It’s never fun when you have a brand new above-ground swimming pool installed and the pump won’t work from day one.
You’ve either put the pool up yourself or paid someone to do it, waited a day or more for it to be filled with water, then plug in the pump and it doesn’t work. Sucks.
COMMON REASONS WHY A BRAND NEW ABOVE GROUND POOL PUMP ISN’T WORKING
First off, it’s not very common for a brand new pump out of the box to not work. It’s in fact, quite rare for a new pump to be defective.
“In my 35 years experience with above ground pools, only about one in one thousand new pumps are defective”
This should put your mind at ease in thinking that the product is defective (although it could be). You can now focus on diagnosing why the pump isn’t working.
FIRST THING – VERIFY THAT THE PUMP IS NOT RUNNING
This may seem stupid, but new pool owners thinking that their new pump isn’t running when it is, is more common than I would like to admit.
A QUICK EXAMPLE STORY
In early 2020, I installed an Intex pool at a very nice house in downtown Orlando. I don’t install the cheaper soft-sided pools very often and told this lady so when she told me what she bought.
She then explained to me that she bought a metal-walled Intex pool and that she paid a lot for it. I researched what she bought and it did look like it had a metal wall, so I accepted the job (thinking that Intex now makes a metal-walled pool) and scheduled it for the following week.
When I got there, I saw that the pool was unique, but was just a soft-sided Intex pool except it came with a metal wall in panels that skirted the pool. So, this lady bought a very cheaply made and normal Intex pool with a fancy metal skirt that went around it for an “unGodly” price.
I installed the pool, got paid, and left. Two days later, she called and said her pump wasn’t working. I went over a couple of common issues to make sure she had good electricity going to it and it seemed as though she had power going to the unit and that it wasn’t running. After verifying that she had power to the pump, I told her this was very rare but her pump must be defective. Being that it was an Intex pump, she would have to go through them for a replacement.
This lady had more money than sense and was used to having people do stuff for her. She was insistent that I come back out and inspect the pump issue. I told her that I don’t usually do that as it’s not my issue or fault.
She then spouted some stuff about it not being very professional of me to not come back to check the pump, so I decided to not match the “ass” that she was being and told her I would go take a look at it.
When I got there, her pump was running fine. I did what I asked her to do. Put my hand over where the water returns to the pool and there was water moving.
I called her to tell her the good news. She barely said thank you. I re-explained to her that an Intex pump is extremely cheap, so it doesn’t pump much water very quickly.
This means that it can look like it’s not pumping any water because you won’t see any water movement in the pump basket or maybe hear the motor as it’s sooo damn small and undersized.
I didn’t charge her for the service call but got what I wanted out of the trip because if she was planning on being a problem customer, I would only now have to remind her that I made a special trip to her pool knowing it wasn’t an install issue AND that she didn’t follow my verifying instructions.
The moral here is to “verify that the pump is NOT working” before involving installers/retailers/manufacturers and pointing fingers.
TWO WAYS A BRAND NEW ABOVE GROUND POOL PUMP IS NOT WORKING
Motor Not Running
This is the most common way a new pump isn’t working. You plugged it in and it seems like there is no electricity going to the motor. It just won’t turn on.
Not Pumping Water
This is where the pump is on for sure, but it’s just not moving any water.
These are two separate issues that need to be diagnosed differently. Here’s how:
STEPS TO DETERMINE WHY THE NEW PUMP/ MOTOR IS NOT RUNNING
Verify That the Pump is in Fact, Not Running.
- Make sure the pump is plugged in
- Look for an ON/Off switch ( some have them and some don’t) (switch is usually at the very back of the pump)
- Listen for the motor (it should make some noise) Warning: The cheaper Intex/Bestway/Coleman made pumps may be very quiet
- Look in the skimmer (if you have one) for water movement
- Feel the inside of the pool wall where the return fitting is. Is water coming out of it.
