Hmmm. That’s the noise that anyone makes, including longtime pool maintenance experts, when pool jets get strangely weak. If your jets aren’t working, don’t worry: you are certainly not the first—or last—pool owner to experience this problem. And although it’s usually a daunting task to locate the cause, the secret to efficiently sorting out the issue lies in one small dial: your filter gauge. By looking at that nifty device first, you’ll save yourself a ton of time.
Based on your filter gauge’s reading, I’ll show you how to get your jets roaring again by checking your water level, assessing if there’s an air leak, troubleshooting pump problems and pipe clogging, and cleaning your filter. I know, I know—sounds like a lot. But the best part? If one step works, you’re probably done. Sound good? Let’s get troubleshooting.
Why Your Pool Jets Are Important
You might be wondering why we’re even solving this problem in the first place, right? I don’t blame you—it’s pretty rare that these things go wrong at a convenient time. As if you were already planning on staying home today and messing around with your pool pump. Though, mad respect if you were.
But don’t let the inconvenience stop you from sorting out this problem quick. Your pool jets are essential to your greater circulation system: after all, they return to your pool clean water from your pump and filter. If they’re not working, there’s a chance your pump and filter are working too hard, your sanitizing chemicals aren’t being properly circulated, and the contaminants of your pool are not being filtered out. Sounds like a mess, right? Trust me, it is one—and it might even cost you extra in you next energy bill. Plus, the longer the problem persists, the harder it is to recover your pool.
And just a quick note, before we get to it: if your pressure gauge doesn’t drop after the pump shuts off, then it’s probably your gauge that needs replacing before we assess what’s wrong with your jets. Don’t worry, it’s pretty inexpensive.
Troubleshooting Pool Jets with Low PSI
If your filter gauge shows a pounds per square inch (PSI) that is lower than your normal operating PSI—meaning the level that it was when you first installed it—then this is the section for you. For example, if your filter gauge usually reads somewhere between 15 and 20 PSI, and it’s currently at 10 PSI, we’ve already found our lead. Unless you’ve recently lowered the horsepower or revolutions per minute (RPM) of your pool pump, this low PSI is probably what’s leading to some seriously weak jets.
Check Your Water Level
Before you do anything else, check your water level. If the waterline of your pool is lower than halfway up the skimmer’s door opening, it could lead to your pump sucking in air instead of water—the stuff of pool maintenance experts’ nightmares. If your pump is guzzling up air, your flow will decrease significantly, and the pump will work too hard—and eventually, it’ll run dry and burn up. Yes, you read that right. Word is it could even catch fire. In any case, nobody wants their pump to melt to ruin. If your water level is low, throw in a garden hose immediately to make it right. Once you reach the right level, replace that hose with test strips. New water means your chemical balance is likely diluted. And hey, chances are those jets are back to normal. If not, keep reading on.
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Check for An Air Leak
As we just established, your circulation system was designed to move water, not air. But what if you have an air leak? Yes, this horrific notion is entirely possible, but it’s only really a problem if left untreated.
If you do have an air leak, it would be somewhere between the skimmer and the pump—the suction side of the system that pulls water from your pool. An air leak will make itself known in at least one of these two places: through air bubbles coming out of your return jets, and through air in your pump strainer. To check your pump strainer, first turn the pump off. Really, turn the pump off. Then open up the pump’s housing. You should see the strainer full of water with no visible air. If this isn’t the case, you probably have a leak on your hands.
There are four places that an air leak can occur: in your pump lid O-rings, plumbing fittings, valves, and drain plugs.
O-rings are the rubber circles that keep your pump lid sealed. Though you can try applying a silicone or Teflon lubricant to see if it helps, it often will need to be replaced.
Plumbing fittings can also draw air, and can be tested with a stick of incense. Wave the incense along the fitting, and if it sucks in any of the smoke, you’ve found your leak. Don’t forget to check the fittings on the couplings and elbows, along with the pump intake, and replace any that have a leak.
Inspect your valves in the same way. Keep in mind that diverter valves have internal O-rings that can be replaced, but simple ball valves will need to be replaced in their entirety if there’s an air leak.
Also inspect your drain plug, which is used to drain a pump at the end of the pool season. Make sure your drain plug looks good and is tightly connected to the pump. Don’t forget to check your drain plug O-ring, as well.
If you haven’t detected an air leak but your pump strainer isn’t full of water, now is a great time to prime your pump, which might just do the trick.
Uh Oh. Pump Problems?
Weak jets could also mean that your pump is impaired. Since you already checked the pump’s strainer, make sure that there aren’t any additional clogs around your impeller. Check your motor shaft, the big horizontal tube inside of your pump which rotates with the help of the impeller. Double-checking that your pump is unplugged and off, open it up and give the motor shaft a spin. If it won’t rotate, debris has probably built up and blocked the impeller.
You’ll need to dislodge the impeller to get at the muck, so (again, with power off) remove the screws in the middle of the pump body, pull the motor assembly out, and remove the gasket (that’s the O-shaped rubber seal) away from the impeller. Get rid of all that debris, reinstall the pump, and you’re done.
Is water not pushing through your jets properly because your pump’s flow rate is weak? Try a booster pump like the dual-voltage Universal Booster Pump to increase performance. According to customer Jerad Wilson, “Great pump, quick delivery, and great pricing. Would buy from here again.
Still no luck? One of your suction lines might be clogged, which is especially likely if you manually vacuum the pool without a leaf trap or vac plate. This clog is probably between the skimmer (or vacuum port) and the pump. My recommendation is to use electrical fish take to unclog the line—it’s perfect for pool lines because it can make all those ninety degree turns so common in pool plumbing.
Troubleshooting Pool Jets with High PSI
If your filter gauge is displaying 10 PSI above your normal operating pressure, then it is time to sort out why—and fast. If you leave a circulation system running at a high PSI for too long, it can wreak permanent damage on your filter, pump, and plumbing. No, thank you.
First, Clean Your Filter
Traditionally, high PSI is a sure sign that it’s time to clean your filter. If you have a cartridge filter, that means removing the filter media and rinsing it down, as well as dousing it in a filter cleaner every few months. If you have a sand or D.E. filter, you’ll need to backwash your filter. If it’s been some time, you might need to replace the filter media, whether that’s a cartridge, sand, or D.E.
Cloudy Pool? Well, Let’s Fix It
If you clean your filter to great results (meaning, that filter gauge dropped down to where it belongs) but it spikes back up shortly after, look down into your pool. Can you see the bottom? If not, you’ve got a seriously cloudy pool that is overworking your filter. And as you get rid of the underlying cause, you might need to clean your filter several times a day. Once your water is back to being clear, your PSI return to normal—and you’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
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Now We’re Really Flowing!
Weak jets are always a perplexing problem to solve, but you stuck with it and saw the solution through. You did the work and you did it well. Now you can be sure that your pool remains as clean and sparkling as ever. And who knew the sound of properly roaring jets could be so relaxing? Enjoy.