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Different Pumps in a Car: Names and Functions

CarPart  ·  May 18, 2023

Different Pumps in a Car: Names and Functions

A pump is like the heart of an automotive system, responsible for keeping fluid and gases moving to where they're needed. But did you know that a car has several different pumps, each pushing a different liquid or gas?

A car has eight kinds of pumps—the (1) fuel pump, (2) fuel injection pump, (3) water pump, (4) windshield pump, (5) steering pump, (6) transmission pump, (7) vacuum pump, and (8) headlight washing pump. These pumps are either electrically or mechanically powered to move water, coolant, fuel, or air.

Consider this guide your one-stop reference for all automotive pumps inside your car. We'll dive deep into each of the eight kinds of pumps and their functions, including the core purpose of each pump.

Let’s get started.

What Is the Purpose of a Pump?

A pump is a device that moves liquids or gases from one point to another. That is accomplished by generating enough pressure to move the liquid or gas from where it’s stored to where it’s needed. 

You’ll find that many automotive pumps are electrically powered, though a few ones are still mechanically powered, each serving a distinct purpose.

Regardless of how they’re powered, each pump supplies what’s necessary for various processes, such as washing, cooling, or supporting the engine’s combustion process.

What Are the Different Pumps in a Car?

Some pumps work whenever the engine is running, while others only work when you turn them on with a button or a lever.

Here are the 8 pumps in your car and their functions:

1. Fuel Pump

The fuel pump is arguably the most important pump in a car. It is located inside a vehicle’s fuel tank with a clear purpose. It takes fuel from the tank and sends it to the engine by maintaining the correct pressure in the car’s fuel lines.

2. Fuel Injection Pump

Next on the list is the fuel injection pump, which is unique to diesel engines. Its purpose is to pump fuel directly into the diesel engine’s chambers to support combustion.

The fuel injection pump does three things:

The diesel engine can only run smoothly and efficiently when the fuel injection pump is in excellent working order. You may also want to read about keeping diesel fuel injectors clean here

3. Water Pump

Pumps also have a crucial role to play when it comes to keeping your engine cool and preventing overheating. The pump responsible for that is known as the water pump, which is a part of the engine’s cooling system.

As you might already know, your cooling system circulates coolant throughout the engine and the radiator to remove heat. What you might not have known, however, is that the coolant moves with the help of the water pump.

The water pump generates enough pressure to keep the coolant flowing as needed to keep the engine within safe operating temperatures. 

In a way, you can think of that pump as the heart of the cooling system. Without it, coolant wouldn’t flow, and the engine would quickly overheat.

4. Windscreen Pump (aka Windshield Pump)

Automotive pumps also have a role in keeping parts of the vehicle clean. For example, when you pull the lever to spray your windscreen with washer fluid, you’re actually activating the windshield pump somewhere under the hood.

That pump creates pressure to draw that fluid from its reservoir and spray it from the nozzles directly in front of you.

Of course, this is an example of a pump that only works on demand. That’s quite different from the other pumps earlier that run continuously whenever your engine is on.

5. Power Steering Pump

Some pumps are there in our cars to make the driving experience effortless. For instance, the power steering pump creates pressure and moves hydraulic fluid to make steering lighter.

In other words, the pump amplifies the force we apply to the steering wheel to turn our vehicle’s wheels.

As a result, drivers experience significantly less fatigue and can drive safer and longer. For this reason, it’s important to know what causes power steering pump failure and how to prevent it.

6. Transmission Oil Pump

Your vehicle’s transmission system also relies heavily on a pump known as the transmission oil pump. As you might know, the transmission has plenty of moving gears and other components. These parts require constant lubrication to prevent any damage.

The transmission oil pump plays a crucial role in protecting the transmission. Its job is to pump oil throughout the transmission and maintain the correct pressure levels, even when the engine’s RPM rises or drops.

In doing so, the transmission oil pump keeps all components well-lubricated, preventing friction and overheating from occurring.

7. Vacuum Pump

Cars these days also use vacuum systems to operate different components. 

For example, cars need a vacuum to run several different actuators, such as the one in the brake system. The vacuum makes it easier for the driver to activate the brakes.

Some European car models get the vacuum they need from the intake manifold, but others rely on a separate vacuum pump that’s either mechanically or electrically powered. 

8. Headlight Washer Pump

Last but not least, some cars also have a headlight washer pump. Its function is similar to that of the windshield or windscreen pump, which is to spray water onto the headlights. Doing so helps clean the headlight to shine brighter on the road ahead of the vehicle.

Of course, this pump isn’t a standard feature on all cars. That means you’ll only have it in your vehicle if it has a headlight washing feature.

As you can see, automotive pumps come in a long list of different types. Sadly, they can also fail from time to time, whether they're mechanically or electrically powered. If that happens, you can save money by purchasing a new or used replacement part from CarpartAU's Marketplace.

Shop around to find the latest deals on high-quality used auto parts today!


By Ray Hasbollah

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