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Pool Pump Not Pulling Water? Here’s Why (+ How To Fix)

Swimming pools need moving water to stay in safe, clean conditions. Otherwise, your pool will turn into a pond of bugs and bacteria. And if your pool pump isn’t pulling water, your pool water is stagnant.

Therefore, it’s important to fix this problem as quickly as possible.

Your pool pump isn’t pulling water for at least one of these reasons:

  1. The filter is dirty 
  2. Air in the plumbing
  3. Jammed check valve
  4. Clogged plumbing
  5. Debris in the baskets
  6. The pump isn’t primed
  7. Broken impeller
  8. Incorrect valve orientation
  9. Faulty pump motor

In this article, I’ll explain every possible reason your pump won’t pull water. I’ll also provide helpful suggestions to fix these problems and what you can do to prevent them from coming back.

1. The Filter Is Dirty

Dirty filters can ruin a pool pump in no time. A clogged or dirty pool filter can narrow the passageways, preventing the pump from pulling water efficiently (or at all).

If it’s dirty, the fix is pretty straightforward — you’ll need to clean it!

Pro-tip: Never let your pump get above 25 PSI. This pressure limit will stop the pump from overheating and the plumbing from cracking or warping.

How To Fix

Once your pool filter reaches 25 PSI, follow these instructions:

  1. Turn off the pump.
  2. Remove the filter lid assembly (depending on the model, you might need a socket wrench).
  3. Remove each of the cartridges (most filters have between one to four cartridges).
  4. Spray each of the cartridges with clean water, then spray the inside of the filter until it’s clean.
  5. Replace all cartridges that have torn bands or pleats since they’re ineffective.
  6. Place the cartridges into the filter in the same orientation that you removed them.
  7. Seal the filter’s lid.

If you have a sand or DE filter, you can review this helpful YouTube video:

2. Air in the Plumbing

Air in the system will slow the priming process. If your pump can’t prime, it won’t be able to circulate the water.

A good way to know if there’s air in the system is to open the air relief valve on top of the filter. If air keeps flowing out without any water, check out the solutions below to get the air out of the lines before it’s too late.

How To Fix

To get rid of the air in your plumbing, try these tips and tricks:

  • Replace all broken or worn O-rings and gaskets. Worn O-rings and gaskets let airflow into the system and cause air bubbles to push out the water. Always get the correct part number from the manufacturer rather than guessing the right size.
  • Tighten all of the lids and unions on the equipment pad. Loose parts let air in. Pool pumps pack incredible pressure, so the smallest gap will let in tons of air.
  • Keep the water above the skimmer basket at all times. Evaporation happens quickly in the hot summer months. Air gets into the pipes once the water level drops below the highest inlet, which is almost always the skimmer.

3. Jammed Check Valve

If the pool pump basket is not filling with water, there might be a jammed check valve. The check valve stops the water from flowing backward, which prevents debris from getting into the pump’s impeller.

However, a jammed check valve stays closed. The closed valve stops the pump’s suction, causing it to hum or grind without moving the water.

How To Fix

If your pump screeches or grinds when you turn it on, turn it off immediately. Jammed check valves don’t open, which makes the pump overheat. Here’s what you can do:

  • Remove the retaining screws on top of the valve’s lid.
  • Pull out the internal components, also known as the “valve guts.”
  • Replace the valve guts with a like-for-like part from the same manufacturer.
  • If necessary, replace the valve’s gasket or O-ring.
  • Secure the lid onto the valve with the previously removed screws.

Pro-tip: Make sure the valve guts are facing the correct direction. Install them with the flap pushing outward (away from the pump) to let the water flow through the valve.

4. Clogged Plumbing

Clogs are quite common in swimming pools. The plumbing includes unions, pipes, and everything in between. Clogs are caused by a buildup of large debris, especially if there’s a lot of hair or tree debris in the system. This debris can break the plumbing if it’s not removed.

Much like the dirty filter example, plumbing clogs must be dealt with quickly.

How To Fix

Try these clog removal techniques:

  • Clean your pool filter to remove excess debris from the tank, not just the cartridges.
  • Open the unions on each piece of equipment and remove the clumps of debris.
  • Hire a professional pool technician to blow the lines with a pressurized air hose.
  • Use a plumbing snake to flush out excess debris in the pipes.

5. Debris in the Baskets

If your pool pump is not pulling water from the skimmer, there’s probably debris in the pump basket or skimmer basket.

