My daughter’s soon to be fiance’ (yea I don’t know what that means but thats what she says), Heath, and she were returning from college in his 96 Neon when it overheated. After realizing there was no coolant in the radiator they filled it and it continued to leak (not at a hoses). It continued to do so and they had to fill it about every 30 minutes on the long trip home. I think it is the water pump. How do you replace it and is it difficult. I am mechanical he is not and I have good tools. Can we do it in the drive way at the house?
Why do you think it is the water pump? If you are not sure, I suggest worrying about finding what the problem really is before investing your time or money.
When it comes to solving car problems, THINKING is not good enough. You have top diagnose what the actual problem is and then solve it in the most cost-effective manner!
As others say, find where your leak is actually coming from; it may not be your water pump. Acooling system pressure test wil reveal where the leak is coming from. Find a good shop and they will soon find the cause.
If it is really losing a substantial amount of coolant in 30 minutes, just let it idle in the driveway for a while. You should see either coolant dripping or just possibly clouds of white smoke. If you find a drip just follow it back to its source. Could be a hose, or the radiator, or – more serious – the water pump, headgasket or the heater core. If its the headgasket, you’ll see “smoke” (steam actually). If it is the heater core, the leak is inside the cabin and the carpet is probably soaked.
As for the water pump if it does need to be replaced. I believe it is on the front of the engine driven by the timing belt on a 1996 Neon. My limited experience with the stuff on the front of that engine (on our now defunct 1995) is that it is very difficult to work on due to low clearances, a multitude of inaccessible bolts with different head sizes and what I can only describe as perverse engineering. But you certainly could replace the water pump if you wanted to badly enough. I was moved to write a story after spending about five times as long as I should have replacing the alternator in the 1995. http://www.donaldkenney.110mb.com/FICTION/ODE2NEON.HTM The alternator is right next to the timing belt cover.