Minor fender bender not likely to cause water pump issue

Dear Car Talk:

Can a minor front-end collision make my water pump make noise, but still work fine?

I have a 2018 Toyota Corolla iM. My water pump has been making noise, like it’s humming loudly and might blow up or something. I can see it wobbling. I don’t have any problems with overheating or coolant loss.

I was in a very minor front-end collision that broke my headlight lens, but the bulbs still work. The front bumper was fine, but the plastic cover is cracked on the passenger side.

Could this accident have broken the water pump?

— Aldair


The pump is pretty well protected. The engine in this car is mounted transversely, so the water pump isn’t right at the front of the engine bay. It’s off to the side.

And in order to damage the water pump, some other big, heavy parts would have had to be pushed into the pump. In a minor front-end collision, that’s just not going to happen.

I mean, if you had a major front-end or offset collision, and the whole right front end of your car was crushed, then, sure, the water pump could get damaged. But if you were in that type of crash, you wouldn’t be writing to me about your water pump. Your question would be “What does it mean when my insurance company says my car is ‘totaled?’” And “Do you have any suggestions on how to best get on and off the toilet with both legs in a cast?”

If you want to try telling your insurance company that the water pump was damaged in this fender bender, that’s between you and Jake from State Farm. But I’m taking Jake’s side in this one, Aldair.

It does sound like you need a water pump, though. Your car is around the right age. When water pumps wear out, they make noise, wobble or leak. And you’ve got two out of three.

A mechanic can check it for you. With the engine off, he can grab the pulley of the pump and try to shake it to see if there’s play in it. It shouldn’t move back and forth much at all.

If he’s not sure, he can take the belt off and try to spin the pump. He might notice that it feels gritty. Or it might sound like a bunch of marbles rolling around. If he notices any of that stuff, you need a water pump. And a headlight lens. And a bumper cover.