Swimming Pool Blog

Pool Cleaner Troubleshooting Guide

pool cleaner troubleshooting guide
by Mark Garcia February 6, 2015


Automatic pool cleaners, are not the most troublesome piece of pool equipment, but it does suffer some wear and tear as it navigates around the pool, vacuuming and brushing the pool floor.

Outside of normal wear and tear, many pool owners struggle with pool cleaner problems from time to time, trouble with cleaner coverage or problems with obstacles, clogs from large debris, hose tangling or failure of one or more pool cleaner parts.

Here's an FAQ style post regarding common pool cleaner trouble, or how to troubleshoot your pool cleaner.



There are a few troubles that are common among all pool cleaner types, whether they be robotic, pressure or suction cleaners. 


If the cleaner is going behind ladders or handrails and getting stuck, you can use ladder guards, made by Polaris. Pentair and others. Several designs are used, the best being the one made by the manufacturer of your pool cleaner. Another option is to remove the ladder, if it's rarely used, or shorten the cleaner hose just slightly, for entry step handrails.Suction cleaners often have a large ladder guard, usually a large ring, that can be fitted around the cleaner.

If your pool cleaner gets stuck on the floor, due to a raised area in the pool floor, your options are to either lower the floor or raise the cleaner. Very few cleaners have height adjustment however. Reducing the water flowrate from a suction cleaner can help, or adjusting the cleaning pattern for pressure cleaners may help them avoid raised floor areas.

polaris unicoverIf your pool cleaner gets stuck on the main drain cover, due to it being raised above the floor, Polaris makes a product called the Unicover, to keep your cleaner from getting stuck on raised floor fittings.

Rayvac cleaners can get stuck inside of the skimmer opening. Jandy makes a skimmer guard to prevent this, one that fits inside the skimmer and another that fits onto the cleaner itself. 

For pool cleaners that get stuck in a corner of the pool, or stuck up against a step, grinding away, here's what to do. Try to change the direction or cleaning pattern of the cleaner which can be accomplished by thrust jet adjustments, or hose float adjustments or adding hose floats or hose weights. As a last resort, placing a small boulder of the right size in the area, or shortening the pool cleaner hose can help. Note that many robotic or pressure pool cleaners have reverse mechanisms or back-up valves to reverse the cleaner direction every few minutes, to prevent stalled operation. If equipped, check that your back-up valve or reversing mechanism is working.


Another ailment that can affect all pool cleaner types; when debris gets stuck into the bottom intake of the pool cleaner, it stops vacuuming and may drag sharp sticks along the pool floor. Pressure cleaners have the largest intakes, but short of changing pool cleaners, what can you do to prevent pool cleaner clogs?

  1. Trim back the most offending trees. especially low overhanging branches.
  2. Use a leaf rake after storms, to skim and scoop the big stuff, leaving the rest for the cleaner.
  3. Partially close pool drain to increase skimmer flow, and make sure skimmer weir is in place.


Pressure Cleaners: These cleaners are powered by water, so when they are sluggish, or moving slowly, the problems is usually flow related. Check the filter screens, located at the wall attachment, and in the hose on some newer models. If a booster pump is being used, be sure that both filter pump and booster pump are operating, and aren't leaking or making funny noises.

With the booster pump running, kneel down next to the pool and grab the pool cleaner hose, and slowly pull the cleaner towards you, inspecting the hose for leaks as you pull it out of the water (some leakage at swivels is normal). When you reach the cleaner head, hold it just above water and inspect it for water moving thru 3 areas - out the rear thrust jet, out the sweeper tail and spraying up into the debris bag. The thrust jet and sweeper tail should shoot water 15-20 feet. Likewise, if you remove the debris bag, water should spray upwards 15-20 feet in the air. If the water is spraying properly out all 3 exits, you likely do not have a water pressure problem, but a problem with the drive belts slipping, or a broken axle, or very worn (rounded) tires - or, something stuck between the wheels and the cleaner body.

Suction Cleaners: When a suction cleaner is sluggish or slow, it's usually a clogged pump basket or dirty filter that is to blame. Other problems include holes in the cleaner hose, sucking air into the hose. Or the filter pump could be drawing in air, reducing water flow volume. A worn footpad or a worn seal can also reduce cleaner speed, and cause it to stick to the pool floor. Finally, check that the suction valves are open to give all suction pressure to the skimmer that the cleaner is connected into.

Robot Cleaners: Since robotic cleaners are not hydraulically powered, slow operation is less of a problem. When it occurs however, the cause can be a full debris bag or filter, or the drive tracks or wheels have become worn or rounded, or are loose or out of alignment. Check all the belts and pulleys for proper position and tension, and the wheels for proper alignment and movement.


Pressure Cleaners: Polaris 180-480, 9300, Letro Legend, Kreepy Racer, Hayward Viper, Phantom, Ray-Vac

  1. Booster pump is off, or filter pump is off.
  2. Booster pump has an air lock or failed shaft seal.
  3. Drive belts or wheel axles are broken or loose.
  4. WMS (Water Management System) has disconnected or broken hoses.
  5. Feed hose or sweeper tail has splits or holes.
  6. Pool toys or sticks have become wedged between wheels and body.
  7. String or wire has gotten all 'wrapped around the axle'.
  8. Back-up valve is malfunctioning, constantly releasing water.
  9. Inline strainers are clogged
  10. Small bits of sand or grit have worked themselves into the WMS, clogging tiny orifices.

Suction Cleaners: Kreepy, Baracuda, Hayward

  1. Low suction pressure, improve draw by closing drain and other suction lines.
  2. Dirty pump basket or skimmer basket, or inline strainer basket.
  3. Cleaner stuck onto high spot in the pool floor.
  4. Cleaner stuck onto floor drains or pop-up in-floor cleaner heads.
  5. Air leaks in cleaner hose, or on pipes in front of filter pump.
  6. Clog in the cleaner head or hose, check for obstruction.
  7. Low or high pool filter pressure gauge readings, indicating flow problems.
  8. Bad connection to skimmer, not making a tight seal of hose to skimmer
  9. Problems with automatic bypass valve or skimmer connection devices.
  10. Failed or stuck diaphragm or flapper in the cleaner head.

Robot Cleaners: Aquabot, Dolphin, Hayward, Smartpool

  1. Is the transformer power indicator light on? Check that outlet breakers are on.
  2. Inspect cleaner power cord and plug for damage from animals, or kinks, knots or cuts.
  3. Inspect power cord attachments on the pool cleaner, and connection into motor or terminal board.
  4. Inspect drive tracks, drive belts and pulleys for alignment, tightness and wear.
  5. If drive belts were recently replaced, be sure that they follow the correct pattern.
  6. Dirty internal filters, or improperly attached bottom plate can stop a robot cleaner.
  7. Debris wrapped around the propeller or wheel asembly - hair, string or small sticks.


If your pool cleaner doesn't clean all spots in the pool, or even misses entire sections, there are several things you can do:

  1. Redirect eyeball fittings in another direction.
  2. For pressure cleaners, adjust thrust jet to either 10 or 2 o'clock
  3. For suction cleaners, be sure that suction pressure is high enough
  4. For robot cleaners, be sure that debris bag is clean and bottom is properly attached.
  5. Is hose or cord long enough to reach all areas of the pool?


Thanks for Reading!
Mark Garcia