Car water pumps are essential to proper engine operation. Without it the engine will quickly overheat and may cause severe and costly damage. Unfortunately, water pumps are a common problem on many car engines. A water pump takes a lot of abuse over the years and must often be replaced, especially on older high mileage engines. Ultimately, many car owners end up paying the cost for a water pump replacement.
So, how expensive are water pump repairs? How do they work and why are they so important to your car engines operation? In this article, we cover water pump replacement cost, answer these questions, and dive into some helpful info.
*Photo shows the water pump impeller/internals
What Is A Water Pump?
The water pump may also be known as a coolant pump. It’s essentially the heart of an engines cooling system. Water pumps are responsible for circulating the water/coolant mixture through an internal combustion engine. Most water pumps are driven by a belt and pulley attached to the crankshaft. This spins an impeller inside the water pump to circulate the coolant.
Coolant and water then travel through the engine and back to the radiator. The radiator helps cool the water/coolant mix before it makes its way back through the water pump and engine. That’s basically all there is to the water pump. It’s a housing with an impeller – driven by a belt – to circulate coolant through the engine.
Electric Coolant Pumps
Again, most engines use a standard belt driven water pump design. However, some engines use electric water pumps. These aren’t driven by a belt attached to the crankshaft. Rather, they’re electronically driven. This is a common design on many BMW engines, especially in the 2005-2015 ballpark.
We won’t dive into all the specifics, but there is one important point. Electric water pumps add an extra failure point since they’re electrically driven. They’re often more expensive parts, too. We’ll circle back to this when we discuss water pump replacement costs soon.
Bad Water Pump Symptoms
Symptoms of a bad car engine water pump include:
- Coolant leaks
- Whining, buzzing, squealing sounds
Overheating is one of the main symptoms of water pump failure. If your car engine is overheating then it’s time to pull over in a safe location as soon as possible. Otherwise, look out for steam coming from the engine bay or other noticeable coolant leaks. It’s not uncommon for the water/coolant mix to “boil” out of the coolant tank cap when the water pump fails.
Another way the coolant pump may fail is via the belt or pulley. If the accessory belt is bad you may notice weird whining, buzzing, or squealing sounds. In these cases the water pump might still be fine, but the belt or pulley needs replacement.
Can I Drive With A Bad Water Pump?
This greatly depends upon the extent of the water pump failure. Some water pump failures aren’t quite as severe or drastic as others. As long as you have coolant in the engine and it’s not overheating then you should be OK to drive in most situations. You’ll still want to avoid driving too much and repair the water pump problems in a timely manner.
However, with more severe water pump failures all coolant flow can be lost. When this occurs an engine will begin overheating very quickly. You’ll want to pull over in a safe location as soon as possible. Damage to the head gasket is a common occurrence if you drive too much and allow the engine to overheat. Further and more expensive damage can occur, too. Point is – get somewhere safe and have the car towed home or to a repair shop.
How Long Do Water Pumps Last?
Exactly how long a coolant pump lasts may also vary a lot. In general, the average coolant pumps last about 80,000 to 150,000 miles. A few of our BMW water pumps gave out before 60,000 miles. We had some other cars make it to 200,000+ miles without any water pump failures. That just goes to show water pump lifespan can vary a lot. Especially depending on the make, model, year, etc.
One more topic about lifespan of the pumps. On car engines that use timing belt it’s usually a good idea to replace the water pump during timing belt replacement. They’re often in the same location, so there is a lot of overlap in labor. On models with less expensive water pump it’s a good idea to repair the water pump and timing belt at the same time.
Cost of Water Pump Replacement
Alright – finally onto the actual topic of this article. If and when your water pump fails how expensive is the replacement? Once again, this can vary greatly depending on each specific make, model, and year car. However, there are still some average costs and data to give a good estimate. Water pump replacement cost is usually in the following ballpark:
- High – $800+
- Average – $450-650
- Low – $200-400
Many German cars – Audi, BMW, Mercedes, etc. – come in on the higher end. It’s not unusual for BMW water pump replacement cost to run in the $750-1,000+ price range. Meanwhile, many American and Japanese cars come somewhere in the low-average area.
One car brand isn’t always less expensive than the other. It often comes down to what water pump each car uses and its location in the engine bay. Some are simply more accessible and faster to replace than others. Likewise, some water pump replacement parts are more expensive than others. Regardless, most can expect to pay somewhere in the $300-700 ballpark when it comes time to repair the water pump.
Water Pump Repair Cost Breakdown
Labor and parts are the two big factors when it comes to water pump replacement costs. Below is a quick breakdown of typical costs for each:
- Parts: $100-300
- Labor: $160-500
*Assuming roughly $80-100/hr labor costs
Again, costs can vary even more. If your German car ends up at a dealership for repairs you’ll likely pay retail price for the pump itself. That can bring water pump parts costs to $400+. The same can be said if they’re charging by the book at $125+ per hour. We’ve seen plenty of $1,000+ parts and labor quotes from some dealerships.
Anyways, water pump parts for most car engines range from $100-300 while labor is about 2-5 hours. At a standard rate of $80-100 that brings labor into the $160-500 ballpark. Of course, those capable of DIY’ing a water pump replacement can save a pretty good chunk of the cost. Those less experienced should probably leave the job to a professional repair shop, though.
Coolant Pump Summary
Water pumps are highly important for proper cooling and engine operation. It’s basically the heart of a car engines cooling system. Without a functioning water pump an engine can quickly overheat and cause severe damage. Unfortunately, water pump replacement is a common thing that many car owners run into at some point.
Symptoms of a bad water pump include overheating, steam, coolant leaks, and odd sounds from the belt or pulley. Beware of overheating as its a major symptom that warrants pulling over in a safe area ASAP. You’ll need to repair the water pump before any further driving.
When that time comes water pump replacement cost can vary from about $200-800+. Most cars will fall more in the median of that range, as $450-650 is the average cost of water pump repairs. However, German cars can easily exceed the $800 mark while others come in even less than $300.
What’s your experience with water pump failures or problems?
How much was your water pump replacement cost? Year, make, model, etc.
Drop a comment and let us and our readers know!