by Rob Cox, November 16, 2010
Pool Cleaner Tune-Up - Polaris Type Pool Cleaner repair
Pressure type pool cleaners are those that operate from water being pushed to the cleaner, usually from a booster pump. Mostly used on in ground pools, pressure pool cleaners include Polaris 180 / 280 / 380 / 480 and Letro JetVac, Legend and Platinum Cleaners. Hayward Turbo, Viio and Phantom cleaners are also pressure cleaners that operate with a 3/4 hp booster pump to power the hydraulic power train.
Also in the category of pressure side pool cleaners are what I call the Low Pressure pool cleaners. These operate internally identically, but do not require a booster pump or even a dedicated cleaner line. These cleaners tend to need more repair and tune-ups, because they usually are not controlled by a time-clock, so they run much more often (too much). Low Pressure Pool Cleaners include Polaris 65 / 165 / 360 and Letro Legend II pool cleaners.
Here's the steps involved in a Top to Bottom pressure side pool cleaner tune-up.
1. Check the water pressure / flowrate to the pool cleaner. One method of checking flow supply to the cleaner is to count wheel revolutions. Place a small mark on the edge of the tire, and count the revolutions for a period of time. 28-32 revolutions per minute would be ideal. Much slower than that and you may need to find out where the pressure loss is. A more advanced method of checking proper pressure is to remove the feed hose from the cleaner and attach a polaris pressure tester. This has a gauge on it, and most booster pump driven cleaners operate best at around 30 psi.
2. Check the entire hose for leaks. With the cleaner running, gently pull up the hose out of the water, checking each section for bulging, splits or leaks that reduce the volume of water reaching the cleaner. Swivels in the hose may dribble some water normally, but should not be spraying. Back-up valves should spray water every 3 minutes or so, and in between not be leaking. Wall fitting connections can also lose pressure, and sometimes this is intentional - adjusting for cleaners over-powered by large booster pumps.
3. Check the Hose Floats. they should be...floating. Many older designs became water logged and would not keep the hose up on the water surface. If your hose is dragging behind your pool cleaner, or your cleaner is getting tangled, check / replace / reposition some hose floats to keep the hose up and out of the way.
4. Check the Wheel Wobble. Most pressure cleaners that roll around the bottom have wheels, with wheel bearings in the center. Holding the cleaner in your hand, the side-to-side play in one of the large wheels should be only 1/4". If you can wobble the wheels greater than this, you may need to replace the wheel bearings. Also important during a tune-up is to adjust the wheel axles. Removing the top to the side, a screwdriver can be inserted behind the wheel to loosen two screws. This allows the axle to slide to make the optimum contact with either the belts (belt driven models, like Polaris 380), or the driveshaft used on Polaris 180 and 280 models. Tighten the screws back down on the axle plate to lock the adjustment in place.
5. Check the Tires, Rotate if needed. Your rubbery tires should have fairly square corners. If they are rounded off, you may be losing traction and speed. Rounding can be caused by worn out wheel bearings, rough pool surfaces or over-use of your pool cleaner. On Polaris 180 / 280 models, two of the plastic wheels are making contact with the steel driveshaft. The inside of these wheels have teeth to mate up to the gear-like driveshaft. If wheels have been out of adjustment, or sand and gravel has been a problem in the pool, the plastic teeth on the inside of the wheel can break off or wear down. You can rotate the back right wheel, which is not gear driven, up to the front to extend overall wheel life.
6. Check the Sweeper Hose. The tail should have a soft, lazy back and forth motion. An adjustment knob will allow you to control the flow. Too much action will wear out the tail wear rings faster, and may bring the tail up off the floor, where we want it. Inspect your tail wear rings, and replace as needed. They are much cheaper than having to replace the entire tail! If you develop a hole in the tail, you can slide the smaller wear sleeves down over small holes, which can buy you some time on the tail replacement.
7. Check the Venturi Jets. Remove the debris bag, and take a careful look inside the cleaner throat. There will be 2 or 3 jets down at the bottom of the throat, that spray water up into the debris bag. Make sure they all are equally operating, sometimes debris can find it's way inside and partially clog one of these jets. With the bag off, and the pool cleaner sitting on deck, these jets will normally shoot 20 ft in the air.
8. Check the Thrust Jet. With the Also a good time to check the thrust jet, at the rear of the cleaner. Out of the pool, this jet should spray water 10-15 feet behind the cleaner. The position of the jet will affect the pattern of cleaning around the pool. Default setting is at 11:00, but for an opposite cleaning pattern, set at 1:00 or even 2 o'clock.
9. Check the Turbine Jet. Most pressure cleaners have a turbine, or a paddle wheel that is turned by a stream of water spraying at high speed and volume. Back-up valves work the same way. Inside of a polaris, for example, the WMS (water management system) pushes the water through a small jet that sprays the paddle wheel (turbine). It can happen that this small jet becomes clogged with bits of debris. Easily cleanable with a bobby pin or other small tool.
10. Check the Belts. On Polaris 380 models, belts are used to turn the wheels. These belts should be snug, but not too tight. Pushing down with your finger, no more than 1/2" of deflection should occur. Too tight, and it will restrict movement of the wheels, and too loose and the belts won't grip the gears tight enough and may slip, especially during wall or step climbing.
Bonus Tip! Check the Debris Bag. For holes mostly. After emptying debris from a bag, dunk it in the pool skimmer repeatedly to clean the bag and the zipper/velcro. Inspect for any holes or unraveling of stitching. Small holes can be fixed with a layer of silicone - allow to dry overnight before use.
Extra Bonus Tip! If you need parts for your tune-up, check our pool cleaner parts pages