My Pool Pump Won't Work!

National Ask a Stupid Question Day
by Mark Garcia October 13, 2014

We get all sorts of questions around here, on the phone, over email, and in our Pool Community (where over 30000 questions can be found!).

Today's FAQ covers pool pump problems, those pool support issues that start like "My pump isn't working...

Sometimes customers really mean that the filter isn't working, so to be clear - we dig a little deeper to be sure that we are both talking about the same piece of equipment.

Pump problems can be broken down into two areas - pump problems and motor problems. I've curated this list from our vast storehouse of pool information, I hope that you find this valuable!

"My Pool Pump Isn't Working"

The pool pump pulls the water from the pool and pushes it into the filter. This is accomplished by an impeller which turns at 3250 RPM at the end of the electric motor shaft. Water tight pipes and valves in front of the pump allow the pump to create vacuum or suction, and draw water from the pool.

After the impeller, the water pressure changes from suction to pressure. The pump Pulls the water from the pool, but Pushes it back to the pool - this is an important concept to understand, when looking for water flow problems.

If the pump won't start or run, check these things

  • If the motor does not turn on, check the breaker and timeclock switches.
  • If the motor hums but does not start, check that the shaft is free-spinning, then check the capacitor
  • If the motor makes no noise at all, check the wiring and terminal connections.
  • If the motor won't come up to full speed, check the incoming voltage with a multi-meter.
  • If the motor is sparking and smoking, check the terminal wiring diagram for 230V.
  • If the motor is loud, remove from pump and test briefly. If still loud, replace bearings/seal.

If the pump won't pump water fully, check that:

  • Suction side valves (skimmers, main drain) are open.
  • Older suction side valves can leak air (pull air in) through stem or lid.
  • Pump lid o-ring is a good fit, in good condition, and lubricated.
  • Pump lid cover is Tight (really tight).
  • Impeller is not clogged with small debris.
  • Pool Filter is clean, and filter valve is on Filter or Recirculate.
  • Return side valves (after the filter) are open.
  • Pump does not drip water from plugs or seal when pump is off.
  • Test entrance pipe fitting (threads into front of pump) for Air leakage.
    • Use shaving cream or soapy water to see if it sucks into pump.
    • Look for water spray back or dripping when pump shuts off.
  • Check the skimmers, to be sure that water flow is not blocked.


If the pump is leaking water, check these things: 

  • Leaking out of a loose exit pipe fitting, replace fitting.
  • Leaking out of a loose drain plug, use sealant and tighten.
  • Leaking from a failed shaft seal, replace seal.
  • Leaking from a poor seal on the seal plate gasket, lube and reseal.
  • Leaking from a crack in the pump housing, replace housing.


If the motor turns on and off, check these things: 

  • Clear away mulch and leaves from around the motor air vents.
  • Shut off power at breaker and tighten all wire connections.
  • Check that wires are not broken, wet, or touching each other.
  • If it continues to overheat and shut off, replace the motor.


If the breaker trips when turning on pump, check: 

  • Look for wire problems in back of motor - crimped, split, touching
  • Check the motor shaft, the impeller should turn freely by hand
  • Shut off power at breaker and tighten all wire connections
  • Check timer clock or switch for burnt terminals or wires
  • Check capacitor for ...capacitance or resistance with an Ohm meter
  • If breaker still trips, replace the breaker; they go bad eventually


Keeping the water system air tight will prevent most pool pump problems and keeping the motor air vents open and proper wiring will prevent most motor problems. Eventually, after ten years or so - you may need to replace your pump or motor.

If we have solved some problem for you today and need replacement pump parts, pump motors or a whole new pump - consider!


Thanks for Reading!
Mark Garcia