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June 20, 2005

Fixing a Clogged Pool Pump


Working Toward Plumber-Butt


We inherited an in-ground swimming pool with our current home and so far it’s been an uneasy relationship.  Sometimes the water goes green because I forget to pay attention to the chemicals for a week or two.  Or six. 


But my favourite part of pool maintenance is vacuuming.  Nothing beats the thrill of watching dirt and dead bugs get sucked into some other reality.  Satisfying, yes.  And constructive too, unlike most sources of pleasure. 


However, over the past week the vacuum lost its enthusiasm.  The suction gradually got weaker and weaker until the vacuum head was just listlessly stirring up the bottom crud  and not sucking up anything at all.  I checked the pump gauge.  It was down to 3 PSI.  Way too low.


I backwashed and backwashed, but the pump still didn’t recover its usual ‘chrome off a bumper’ sucking powers. 


I called John, the local pool guru and explained my pump’s symptoms. 


“Mag, you should clean out your impeller,"  he said bluntly.  I don’t usually take this kind of advice from a man, but today I made an exception.  I followed John’s instructions and you can too.  On the Irritation Index, this repair is about a 6 out of 10 – i.e. better than seeing dead vegetation and invertebrates build up to the same level as the water surface. 


And better yet, you only need one tool.

Unpumpy_pump_bolt_locations_circled TIP: (per James Kilroy in comments below) TURN OFF THE PUMP POWER AT THE BREAKER BOX before beginning). 

This is the pump.  The gold tank is where the impeller lives, but first you have to separate the plastic housing from the impeller.  Look for four bolts (notice red arrows) which connect the two sections.  Undo the bolts using a closed-end wrench or a crescent wrench or pliers or barbecue tongs depending on your tool collection.  (This is the only tool you'll need, so creativity counts.)


Water_flying_around_even_more As you finish undoing the last bolt all hell will break loose if you forgot to shut off the valve that runs into the pump.  (That's water spewing out of the joint.)  If it's a hot day, use the soaking as a respite from your metabolism.  To turn off the flood, reach down to the hose that runs between the big barrel-shaped sand filter and the pump, and turn the lever so it's perpendicular to the hose.


The_neck_of_the_impeller_stuffed_wtih_cr Now that the water is off and the bolts are out, pull the pump gently away from the plastic housing and look into the throat of the impeller.  There is probably some crud trapped around the tonsils.  Scoop it out with your fingers. 


After you've cleaned out the detritus, put everything back together again and turn the pump on to see what happens.  With any luck, there won't be any huge rooster tail-ish leaks and the pressure will jump right up to normal again.  And you can get back to the ultimate pastime of vacuuming.  Pressure_returns_to_normal


Robert Flagg

Would be nice if you had provision to email a particular item such as Fix Pool pump to someone else.

Darlene Dougherty

excellent article, I am also the new owner of house with installed pool. Pool company replaced my Hayward 3/4 pump with a cheaper american 3/4 pump for a total cost of 750.00. The pool company also took my Hayward pump with them when leaving. I am sure that my Hayward pump was just clogged after reading your article and the pool company not only pulled the wool over my eyes but got a good pump and 750.00 bucks to boot.
Keep up the good articles Meg.


I have a baracuda G3 and it's working fine. The problem I have is that the suction is very very low. What could be the possible problems?
I'm not an expert in this area, but I was thinking that the inlet pipe is probably clogged OR could it be the motor. The return pipe is working fine (lots of pressure) It's just the inlet that's not working properly. Any advise?


Hi Mark,
Poor suction/pressure can be caused by a dirty or clogged filter (lots of backwashing helps - at least 4 minutes straight), a blocked return line (as you suggested), or a valve that is shut off or partially shut on the return piping (the handle of the valve should be aligned so that it's parallel to the line).

The pump's impeller may be clogged with debris, but I assume you already tried following my instructions above. If not, check by first shutting off the pump. Remove the pump basket and check the impeller by putting your finger into the suction hole found in the pump strainer housing. If the seal is broken, replace it. For seal change instructions, refer to your Owner's Manual or contact your local pool dealer. Hope that helps.


Hurricane Wilma is still my pool issue. Clogged intake and low out flow with air infultrating into the pool during the return. I just replaced the pump which worked for about 2 hours. During the 2 hours I had 13 PSI. GREAT! Then I decided to vacuume. Oh did I forget to mention the new roof just put on and all the small rocks still in the pool from the first roof that went into the pool? Also all the pine needles form the pine trees above were being sucked in during my moment of glory. Oh did I forgo the screen is gone as well? Any how what is BackWashing and is it better/easier than having to snake the pipes? Which is my next step.


