Should this water pump be replaced?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | May 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am 87 years old. I need to use my car every day to visit my husband at the nursing home. I know nothing about cars. My dealer takes pretty good care of me, because he knows my situation. He said I need to have my water pump replaced. He said this the last time I was in, and he said "sometime in the next six months." How can I know if I really need a new water pump? I have a 1996 Toyota Camry with less than 30,000 miles. It is silver, since I know you guys ask the color of people's cars to stall for time. What symptoms should I have if I truly need a water pump, or is it one of those maintenance things I should do before I get symptoms? -- Carmella

RAY: Well, you probably wouldn't notice the symptoms of a bad water pump, Carmella. There might be a humming noise or a slight leak, but it's not easy for the average person to detect.

TOM: The question is whether your mechanic has noticed that something's wrong, or whether he's just basing his recommendation on the age of your car -- which is 6 years.

RAY: So if I were you, I would just ask him about it again. You seem to have a decent relationship with the guy. Pretend you're old and you don't remember. If you need any tips on acting the part, ask my brother.

TOM: Ask your mechanic to tell you again why he thinks you need a new water pump. If he says he noticed that it was noisy, or was leaking coolant from the weep hole, then, since you trust him, I'd take his word for it and let him change it.

RAY: But if he says "It's just time," or something that implies that he's doing it based on a calendar, I'd tell him you'd rather wait. Even though your car is 6 years old, it only has 30,000 miles on it. And personally, I've never seen a Toyota water pump go bad at 30,000 miles. We routinely change them at 120,000 miles.

TOM: So, based on our experience, your water pump might not need to be replaced until 2020, Carmella. Bring it to us then. We'll do it for free, and we'll buy you a coffee!

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