Can You Drive A Car With a Bad Water Pump? (For How Long)

There is a limit to driving a car with a faulty mechanical part. Before fixing the defective part, seeing your vehicle moving without breaking down will buy you additional time or miles. The same applies to a bad water pump.

Some level of damage will not allow you to drive for an additional minute if not taken care of. In addition, you can not accurately estimate the risks involved, hence the need to make sure your water pump is working correctly.

This article will answer questions like; can you drive with a bad water pump, what causes a water pump to fail, the signs of a bad water pump, and how do you temporarily fix a water pump leak? Read on to find out more.

Is It Possible To Drive A Car With A Bad Water Pump?

Yes, driving a car with a bad water pump is possible. However, this does not come without any disadvantage, especially if done for long. In addition, it can lead to costly repairs. Overheating is one of the effects of driving with a bad water pump, leading to total damage to your car’s engine.

What is a water pump in a car?

The water pump is a critical part of the car that controls and regulates the coolant temperature around the engine. It ensures optimal passage of the car’s coolant through the radiator, engine block, hoses, and other machine parts.

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How Does a Water Pump Work?

It functions by taking the coolant (in most cases, water) from the radiator and moving it through the motor to other parts of the engine, then back to the radiator. So, in the end, your car stays at a regulated temperature, irrespective of the weather condition.

In addition, the water increases in temperature as it moves from the radiator to other parts of the engine. Finally, the water cools off when the engine stops running and returns to the radiator. So you see that a bad water pump can affect your car’s engine adversely.

How Long Can You Drive A Car With A Bad Water Pump?

The nearest mechanic workshop should be the distance limit for your car before moving again. Driving a vehicle with a bad water pump is not advisable and can cause other problems. Your engine’s temperature, coolant, and timing belts are some of the things that determine how far your car can go.

When the coolant is leaking or the engine is overheating, you should tow the car to the mechanic workshop for repair to avert costlier repairs and consequences like accidents or even the driver’s death. How long you can drive your vehicle with a bad water pump depends on the following:

1. Type of vehicle

The distance that can be covered by a  car with a bad pump depends on the type of vehicle. Also, the level of damage to the water pump determines how far you can go with it. Older cars manufactured before 2,000 are rugged and can cover more distance with a bad water pump than newer ones.

Newer cars have air-cooled engines and may not be as rugged as the old ones. An example is that the old Porsche car will cover a greater distance when compared to their latest models; the same goes for Volkswagen.

2. Climate

Climate refers to the weather conditions of a place, which significantly affect your car when driven with a bad water pump. For example, airflow to your engine in cool weather will regulate its temperature. Therefore, your vehicle will cover more distance on such days if you maintain the highest gear to the lowest engine turnover ratio.

On the other hand, your vehicle will not cover a long distance in hot regions because only hot air will flow into the car engine. With a bad water pump, overheating can occur, mainly if driven with a high engine to low gear turnover ratio.

What causes a water pump to fail?

Many things can cause your car’s water pump to fail. Although, it could fail due to standard friction (wear and tear) typical to mechanical parts or improper vehicle maintenance. Find below some other reasons your water pump could go wrong.

  • Worn belt
  • Running pump when dry
  • Normal wear and tear
  • Bad coolant
  • Low coolant level
  • Blown gasket
  • Bad belt installation

All mechanical parts of your vehicle work together in sync. Hence, the failure of one is linked to the loss of another. Therefore, you should pay attention to other components connected to the water pump that could directly impact it.

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What are the signs of a bad water pump?

Some signs point you to the condition of your car’s water pump. Anytime you notice any of these, check your water pump.

Check light comes on.

Your engine’s check light coming on indicates something is wrong with your car. However, if your water pump is in good shape, the check light will not come on, and you are good to go.

Close to overheating

Overheating is also an indication; it’s just that many other components could cause your car to overheat. Hence, it is not adequate to know a bad water pump.


Sometimes, you could notice leakage of coolant after parking your car. This is often due to a bad water pump gasket that is easy to fix and will not require total replacement of the water pump system.


A squeaky or grinding noise while driving can indicate a bad water pump. No matter the kind of noise, it means something has gone bad among your car’s components.

How expensive is it to replace a water pump?

Your mechanic’s total replacement of water pumps is around $550, although the price ranges from $461 to $638 in the US, depending on your car’s brand and model. However, you can get a water pump (for DIY car owners) between $205 and $314 (excluding tax). The labor cost is around $256 and $324.

How do you temporarily fix a water pump leak?

To temporarily fix your car’s water pump, you can get Stop Leaking Products like Bar’s Liquid Radiator. Your radiator is in front of the engine, and all you need to do is pour the liquid into it. The stop-leak product flows to the water pump seal and slows the leak or seals it completely. This should be done when your radiator is in good shape, though your car should be left running.


Can a bad water pump ruin an engine?

Yes, a bad water pump can ruin your car’s engine if not taken care of. The unregulated temperature in your car’s engine can lead to overheating, hence the chance for severe damage to components like the cylinders, pistons, head gasket, and even the engine block.

What is the sound of a bad water pump?

A high-pitched whining sound while accelerating indicates a bad water pump.

Can you replace a water pump yourself?

If you are a DIY car owner, you can replace a bad water pump yourself to save labor costs. All you need to do is buy the new water pump for between $205 and $314. However, be prepared to spend more than three hours doing it.

Wrapping Up

Your car’s water pump is essential to ensure the smooth running of the engine. Therefore, you should pay attention to the signs of a bad water pump and ensure you carry out its repairs before going on your next trip. While on motion, you can drive with a bad water pump but only for a limited time till you get to the nearest mechanic workshop.

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