Whether you have a gasoline or diesel powered vehicle, your primary source of keeping the engine cool is a fully functioning coolant system. Included in this system is the radiator, water pump, coolant hoses, and a fan attached to the radiator that cools heated coolant after it has circulated through the engine block. When all of these parts work perfectly, the engine runs smooth and maintains a consistent temperature. However, the most common cause of engine overheating issues is a broken water pump belt.
The water pump is responsible for circulating coolant from the radiator, around the engine and then back to the radiator to cool before beginning the process again. The pump is operated by a serpentine belt made out of rubber and nylon cords that also operates your other accessories, including the power steering pump and air conditioner compressor. Over an extended period of time through normal use and exposure to high temperatures, this water pump belt will become brittle, crack and eventually break.
Replacing your water pump belt is part of normal maintenance. If it breaks, it can cause multiple components in your vehicle to stop working and put your vehicle completely out of commission. In order to avoid this problem, staying on top of routine maintenance and service would significantly help. However, there are a few common symptoms that hint towards having a failing water pump belt.
1. Cracks or frayed nylon cords in the belt
Upon visual inspection, it's pretty simple to notice that a potential problem exists with your water pump belt. A normal belt is clean and has no cracks or frays in the belt. However, if you look under the hood of your vehicle and can see visible cracks on the surface of the belt or you see what looks like strings coming from the sides of the belts, this is a sure fire indication of a belt that is about ready to break. If you notice this warning sign, contact a local ASE certified mechanic to replace your water pump belt. This process requires specialized tools and experience in replacing the belt, as it needs to be looped through multiple components to work correctly.
There are many different types of water pump or serpentine belts that power the water pump and additional systems. Some of them are grooved while others are smooth. If you or another mechanic notices that grooves from a belt are missing, it's also a good indication that the belt is ready to break and needs to be replaced.
2. Squealing noises coming from the front of your car
As belts are used to power water pumps, AC units, and alternators, they tend to stretch over time. As they stretch, they don't fit quite as snug as they once did. When this occurs, the belt will create a harmonic sound as it circulates around each of the pulleys on every device it powers. This is common with alternator belts, air conditioning control belts, and water pump belts to name a few. If either of these belts fail, it can have a serious impact on the operation of your vehicle. However, when the water pump belt breaks, it can lead to overheating, broken engine components or complete engine failure. If you notice a squealing sound coming from the front of your vehicle when the motor is running, contact YourMechanic and one of our local ASE certified mechanics will arrive to your home or office to replace your water pump belt if needed.
3. Burning rubber smell coming from the engine
Another common symptom of a broken or seriously worn out water pump belt is burning rubber coming from the engine. As the belt wears out, it stretches and develops more heat as it circulates around different pulleys and individual engine components it powers. This additional heat can get intense and cause the belt to burn. If you notice the smell of burning rubber coming from the front of your vehicle, safely drive your car back home and contact a mechanic as soon as possible to inspect the problem and replace the water pump belt if needed.
The water pump of any vehicle is a critical mechanical part that can last a very long time without having to be replaced, as long as the water pump belt is replaced as recommended by the manufacturer. If you recognize any of the above warning signs, contact YourMechanic so we can set up an appointment with a local ASE certified mechanic to diagnose the problem and deliver an affordable solution.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Water Pump Belt and was authored by Timothy Charlet.