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7 Troubleshooting Tips For Your Pool Pump Not Working

By Matt Giovanisci | Updated: August 3, 2020

If you’ve got a pool pump problem, you may actually be able to troubleshoot it yourself. Here are some common pool pump problems, how to troubleshoot, and how to fix them.

The Anatomy of a Pool Pump

Pool Pump Anatomy

  • Pump Lid: Made with the same material as bulletproof windows, the lid is where you can inspect the health of your filter system. If you see air bubbles or no water while the pump is running, it could be an air leak on the suction side of your pool or the lid o-ring.
  • Strainer Housing with Basket: The water first enters here and collects debris before it reaches the drivetrain.
  • Drain Plug: Used to drain the pump during winterization. You may have more than one drain plug on your pump.
  • Pump Housing with Impeller: This is the main control center where the impeller, diffuser, and seals live. The impeller spins on the motor shaft which pumps the water from your pool to your filter.
  • Pool Pump Motor and Shaft: Its only job is to spin the impeller.

1. The pool pump isn’t turning on or it’s turning off while running.

  • If your pump doesn’t turn on OR shuts off quickly after it’s started, it’s probably an electrical problem. Check your breaker box for blown fuses Then, check your connections to make sure nothing is loose or damaged. If you don’t know what you’re doing, hire a qualified electrician.
  • If your motor overheats and shuts down after it’s started, it could be an overloaded circuit — so make sure you’ve got the right voltage for your pump. And check the motor’s vents to make sure nothing is blocking the fan.
  • If the pool pump motor shaft isn’t rotating, check to see if the motor is jammed with debris.
  • If the pump turns on but isn’t running full steam and you hear a humming noise, check your capacitor. The capacitor starts your pump with a jolt of electricity. This is one of those parts that are best replaced by a professional.

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2. The pool pump runs but has low water flow.

This means your pump needs to be primed because something has interrupted its suction or water flow. It could be something blocking it, a dirty pool filter, or too much air in the system.

  • If there’s something blocking your pump’s suction, check your filter gauge. If it’s 10psi above the normal reading, clean your filter. This will reduce pressure and reset your pump’s flow. Then check your pump basket and impeller for debris.
  • If there’s air in the system, it’s probably coming through the skimmer or leaky o-ring. Make sure your swimming pool water level isn’t too low and check your skimmer basket for debris. You may need to fill your strainer basket with water and reseal it. Learn more about how to fix air in your pool pump.
  • Finally, you’ll probably then need to prime the pump to get it going again. See the video below.

3. The pool pump is leaking.

If you have a leaky pump, look for any seals that need replacing. Check the o-rings in the impeller housing, the thread sealant, or the shaft seal.

  • To check for leaky o-rings, bend the o-ring all around and look for cracks.
  • If you see any cracks at all, it means the o-ring as dried out and needs to be replaced.
  • If you don’t see any cracks, just apply o-ring lube which will help create a better seal and keep your o-ring lasting longer. You can be pretty liberal with the lubricant too. Don’t be shy 😉
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4. The pump is sucking in air.

This can happen for a number of reasons:

  • A loose pump lid
  • A crack in the pump
  • A faulty thread sealant
  • Faulty o-rings and gaskets
  • An air leak in the suction line
  • A leaky valve stem
  • OR a plumbing issue on the suction side of the pump.

Look for cracks, leaks, or bad fittings and replace the part. Check out our article on getting air out of your pool pump.

Can’t find the air leak in your pool pump?

Spread shaving cream on those possible problem areas. If there’s a leak, it will suck in the shaving cream, leaving an indent.

As always, if you don’t feel confident replacing a part yourself, call a professional.

5. The pump is making a lot of noise.

If your motor is really rattling, your pool pump may just need better water flow. Clear any blockages out of a plumbing line and look for air leaks.

However, if your motor has a high-pitched screeching sound, your pump could have bad bearings.

Of course, we recommend calling a professional to take apart the motor and replace the bearings. But you could also try kickstarting the pump by softly hitting the motor with a rubber mallet or the soft sole of a shoe. Sometimes this can help. But be careful.

6. The pump basket isn’t filling with water.

The pump could be sucking in air or your filter or pump basket could be clogged.

  1. Clean the filter and pump basket
  2. Check the water level in your skimmer. If it’s low, that could be your air problem.
  3. Then use the shaving cream test to check for other air leaks.

7. The pool pump is humming and won’t start.

First, check the impeller for blocking debris. Turn off the pump and remove the screws on the pump housing. Pull out the pump assembly and remove any gaskets away from the impeller. Then, remove any debris you see and put the pump back together.

If you hear a buzzing or humming noise, it’s coming from the pump motor. This means power is reaching the motor but is having trouble starting it. It could be a bad capacitor, centrifugal switch, or a buildup of rust in the motor. It could also mean the impeller is stuck.

3 Signs Your Pool Pump Is About To Die

A well-made pool pump should last about 8-10 years with proper maintenance. But how can you tell your pump is on its last legs?

1. You have consistently low PSI from your filter.

If the pressure gauge on your filter is lower than normal, you might have a clogged skimmer basket or pump strainer. But if this keeps happening even when everything is clean, it could be that your impeller is wearing out.

2. The pool pump is constantly leaking.

If you’ve done everything you can to fix your pump leaks but it still occurs regularly, it could be that the seal on the motor shaft as worn out. The good news is, this can be replaced on the cheap without buying a whole new pool pump.

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. The pool pump always loses prime.

Of course, if you’ve troubleshooting correctly, you could still have issues with keeping your pump primed. It could be warped parts or it’s just time to get a new pump. Here’s our complete guide for finding the best new pool pump.

In the end, if you’re still having issues or you don’t feel confident doing something yourself, call a professional. And if your pump is constantly leaking or losing suction or has low filter pressure gauge readings, it might be time to get a new pool pump.

Matt Giovanisci is the founder of Swim University® and has been in the pool and spa industry since 1995. Since then, his mission is to make pool and hot tub care easy for everyone. And each year, he continues to help more people with water chemistry, cleaning, and troubleshooting.
A Cheat Sheet For Perfectly Balanced Pool Water and Crystal Clear Swimming
Download this FREE printable cheat sheet to keep your pool clean and clear without any fuss. You’ll never worry about your pool again with this easy-to-use guide.
Click Here For The FREE Cheat Sheet