Utility Pump Troubleshooting


Use caution when checking anything electrical.  Pumps use 115 volts AC which can injure or kill.

Always unplug the pump from power before servicing or inspecting it.


Possible Cause

Corrective Action to

Motor runs but no water is discharged
Pump is air-locked
If pump is equipped with an anti-airlock hole, be sure it is clear of debris.
Lay pump down on its side and stand it upright while in the water to allow air out of, and water into the impeller area.
Be sure pump is actually running, not just humming
See section below called “Motor hums it’s not really running”
Discharge hose or pipe is blocked or too restrictive
Check hose/pipe for blockages. Check manual for maximum lengths of pipe/hose that pump can handle. Do not use a hose/pipe that is narrower than the discharge of the pump itself.
If pump is non-submersible, make sure it is primed
Non-submersible utility pumps need to be primed with water before use. Follow directions in the owners’ manual regarding priming.
Discharge hose/pipe goes up too high
Every pump has a maximum “head” capability which is the highest it can lift water. Do not route discharge hose/pipe higher than that rating.
Impeller or other internal parts are worn or damaged
Inspect pump’s internal parts for wear or breakage. Repair or rebuild as needed.
Check valve is installed backwards
Check body of check valve for an arrow indicating flow direction, or markings of “in” and “out” or similar. Install in proper direction to allow water flow.
Motor just hums – it’s not really running
Pump is not receiving proper voltage
Plug pump directly into a power outlet. If it NEEDS to be plugged into an extension cord, make sure cord is heavy enough gauge to handle the amp draw of the pump.
For 12 volt pumps, make sure battery is completely charged and leads are connected properly.
Impeller is stuck or jammed with debris
Inspect the impeller area for any debris that may have entered. Remove as needed.
Make sure impeller rotates freely.
Motor is locked up
Check cooling shroud and/or vents in motor case for foreign objects or for shifting in the case. Remove objects and/or straighten the motor shroud.
Motor has failed
If all items above check out OK, the motor has failed. Replace pump
Motor does not run or make any noise at all
Pump is not getting any power
Check outlet where pump is plugged in. Make sure it has power. If no power check your home’s fuse or circuit breaker panel and repair as needed.
Pump is not plugged in properly. Ensure pump’s plug is making good contact in outlet.
Pump cord has a broken wire or is not plugged into pump properly
Check cord connection at pump to make sure it is connected properly.
Disconnect cord from pump and outlet and use ohmmeter to check wires. If bad, replace cord.
Pump switch has failed
If pump is equipped with a power switch, check switch with meter and replace if needed.
Internal connection or motor has failed
If something inside the motor has failed, it will either need to be repaired by a professional or replaced.
Pump runs and moves water but the quantity of water is less than it should be
Discharge hose is restrictive
If you are using a hose that is narrower than the pump discharge, or a long hose, the pump will not be able to discharge water at the rate for which it was designed. Use a shorter, fatter hose.
Check hose for coils or kinks. Lay hose out straight for best performance
Suction hose has an air leak
On pumps that use a hose for the suction, it is important that the hose have air-tight connections. If air can be pulled in through a hose connection, the pump’s performance will be diminished.
Debris partially blocking intake area
Remove debris and ensure intake area is clear for optimum performance
Discharge hose goes up high
The higher the discharge hose goes, the less water the pump can move. For improved performance the hose should go up too high.
Suction hose has collapsed and won’t stay open
Suction hoses should be reinforced so that they can maintain their shape under suction conditions. Replace hose with reinforced, suction rated type.
Impeller or other internal parts are worn or damaged
Inspect the impeller, diffuser, and other internal parts for wear and damage. Repair as needed
There is some kind of oil around the pump and in the water
Standard submersible utility pump being used in a pond, waterfall, etc. It has overheated and expelled its dielectric oil.
Standard submersible utility pumps are not designed to run for long periods of time. They are not cooled by the water they pump. For waterfall or pond use, or for any use where the pump must run for a long period, use a pump that is specifically labeled as a waterfall or pond pump.
Standard submersible utility pump used in a fish pond
Fish waste in the water can attack the shaft seal. The seal has become damaged and the internal oil has come out. Use only waterfall type pumps in a fish pond.
Submersible utility pump simply ran too long in shallow water and expelled its dielectric oil..
A standard submersible utility pump is only cooled by the water surrounding it. If allowed to run too long in shallow water, the pump can overheat and expel its oil. Need to run the pump for shorter periods of time with “breaks” to allow for complete cool-down.
The impeller wears out too fast
Pump was not lubricated before use
Many utility pumps use a wearable rubber impeller. The pump must be lubricated before each use with a good vegetable oil to provide lubrication while the pump is trying to prime and get water
Sand, dirt or other grit in the water is accelerating wear
All of our pumps are designed to pump clear water. If there is dirt or grit in the water, the internal parts of the pump will wear at an accelerated rate.
Some liquid other than water is being pumped
Many liquids have very little lubricating qualities. They will not lubricate the impeller properly and it will wear out faster. Our utility pumps are all designed to pump clear fresh water.
Impeller is broken
Pump has picked up debris that caused the damage
Most pumps use a thermoplastic impeller. Care must be used to try to keep debris from being drawn into the pump which will damage it
Electronic utility pump not working as described
Pump won’t keep running when there is plenty of water
Discharge hose is too restrictive (too narrow, too long, or too high).
Electrical supply inadequate. Pump should be plugged directly into an outlet without going through extension cord, timer, or ground fault interrupter circuit, any of which can “fool” the pump’s circuitry.
Pump keeps running long after the water is gone
Internal sensing circuitry has failed. Pump will function fine as a standard utility pump but its sensing circuitry will not work. Replace pump
Pump never turns on at all
Pump not plugged directly into good electrical power. Plug in properly
Internal timer circuitry has failed. Replace pump
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