Can You Drive With A Bad Water Pump

Can You Drive With A Bad Water Pump? Everything You Need To Know

Problems like water pump failures will ruin an engine if not dealt with properly.

But can you drive with a bad water pump? No. You shouldn’t drive with a bad water pump since a bad water pump means the engine is not getting enough coolant. That can lead to the engine overheating and complete breakdown. If driving is extremely necessary, take short breaks between the ride or drive when it is cold outside.

Water pumps are an integral part of an engine, and there are many signs of its failure. In this article, all that and more will be covered briefly. So stay with us and keep reading. 

Can You Drive With a Bad Water Pump?

The task of a water pump is to make sure the engine does not heat beyond the recommended level. That is around 200 Fahrenheit or 90 degrees Celcius.

A bad water pump means the water pump cannot pump the coolant through the engine block, cylinder head, then into the radiator. That makes the engine overheat and interrupts its smooth running. 

Likewise, the engine has a high chance of being damaged beyond repair. So, you should never drive a car with a bad water pump.

Can You Drive With a Bad Water Pump

If absolute necessity, try not to drive for more than 5 minutes straight. Drive, pause, then drive again. This will make sure your engine won’t overheat too much. This is a feasible plan when you need to take it to a repair shop. 

On the other hand, there is another way.  You can drive your car with a bad water pump when it is cold out. It is because outside temperature affects the engine temperature also.

Signs of a Bad Water Pump

Prevention is better than cure. So, it is good if you can see the signs early. A bad water pump is a cheap replacement compared to an engine. The signs include:

Signs of a Bad Water Pump

Coolant Leaking

Coolant leak is the primary and one of the most visible signs of a bad water pump. A water pump is sealed pretty tightly, and coolant leakage means it is not working as it should.

If you spot leakage of red or blue liquid, the water pump is going bad. 

Coolant Leaking

Engine Noises

High-pitched and whining noises of engines can be signs of many issues. It can be a faulty power steering pump, a bad alternator, insufficient power steering fluid, a broken air conditioning system, and even a bad water pump. So, if the engine makes noises, it tells you something. 

Engine Overheating

If a water pump does not work, your engine will absolutely overheat. That is one of the main indicators of a faulty water pump.

And engine overheating can be easily felt from the inside of the car. Many drivers say it smells like burning plastic or oil smell. 

Engine Overheating

Sometimes the smell can be sweet because the coolant or antifreeze is ethylene glycol. The compound has a sugar-like structure and smells sweet when it burns. So, these are easy ways to mark engine overheating.

Steam Comes Out

If steam comes out from under the hood, it is a sign of a bad water pump.  So, take your car to the mechanic if you see smoke, steam, or vapor coming out while driving or stopping.

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Coolant or antifreeze’s boiling point is around  235 Fahrenheit or 110 degrees Celcius. A car engine runs around 200 Fahrenheit or 90 degrees Celcius. So, a car needs to generate more heat than normal to make the coolant evaporate. That is why vapors are a clear sign of a bad water pump.

Can You Drive With A Bad Water Pump

Rusting Water Pump

Coolant leaking will make your water pump rust most of the time. The rust will make it hard for the water pump to function effectively. It will slowly deteriorate over time.

And this rusting can be spotted from the outside and is considered a sign of a bad water pump.

Check Engine Light Turns On

The check engine light is an indicator to inform there is something wrong with the engine. In the case of a broken water pump, that will be turned on automatically.

Check Engine Light Turns On

It is because the engine will be overheating and that is not healthy for an engine particularly. So, the computer will let you know something is wrong with the engine or the components through the engine light on. 

So, if the engine light turns on, it is time for a close inspection. It can be many things, but also a broken water pump.

Irregular Temperature Gauge

Irregular or fluctuating temperature gauge is one of the noticeable signs of a broken water pump. This sign, in particular, lets you know there is a problem in the cooling department of your car.

