Ask the General; How Do I Troubleshoot the Pump on my Fiberglass Pool?

Five pool pump troubleshooting tips before you call the pros.

Dear General- 

It’s still pretty warm in Atlanta, and we haven’t yet closed our fiberglass pool. Over the last few days, our pool pump has started making some strange noises. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we’re not sure what we should do about it. Do you have any swimming pool pump troubleshooting tips for us, or is it time to call in the pros?

Signed- Addled in Atlanta

Dear Addled- 

inground fiberglass poolsWhile northerners are thinking about winter pool maintenance, we realize that other places across the country are still enjoying swim season. That said, I appreciate your question and do have a few tricks up my sleeve that you can try before you call the pros.

  1. Check your water level. Your pool pump may be struggling to get water. Pool pumps can only operate in a “closed” system. This means that they’re only designed to pump water—not air. When your water is low and it cascades into the skimmer, it’s bringing air along with the water into the system, which is not a good thing.

If you want to know the physics behind how your pump works, here it is: a pool has a centrifugal pump with an impeller and a diffuser that spins and creates a low pressure area in the eye of the impeller. This, with the help of atmospheric pressure allows the water to be pulled through the pump. There is no diaphragm that actually pumps to move the water. So, air disrupts the pressure levels necessary to keep the water moving.

If that was “TMI” for you, then just know that your pump is just not gonna work right if you get air in your system. Add some water to your pool.

  1. Check your skimmer baskets and main drain. If your skimmer baskets are full, or your main drain is covered by debris, your pool pump will struggle to maintain prime. Again, because your fiberglass pool pump needs water to function properly, impaired water flow is going to cause it to work too hard. So, if your pump seems to be working overtime, it might be as simple a fix as cleaning out your skimmer baskets (which you should be doing regularly anyway, as part of your pool maintenance program), or clearing the debris off your main drain.
  2. Check for air leaks. A cracked pump basket gasket, or a defective O-ring on the access plug can allow air into the system. Look for loose or damaged pump drain plugs at the bottom of the basket or on the side of the pump. Also inspect the pump basket lid and the pump basket itself for cracks.
  3. Check the pump basket and impeller for clogs. If your dog swims in the pool with you, or you happen to have a cottonwood tree in the neighborhood, you’ll find that hair or seed cotton can really clog up the impeller.  A skimmer basket and pump basket can only catch debris larger than the grate holes they have molded into them. So, you should install a fine mesh filter in your skimmers to catch hair, tree buds, and cottonwood seeds before they make it to the pump and filter
  4. Backwash your filter. Whether you have a cartridge filter or a sand filter, a dirty filter will not allow water to be pumped through it. This can also put a serious strain on your pool pump. I’ve talked about the importance of backwashing your filter before, so if you need a refresher, check out this article.

If none of these tips fix your pool pump problem, it’s time to call the pros. 

If you have checked all the things I’ve outlined above, and your pump is still making noise (especially if it sounds like grinding, buzzing, or even screaming), shut it off right away and call your local pool service technician for help. They might be able to fix it, or it might be time for a new pump. Either way, it shouldn’t be too long before you’re right back in the pool, enjoying the sunshine. Happy swimming.

Until next time- The General 

Who is The General? 

The man, the myth, the legend … we just call him The General. His organized, systematic approach to pool installations over the years had his crew members calling him “The General” and it stuck. The General has over 30 years’ experience in the pool and spa industry, working for one of Pool and Spa News’ “Top 50 Pool Builders.” 

Over that time, he designed, sold, project-managed and installed over a thousand inground swimming pools. As a pool owner himself, he’s the perfect authority to give you the inside scoop, with amazing tips and tricks to make pool ownership a breeze!