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How Difficult Is Water Pump Replacement? Can Anyone Do It?

The location of the water pump in relation to the engine can vary by application. Whether you can replace it yourself depends on how much experience you have. The more complex the engine, the higher the level of difficulty for pump replacement. However, a person who easily figures out how to do things can usually replace a water pump that is on the front of the engine, without any mechanical experience.

Pumps Located on the Front of the Engine

If the pump is located on the front of the engine, it is typically easy to get to. For a rear-wheel drive vehicle, remove the belts and the manual fan. If the power steering pump or air conditioning compressor covers part of the water pump, you'll have to remove those as well. In most cases, you can leave the power steering lines or the air conditioning lines attached; the lines give you enough leeway to set the pump or the compressor aside.

On some front-wheel drive vehicles, to get to the water pump or to remove the belts, you may have to remove the motor mount and jack the engine up. Don’t forget to replace your accessory drive belts when you replace the water pump as well.

Pumps Located Under the Timing Belt Cover

If the water pump is located under the timing belt cover, the timing belt may turn the water pump. While removing the pump is not difficult, you must have experience removing and replacing timing belts and their various components. It takes just as much work to get down to the timing belt as it does the water pump, therefore you should plan on replacing the belt at the same time.

When installing the timing belt, make sure the engine is timed properly or it may not run. If it does run, it won't have any power. If the engine is an interference engine and the timing belt is not installed properly, valves will hit the pistons and will cause extensive engine damage.

Tips for Replacing the Water Pump

Always be sure to inspect the new part before installation. Spin the pump by hand to make sure it rotates freely. Check the mating surface and all other areas of the pump for defects. It is very important to always follow any special installation instructions and manufacturer’s recommendations as well.

Doing this job twice is not ideal; therefore ensure the water pump and all the other associated components are installed correctly the first time. These tips hold true for every water pump:

  • Clean the mating surfaces on the engine block and the new pump.
  • Make sure all wires and hoses are out of the way.
  • Apply a thin layer of RTV on the water pump's mating surface and the engine mounting surface. Press the gasket onto the mating surface of the pump. Carefully bolt the water pump in place. Using RTV ensures the gasket doesn't slide out of place while you are trying to tighten the bolts.
  • Be sure to torque the bolts properly. If they are too tight they could break. A broken bolt equals a leaking water pump. If the bolts are too loose, they could vibrate out or cause a poor seal, which would allow coolant mixture to leak.

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