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How to Find a Leak in an Above Ground Pool (8 Proven Ways)

Leaks can ruin an above-ground pool in a matter of weeks. The vinyl liner isn’t designed to handle spreading tears and cracks. It’s best to locate the leak as quickly as possible to prevent it from ruining the vinyl, draining the water, and causing structural damage.

To find a leak in an above-ground pool, follow these steps:

  • Use food coloring
  • Check for plumbing leaks
  • Inspect the equipment
  • Check the vinyl edges
  • Use a leak detection chemical
  • Look for bubbles in the vinyl
  • Follow air bubbles around the pump
  • Smooth the liner wrinkles

Throughout this post, I’ll explain each step to help you find and repair the leak in your above-ground pool. I’ll also show you what causes leaks, which products work, and how to prevent the leaks from returning.

Use Food Coloring

You can add food coloring to your above-ground pool to quickly locate a leak. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book because it’s as easy as it gets. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Turn on the pool pump to move the water and dye.
  2. Place several drops of food coloring into the pool around where you think the leak is.
  3. If the dye moves toward anything other than the pump, you know there’s a leak.

This suggestion works because water naturally follows the path of least resistance. You can track the dye to know where the closest outlet is, which should be the skimmer basket.

Check for Plumbing Leaks

People often think there’s a leak in the liner. However, above-ground pool plumbing is prone to leaks due to the weight of the water flowing down into the system. In-ground pools are below the equipment, whereas above-ground pool plumbing handles the full weight of the pool water. Look for drips and wet surfaces in the following locations:

  • All of the hoses or PVC plumbing
  • The unions on the pump, filter, and salt system
  • O-rings and seals in the equipment

You should replace dry, cracked, and broken seals and O-rings as quickly as possible. Don’t forget to get new hoses and unions if there are cracks or chipped pieces. Epoxies don’t work on pool equipment (in most cases).

Inspect the Pool Equipment

Your pool equipment can leak if there’s too much pressure or if it’s handled improperly. Pool pumps leak when they have misaligned O-rings, but mishandling and misplacement can quickly damage the equipment pad.

Follow these steps to inspect the equipment:

  1. Look for cracks in and around all of the equipment.
  2. Lubricate the O-rings annually to prevent them from cracking.
  3. Tighten the drain plugs on the pump and filter.
  4. Ensure all of the brackets are tightened on the hoses.

Monitor the Edges of the Pool

Vinyl pool liners leak around the edges when there’s too much pressure around the outer ring. This issue also occurs if wrinkles go unchecked. The added weight of the wrinkled stretches the edges, which weakens the material. The vinyl will dry and crack, leading to minor leaks that quickly expand.

You should be able to put a light amount of pressure on the edges without water pouring through any cracks. Patch them as quickly as possible.

Boxer Adhesives Peel & Stick Vinyl Patches work underwater and provide enough resistance to prevent future tears. Each box comes with a handful of patches to repair the pool. You can use these patches without draining the pool, saving you time, money, and energy.

Add a Leak Detection Chemical to the Pool

Leak detection chemicals work a little bit better than the aforementioned food dye suggestion. The thick liquid follows the path of least resistance and shows you where the leak sits.

The Leak Master Leak Locating Dye comes with a syringe to pull and pour the solution around the leak. Choose between blue and yellow dye for the best visibility.

Every bottle contains enough solution to fill the syringe up to 40 times, making it perfect for multiple uses. You can use it anywhere in and around your home that requires leak detection.

Look for Bubbles in the Liner

Bubbles in the liner are caused by water leaking through the vinyl. The water pools below the liner, lifting it into a bubble. Stepping on the bubble or poking it with a sharp object will instantly lead to a massive tear, so these leaks need to be identified and repaired right away.

Vinyl liners last a long time, but one leaky bubble can ruin it immediately. Use one of the aforementioned leak detection methods, then patch the leak. If you find a big bubble under the liner, you might have to create a small incision to reduce the pressure. Patch it right after the bubble goes away to prevent more water from leaking.

Follow the Air Bubbles in the Pump

Leaks almost always put air bubbles into the plumbing. These bubbles gather in the pump’s lid. You can follow the bubbles to know which direction they’re coming from.

For example, if the bubbles come out of the outlet in the swimming pool, there’s likely a leak in the plumbing. If there are bubbles under the pump’s lid but not in the pool, there’s likely a leak in the unions or liner.

You can also use leak detection chemicals and dyes to follow the bubbles. Pour the dye on the bubbles and see which direction they go for a better idea of where the leak is coming from.

Smooth the Wrinkled Vinyl Liner

Wrinkled vinyl liners can ruin the pool by causing leaks that are far too big for most patches. These wrinkles are caused by the following issues:

  • Jumping off the edges of the pool
  • Old age wearing the vinyl and pushing it inward
  • Poor liner installations

You can smooth and correct the wrinkles by wearing rubber shoes, standing on one side of the wrinkle, and pushing the other side of the wrinkle away from your body with a clean toilet plunger. You could also fix the wrinkle with a shop vac.

