How long does a water pump last?

Today I will answer this question, how long does a water pump last. I will provide a rule of thumb that might be helpful to motorists. Just keep in mind that this is one automotive component that can last forever or at least until the vehicle goes to the junkyard or may fail at any given time.

Picture of water pump impeller

water pump impeller

In an attempt to answer the question I will provide some guidelines or at least some things I have noticed about the longevity of automotive water pump. On older vehicles with the standard green ethylene glycol antifreeze a water pump could fail or start to leak if coolant flushes are ignored when they are required.

In some cases neglected anti freeze can become like an acid and start eating away at the impeller fins that push the coolant. When this happens and the fans are deteriorating the water pump can lose its balance and the shaft can begin to wobble. This will eventually wear away at the water pump shaft seal.


Note that engine coolant can be tested for not only its freeze point but also its chemical makeup or acidity. They make dip strips that you can dunk into the coolant that will indicate whether it should be changed or not. The dip strip should be submerged in the radiator not the burp tank or reservoir.

How long does a Chevrolet water pump last

Picture of Chevrolet water pump

Chevrolet water pump

Let me use my sister’s old 1987 Chevy celebrity as an example of how long a water pump can last. Her celebrity had the very reliable 2.8 L V-6 engine. Since I was in charge of the maintenance this vehicle received regular coolant drain and fills every 30k miles. At about 150,000 miles the water pump started to leak ever so slightly out of the weep hole.

I told my sister that I would replace it but asked her to pick up the part. She got a cheap remanufactured water pump from China. I think the replacement water pump was around $25. I installed it without any problems. But the remanufactured in china water pump started to leak about one year later. At this point the vehicle had about 180,000 miles on it.

So in the case of my sister’s 1987 Chevy celebrity you could say that the original factory water pump could last 10 years are hundred and 150,000 miles. You could also say that a cheap aftermarket re-manufactured water pump will only last about one year or 30,000 miles. Keep in mind that this may be an isolated case and that you can get lucky and install the cheapest parts and receive good reliability. The above story is just my own personal experience and opinion.


Modern water pumps and extended life coolant

Picture of engine thermostat

Engine thermostat

Again this is just my opinion but since the deployment of extended life coolant it seems that replacing a vehicles water pump is not as common as it used to be. This is one of the reasons that I suspect that one of the major causes of a water pump failure is the coolant that it pushes through the system.

I’m the kind of person that spends a lot of time at the junkyard. Often when I am looking at an engine on one of these junkyard vehicles it appears that the water pump was the factory installed unit. Although it is hard to give a straight answer about how long water pumps last, I can make a generalization and provide my own opinion on the subject.

I would say from my experience that a water pump will last about an average of 10 years or 100,000 miles. Feel free to use this as a rule of thumb but remember that your results may vary and you water pump may last much longer or fail much sooner.

Last weeks post was also about car cooling systems if you would like to review more information about engine overheating and cooling systems? Plus more opinions and auto repair articles this next link will take you back to the online auto repair blog home page.


6 comments

  1. I have had four chevy tahoe/silverado SUVs/trucks and in every one the waterpump failed between 50,000 and 60,000 miles. I am now on my 5th, and plan to replace it at 50,000 to avoid the emergency fix the other four vehicles required.

  2. My 2003 4 cyc Camry’s engine start to make noise during the 1st year of ownership, the water pump was replace with about 15,000 miles. Now the car has 155,000 miles on it and still has the replace pump on it without a problem. But today I’ll replace as a precaution.

  3. I bought my chevy silverado new in 2003 and odom. now reads 159,000. water pump is doing fine. All maint. pulled as recommended.I changed cooling fluid at 100,000.

    1. Knifemaker makes a good point. A few of the water pumps I have replaced where destroyed by toxic coolant. The last one I did was on a 1997 Ford Taurus. The coolant was brown and when I pulled out the water pump the fins where eaten away by the acidic coolant. If you change the engine coolant as recommended you might get longer life from the factory installed pump?

  4. 2005 4.8L express cargo
    OEM pump lasted to about 138K It gave warnings at around 110K with a sweet weep hole odor. This aftermarket one is beginning to send out the same sweet odor at shutdown. Current miles 188K. I think I will head this off now before it gets to cold to do outside on my own. So that is about a 1/3 of the miles on the aftermarket.

  5. I have a 2001 silverado with the 5.3 motor. Great truck by the way. Replaced the first pump at about 125k. Purchased gates brand replacement. Started leaking at 188k . I am at 190k now. Pump is completely shot. Leaking to where I cannot drive it. So 100k on oem is accurate. Maybe more. Good news is the aftermarket pump is warranted. 5 years and approximately 65k on that one. Did a complete coolant flush at 125k. Will do another this pump replacement.

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