Here’s How To Troubleshoot Your Pool Pump (Quick & Easy)
Your pool pump is sort of the center of your pool’s universe.
It's what keeps the water flowing and moving so that it gets filtered properly and stays clean and safe.
In other words, if the pump ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
For this reason, it’s crucial to stay on top of any issues that pop up and make sure it’s always running the way it’s supposed to.
And if you notice weird sounds or leaky parts, you need to get on that ASAP!
Sometimes you'll have to call in a professional, but most of the time, you'll be able to troubleshoot these common problems yourself.
6 common pool pump problems
1. The pump isn't turning on
When a pump doesn’t turn on or starts shutting off quickly after it’s started, it's usually an electrical problem, which could mean loose connections, a bad capacitor or overloaded voltage.
But it could also be a jammed motor.
All of these things are usually fairly simple fixes.
You'll need to determine exactly what the problem is by examining a few things closely.
First, check the breaker box for blown fuses.
If that's not the issue, check your connections to make sure nothing is loose. Also look for frayed or broken power cords.
If the motor is overheating and shutting down after it’s started, it could be an overloaded circuit. Make sure you're wired for the proper voltage and that your wire sizes are right.
If the pump isn't cranking, but seems to turn on okay initially, check your capacitors. You'll either have one or two, and sometimes something called a governor on the shaft end. Make sure the capacitors are not bad and that the governor is closed.
If your problem doesn’t seem to be electrical, yet none of the parts are moving, you probably need to check the motor to see if it is jammed with debris.
You'll usually be able to tell because the motor shaft won’t rotate. If it is not jammed, you might need new bearings and you'll have to replace them or hire a professional.
If it’s completely shot, you’ll probably need a new motor.
2. The pump runs, but isn't pumping
In this situation, something has interrupted the suction or the water flow that causes the system to work properly.
In other words, it has lost its prime.
This could mean an obstruction, dirty pool filter or too much air getting into the plumbing system.
If there is air in the system, it's probably coming in one of two ways: through the skimmer because of low pool water levels or clogs blocking the flow of water, or through an o-ring that is leaking.
If your swimming pool level is low, the problem can usually be fixed by filling it up. You'll also need to check your skimmer basket.
If it has debris in it, clean it out well and hose it off. You may also need to fill your strainer basket with water and reseal it.
If these things don’t seem to fix the problem, check the o-rings in the pump housing.
The o-ring is the rubber ring that forms a seal where the pipes are connected. If it looks damaged, it may need to be replaced.
Once you have checked these, you should also check the pump impeller for any clogging.
Once all of these things have been taken care of, you'll probably then need to prime the pump to get it going again.
3. The pump is leaking
Most of the time, the issue with a leaky pump (usually a pressure-side leak) is a bad o-ring in the impeller housing, bad shaft seal, or a bad thread sealant.
To fix this problem, you'll just need to inspect both of these and see if they look damaged in any way.
These parts are super cheap and easy to replace yourself.
>>Read: How to choose the best variable speed pool pump
4. The pump is making a lot of noise
If your motor sounds a little off, it could be a problem.
You’ve probably gotten used to its regular grumblings, so you know when the sounds are different than normal.
If it sounds a little like one of those old vibrating beds in a cheap hotel, the problem could be cavitation. Cavitation happens when your pool pump is starving for water.
But if your pool pump sounds a little like a screeching hyena, the issue could be bad bearings (which are mounted on the pool motor shaft inside the motor itself) inside the motor.
For cavitation, the solution could be as simple as clearing a clog out of a plumbing line, or it could also be an air leak somewhere in your system.
Once you’ve addressed whatever seems to be causing that problem, your pump should be back to its normal, only semi-noisy self.
If the bearings in the motor are bad, you may need to call a professional unless you're well-versed with pool pump motors.
My guess is, though, if you’re reading this article, you’re probably not 🙂
While the parts are simple and small enough, the motor will have to be taken apart to replace them.
5. The pump is sucking in air
Pool pumps are supposed to be completely airtight: this is what keeps them primed and sucking water properly.
So, when they start sucking air, that’s a problem.
Usually, it’s because of a bad thread sealant, crack in the pump, an air leak in the suction line, a plumbing issues on the suction side of the pump, or a leaky valve stem. A good way to test for this is with shaving cream.
For this little trick, you'll want to evenly spread shaving cream over the points where you think the pump might be leaking, including the pump lid O-ring.
If there is a leak under the shaving cream, you'll start to see one area of foam start to pit as it gets sucked in.
There’s your leak!
At this point you can either replace the defective part or call a professional.
For repairs involving the pump, it’s not a bad idea to call a professional or your local pool supply store even if you plan on fixing it yourself: this way you can make sure you're getting the right part and not doing further damage.
6. The pump basket isn't filling with water
If your pump basket isn’t filling up with water, the problem is probably that the pump is sucking air somewhere just like we talked about in #5.
But it could also be a dirty or clogged filter or pump basket.
If you clean the filter and pump basket out and still have a problem, you need to start looking for the leak.
First, check the water level in your skimmer. If it's less than half way up the skimmer, that could be where the air is going.
Also, check the basket lid o-ring to make sure it's getting a good seal.
It’s good to go ahead and put some silicon pool lube on the o-ring and put it back in just to ensure that seal. Secure the drain plug on the pump.
If none of those seem to be the culprit, use the shaving cream test to check for air leaks in all the obvious places like pipe joints, valves and plugs.
3 signs your pool pump is going bad
Let’s face it: your pool pump isn't going to last forever.
I mean, a good one should last quite a few years, but even the best will eventually go bad. So, how do you know?
A lot of times, it takes a few repairs that just aren’t working to figure out that there’s no hope for it, but if you're looking for some signs, here are a few:
1. Low readings on the filter pressure gauge
If your gauge is reading low, it could be due to a clogged skimmer basket or pump strainer.
But if those are clean and you're still getting consistently low readings, it’s possible that the impeller is wearing out.
2. Constant leaking
We talked about the ways to check for leaks and how to fix them.
But if you have tried everything you know to do and there is still water constantly dripping from the pump even when it’s turned off, it's a sign that the seal on the motor shaft has worn out.
3. Constantly losing prime
If your pump is constantly losing suction even after you have troubleshot all the possible issues, it has probably reached the end of its useful life.
Many of the problems you might run into with your pool pump can be easily fixed yourself if you know what to look for.
But don’t hesitate to call a professional if you need help or even just some advice.
Your pool pump should give you a good 8 to 10 years of service, so if it’s nearing that age and you're starting to have serious issues, it’s probably time to start looking for a new one.
But to keep it running as long as you can, stay on top of minor issues before they become major.