Pool Pump Troubleshooting
If you are having problems with your swimming pool pump the information on this page covers some of the more common problems that you can encounter with a failing pump and how you can troubleshoot these problems for yourself. Most of the information on this page refers to an existing pool pump that has developed a problem. If you are having trouble with a new pump installation you may like to look at www.PoolPumpInstallation.com which covers problems specific to new pump installations.
Pool Pump Does Not Move Water - Where To Start?
Problems with swimming pool pumps typically start with underperforming pumps which can be difficult to notice until the problem has become quite apparent. One of the biggest indicators of thsi becomming a problem would be the filter pressure guage. If the pump is no longer providing the same flow as it once did this will be reflected by a change in the system operational pressure.
There are a number of potential causes for a pump to run but not move water. A restriction in the lines like a plugged filter or an blockage such as leaves or an apple in the suction lines will cause the pump to stop moving water. Also, be sure to check the valve orientation for your system to make sure you did not accidentally close a valve and are dead-heading the pump.
Pump Problem Or Filter Problem?
Before you even dive into troubleshooting the pump you must first determine if the problem that you are experiencing is coming from the pump at all. Many flow, noise, priming and leaking problems can be a result of the filter and not the pump. The most common of these is that a filter pressure will increase as debris accumilates in the filter. If you do not backwash the filter on a regular basis then it is a matter of time until something fails. Commonly this could result in electronic flow meters going into error if you have automation, or a tripped breaker / smoking pump condition.
Backwashing a sand filter is common enough that most people know that a two minute backwash every week or two for most pools will see you relatively trouble free. Cartridge filiters for swimming pools are less common and can need two different types of cleaning to keep your filtration system running smoothly. A buildup of suncreen, body oils, lotions and detergents in the water can saturate paper filters causing a restriction to flow. Also calcium can cause severe flow restrictions through cartridge filters.
Pool Pump Will Not Prime
A pool pump that just will not prime can be very frustrating. There are a large number of possible causes for this situation. The pump might prime and then seem to lose prime. It can run and only seem to fill the wet end half way of so, or sometimes it will draw no water at all. Be sure that the pump has access to water.
If the water line is too low it is possible that the pump is able to draw air from the skimmer. This would cause a prime / lose prime situation. The seals on the wet end of the pump are critical to the pump being able to prime. This includes the winterization plugs as well as the O-ring around the lid. Use O-ring lubricant to grease the O-ring and ensure it seats properly as you tighten the lid in place.
Cracked Pool Pump Casing
A crack in the pump casing will prevent the pump priming as will leaking
threads on the suction port connection. A cracked or broken skimmer line will also cause the pump to not prime, half prime or prime and lose prime in some situations. a cfrack in the casing will be most common after a winter season where improperly winterized pumps may freeze and break. A crack in the casing will not be easy to see, and can be almost invisible sometimes, however water will be the biggest indicater of a problem other than a visual inspection.
When you turn your pump off the back pressure created will often cause cracks in the casing to leak for a moment. If you follow the wetness you may discover a hairline crack in the wet end casing of your pump. While many pool owners will want to try to use epoxy to repair a crack like this, most times this will mot work and you will need to replace the wet end of the pump. If your motor is only 1 or 2 seasons old then it may be worth while to replace just the wet end however in many cases it is simply more cost effective to replace the pump completely.
Some older pools with poly pipe and clamp connections underground will have very small leaks. These small leaks will be negligible in the water loss of the pool losing only a drop or two an hour typically, however these leaks can be extremely difficult on a pool pump that struggles to get or sustain prime.
Difficult To Prime Pumps
The ultimate in solving pool pump priming issues is to have a service pump. As a pool technician I carry a well serviced pool pump that I can temporarily set up at the pool edge and force water through the suction line to the primary pool pump. This additional help will help to clear any minor blockages in the line as well as assist greatly with small leaks or uphill climbs in the plumbing run. Long sloping uphill pulls to the pool pump are notoriously difficult for priming.
Without a service pump the next best bet is to use a garden hose to help force the water up to the pool pump. This can be done in a number of different ways. A hose bib attached directly before the suction port of the pool pump is very handy to have. Simply connect a water supply and the additional volume of water can help the pool pump to come to life. Once primed the pump will often run problem free.
Pool Pump Priming Plugs
Another option is to purchase a small and inexpensive fitting that is essentially a winterization expandable plug that fits into the skimmer and that has a fitting to allow you to connect a garden hose directly to it. Force the water up to the pool pump and once it is running simply pull the plug out and the pump will stay primed.
A pool pump that will not prime and does not have any apparent reason for not being able to pull water may be partially blocked around the impeller. The impeller is an internal pump part that is essentially a fan that spins and draws water into it. This is the heart of the pump operation. Inside the propeller are grooves and pathways for water to pass through as it spins.
Plugged Pool Pump Impeller
The skimmer basket is designed to strain out the vast majority of organic debris. Small or slender items like pine needles, especially longer ones, can pass through a strainer basket and eventually get clogged in the impeller.
Using a filter sock, available at any pool store, inside the strainer basket will help to reduce this happening but if you suspect that your pump impeller is clogged you can try to open the pump and repair this yourself. Any mechanically inclined person should be able to open the pump and perform this repair. All makes and models of pool pumps will have different steps to open it however most will follow the concept of two halves.
Pool Pump Wet End
The front half of the pump, the wet end, is where the strainer basket, winterization plugs and flute are located. The back end of the pump is the motor end. The impeller is most typically located between these two halves. Be very careful when opening a pump and this should only be done by confident and competent people.
Electricity, water, moving parts and unskilled hands are a recipe for disaster. That being said of you have strong fundamental skills a pool pump service to the impeller is fairly intuitive. Be sure to put the pump back together the way it came apart.
Sqealing Pool Pump Bearings
Squealing bearings are a very common pool pump problem. This will be typical in older pool pumps, pumps that winter outdoors, pumps that overheat from being deprived of water, having excess head pressure etc. The number one cause for rusted bearings that are making noise is a result of the main seal leaking on the pump.
This main bearing can be replaced and the bearing replacement part is not very expensive. If you have to skill to open the pump and do this yourself then you can save yourself quite a bit of money.
I do not recommend bringing your pump to a motor repair shop as the costs of this repair are going to be near the cost of a new replacement pump. Rebuilt pumps have a bad tendency to last only one to three years after being rebuilt.
Overheating Pool Pumps
Yes it is possible for a pool pump to overheat just like any other electric motor. If an electric motor is caused to work too hard you can begin a process where the grease in the windings of the motor melt away causing the windings to short together. This causes a greater current draw and ultimately more heat and damage generated.
Pool pumps require a lot of air circulation to breathe and stay cool. In the middle of the summer heat and lack of air flow can certainly kill your pool pump. If the pump begins to trip electrical breakers, feels & smells hot, or simply will not turn on they you would need to replace the motor end of the pump if not the entire pump.
A few decades ago it was common place to bring a motor to an electric motor shop to rewind the motor. The cost of doing this is almost the same as buying a new motor or pump and the quality of a rewound motor is not as good as a new motor.
Proceed to the next section on Pool Pump Reviews