How Long Can You Drive a Car with a Bad Water Pump?

It is very risky to drive your car with a bad water pump. However, it is technically possible if you really need to travel a few miles. You can drive anywhere from 5 to 20 miles with a bad water pump depending on the damage. First, however, you need to keep an eye on the temperature gauge.

Remember that driving with a faulty water pump can cause significant damage to your car’s engine. While replacing a water pump can cost $550 in most cases, changing your engine will require at least $3000.

As a result, is it worth it to drive a few miles with a defective water pump and damage your vehicle’s engine? You need to weigh your options before making the decision!

Consider These Factors

If your vehicle’s water pump has stopped working, a few aspects will determine how long the car will run without numerous issues. As we have said before, it is better not to drive at all when the water pump is faulty.

You will probably be spending thousands replacing the engine if you drive for too long instead of getting it towed. Still, here are the crucial factors:

Outside Temperature

If it is cool outside, your vehicle will travel more distance compared to hot weather. This is because cold temperatures will better regulate the engine’s heat and provide more travel time.

You have to pay attention to the temperature gauge and not let it cross to the red side, as it will overheat and damage the engine!

Moreover, you also shouldn’t drive during below-freezing temperatures without a water pump as it may cause more damage.

Car Type

Newer cars’ engines are more dependent on cooling than older ones. As a result, without a working water pump, they’ll only be able to drive a few miles before failing.

Older cars made before the 2000s can go a bit longer.

Topography of the Road

Your engine has to do more work if you are driving uphill. Therefore, in a flat area, you will be able to drive longer without causing too many issues to your engine that does not have a water pump.

It’s better to Call for a Tow

Most of us do not want to spend money towing our cars. No matter the issue, we want to be able to drive to the shop ourselves. However, in this particular case, you are like to spend more money if you don’t get your vehicle towed.

Driving with a defective water pump leads to the engine overheating. Therefore, the engine can face severe damage and even stop working. Doing repairs on the engine or replacing it altogether is a lot more expensive than the towing fees. Therefore, don’t take the risk at all!

Signs of a Faulty Water Pump

Since a water pump plays a vital role in the vehicle’s well-being, there are easily noticeable signs when it fails. Some of the most common signs are here:

Check Engine Light

The check engine light is an obvious sign of something going wrong, and it could be your pump. If a pump stops working or does not work as it’s supposed to, the engine will start to overheat. This will prompt the vehicle to turn on the check engine light on the dashboard.

Overheating of the Engine

Both radiator and pump issues can lead to overheating of the engine. If your engine overheats and the temperature gauge passes over to the red zone, you should not drive!


If your radiator or something under the hood starts smoking, the issue has developed itself to be much more severe. In this case, pull over immediately and get a tow truck.

Coolant Leaks

If you see a colored liquid mess under your car, then it is a primary sign of the water pump not working correctly.

Unusual Noises

You may hear grinding, whining or squeaking noises from your car under the hood. These noises let you know that the water pump’s components are not working properly due to misalignment or cracks.

Final Note

A water pump can get damaged due to bad coolant, worn-out belts, blown gaskets, wears, etc. Even though driving without the function of a water pump is possible, it is dangerous for your engine. Therefore, refrain from driving whenever you find your engine to get overheated.

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