I've decided to let Eskridge Honda take care of this one. This car has 170k miles, so I'm going to have them replace the water pump, idler pulley, and serpentine belt all in one shot. I'll see if I can have them determine which is the noise producing culprit. I just don't have the time to "experiment" with this one, especially since it's my only functional form of transportation for now.
Dropped it off this morning at Eskridge and picked it up this afternoon. New water pump, idler/tension pulley, serpentine belt... purring once again in a stealth-like manner. Good to go for another 170,000 miles.... or, something.
I have no interest in keeping the old parts so I did not ask. If any of you want the old water pump for the price of shipping, I will call and see if I can acquire it for you.
Old school method: Use a small diameter vacuum hose, stick one end of the hose in your ear and hold the other end on the suspected noise area. I also use a very small metal funnel on the engine end of the hose.
use a cut off piece of broom or mop handle, a 1x1 or any long enough piece of any hard material ... place your ear on one end and probe with the other....noises come in loud and clear.
I used a wooden dowel to use as a "stethoscope" and I could hear noise from the water pump, but I don't think it was the noise source. I had both the idler/tensioner pulley and the water pump replaced. I had to replace a bad water pump on a different vehicle with about the same mileage as this (171,000) and I figured I might as well have it done, even if it wasn't the noise source or a lack of water leakage evidence. Since you have to remove the serpentine belt while replacing the other parts and I didn't know the age of the belt on there, I had it replaced as well... call it a triple-shot of preventive maintenance motivated by a noisy bearing. Since I lack expertise in troubleshooting/repair of cooling systems like this, I had Eskridge Honda order the parts and perform the maintenance. $531 was the total.
All abnormal noise is gone now and my confidence in the car's reliability is restored. I just drove it from OKC to Little Rock, AR and back and had zero problems. I was pressed for time on the way there, so I discovered that doing 80mph is worth 50mpg. While respectable, I took my time on the way back and averaged 77mpg.
Back to my audio system project....
'03 Blue 5 spd with 900 watts of hifi audio, Matiz springs & Monroe dampers
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