A water pump pulley is part of the cooling system that helps to control the temperature of your engine.
The combustion process, along with friction from all of the moving parts inside of an engine, produces a good deal of heat. While a certain amount of heat is necessary for proper engine function, too much can cause damage. Therefore, a mixture of water and engine coolant (also known as “antifreeze”) is circulated through passageways inside of the engine block. There, the coolant absorbs some of the heat before it is forced out of the engine and through a network of thin tubes inside the radiator. Air passing through the radiator allows the heat to dissipate into the environment before the coolant returns once again to the engine to pick up more heat.
The water pump is the device that makes the circulation of coolant possible. Inserted into the cooling system, the pump forces the fluid through all of the hoses, the radiator, the engine, and more. Even the heater inside the passenger compartment relies on the water pump as some of the heated coolant is diverted into the cabin and expelled through the heater core.
On most engines, the water pump is mounted to the outside of the engine block and is driven by the serpentine belt that runs around the water pump pulley. On many newer engines, though, the water pump is driven by the timing belt (or chain) inside the engine. In those cases, the internal water pump will feature a pulley driven by the timing belt or a gear driven by the timing chain.
The water pump (and the water pump pulley) is a critical component in the cooling system for your engine. If the water pump stops working, so does the cooling system. Therefore, it is important to address the problem of a failed water pump pulley as soon as possible. Signs of a bad water pump pulley can mirror those of other components, such as a glazed or deteriorated serpentine belt, but in general include the following:
To replace the water pump pulley on some models, the vehicle must be raised and supported in the air for access to the underside of the vehicle. Shields and guards need to be removed as well. In some cases, the water pump is accessed through the engine compartment, and various components need to be removed for access, depending on the vehicle make and model.
Once a technician gains access to the water pump, the tensioner on the serpentine drive belt must be relieved to remove the belt from the water pump pulley. The pulley is commonly bolted to the water pump, so the technician will need to unbolt the old pulley and remove it before inserting the new one. On vehicles with front-facing engines, a cooling fan and clutch might need to be removed first. That is not the case with transverse (sideways) mounted engines. After the new pulley has been bolted in place, the bolts are torqued to manufacturer’s specifications, the serpentine belt is replaced (and the fan and clutch, if applicable), and any components that were removed for access are reinstalled. Then the engine is tested. The technician might also take the vehicle for a test drive.
If the water pump on your engine is internal and driven by the timing belt or timing chain, the replacement service will be much more involved, since the timing components need to be removed for access.
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