I love it! Thank you! Let the internet troubleshooting to my husband as I prepared dinner for 10. "Well it appears that there may be a problem in the suction line, and it did the same thing last year I think." Me: well, what did you do? DH: I don't remember, I think that it just went away by itself. (Oh yeah, probably just before he had the pool pump changed to the tune of many dollars. I took me 5 mins. and I proudly went in last night and told him that gee whiz, every pool site can suggest a clogged suction line, but it was TooGirl that actually laid out a game plan. going out to tackle it right now! Again, thank you!


Good info! I am having an issue...I hope I can get help! My in-ground pool was over runn with a bad case of the green slip. A friend has been helping me clean it up. He vaccumed it to waste and today I hooked up the polaris and fired it up and the side drain is not working. It seems (to me) when I set it to pull from the pool and return to the hot tub, the hot tub empties. Is there an easy, cheap way to find out where the problem is???


This site was a saver for me....after vaccuuming my pool the suction went down. I thought I had suctioned a rock up and was trapped in the line. I tried all those methods to see if something was trapped, backwashing, hanger method, plunger the skimmer. I removed the filters, the basket, all to no avail. I was about to call the pool plumber to shoot CO2 into the lines to remove the clog. But I saw the site and I took the motor off and sure enough..a clogged impeller. It fired up right after I cleaned. Thanks a bunch!

andrew stout

When manually cleaning my pool I tend to notice debris shooting back out of my lines in into the pool. I'm thinking it is about time to change my san filter but i truly don't no where to start or what to take apart first? Any pictures or manuals? When we bought this home the pool was already here so there are manuals and some things i don't have! Thanks, Andy Stout


I Love you girls



I have been working on my moms pool for 2 days has not been opened in 2 years pressure is at about 2 psi and there is low pressure coming from the lines back into the pool can hardly feel it when i put my hand over the returns inside the pool we replaced the pump and impeller they were shot not sure where to look next for the problem also we tried to backwash it and the pressure is low comming out please help



Hi all!



last night we unclogged the impeller. We have the rooster tails of water!
what do we do next??


I have an in-ground pool and was using a Baracuda G3 vacuum, I have recently changed. My problem is the cone to the Baracuda has gotten stuck very far down in my skimmer causing low pressure- everything else is fine I have checked and I can see the rubber cone but cannot reach it. Any suggestions on how to get it out?


Hi all!

Hello world


I have been troubleshooting low to no pump suction for a few weeks now. My pool is in-ground and roughly 14,000 gallons. It uses a vacuum cleaner and of course skimmer. To use both simultaneously, I have a Pentair "Vac-Mate" installed. Its literature describes it as a "multi-function vacuum/skimmer attachment." The Vac-Mate no longer seems to work. Either its various seals have failed, or the plate deformed over time. The pool saw a lot of chemical shocking this past summer, due to a failed pool timer while I was on vacation, whence the pool went "swampy." So I am thinking that the chemicals did not help.

I now have the vacuum cleaner connected directly to the suction line (in the bottom of the well that holds the skimmer basket) of the pump. The vacuum cleaner once again zips around and picks up dirt accumulated on the pool bottom.

Mind you, this finding occurred some $225 of parts later (replaced the pump impeller; vacuum cleaner hose; multiport valve internals; various vacuum cleaner wearable parts). I do not feel too bad about this partial rebuild, since all of the latter were failing to some extent.

I also tried to snake the suction line at one point, but I got around one 90-degree bend (with difficult) and then could proceed no further. But after connecting the vacuum cleaner directly, I am confident the suction line is not clogged.

Now I am trying to decide whether to replace the Vac-Mate or just get in the habit of vacuuming a few hours each day, then disconnecting the vacuum and just running the skimmer a few hours. Any thoughts?

Great blog, Mag.

Above Ground Pool Liners

Good information and photos, and it is always helpful to call the local pool guy.

What many pool owners do not realize, even if they don't have a local pool guy, is that they can contact about any reputable pool site and get free advice because they want your business in the future.

They can also help direct you to the newest products that can make your yucky jobs a little more fun, and quicker to do, so you can enjoy your pool more.


FYI to this article your PSI on your tank should be much lower than it is. Pressure build up is NOT a good thing, it should remain below 8psi


If you have a silver band around a big round thing between the pump and the intake basket, don't take the big bolts off the pump. Just take the band off and the pump easily comes away. Unscrew the five screws holding the impeller on and clean the impeller. Worked for me!

Air Jordans

It's so lucky for me to find your blog! I am very glad, and welcome you visit mine.


Your high quality articles are so great, and can we buy some ads from you? If you agree, just emial me the ad type and fee per month. If you own some other high quality related blogs, selling ads would be welcomed.

James Kilroy

You forgot the most critical first step



Good point, James - Noted, and included above in post. Thanks.


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