Hot tubs can be a wonderful at-home remedy for all kinds of aches and pains. But there’s no pain quite like getting ready to use your spa and realizing that it has lost water. The tricky part begins as soon as you try to find where that water is coming from and then figure out how to fix it. So what do you do when you realize your hot tub is leaking?
Before you begin eyeing for that leaky component, make sure you shut all the power off to your hot tub. You don’t want to turn into Tim Taylor who seems to get electrocuted any time he attempts a simple fix-it job (90s sitcom reference!).
The common places or parts you’re likely to find a leak are the following: pump wet end seal, heater assembly manifold, PVC plumbing parts and tubing, jets, valves, connections, or in the acrylic spa shell itself.
If you think it might be a relatively small and insignificant leak, you might want to try a product called “Fix A Leak.” Made specifically for spas and hot tubs, Fix a Leak is a blended, concentrated material designed to seal leaks in almost any material. It works both for leaky acrylic shells as well as plumbing. Believe it or not, it can fix leaks up to 1/8th of an inch in diameter.
Before you start tearing your equipment apart, try using Fix a Leak. Use 8 oz. per 1,000 gallons of water for minor leaks. Add a second bottle if the leaker is more significant.
Here are the steps according to the manufacturer:
1. First determine water loss in a 24 hour period
2. Fill to original level, mark water line
3. Remove all cartridges or filtering devices
4. Slowly add Fix A Leak with pump running through skimmer
5. Recirculate for 6-8 hours. Shut system off
6. Check water level the following day
7. If level remains the same the leak has stopped
8. Allow 48 hours before resuming operation
9. It's recommended not the use spa till leak is fixed and the remainder of Fix A Leak is filtered out.
If the leak has slowed but not stopped entirely, you can add more product to increase the strength of the solution in the spa. Stir the water left in the system to get the solution back into suspension. Then repeat steps 5-8.
- In order to successfully fill in the leak, there needs to be significant water pressure.
- Most spas are foam insulated and when that foam is saturated with water, it takes longer for Fix a Leak to cure.
- It’s often best to drain the spa after filling the leak so that the product can sufficiently dry. Allow 3-5 days before refilling.
Where Is It?
Another way to troubleshoot through a leaking problem is to determine whether the leak is a vessel leak (shell), suction leak (somewhere in the system before it reaches the pump), or pressure leak (after the pump). Here are some suggested steps to determine which of those it is:
- Fill the spa and mark the water level with a crayon or some kind of non-permanent marking.
- Let the spa run for 24 hours.
- Mark the water level again to see how much it has dropped—measure the difference.
- Refill to the new mark and SHUT OFF the system for 24 hours.
- Note again the distance the water has dropped.
If the water dropped the SAME in both tests, you probably have a vessel leak on your hands. If the water dropped MORE with the system running, it’s likely you have a pressure leak. If the water dropped LESS with the system running, this indicates a suction leak.
The Usual Suspects
If the problem still hasn’t been addressed, here are some other likely culprits.
Get into your equipment compartment (remember to shut off the power first!) and check your pump. Oftentimes a bad seal is the cause of a leak. If you find water leaking from the pump, try to figure out if you need just a new seal or if the entire wet end needs replacing. If you choose the latter, keep in mind that new seals are often difficult to install and replace without breaking or disturbing other components within the wet end.
Pay close attention to the union fittings around the pump and heater. Sometimes unions can loosen in a new tub because they’ve been jostled during shipping. It’s important NOT to use a wrench to tighten these—you should be able to tighten them by hand.
If you’re not familiar with all the components of your spa mechanisms, this might be the time to pull out your owner’s manual! In it, you’ll see that the heater assembly manifold is made up of the heater assembly, pressure switch, and other minor components of the heating unit. If you find the leak in here, it’s likely you’ll have to replace one of the parts.
Valves are often a common source of hot tub leaks. On knife-style valves, there is a gasket between the two halves that are bolted together that could be causing leaks. Some manufacturers even built hot tubs with valves installed on either side of the pump so that the water doesn’t need to be shut off to allow access to the pump for repair. It was a good idea in theory, but they’re often removed by owners because they’re a common source of leaking.
Connections and Jets:
If you haven’t found the leak yet, move on to checking the jets, pipes, and connections. Leaky jets are sometimes caused by a bad gasket in the jet body. Jets do sometimes go bad overtime and need replacing. A good way to know if the hot tub is leaking from the jet is letting the water drop (with the tub turned off) to see if the water drains to just below a jet and then stops. That’s a good indicator that it’s the source of the water leak.
If the problem is with your connections, you’ll either have to tighten them or reseal with PVC glue.
Make a Call
And always remember that your local pool and spa company is a great resource. I know we live in the era of DIY but if you’re having trouble finding where your hot tub is leaking from, consider having a technician come to diagnose the problem. Sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals!