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Life Span Of A Water Pump

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  • Cool/Heat: Life Span Of A Water Pump

    The water pump on the 63GT went out yesterday, after about 4 years and 23,000 miles. It was one of the repro, HD versions. This car has factory AC, with two pulleys on the water pump, so I am sure the extra side load contributed to its early demise. Still, 23,000 seems a bit premature for failure.

    In 31 years and almost 700,000 Studebaker miles, this was the first time I have had to trailer a Stude home. This one was towed for 12 miles, coming back from a 200 mile trip to a Stude gathering. I have fixed a few on the roadside, and coulda fixed this one too, with spare water pump and tools in the trunk, but it woulda been a long day. As it turned out, within 10 minutes of pulling over, a guy and his wife stopped in their truck, and said, "what can we do to help?" They lived about 5 miles away, so went home and returned 20 minutes later with their car hauler. Could not have worked out better.

  • #2
    You didn't mention the actual failure mode.....bearing failure or coolant leakage (Sometimes a slow leak will damage a bearing and you won't know it until it's too late). The original Studebaker water pumps had what was known as a 2 piece seal The moving part was molded phenolic plastic & the stationary part was the actual pump body casting. The casting was machined & polished to run against the phenolic. Over time, the casting rusts (especially in cars which are not driven much) and the rust particles scratch the phenolic to create leak paths. A very slow leak will allow water to ride along the bearing shaft, get past the grease seal, and ruin the bearing.

    The modern reproductions of the Studebaker pump use a "cartridge" type seal. Both the moving and stationary elements are both contained within the seal and the unit is pressed into the body instead of the impeller. Aftermarket quality seals are used in these, which means they still use molded phenolic and iron (sintered iron) for the materials. Even though they are more reliable than the originals, they still can suffer the same fate, especially in cars that are not driven very much.
    Mike S
    (24yrs waterpump engineer)

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Mike Sal View Post
      You didn't mention the actual failure mode.....bearing failure or coolant leakage (Sometimes a slow leak will damage a bearing and you won't know it until it's too late). The original Studebaker water pumps had what was known as a 2 piece seal The moving part was molded phenolic plastic & the stationary part was the actual pump body casting. The casting was machined & polished to run against the phenolic. Over time, the casting rusts (especially in cars which are not driven much) and the rust particles scratch the phenolic to create leak paths. A very slow leak will allow water to ride along the bearing shaft, get past the grease seal, and ruin the bearing.
      The modern reproductions of the Studebaker pump use a "cartridge" type seal. Both the moving and stationary elements are both contained within the seal and the unit is pressed into the body instead of the impeller. Aftermarket quality seals are used in these, which means they still use molded phenolic and iron (sintered iron) for the materials. Even though they are more reliable than the originals, they still can suffer the same fate, especially in cars that are not driven very much.
      Mike S
      (24yrs waterpump engineer)

      Appears to be bearing failure, which resulted in a sudden, catastrophic loss of coolant. I had just checked the oil that morning, before leaving for the trip. I can kick myself for not shaking the fan blade, which is a quick check method I have used for years, and usually done routinely. This 289 gets around 3000 miles per quart, so do not normally open the hood very often anyway.

      Thanks for the info on water pumps old and new.

      Comment


      • #4
        I've had sudden waterpump failures on Studebakers that gave little or no warning in the Power Hawk and Avanti. While the design provides for unfettered ease of replacement they are not long lasting as some other water pumps.

        If I'm going on any trip beyond a half dozen miles, I carry a spare along with sufficient pre mixed coolant to replace what you likely will lose due to the failure and replacement.

        Also, I carry AAA Premier that covers me for up to two hundred miles on any car I drive or am a passenger in.

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        • #5
          My experience with failing water pumps on Studes has been ample warning for at least 100 miles; the blade gets loose, and the bearing gets noisy. I have replaced probably 15-20 water pumps on Studes, but always caught them before total failure, by heeding the above warnings. Odds are, if I'd checked the fan blade that morning, I'd have left that Stude home, and took another one. Preventive Maintenance (PM) has been the key in not ever having to tow a Stude before now, and a pre-op check on a Stude includes checking the fan blade, I consider this as my bust.

          Yep, yep on spare water pump and AAA; got them both, and recommend same to anyone else. But as luck would have it, I was only about 30-45 minutes late getting home. Average wait time around here for AAA is about 4 hours, I am told. We broke down in an area where no cell phone coverage, and woulda had to walk at least a mile to get coverage. If I'd had to sit long enough for it to cool down, I'd have changed it on the side of the road. However, on a GT Hawk, with AC, its a lot more of a PITA than on a Lark, with no fan shroud or AC, etc.. As is, I will be putting that spare pump on this evening, when I get home from work. A much easier task in the garage.

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          • #6
            My guess is that a Good NEW Water Pump should last about 10 Years if at least weekly driven, but of course spans of Garage time or less use will certainly shorten that, as was explained very well by our resident "Water Pump Engineer".

            Though I have had Original Studebaker replacements last longer than that.
            Using less than 50% Ethylene-Glycol will Greatly reduce their life.
            StudeRich
            Second Generation Stude Driver,
            Proud '54 Starliner Owner

            Comment


            • #7
              Joe I would say the biggest thing on water pump life is where it was made. My guess is if it's a repo. It came from china and 23,000 is about all they are worth. Replaced a front wheel bearing hub on a Chrysler front wheel drive car. Factory went 150,000 the replacement dropped after 20,000.

