by Rob Cox December 17, 2013
Top Ten Pool Equipment Repairs
Here's a quick rundown of some of the more common inground pool repairs that we see on a continual basis here in the pool community. I'll name some causes for each of these problems, and some possible solutions.
Many of these problems involve leaking, water or air. The pump and filter system is supposed to be air and water tight. A small drip usually won't erupt into a geyser, but it can, and possibly drain the pool, although the pump will usually lose prime once the water level gets below the skimmers. Creating other problems...
1. Clogged Pump Impeller: Most often a spring time problem, when debris is small and plentiful. If the pump basket has holes in it, or is installed incorrectly, debris can get around the basket and get caught in the vanes of the impeller. Dog hair, grass clippings, pine needles and such - these can just pass through. Enough of it, and you will notice the pressure rate will drop as the flow reduces. The basket may not seem full, and the motor sounds different. To clear an impeller, shut off the power. If you have small hands, some pumps will let you reach into the impeller, and you can pick it out without disassembly. Other instances, you'll need to open up the pump at the seal plate and expose the impeller. A piece of curved wire can be used to ream out the vanes, for small seeds and rocks that get stuck. More tips here.
2. Filter Media Replacement: It may become evident that you need a new cartridge or new filter sand when you are backwashing twice as often as before. Or when the pool just won't seem to clear up, or isn't as clean as it used to be. Passing debris through to the pool is another sign that your filter media, including DE filter grids, aren't doing the job they should. DE grids last about 10 years, Sand lasts about 7 years, and a Cartridge lasts about 5 years - on a well sized pool filter. Undersized pool filters, or filters that often have poor water conditions to clean up, will need media replacement more often. The process is simplest for a cartridge filter. We have a video on how to change filter sand, and for DE grids, follow these tips.
3. Leaking Skimmer: When there's a leak in the pool, the first thing to check is the skimmer. On concrete pools, it is a common area of separation, and on vinyl pools, the skimmer faceplate can leak if not gasketed well. Skimmers can leak through cracks in the sidewall also, if freeze damage has occurred. Fortunately, pool putty is available to seal up most skimmer leaks permanently and quickly. Cracks at the junction of a concrete pool wall may need a deeper repair by packing in white plaster mix. Future movement however, can cause the crack to open again. To locate a skimmer leak, look closely for any small bits of debris, sucked into a crack. More information on skimmer leaks can be found here.
4. Clogged Pool Cleaner: It happens - something gets stuck inside of the pool cleaner and gets dragged around the pool, or keeps the pool cleaner from moving at all. Small branches, large leaves or pool toys can get stuck inside of the throat, or the cleaner can get stuck on them. Not really a repair I suppose, just remove the stuck item. Clogs can also happen in the cleaner hose, either in an in-line strainer, of if the strainer is not used, deep inside of the cleaner, within the water management system. That's why using the strainer is so important, because small grains of plaster can prevent internal jets from shooting as powerfully as needed.
5. Leaking Pool Filter: A pool filter is on the 'pressure side', and a leak can be dangerous. Filter tanks that are leaking through pinholes in the stainless steel body should be replaced. A tank that is leaking out of the belly band should be shut off, and another attempt made at cleaning and sealing the belly band o-ring. Small leaks around the air bleeder assembly are common, and is usually fixed with a replacement o-ring for the air bleeder, or new Teflon tape on the pressure gauge threads. The same is true for leaking drain plugs or drain caps. Check that they are not broken, or missing a gasket or o-ring. More information on sand filter repair is here.
6. Heater Not Heating: This can be nearly anything, but the most common cause is a dirty filter, or clogged impeller. Both conditions can reduce flow enough to cause the pressure switch to keep the heater from turning on. Modern heaters will give you some indication of what component or condition is preventing the heater from firing. With an owner's manual, you can check a few things that could be causing the problem. It could be any item in the circuit, like the transformer, fuse, pilot, gas valve, high limits, thermostat. Wiring or a circuit board can also be to blame. If you have a controller in the house, the heater must be in the 'auto' position to be operated remotely. Need more pool heater repair tips?
7. Leaking Pump: Pool pumps are under a lot of pressure, and will leak water if there is any chance of doing so. When a pump is leaking water, look closely at where it is leaking. It's usually not going to leak water around the pump lid, or the drain plug, because these are under a vacuum, on the suction side. For this reason, it also won't leak water from the pipe coming into the pump, but it can leak from the pipe coming out of the pump. Pumps that leak down the back bottom of the seal plate have usually blown a shaft seal. We talk more about pump seal replacement in this video.
8. Melted Pump Fitting: If the threads on this PVC fitting have heated up and shrunken, no amount of Teflon tape will seal it up, it will need to be cut out and replaced. This usually happens if the pump has run without water for a few hours. It gets so hot that it can deform the threads to where it begins to leak. Since this is a pressure leak, pool putty won't help, the fitting will need to be cut out and replaced. Use a heat resistant fitting, which is a thicker, gray plastic, made of CPVC, if you want to avoid the problem again in the future.
9. Air in Pump Basket: On the suction side of the pump that is, before the impeller, a void will leak air, or draw air into the pump. Air can be pulled in around the pump lid, if not seated correctly, or from a loose or dirty o-ring, or from a band that is not tight enough. Try cleaning the o-ring, and flipping it over, with a coat of Teflon lube. Then tighten down on the lid assembly very snugly. Just as common, the air could be coming from the fitting threaded into the front of the pump. If overheated, the threads shrink, and the tight fit is lost. Pool putty will work in a pinch, but the best repair is to replace the fitting. Use CPVC or Sch 80, if you want a heat resistant seal, in and out of the pump.
10. Clogged Salt Cell: Salt cell made the list! Not so much of a repair actually, cleaning your salt cell is more of a maintenance item. If not done regularly, however, it leads to an expensive repair, a new salt cell. If you have a newer salt system, you may have a self-cleaning cell, a nice feature. For older generation salt chlorinators, it's a manual inspection and cleaning at set intervals. On some pools, especially in hard water areas, cleaning the salt cell is a frequent task. The salt cell is dipped into a weak solution of muriatic acid, for several minutes, then carefully hosed clean. In addition to cleaning your salt cell regularly, maintaining proper salt and pH levels, and using chlorine stabilizer also help extend the life of your salt cell. More on salt cell maintenance.
So we have mostly leaks and clogs, or not filtering, not heating, or overheating. Something not doing what it's supposed to do for you. Time to break out the tool box and make some pool repairs.