5 Common Hot Tub Troubleshooting Issues and Solutions

It’s Friday evening. You’re ready to sit back and relax in your bubbling, steamy hot tub. You’ve got a fresh towel, a cold drink, and a salty snack all ready to go. You remove your hot tub cover, only to find the water is ice cold.

Or maybe your water is fine, but when you turn on your jets, nothing happens.

Or maybe when you turn on your hot tub, the breaker trips.

Or maybe your pump kicks on and produces an ear-splitting screech.

Whatever the problem, your Friday night is not working out the way you’d hoped. Before you panic about what it’ll cost to get a repairman to fix your spa on the weekend, try a little DIY hot tub troubleshooting first. Several common hot tub issues have simple solutions you can handle on your own.

1. My Hot Tub Won’t Heat Up

Possibly the most frustrating problem you can run into is when you want to soak in your spa, but discover the water is ice cold. A hot tub without hot water is just a tub. Narrow down a possible cause by first determining whether your water is staying cold or getting warm, then cooling down.

Before you do anything, grab your multimeter If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . It can help you quickly identify the culprit by testing the electrical components.

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Ice Cold Hot Tub Water

You’ve got no heat, no matter what. First, check your water level. Then, look for clogs in your circulation system, and wash If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. or change your filter. While these may seem like mundane solutions, they’re also the quickest and least expensive, so always try them first.

Next, flip your heater breaker off and on, or just hit your heater’s reset button. If the high limit switch shut your heater off because your water got too hot or you have air trapped in your lines, resetting the heater will get it going again.

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If you’ve just refilled your hot tub, you may have an air lock, which is when air gets trapped in your plumbing lines, and impedes the flow of water, which will keep it from heating up. Lucikly, fixing an air lock is a fairly easy task.

Still no heat? You could have a bad heating element If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . If you’re confident in your skills to troubleshoot your hot tub heater, you can remove the heating element and check to see if it looks burnt. If it needs replacing, you’ll want to hire a pro unless you’re comfortable doing this type of work yourself.

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My Water Gets Hot, Cold, Hot Again

If your hot tub temperature is all over the place, you could have water flow problems. Start by cleaning your filter, checking for circulation blockages, and topping off your water if necessary.

Check whether your pump turns on. Your pump has to be running in order for the spa to heat up. If the pump isn’t working, you may need to replace it If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. .

The problem could also be with the heater itself. If the pump is working, and the heater is on, but the water still won’t stay at an even temperature, you may need to replace the heater If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. .

Heater and pump working fine? Next check your thermostat If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. and heat sensors If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . Your high limit switch has one or two sensors that shut off your heater if the water temperature gets too high. If they’re fried, your heater may not operate properly.

Similarly, if your thermostat needs to be replaced, it won’t accurately trigger your heater to kick on when the water temperature dips.

If you’ve done all these things, and still can’t diagnose and correct the problem, it’s time to bring in a pro. But maybe wait until Monday so the hourly rate isn’t so high.

2. My Jets Aren’t Working

If you wanted to lie around in warm, unmoving water, you’d just take a bath. One of the best parts of soaking in a hot tub is using the jets. But if you’ve got nothing coming out of your jets, don’t fret.

Try the easiest and least expensive solution first: turn each of your jets to make sure they’re all wide open. Also check them for debris such as calcium buildup, and clear them If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. if necessary. Top off the water, clean your filter, and check for plumbing line clogs.

Did you recently refill your hot tub? If so, you could have air lock. You can turn your jets on and off a few times to try to force the air out. You may also loosen the top fitting on your pump just until you hear air escape and see a bit of water, then tighten it back up.

Important: No matter what you may have heard, we do not recommend using a plunger on your jets. The force of plunging may damage your circulation system. It may also void your warranty. Then you really will be paying a bunch of money for repairs.

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3. My Control Panel Shows an Error Code

Though they indicate something is going wrong, error codes can be confusing—and they don’t necessarily tell you the cause of your problem. Your manual will contain many error codes, but five codes show up most often.

FLO or FLC

Hot Tub Control Panel Error Flo
As you may’ve guessed, this code appears when you’re hot tub is having flow problems. You might see this code if your jets are misbehaving.

Check for blockages, and clean or replace your filter If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . If that doesn’t help, check to see whether your circulation pump has power going to it. If it does, and it’s still not working, it may be time to replace the circulation pump If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. .

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This code may also mean your pressure switch needs to be replaced. Its job is to shut off the heater when water pressure is low, so if your water is flowing, but you’re still seeing the FLO or FLC error codes, it could be the pressure switch.

Important: If you’re comfortable working with electrical components, you may be able to address these problems yourself. However, if you’re at all unsure, call a pro. Your safety is more important than a quick soak in the hot tub.

OH

Hot Tub Control Panel Error OH
Do not use your hot tub when this error code pops up. It means the water is too hot, and may even scald you. The possible causes are plentiful, but you can check a few simple things.

Clean your circulation system and filter. If your hot tub is outside, and you’ve had hot weather, be sure your spa cabinet is staying cool enough to avoid overheating the motor.

Also make sure your pump isn’t running for extremely long periods of time. Check and replace the temperature sensor If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. if needed. If the water isn’t hot, but this code is on your display, it’s a good idea to call a pro to see what’s going on.