How Do You Find A Leak In An Above-Ground Pool Ring?

To find a leak in an above-ground pool ring, follow these instructions:

  1. Push the pool ring down until it’s below the water. It needs to be low enough for the leaky vinyl to be submerged. You’ll have to walk around the pool and push the ring repeatedly until you find the leak. Keep in mind that you’ll inevitably lose a few gallons of water during the process.
  2. Circle the leak with a marker to indicate where it is. It’s important to mark the leak to make it easier to find when you get the patch. Most small leaks in above-ground pool rings are about the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It’s quite easy to lose the hole if you don’t circle it.
  3. Dry the above-ground pool ring and apply a vinyl repair patch kit. I recommend the previously mentioned Boxer Adhesives Peel & Stick Kit because you can use it multiple times, so you don’t have to worry about messing up. Furthermore, the patches can get wet without losing their adhesive.

Pro Tip: Round the edges of the vinyl patch to prevent them from getting caught on different items in the pool. The rounded patch will blend seamlessly with the rest of the pool ring. Make sure the patch is at least an inch bigger than the hole on all sides.

Unfortunately, not all above-ground pool rings can be patched. Check the hole to ensure it’s not a long tear. These tears often get bigger, even if you apply a patch. The weak vinyl sits inside the ring, making it impossible to stop it from spreading. If this issue occurs, you’ll likely have to replace the pool since they’re built into the ring.

If you prefer a video guide for this process, review this helpful YouTube video:

How Do You Find A Hole In The Bottom Of An Intex Pool?

To find a hole in the bottom of an Intex pool, look for air bubbles coming out of the liner. Most vinyl leaks send air into the pool at a slow rate. You can also use colored dyes and leak detectors to quickly locate a small leak in almost any Intex swimming pool. Once you find the leak, clean it and apply a patch to stop it in its tracks.

Intex pools are unique, durable, and reliable. However, they’re not immune to leaks. Try my quick method for identifying and preventing leaks in your Intex pool below.

  • Look for sharp objects poking through the liner. You shouldn’t feel anything sharp when you walk around the pool, either. Stickers, thorns, rocks, and twigs slowly break through the liner. The weight of the water pushes the sharp tips into the liner, causing leaks and other problems.
  • Check for water puddles around the outside and bottom of the pool. Many leaks push water to the edges of the vinyl. You’ll notice a thin layer of water on one side of the pool, letting you know that you’re getting close to the leak. You can use this tip to focus your efforts on that quadrant of the pool.
  • Follow the lighter shades of vinyl. Most vinyl liners get lighter at their weakest points. This common problem occurs when the liner stretches. The thin material lightens the blue coloring, making the vinyl look lighter than the rest of the Intex pool. Rub your hands over the light portion of the pool, feeling for dryness, cracks, and leaky holes.
  • Make sure all of the corrugated plastic hoses are tight and leak-free (including the vacuum hoses). Intex pools almost always have plastic hoses. They’re lightweight and flexible, but the constant exposure to sunlight and chlorine can make them brittle. Look for drips of water and loose connections to stop the leaks.

Some stabilizers will damage your vinyl liner, so it’s important to prevent them from settling. Liquid and powder stabilizers need to be circulated to keep them from sitting in one spot for too long. Their acidic pH and low alkalinity corrode and weaken the vinyl, encouraging leaks, rips, and tears.

Does Flex Seal Work On Inflatable Pools?

Flex Seal doesn’t work on inflatable pools, but the company’s Flex Tape product can seal a vinyl leak. Flex Seal isn’t waterproof enough to handle the water pressure in a swimming pool, especially if the leak is on the bottom of the pool. You can lay a thin strip of Flex Tape over the hole while waiting for your vinyl patches to arrive.

Place a strip of Flex Seal’s Flex Tape on the inside and outside of the vinyl where the leak is. Press and hold the tape for about a minute, then let it go. For the best results, round the edges of the tape to prevent the corners from sticking up.

This method also helps the tape blend in. Keep in mind that you can layer this tape over a pre-existing vinyl patch.

Before you use Flex Tape (or any Flex product) on your vinyl leaks, remember these helpful tips:

  • While Flex Tape can be applied underwater, it works best when it’s used when the vinyl is dry.
  • Flex Tape doesn’t last as long as vinyl repair kits; it shouldn’t be seen as a complete patch replacement.
  • There are many different types and imitators of Flex Tape, so make sure you get the Flex Seal brand tape.
  • You can also use Flex Tape on pool floats and other vinyl surfaces around the swimming pool.
  • Flex Tape comes in many sizes, so make sure you get the correct size for the leak in your pool.

Flex Tape is an excellent choice for those who don’t have a vinyl patch at their house. However, it’s not as efficient and useful as a traditional vinyl repair kit. It’s better to choose a kit that’s designed for swimming pools if you intend to patch it for many years to come.