How to Install Water Pumps on Vintage Corvettes

Get Pumped

Some automotive parts require replacement more often than others, not necessarily because of bad design but because they live a hard life. In many decades of wrenching, I’ve never had to replace a faulty oil pump and have rarely seen a problem with a power steering pump. But many, if not most, of us have needed to replace a water pump. The inner water pump seal is subjected to pressures up to 18 psi and boiling hot water and antifreeze that age and stiffen its rubber. Once even a small amount of coolant gets past this seal and into the bearings, the end is near. The telltale sign of water pump failure is drops of coolant on the ground or slung out by the harmonic balancer.

Fortunately, water pumps are relatively inexpensive and their replacement is usually a fairly easy afternoon affair on C2s and C3s. C1s require a little more work because the front motor mount bracket goes between the pump and the engine block. While there is not much overlapping labor with nearby parts, consider replacing old heater hoses, radiator hoses, fan belts and, of course, the coolant. The primary ingredient in antifreeze does not wear out but the anticorrosion additives do get consumed over the years.

Be aware when purchasing a replacement water pump that GM only used “short” water pumps on Corvettes while using “long” water pumps on most other Chevrolet models of the time. The counterperson at a local auto parts supplier might not realize that a Corvette 350 water pump is different than a 350 water pump of other applications. That won’t be a problem when purchasing parts from an experience supplier like Zip Products that specializes in Corvettes.

Also note that in 1971, Corvette water pumps went to a larger 3/4-inch diameter shaft. The 1970-and-earlier models had fan clutches and water pump pulleys with smaller holes to go over a 1/2-inch diameter shaft. Zip Products is an excellent source for all of the above parts, plus the right bolts, studs, hoses and belts that you see in this article. Now let’s get pumped. Vette



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