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DR or DRY

Hot Tub Control Panel Error DRY
If not enough water—or worse, none—is traveling through your heater when it kicks on, it can cause what’s known as a dry fire where the heating element is damaged. This commonly occurs when your water level is too low.

Topping of your hot tub may be the only solution necessary. Remember to use a hose filter If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. to keep impurities out of your spa and plumbing system. Make sure your circulation system is free of debris before restarting. If the problem persists, call a pro.

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COOL or COLD

Hot Tub Control Panel Error COOL
When your hot tub water temperature drops 20 to 40 degrees below your set point, this error code shows up.

First, put your hot tub cover If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. back on and let the heater do its job for about 24 hours. If, after that period, your water is still cold, try the solutions for when your hot tub won’t heat up, such as resetting the heater and checking your sensors and thermostat.

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SNA or SNB

Hot Tub Control Panel Error SnA
This code is an abbreviation for sensor, and the letter (or sometimes a number) indicates which sensor is malfunctioning or out of balance.

It can also appear when the connection between the sensor and circuit board is wonky, or when your circuit board is fried. In this case, you may need to replace the sensor If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . If you’re uncomfortable working with electronics, call a pro.

Your hot tub control panel can display several other codes. To learn more about them so you’re better able to troubleshoot your hot tub, keep a list of them near your spa.

4. My Hot Tub Pump is Noisy

Someday, you may be nearby when your hot tub kicks on and notice one of two distinct sounds: a growling, grumbling noise, or a high-pitched squeal.

My Hot Tub Pump is Growling

When it sounds like bear cubs wrestling inside your spa cabinet, your pump is probably struggling for water. Clear any clogs from your circulation system. Top off your water. Make sure any valves near your pump are open.

My Hot Tub Pump is Squealing

This loud, metallic whine is the telltale sign of bad bearings. You may continue using your pump safely, but the noise will only get worse. First, try lubricating the bearings, but eventually, you’ll probably have to replace the circulation pump If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . Or start using your hot tub with earplugs.

5. My GFCI Breaker is Tripping

A whole host of possible culprits for a tripped breaker means you could spend quite a lot of time on hot tub troubleshooting, and less time soaking. A hot tub GFCI breaker trip is common and usually easy to fix, but any troubleshooting and repairs require you to work with electricity. If you’ll be working on it yourself, remember to turn off the breaker before you begin, and be sure you’re not touching anything wet.

Important: If you’re unsure what you’re doing, or you don’t know how to work with electrical systems safely, this is definitely the time to call a pro.

One quick way to narrow down your problem is to unplug your pump, heater, blower, and ozonator If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . Then turn on the breaker without anything plugged in.

If it trips, you could have a worn breaker. If it doesn’t trip, plug each item back in one at a time. For each item you reconnect, flip the breaker, then turn on your spa. If your GFCI trips, the component you just reconnected (or the wiring to that item) is the culprit.

Once you know which part is causing problems, you’ll need to figure out why. Most likely, it’s one of four common causes.

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Moisture

Safety first. Examine the area around the breaker box for water before you start unplugging anything. If you find moisture on or around the breaker, identifying and fixing the source of the moisture may be all you have to do to keep your breaker from tripping. After all, the purpose of the GFCI is to protect you from electric shock around water.

Moisture can result from splashout, rain, or leaks, and may be fixed by moving your breaker box farther from your spa or putting up a barrier between the hot tub and the box.

Corrosion

All your electrical components have wires and connections which can corrode. Grab a good flashlight, and inspect all these areas carefully. If you find corrosion, you’ll need to replace the damaged part(s), or hire a pro to do so for you.

Damaged or Loose Wiring

While you’re searching for corrosion, ensure that all the electrical connections are secure. Give wires a gentle tug to check their connections. Also keep an eye out for other signs of damage, such as melted or burnt wires.

Again, unless you’re experienced with electrical wiring, you’ll want to hire a spa pro or electrician to correct these problems.

Heating Element Malfunction

Regardless of how well you take care of your hot tub, you’ll eventually need to replace the heating element If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. . It’s simply a component with a finite lifespan. This one of the most common reasons your breaker might trip.

To determine whether this is what’s causing the GFCI breaker to trip, loosen the nuts on top of your heater to remove the electrical connections. Flip the breaker again and see whether it trips. If it doesn’t trip, you’ll need a new heating element.

You may also test the element for a short using a multimeter If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you. , or pull it out and inspect it for signs of dry fire. Regardless of whether it burned out or has a short, you’ll still need to replace it.

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Prevention is Key

Age, wear, and tear will eventually take a toll on your hot tub and its parts. You’ll need to occasionally replace parts through no fault of your own. But you can avoid some of the most common problems by taking proper care of your spa.

When you’re ready to use your hot tub, but something has gone awry, remember to check the common-sense solutions first. Adding a little water and cleaning your filter can go a long way toward fixing a lot of hot tub bad behaviors.

If your hot tub troubleshooting starts to get you into repairs that are over your head, don’t be afraid to call a professional. Getting a problem fixed correctly the first time can save you a lot of headaches—and money—down the road.

Happy Soaking!

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You'll save $100 right away with this easy-to-follow digital handbook. This is the guide that hot tub manufacturer doesn’t provide you.

Click here to learn more
The Hot Tub Handbook

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