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              • #8
                Well another HD pump is now installed, and the car runs like a Champ again, er I mean Hawk. I believe the extra side load of the AC belt may be partly responsible for the pump's early demise. So that belt is now in the trunk, where it will stay till spring. It takes less than 5 minutes to remove/install it, so from now on I may just remove it during cool/cold weather, when the AC is not being used anyway. Also, perhaps the clutch fan adds a bit of load on the pump shaft. But I woulda thought, once it is spinning, it should be kinda like a gyroscope.

                I have made the maintenance log entry, so will see how long the next pump lasts.

                Glad to hear we have a resident water pump expert in our midst.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by JoeHall View Post
                  My experience with failing water pumps on Studes has been ample warning for at least 100 miles; the blade gets loose, and the bearing gets noisy. I have replaced probably 15-20 water pumps on Studes, but always caught them before total failure, by heeding the above warnings. Odds are, if I'd checked the fan blade that morning, I'd have left that Stude home, and took another one. Preventive Maintenance (PM) has been the key in not ever having to tow a Stude before now, and a pre-op check on a Stude includes checking the fan blade, I consider this as my bust.

                  Yep, yep on spare water pump and AAA; got them both, and recommend same to anyone else. But as luck would have it, I was only about 30-45 minutes late getting home. Average wait time around here for AAA is about 4 hours, I am told. We broke down in an area where no cell phone coverage, and woulda had to walk at least a mile to get coverage. If I'd had to sit long enough for it to cool down, I'd have changed it on the side of the road. However, on a GT Hawk, with AC, its a lot more of a PITA than on a Lark, with no fan shroud or AC, etc.. As is, I will be putting that spare pump on this evening, when I get home from work. A much easier task in the garage.

                  Just the other day, I returned from a grocery run to my ancient Nipponese daily driver and went to start it and heard the the classic "ummmf" and knew that the battery had just failed. Luckily it only took AAA about twenty minutes to respond as it was barely the pre rush hour horror. Guy came out, tested the circuit and said that I had a total of fifteen amps available out of the battery which was almost exactly four years old. (Was a wallyworld two year replacement battery.) He installed a brand new Interstate three year replacement with and additional three years pro-rated. He also stated that should it fail and AAA does the replacement, the whole warranty process begins anew. All for $117 installed!

                  I pay about $95 per year for premier coverage and I think that it's worth every penny... Considering that all of the cars I may drive are old just like me!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I believe the extra side load of the AC belt may be partly responsible for the pump's early demise.
                    That is an excellent point. I think a lot of people really over-tighten their belts. That will kill pump bearings and does not do your generator/alternator any good as well.
                    _______________
                    http://stude.vonadatech.com
                    https://jeepster.vonadatech.com

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nvonada View Post
                      I believe the extra side load of the AC belt may be partly responsible for the pump's early demise.
                      That is an excellent point. I think a lot of people really over-tighten their belts. That will kill pump bearings and does not do your generator/alternator any good as well.
                      Probably true. It is easy to do with older cars that don't have spring-loaded tensioners like modern engines.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Most Studebaker water pumps still use a 5/8" shaft "ball ball" bearing which is nearing it's load capacity limit when coupled with AC, cast iron pulley, & fan clutch (not to say it's not enough, but there's not much margin left). Some "heavy duty" stude pumps are just a thicker casting, but still use the 5/8" shaft bearing. A truly "heavy duty" pump would have a 3/4" shaft and a "ball roller" set of rolling elements (normal bearings have 2 rows of balls inside the bearings....heavy duty applications have one row of balls (in the back) and one row of rollers (in front)). By some miracle if the Stude pump you purchase has an American made bearing in it, there will be some stamped letters or numbers on one end which defines which type it is.
                        Mike S

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                        • #13
                          just a question on AC equipped older vehicles (ones that the AC do not automatically activate when using the defroster).
                          i was always told to run the AC about once a month in the winter to keep the compressor lubed and the freon/oil well mixed. true?

                          sorry for thread drift...
                          Kerry. SDC Member #A012596W. ENCSDC member.

                          '51 Champion Business Coupe - (Tom's Car). Purchased 11/2012.

                          '40 Champion. sold 10/11. '63 Avanti R-1384. sold 12/10.

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                          • #14
                            what would it hurt ??? look at all the "dry-time" storage questions on this forum most weeks ....(AC question)

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                            • #15
                              Just a little pondering from a forum member with a Bachelor of Arts degree, who spent many years earning a living by "seat of the pants" engineering. Anything belt driven, is usually engineered for a specific purpose, and with attention to "bearing load" given to its main purpose. For example, a milling motor has bearings configured for "lateral" load, since the major forces in milling operations are generally forces from side passes. On a drill press, the bearings are configured for "Thrust" to accept the straight forces.

                              Building a bearing & shaft to handle both directional forces requires more "beef," and strength for all components. (This means more expense/money) I'm not so sure that Studebaker (or any other brand) upgraded their water pump design to accommodate additional lateral loads for accessories. I'll have to go out and look, but when I installed an air conditioning unit in my (retired) Lark, years ago, I'm pretty sure I bypassed the water pump pulley, and it is not involved in having to carry additional lateral stresses.

                              Another aspect of any belt driven device, is "Power Transfer Efficiency." All belt drive systems slip as they rotate. The trick is to keep just enough tension to operate the driven device, and not so much to damage the bearing and seals. When multiple belts/pulleys are required, there are some configuration tricks that will assist in extending the life/durability of bearings and seals. When possible, the configuration of forces can be made to off-set/neutralize the forces by the placement of the pulleys. A good example is how generators/alternators are usually on one side and power steering unit on the other. When adding a idler pulley, for tension, its placement is also critical.

                              As to the original question..."LIFE SPAN"...I have no real answer, 'cept I would expect years, not months.
                              John Clary
                              Greer, SC

                              SDC member since 1975

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