- Feel the pump motor (towards the back of the pump). It should be warm and maybe get hot after running a while.
If there’s no water flow, no noise, it’s switched “on”, and the pump motor feels cold, then the pump is not running. Time to check the electric line.
Verify That Electricity is Getting to the Pump.
- If using an outdoor outlet, plug a lamp or something into it to see if it works.
- If using an extension cord, unplug the pump and plug a lamp or something into it to see if it works.
- If the lamp(or whatever used) doesn’t work, then you have an electric issue somewhere between the end of the cord or outdoor receptacle and the electric panel.
Find Where the Electric Stops in the Path/Line from Where the Pump Cord Plugs in All the Way to the Home’s Electric Panel.
Start from where the pump is (the end of the electric line) and work your way back towards the power source (the electric panel at the house). Check the GFI and panel breaker first to make sure they aren’t tripped. Then check all connections that may be in this electric feed.
NOTE: If using an extension cord, the pump may not be running if the cord is too small. Most pool pumps need a #12 gauge extension cord or thicker to work.
DIY Tip: Purchase and learn how to read a voltmeter to help determine if the electricity is going through the path from the electric panel to the pump.
STEPS TO DETERMINE WHY THE NEW PUMP IS NOT PUMPING WATER
1. Verify that the Pump Motor is Running (see above)
This is an important step because if the pump is not on, then you are wasting your time trying to find out why it’s not pumping. LOL
2. Make Sure There is Enough Water in the Pool
A pump needs water in order to be able to pump water. Duh. Make sure there is water going into the skimmer or the line connected to the front of the pump.
3. Make Sure Any/All Valves are Open
Most above-ground pool equipment doesn’t come with valves. If yours did or if you had it PVC hard piped, then make sure the valves are open. If a sand-type filter, make sure the multi-port valve is set to “filter”.
With some valves, it can be hard to tell whether they are turned on or off. Most will be labeled with on/off arrows, so just make sure they are on so water can flow to the pump.
4. Verify that the Pump/Filter was Assembled and Set Up Correctly
I have seen some really strange “fails” with some self-installs. It can be easier to plumb a pump wrong or backward for some above-ground equipment.
Go back and re-read the assembly instructions and look for flow arrows on things to make sure your pump is correctly set up. If plumbed backward, it may not pump any water.
If everything here checks out, then you may have a faulty pump.
13 COMMON REASONS WHY A BRAND NEW ABOVE GROUND POOL PUMP ISN’T WORKING
This list will go from most common to least common
1. Extension Cord isn’t Thick Enough
People choose to run the electrical to their above-ground pool pump in different ways. Many just use an extension cord from an outside outlet off the back of the house to the pump.
If the extension cord isn’t thick enough, then it either will get hot and fail or won’t be able to carry enough current to the pump.
Solution: Use at least a #12 gauge extension cord for running the pump
2. Extension Cord is Old or in Poor Shape
Is the cord you are using all twisted up and out of shape? And how are the ends? Are they worn out looking or look burnt?
Yeah, you may want to go out and buy a brand new extension cord to run your new pool.
3. The Electric Breaker is Tripping
Your electric panel has several breakers inside it. One of them is attached to where you have your pool pump plugged in. And it may be tripping off when you try to turn the pump on.
An electric panel has breakers in it as a safety feature. If there’s an issue of some kind with the electricity going through each breaker (on the way to powering something in the house) and back, then the breaker will “trip” or turn the power off from going through the line/s connected to it.
There are a few potential reasons why a breaker attached to a pool pump trips. Troubleshooting this is not the focus of this article, so you’ll have to determine why this is happening and fix it.
4. Pump is Not on a “Dedicated” Circuit
Pool pumps (not the Intex type) need and take a lot of electricity to run. This means that they don’t like to share the power coming from the electric panel with anything else. Most then will need to be on a dedicated circuit from the electric panel.
