If you’re having issues with your pool pump, there’s a chance your pump impeller has become clogged. This is a common occurrence, especially in the early spring when you’re likely to get all kinds of foliage blown into your water. This then gets sucked into a pump and can end up in your impeller which in turn affects your water flow. In this article, we’ll look at some frequently asked questions about clogged pump impellers such as what causes clogging, how you can tell if your issue really is a clogged pump impeller, and how to fix it.
Where is the pump impeller?
The pump impeller sits behind the pump basket in the part of the pool pump called the Volute. You can get a good idea of where it is by looking at your owner's manual or this diagram of a Hayward pump. Most impellers produced today are closed vane impellers, meaning there is a cover on the front of the impeller to create suction to draw water in and out of the pump. Open vane impellers, sometimes known as vortex impellers, are more difficult to clog. These types of impellers are a little less modern and seen typically on old brass pool pumps.
The piece in front of the impeller is called a diffuser or impeller shroud. It is screwed onto the seal plate and covers the impeller to create suction and pressure.
How does a pump impeller become clogged?
The pump basket is in front of the impeller to keep debris from getting into the volute or clogging the impeller. However, small debris can pass through the basket and clog your pool pump impeller.
What clogs an impeller?
Anything that’s the right size can end up clogging the impeller. Most large debris will get filtered out by the pump basket, but small grains and bits of things that blow into the water are known to make their way through the basket and into the impeller. Things like pine needles, plant stamens from flowering trees, small pebbles or bits of sand, chunks of broken off pool plaster, and grass clippings are common culprits.
What are the symptoms of a clogged impeller?
If your pool pump impeller is clogged, it’s probably making some unpleasant noises (a low, grinding sound). If you look at your filter pressure, it’s likely only half of what it normally reads and the water in your pump is moving slowly or making a swirling motion. Your water flow in your pool is noticeably diminished and if you look through the lid on the pump basket, you’ll see that it’s not filling with water the way it’s supposed to.
How do you fix a clogged pump impeller?
- Turn off the electricity running to the pump motor at your circuit breaker. You don’t want the pump to turn on when you’re working on it.
- Remove the pump basket lid and the pump basket.
- You can use a bent coat hanger or just your fingers to reach into the impeller. Insert the wire (or fingers) into the opening leading into the impeller until it stops. Use a swirling motion to dislodge debris.
- Pull out anything you find and clean your hook now and again. You’ll be surprised how much can come out.
- Once you’re done, reassemble the pump by putting the pump basket back. With a garden hose, fill the housing with water in order to prime the pump correctly before replacing the lid.
- If you still have a problem, you may need to disassemble the pump to get access to the impeller. To do this, separate the volute by removing the clamp band or bolts that hold on the seal plate. DON’T remove the 4 motor bolts.
- Pull the motor straight back (careful, it could be hot), and separate the pump and stand motor so you can look into the impeller.
- Remove the diffuser or impeller shroud to expose the impeller. Your pump may not have a diffuser piece.
- Use your coat hanger or a skinny and long screwdriver (or needle nose pliers) to clean the impeller.
- For small rocks or seeds that may be stuck in the vane, use wire to push them back towards the opening until they fall out.
My water flow isn’t right even though I checked my pump impeller. What else could be wrong?
There is a chance that your impeller isn’t clogged if you experience these symptoms. Be sure you check the following common problems that may cause the same reactions in your pool:
- A dirty pool filter
- Valves closed on the return side of the filter
- Collapsed or clogged skimmer pipes
- An air leak before the pump which typically occurs on the pipe that screws into the pump
- Closed valves on the suction side, either for the main drain or the skimmers.
- A loose pump lid
- Loose pump drain plugs
How can I prevent my pool pump impeller from getting clogged in the future?
- Make sure you keep your pool covered when it’s not in use.
- NEVER run your pump without the pump basket in place. Some need to be locked in by twisting into place.
- Don’t be afraid to use skimmer socks during the early spring when your pool impeller is most likely to become clogged.
- You can even use an old nylon or pair of panty hose to line the inside of your pump basket if you keep getting debris that isn’t getting caught in the pump basket.
- If you have certain bushes or trees that create heavy debris around the pool area, trim those back and be sure to clean up after it regularly. This will keep it from getting blown into the water and being sucked into your pump impeller.
Be sure to keep extra watch for the symptoms of a clogged pump impeller during the springtime when it’s most likely to happen. Make sure you take care of this problem quickly before it affects the rest of your pool pump.