It can be the coolant, water pump, or thermostat. So, the number of suspects is low. For this reason, it is easy to find out if it is a broken water pump. Thus, you can go straight for the cooling components if you see an irregular temperature gauge.

Car Drive With A Bad Water Pump

Can You Fix a Broken Water Pump?

Yes. You can, but  it might break again later. Water pump are factory sealed and is sold as one unit. The pumps have a complex build, and if it breaks down, it is hard to fix. So, fixing a water pump is not recommended; rather, replacing it is easier.

Can You Fix a Broken Water Pump

Also, fixing a water pump might become more expensive in the long run. It is because a faulty water pump can damage other components of the car. So, being safe is the better option.

How Much Do New Water Pumps Typically Cost?

A new water pump can cost between 100 to 400 dollars depending on the car model, but with the labor costs, it can go up to 700 to 800 dollars. So, the pump can be considered inexpensive but is quite hefty, including the labor cost. 

How Much Do New Water Pumps Typically Cost

Also, the labor cost might change depending on the damage, condition, and car model.

Overall, the cost might seem a lot, but if you compare it to engine repairs or engine replacement, it is practically not a big deal. So, get that new water pump and do not look for alternatives.

How to Maintain a Water Pump in Good Condition?

There are many ways you can make sure the water pump stays in its top condition.  In this part of the article, we will discuss exactly that.

How to Maintain a Water Pump in Good Condition

Refilling Coolant

Coolant can leak in small amounts; it is not an issue. However, making sure the coolant never runs out is important. A dry-water pump means it will get damaged. So, check the coolant level regularly and make sure it stays at an optimal level. 

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Follow this video to see how to check the coolant level:

Regular Checkups

Regular check the cooling compartments of the car. For example, checking the water pump, coolant, thermostat, and radiator is an easy way to make sure everything is working perfectly.

If anything is showing signs of breaking down or is missing, it will damage the other cooling compartments. So, regular maintenance is an effective way to make sure the water pump stays okay.

Maintaining a Good Mixture of Coolant

Every coolant or antifreeze might not suit your car. Mixing coolants of different sorts or chemicals can lead to troubles. Contaminated coolant is also very bad for a water pump.

Maintaining a Good Mixture of Coolant

Sometimes, the mixing can be done wrong. For a good reference, follow this mixing ratio.

Water Ratio Coolant Ratio
40% 60%

These ratios are considered safe for mixing water and coolant. An unbalanced mixture can lead to overheating. So, always be careful.

If you’re interested in learning about driving with a bad water pump, MotorAdvices provides valuable insights and information on automotive topics. While addressing a bad water pump is crucial, you may also find our article on driving with a cracked windshield helpful. This article discusses the importance of maintaining a clear and undamaged windshield for visibility and safety. Additionally, our article on driving with a broken axle provides information on the potential risks and consequences associated with a damaged or broken axle. By exploring these resources, you can gain a better understanding of various automotive scenarios and make informed decisions regarding your vehicle’s maintenance and safety.


Here are some frequently asked questions that users ask while looking up a bad water pump.

Q: How long does a water pump last?

A water pump is made as a single unit, and companies put emphasis on its durability. So, an average water pump is rated to last 100,000 to 150,000 kilometers.

Q: What is the most common reason for water pump failure?

The most common reason is age and the pumps wearing down. Every pump is rated for certain kilometers. After it crosses that threshold, it might slowly lose effectiveness. Then gradually stop working.

Q: What is the best type of water pump?

Among centrifugal and positive displacement pumps, centrifugal is cheaper. They also offer better service and have narrow impeller vanes that make sure only clean water runs through the pump.


Knowing “can you drive with a broken water pump?” is essential since it’s related to your engine’s cooling system. You can drive with a bad water pump for a little while, but you should not. Also, that little driving time might make your engine stop forever. 

Therefore, it is recommended that you tow a car with a broken water pump to the repair shop. Now you know how to spot a broken water pump and how to avoid it. Remember to take care of your car because it is your constant companion. Do not forget to drive safely and responsibly, either.

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