Your Pool Pump’s Pusher: The Motor


The motor of your pool pump is as essential as the motor of your lawnmower. Without a properly functioning pool motor, all you have are stationary blades (pump impeller). One of the main differences between your pool pump motor and your lawnmower motor is (unless your lawnmower is electric), your pool pump motor is simpler in design and has fewer moving parts. However, these parts have to all move in sync, and even the slightest malfunction can spoil the entire system. Here’s a basic breakdown of your pool pump motor and parts which may need repair in the event of a malfunction:


What Makes It Spin: An Electromagnet


An electric motor is a relatively simple machine. Imagine a magnet sitting on a table with the positive side facing you. If you put a negatively charged magnet near it and to the right, where will the magnet move? Yeah, to the right. If you removed that and then put it slightly more to the right, the magnet would turn towards it accordingly. That’s how an electromagnetic motor works, as well.


There are points inside the wall of the pool motor that get charged by an electric current. The element that spins has components that have the opposite charge. They go from one charged component to the next, spinning in the process. This is also why electric motors tend to last a long time – at least under normal conditions. Their operation doesn’t require the combustion of fuels and gasses to drive pistons, cams and valves. Fewer moving parts means less can go wrong. However, they are not impervious to strain.


The Most Likely Culprit of Motor Failure: The Bearings


While damaged bearings may not be the cause of the motor failure, they can certainly be the predominant symptom. The bearings allow the components to spin freely with as little friction as possible. They contain little balls inside of a housing, and as they spin, the shaft inside the housing is allowed to rotate freely. If you hear a noise coming from your pool pump, it is most likely due to bearing failure.


Because one or more of the bearings is worn or broken, the spinning motion combined with a motor shaft that can now move out of place causes excess friction, and that rubbing creates noise. If the bearing is replaced, the friction stops because the shaft is now held in the proper position—centered by the bearing. A bearing is a relatively inexpensive part and one of the easier facets of pool motor repair. You can even do this yourself with some fairly simple tools and a good amount of time and patience. However, if you’re short on either, it is better (and safer) to get a professional to handle it for you.

The Intricate Relationship Between the Impeller and the Bearings


One common reason for bearing failure is what happens on the impeller end of the motor shaft. It’s not the impeller itself that causes the bearing to fail, but what the impeller has to do. If something gets lodged in the impeller—even for a moment—or if it nicks the impeller, throwing it momentarily out of place, the bearing can be damaged. This is because the shaft that spins the impeller is allowed to do so by the bearings. It is also held in a central position by the bearing.


If something causes it to shift out of that position, the leverage created by the shaft can cause the bearings inside the housing to become damaged. This can happen easily and quickly. However, it is more likely that normal wear and tear affects the useful life of the bearings. As they spin and spin thousands of times per minute – often more than one million revolutions per day – pool motor bearings inevitably will wear out from the friction. Failure happens soon thereafter.


The Chain Effect of Damaged Bearings


Bearing failure doesn’t mean the pump will stop spinning. It can continue to spin, driven by the electric motor. The problem is that if the bearings are not holding the shaft properly in place, the impeller can rub against the sides of the housing. This can cause the impeller to wear and affect circulation and noise inside the pool pump. A chipped or clogged impeller will affect your pool pump in several different ways. First, it will make the pumping action less efficient. A clogged or broken impeller will negate the pressure that is supposed to be created by the spinning of the impeller. This will cause less water to be drawn into and pumped throughout the system.


It is important that you inspect your pool pump for leaks on a regular basis. Your pool pump has a mechanical seal (also call a shaft seal or pump seal) that keeps water inside of your pump, away from your electric motor. Over time, the mechanical seal can begin to weep, drip or outright fail, spilling water onto the area beneath your pump. Some of the water leaking from the mechanical seal can travel along the motor shaft and enter the front of the motor where it may come in contact with the front motor bearing. Water may enter the bearing, displacing grease, causing bearing noise which can lead to premature bearing failure if not addressed in a short amount of time.


It’s important to have your bearings checked periodically. They can start an avalanche of pool pump problems, making a pool motor repair much worse than it has to be.


Don’t Get Cut Short by a Short


An electrical short is the enemy of a properly functioning motor. A short, in short, is when one of the electrical components touch, or become grounded to, another piece of the motor. It is often caused by something melting or shifting just enough to contact something it shouldn’t. It can also be caused by the introduction of a conductive element that gets stuck in a position that allows it to ground out a portion of the motor. When a pool motor gets shorted out, there’s not much you can do. In the vast majority of cases, the component will be too hard to locate and too time-consuming to repair. Even if you do repair it, there may be another problem that caused it, which will result in the problem repeating itself.


To be sure you get your pool motor repair done the right way, the first time, its best to seek professional help. Your pool pump motor is critical to the operation of your entire pool filtration and circulation system. Pool motor repairs should not be left to chance. A qualified professional can quickly repair your motor — or replace it — in plenty of time for your next pool gathering.