What is the life expectancy



On the following parts, what can someone expect them to last?

How long should a radiator last?

How long should a water pump last?

How long should a alternator last?

I have a 1998 ford and just did replace the radiator, the car has 132,000 miles on it and didn’t know if I should start watching these other key parts for failure.


Wild guesses only, no data that I’m aware of to back them up:

A copper radiator without a tranny cooler portion, flushed and freshened every 4 to 5 years with distilled water used in the mix, perhaps 200,000 miles.

An aluminum and plastic radiator, junk. Could fail any time after 50,000 miles.

An original water pump or an alternator, the average is perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 miles.

That’s my WAG. Along with my radiator bias.


Once you pass 100k you should be watching most everything. It varies widely, so just keep an eye out and have your car checked over peroidically.


On a 12 year old car with 132K miles all the items you listed are good candidates to fail. Unfortunately the replacements never seem to last as long as the OEM parts. Once replaced any of these items did good if it lasts 5 years and longer.


I have to agree with texases:

Everything is getting older and may fail. They may have 10 miles left in them or they may have 300,000 more miles left in them. There is no way to know until you get there. Often the water pump may be replaced when doing other work making the installation much cheaper.


My old '87 Accord went 195k or so on original radiator & alternator. The W/P was changed with the timing belt (typical). It also had original compressor, P/S pump, etc etc. All of the above were still going strong until my friend wrecked it (after I sold it to him).

If you just replaced the radiator, then congrats, one less thing to worry about.


On my 1999 Sable, I just replaced the alternator (103K miles); still original WP & rad. Just another piece of data.


At your car’s age you should look around under the hood every time you check the oil for any signs of fluid leaking, fluid loss, abnormal looking things (like a clazed belt), corrosion on the radiator, etc. etc. You’d be amazed at the things you can detect visually before they become catastrophic just by actively looking around.

I recall having noticed a green crusty area and a drop of coolant on the radiator of my old truck once. I picked up a new radiator, threw it in there, and proceded to push my finger right through the crusty spot on the old one. That radiator was due to fail in the very immediate future.

Watching my brake fluid level also lets me plan upcoming brake work. When it starts getting near the low mark I start preparing for a brake job.

I’ve always done these visuals. I recall many years ago noticicing on my '72 Vega drops of coolant coming from the heater core. It traced to the brazed joint on the heater core input pipe. I changed the core before a disaster happened. Maybe that old Vega was what taught me to keep an eye on things, I don’t know. For those of us that owned a Vega, the feeling never leaves.


Wear on these types of items can happen with mileage or age. I replaced the radiator in my 1998 Civic last year. It had about 180,000 miles on it at the time. I replaced my water pump with the last timing belt job, so it didn’t get a chance to fail. I am still driving around with my original alternator, so I can’t help you with that one either.

Generally, I think you should be able to expect an average 10 year or 200,000 miles (whichever comes first) from car parts made since 1998.


Wait till they fail, I would not fret much.


As much as it seems Toyota/Honda/Subaru owners pick on Fords/Chevys, I agree that they are universally potential problems with all cars. My Japanese brand cars have been no better than my American brand in these respects and all have had excellent maintenance. Maybe most have the same parts supplier.


From personal experienc, I only ever replaced one water pump, at 156,000 miles (Chevy Impala V8). Never replaced a brass radiator, scrapped a car at 154,000 miles with radiator in perfect condition. Replaced several plastic and aluminum radiators, at 62,000 miles and 90,000 miles. Today’s radiators are a real crapshoot and, as stated, may fail any time after 50,000 miles.

Alternators in normal use are extremely durable, especially the Japanese Denso ones. Have replaced most at around 100,000 miles, but on our Nissan at 125,000 we still have the original one. Shortest life on an alternator was on my 1965 Dodge Dart; it went at 52,000 miles. But the quality has incresed immensely since that time, as has the price.


I owned a '96 Taurus, 3.0L, put on 170,000 miles and never replaced radiator or water pump. Put on a used alt. at about 150k. Biggest expense on it was a broken coil spring at around 110k.