This means that the line coming from the power source (the electric panel) and going to feed the pool’s pump is not shared with anything else (like another receptacle in a bathroom or something). The line is “dedicated” only to sending electricity to the pump.
Many who just use an existing outside receptacle at the back of the house or porch to power the new pump will have issues because that line is being shared with some other receptacles in the house.
Solution: Power the pool pump using a dedicated circuit directly from the electric panel
5. Faulty or Old GFI
Any existing outdoor outlet in the US that is up to code will have a GFI or ground fault circuit interrupter. This means that (hopefully) there is a GFI inline somewhere if you are using an existing receptacle to power your new above-ground pool pump. And it may need replacing as they don’t last forever.
6. New Pool Owner Unaware of the On/Off Switch
Not all above-ground pool pumps have on/off switches. And some are kind of hidden at the back of the pump motor.
Feel around the back of the pump for a switch. This just might be the easiest fix of all time for you.
7. Existing Electrical Components in Poor Shape
Some will use an existing electric supply that was used for something else in the yard in the past. It’s great to already have electric run in your yard so you can use it to power your new above-ground pool.
An existing outdoor receptacle, timer, GFI, or sub-panel that was once used to power something else may need some updating. Old electric components may have corroded connections or be damaged from bugs living within them.
8. Not Enough Water in the Pool
If the pump is running, but not consistently, then you may just have to add some water to the pool. Raising the water level will allow enough water to get in the skimmer and give the pump enough water supply to keep pumping fully.
9. Floating Weir in Skimmer Stuck
There is a flap inside the skimmer and it can get stuck to the sides of the opening and disallow enough water to flow to the pump.
This will make it pump intermittently as there is not enough water supply, so the pump surges and then runs out of water to pump. This is exactly what happens when the water level in the pool isn’t high enough (#8).
10. A Valve is Turned Off
For a pool pump to constantly pump water, it has to have a continuous water source to draw in AND it has to have a clear unobstructed path to send the water away from it.
If there is a restriction of flow anywhere before OR after the pump, then the pump won’t be able to work.
A turned-off valve anywhere will stop the flow of water which stops the pump from working.
11. The Pump was Installed Backward
This can happen. And if the pump is attached backward, it most likely won’t pump anything.
Most directions and setups are designed to only be able to attach the pump and filter the correct way, but not all. I have seen this more than you may think, so make sure you DIY your equipment hook-up correctly.
12. Pump Above the Water Line
Most above-ground pool pumps are gravity-fed only pumps. This means that the pump has to be placed below the water level of the pool.
This is usually the case with above-ground pools because the pool is sitting high off the ground and the pump is sitting on the ground. Some will bury their above-ground pool in the ground some or a lot. In this case, if the pump is set higher than the waterline of the pool, then it cannot draw the water upward and therefore will not be able to prime and start pumping water.
Note: If your pump is above the waterline of your sunken pool, then you have to either dig a pit and drop your pump below the pool’s water level or replace the pump with an inground-type pump.
13. The Pump is Defective
In most cases, a new defective pump just won’t turn on at all, but not always.
Some defective pumps have broken impellers or faulty electric parts that allow the pump to turn on, but not pump water much or at all.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU DETERMINE THAT YOUR NEW PUMP IS NOT WORKING BECAUSE IT IS DEFECTIVE
What sucks most about this is that an above-ground pool has to be full of water before most can determine that the pump is faulty. And you don’t want that new body of pool water to go unfiltered for too long.
This is why you want to be aggressive about getting a replacement.
If your new pump is defective, then call where you bought it straight away. You want to get the process of receiving a replacement going ASAP.
Some retailers are better equipped for this and will get you a replacement by sending one out that’s already in their possession. Some will have to rely on the supplier or manufacturer to get you the replacement pump. And that will take longer.
Keep in mind that it’s a rare occasion for an out-of-the-box pump not not be working, so don’t be too judgmental if the site that you bought the pool from isn’t very well equipped to handle this issue.