I'm freaking out right now. The heat went out in our van over the weekend and we just thought it was the temperature gauge. Had to wait until husband's day off, today, to take it in and found out it was the water pump. We need a new one and they need to flush the cooling system. However, I'm terrified about the engine. We never smelled anything and as far as I know, no lights came on the dash. Well at least my husband didn't mention it but we've only had it three weeks (2005 Dodge Caravan) and not really accustomed to the dash yet. But I think he would have noticed a light. We are both clueless about under the hood. I haven't driven it until this morning. It was 50 degrees the first two days and has been 30 degrees since. It is going to cost almost $500 to get all the work done and then they can run everything through and check the engine. I'm wondering if it was possible that some coolant was still going through the engine even though it wasn't heating up on the inside of the van? And would it have even been running without coolant? What are my chances the engine is wrecked? Thank you for any help.

  • Welcome to Motor Vehicle Maintenance & Repair! Jan 25, 2018 at 19:02
  • Did the temperature gauge indicate anything unusual?
    – rpmerf
    Jan 25, 2018 at 20:35
  • it is certain you had some coolant. The engine would severely overheat and seize up within minutes if you lost all the coolant.
    – agentp
    Jan 25, 2018 at 21:37
  • ok good. I've talked to my husband and he said the temp gauge never went up and no dash lights came on. I was just worried about spending $500 to fix this and then the engine be gone. So you think it sounds like we might be ok?
    – A Thomas
    Jan 25, 2018 at 22:59
  • So you think its the temp gauge or actually now you believe the gauge was working all along and if so and the gauge was never above say 70% and in the red and when you drive it now its where it supposed to be according to the manual you almost certainly in the clear. You can ask for one more test (compression) but it may even be $150 labor to do that. Jan 26, 2018 at 12:38

2 Answers 2


Please realize a water pump doesn't usually go out spectacularly (all at once). Usually, the pump will have issues which exhibit themselves over time (usually leaks). While your vehicle's water pump may need replacement, more than likely it didn't completely quit working. If there was engine damage, you most likely would have seen other things going on, such as steam, poor running, not starting, or volumes of white smoke from the tail pipe (not regular exhaust steam seen in cold weather). If your van didn't exhibit any of these or the dreaded check engine light (CEL), it's more than likely going to be okay. This isn't a "given", but you'll probably find after getting the pump replaced the engine is still in as good a shape as you've seen before things started happening. When an engine overheats, the dash light for the engine will come on in most cases. If there's a gauge showing the engine temperature, that too would have pegged. From what you're describing, it sounds like you all caught it before any real damage was done and therefore are going to be just fine. No promises, but that's what it sounds like.

  • OK, that is what I thought. Thanks for easing my mind!
    – A Thomas
    Jan 26, 2018 at 0:01

If your engine temperature never went in the red and it didn’t seize up and you never saw puddles of antifreeze anywhere it should be fine. A vehicle can be driven without coolant as long as the engine temperature is watched closely and is not recommended except in emergencies.

  • Kind of hard to monitor the engine temp when there's no water to measure the temperature of. You'd only be able to monitor oil temp, and you could be doing damage by the time that started to rise to a concerning level.
    – JPhi1618
    Jan 26, 2018 at 15:39
  • If you got steam and coolant in the pipe what's the thermocouple reading based on? Id dare say if you got even a quart of coolant in there steaming up and wetting the thermocoule you're getting some idea. Jan 26, 2018 at 18:43

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