  • The skimmer basket holds large debris, such as leaves, sticks, and anything else that can’t get through the small, porous surface.
  • The pump basket catches small bits, and the rest goes to the filter.

Dirty, uncleaned baskets can slow the pump drastically.

How To Fix

It’s best to clean your pool baskets several times per week. Failure to clean the debris can ruin the pump’s motor and impeller, costing thousands of dollars.

All you have to do is open the skimmer lid, pull out the basket, and dump the debris. Replace the basket and you’ll be good to go.

To clean the pump basket, turn off the pump, remove the lid, and dump the debris. Place the basket into the pump, seal the lid, and you’re all set.

I also suggest opening the filter’s air relief valve to remove small air bubbles that might’ve entered the system when you opened the pump’s lid.

6. The Pump Isn’t Primed

Does it always seem like your pool pump won’t fill with water? It could be because the pump isn’t primed. Priming the pump drains all of the air out of the system, increasing the water pressure (PSI).

If the pump isn’t primed, it won’t be a fraction as useful as it should be. Running a pump that isn’t primed can damage the motor and impeller.

How To Fix

To prime the pool pump, follow these instructions:

  1. Open the pump lid and fill the pump’s basket until the water overflows.
  2. Seal the pump lid.
  3. Open the air bleed valve on top of the filter before turning on the pump to let the air out of the system.
  4. Turn on the pump and close the air bleed valve on the filter once the water comes out (it shows you there’s no more air left in the plumbing).
  5. If you need additional instruction, check out my article on how to fix a pool pump that won’t prime.

7. Broken Impeller

The impeller pulls water through the pump. It’s powered by the pump’s motor. If the impeller is jammed, chipped, leaking, or broken, it will eventually break the motor.

A faulty impeller doesn’t rotate fast enough, so the water won’t move through the pump. You might notice the suction gets gradually weaker until it stops altogether.

How To Fix

If your pump’s impeller is broken, try this:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker going to the pump.
  2. Remove the four to eight screws connecting the pump’s housing to the motor.
  3. Remove the impeller with a Phillips screwdriver and a strap wrench (if necessary).
  4. Replace the impeller with the manufacturer’s recommended part number, then tighten it with the Phillips screwdriver.
  5. Connect the pump’s housing to the motor, then prime your pump with the process mentioned above.

8. Incorrect Valve Orientation

Some pool pumps have valves in front and behind them. If the valves aren’t facing the correct direction, they’ll pull water from the wrong source.

For example, you might be pulling water from the spa or vacuum instead of the pool. Some valves can close, which means they don’t pull water from any source.

How To Fix

Make sure every valve is facing the necessary direction. For example, the suction side (in front of the pump) should pull from the skimmer for traditional circulation or the vacuum inlet if you’re using the pool vacuum.

You should also check each of the pressure side valves (behind the pump) to see if they’re going to the heater, spa, solar, or pool.

9. Faulty Pump Motor

If your pool pump is not pulling enough water, the motor might need to be repaired or replaced. The motor wears down after about five to ten years, depending on the make and model.

Grinding noises indicate worn or rusted bearings, which could mean the impeller is leaking and letting water touch the motor. Unfortunately, rusted bearings require a full motor replacement.

How To Fix

If the bearings or motor are damaged, the motor has to be replaced. Check if your pool pump’s motor is available from the manufacturer. If it is, follow this method:

  1. Turn off the power going to the pump.
  2. Disconnect the motor from the pump housing.
  3. Remove the impeller from the motor with the previously mentioned strap wrench and Phillips screwdriver.
  4. Connect the impeller to the new motor, then connect the motor to the pump housing.
  5. Prime the pump as shown above.

How Do I Get Water To Flow Through To My Pool Pump?

If you’re trying to get water to flow through the pool pump, your main action should be to remove clogs, trapped air, and jammed components.

Jammed valves, gates, and unions can slow the water flowing through the pump. It’s important to open the valves going into and out of the pump before running it.

If you want to get the water flowing through the pump, make sure there’s no debris in the lines. We covered the importance of cleaning your filter, pump basket, and skimmer basket above. However, sometimes the only thing you can do is hire a pool technician to blow the lines and remove the clogs.

Small cracks in the plumbing will also limit the water pressure. If you notice the pump suddenly lowers its PSI (on the filter’s pressure gauge) despite it running at the same RPMs, there might be a loose O-ring, gasket, union, lid, or a crack in the plumbing. (You can find the fixes for those in the above section.)

