An automotive water pump failure would very quickly lead to extreme engine temperature that could result in extensive engine damage, such as a cracked cylinder head. Automotive water pumps continually circulate water or coolant around the engine block, the cylinder head and the radiator to maintain optimal operating temperatures.
To hold an engine's optimal temperature, water pumps force coolant into passages inside the engine using an impeller powered by a belt linked to the engine's crankshaft. The coolant then absorbs the heat generated by the engine and transfers it to the radiator through centrifugal force for dispersion.
In a liquid-cooled internal combustion engine, water from the engine is distributed over the radiator's fins, so air can quickly cool the fluid. It is then recirculated back into the engine by the water pump. Automotive water pumps circulate coolant inside an engine as soon as the car starts. It continues pumping coolant as long the vehicle is in operation.
The site Auto Hub 360 states that symptoms of a failing water pump include overheating, coolant leakage around the pump and a growling-like noise caused by a bad pump bearing. It recommends replacing the pump immediately if it shows these symptoms to prevent serious engine damage.