
  • idler pulley (can be a toothed pulley or a pulley with rack and pinion) is mounted on the outer end of the shaft;
  • to prevent brine from leaking out along the axis, the shaft through the housing is sealed with a special gland.
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Pump construction

The water pump flange is bolted to the cylinder block or adapter so that the impeller is in the coolant flow and the idler pulley is in line with the crankshaft drive pulley. A gasket is placed under the flange to seal the connection.

The principle of operation of the pump is extremely simple: the engine crankshaft rotates the pump impeller via the drive belt. The higher the engine speed, the more antifreeze is pumped through the system. Service life of the element is from 40 to 140 thousand km of run, depending on the brand and modification of the car. On expensive imported cars the pumping device works longer, on domestic cars – less.

Some cars are equipped with a pump, acting on its own electric drive. This innovation has not found widespread use because of the rising price of the design and reduced reliability.

Consequences of failure

A broken pump can cause a lot of trouble. The amount of damage depends on how the pump is involved in the car – from the timing belt or the generator drive. Emergencies are as follows:

  1. A leaky gland or gasket begins to leak. The level of antifreeze in the system decreases, what is fraught with engine overheating, if not to notice the problem in time.
  2. Pump shaft jams because of broken bearing. From the jerk the drive belt comes off or tears.
  3. When the pump packing leaks, the rotating pulleys scatter fluid in all directions. Wet belts slip and wear faster.

Note. The primary cause of antifreeze leakage is often a worn bearing, not an oil seal. The shaft with the pulley and impeller begins to wobble and tilt under the pressure of the drive belt. Under such conditions, the packing is unable to hold the brine, causing the water pump to leak fluid to the outside.

The worst case scenario is a timing belt drive rupture due to a jammed bearing. It leads to expensive repair of power unit for many automobiles, because the bottoms of pistons hit the pallets of opened valves and bend their pushers. At best, you will have to remove the cylinder head and replace the valve group, at worst, you will have to throw away the punctured pistons and the cracked cylinder head.

Timing belt rupture

The torn off alternator drive belt will not cause any damage, only the electric power supply into an onboard network will disappear and the accumulator will be discharged. But in parallel the engine will overheat leading to the accelerated deterioration of the cylinder-piston group.

Signs of pump failure

The water pump wears out naturally during the operation of the car. The greatest load is experienced by 2 parts – the bearing and the packing, they most often fail. Impeller and pulley breaks much less often. Malfunctions manifest themselves as follows:

  1. Antifreeze stains occur where the vehicle is permanently dislocated.
  2. The coolant is splashed on the end wall of the motor and nearby units. If the mechanism is protected by a shroud, the leakage of the coolant in the lower part becomes noticeable.
  3. A rumbling or crackling noise can be heard from the pump when the engine is running.
  4. The power unit stalls on the move and the coolant temperature rises to a maximum.
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The spots appearing under the car should always alert the driver. If the underhood space is dry, and you can see a leak on the asphalt, remove the camshaft cover. Having detected dampness near the pump, make a simple diagnosis: loosen the drive belt and shake the pulley of the pumping device with a hand. A noticeable backlash of the shaft is a clear sign that it is time to change the pump of engine cooling system.

If you manage to catch the noise made by a broken pump bearing, immediately diagnose it for backlash. The way to check is identical: you should get to the pulley, loosen the belt tension and jiggle it by hand.

When the engine has stalled while driving and the gauge shows a temperature of over 120°C, the worst has already happened. The pump shaft is jammed, and the timing belt is torn or slipped off. One can only hope that the engine valves have not collided with the pistons and bent.

If the alternator belt breaks, the engine will not stall, but the battery charge indicator will turn on and the temperature will inevitably rise (because the pump has stopped pumping fluid). Immediately turn off the engine and take measures to evacuate the car to a garage or an auto service center.

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Can the part be repaired?

The vast majority of cars have an unrepairable engine cooling pump. If desired, the motorist can remove and disassemble it, but it is unlikely to change the packing and bearing, as these parts are not available on sale. An exception – classic models “Zhiguli” and a number of other car models, for which manufactured repair kits.

Synopsis. Parts of repair kits are not original and are not of high quality. Pump life after repair is halved compared to the factory-made spare.

Water pumps are usually replaced as a complete set. And the replacement itself is not very difficult – you clean the seating of the old gasket, apply sealant and screw the new pump. The most time consuming part of the procedure is the disassembly of the timing assembly with the alignment of the marks, removal of pulleys and pouring / emptying the cooling system. If you do not have enough experience in car repair, it is better to entrust the work to the masters of the service station.

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