That being said, an airlock can cause unique symptoms. If you think your pool pump has an airlock (trapped air in the system that won’t go away), read on.

How Do I Get Rid of an Airlock in My Pool Pump?

Airlocks prevent water from circulating in the pool. These air bubbles push the water out of the pump and filter, which stops the flow. If your pool pump is not filling with water, there might be an airlock.

Here’s what causes an airlock in a swimming pool pump:

  • Suction lines (between the pool and the front of the pump) have to be at the same height or below the pump. If the line goes up and dips down to the pump, air can get trapped. This air stays up in the elevated pipes, even if you prime the pump. You’ll have to hire a pool technician to level the plumbing.
  • Air in the line after a prime will always cause an airlock. This process occurs because you recently removed the pump lid. Always open the air relief valve after priming the pump to remove the air bubbles and prevent an airlock; Otherwise, the air bubbles will get trapped in the filter and lower the pump’s pressure.
  • Never turn on your pool pump if the vacuum is out of the water. The vacuum will pull tons of air into the pump, causing an airlock. Running a dry pump is incredibly dangerous and bad for the motor, filter, heater, and salt cell. Your swimming pool pump should be underwater at all times unless you remove it to repair it.

Intex Pool Pump Not Pulling Water? Here’s What To Do

If your Intex pool pump is running dry, turn it off right away. A pump that runs dry will overheat the motor and damage the bearings.

If that happens, you’ll have to buy a new pump, which is much more expensive than the simple, straightforward fixes below.

So, what should you do if your Intex pool pump isn’t pulling enough water?

  • Turn off the pump and prime it. Priming an Intex pump is the same as any other pump. You have to fill the pump basket with water until it overflows, seal the lid, turn on the pump, and open the air relief valve until water comes out. If the pump isn’t primed, it won’t pull any water into the filter.
  • Make sure the pump is strong enough for the pool. Intex pumps are meant for above-ground pools. They’re not strong enough for in-ground pools because they can’t fight against the weight of gravity. Furthermore, they almost always use thin, plastic hoses rather than the PVC necessary for in-ground pools.
  • Remove all of the debris from the hoses and baskets. Intex pool pumps clog quickly because they filter such a small body of water. Above-ground pools don’t have a high gallon total, so they pull all of the debris out of the pool in a few hours. It’s important to remove the debris from the vacuums, hoses, and baskets to ensure the pump works.
  • Replace the motor if it screeches, grinds, screams, and so on. If the pump is humming without moving water, the impeller might be jammed. Intex pool pumps rarely have removable impellers because they’re so cheap compared to in-ground pool pumps. You can contact the manufacturer, but you might have to buy a new motor or pump.

Above Ground Pool Pump Not Pulling Water? Here’s What To Do

Is your above-ground pool pump having trouble pulling water into the plumbing? Above-ground pools are much easier to repair because nothing is underground. You can access the plumbing without digging a hole, and you don’t have to worry about tree roots and other debris breaking anything that you can’t see.

Here’s why your above-ground pool pump isn’t pulling water:

  • The hoses aren’t tight enough. Most above-ground pools have soft, corrugated plumbing hoses. These hoses are flexible, but they’re prone to loosening. Make sure all of the hoses are tightened and pushed all the way into the designated socket.
  • Check if the water level is below the highest inlet. Many above-ground pool connections are much higher than you’d expect. If the water sloshes or splashes below the line for a second while the pump is on, it’ll push air into the system. Too much air reduces the pressure and prevents the pump from pulling water.
  • Look for holes in the hoses. Above-ground plastic pool hoses can warp and crack from direct sunlight or accidental bumping. Replace each section of the hose that’s broken. Much like a drinking straw, a small hole can make a significant difference in the suction’s performance.

Whether your pool is above or below the ground, too much air in the system will affect its performance. Your pump can’t perform optimally if it’s not filled with water.

Additional Pool Pump Troubleshooting Resources

If you have any other issues with your pool pump, check out my other pool pump troubleshooting articles:

Author

  • Jonah Ryan

    Jonah has worked for several years in the swimming pool industry installing and repairing equipment, treating pools with chemicals, and fixing damaged liners. He also has plumbing and electrical experience with air conditioning, ceiling fans, boilers, and more. When he's not writing for Temperature Master, he's usually writing for his own websites, LawnCareLessons.com and DIYByHand.com.

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