This guide covers the common problems involved with a motor that won't prime. Most priming problems involve leaks in the suction side of the pump (between the pump and the pool) or clogged baskets. If you have a leak on the pressure side (after the pump), it does not affect prime. You just lose water.
1. Pool level too low - If the pool water level is below the mid-level of the skimmer opening, there is a chance of sucking air into the circulation system through the skimmer. Enough air is the system will cause your pool pump to loose prime.
2. No water in Strainer basket - Open the strainer cover and fill the strainer basket and supply lines with water for 2-3 minutes. Reseal the strainer cover.
3. Skimmer basket clogged - Remove the skimmer basket and clean debris out with a hose.
4. Strainer basket clogged - Remove the strainer basket and clean debris out with a hose.
5. Strainer basket cover leaking - Remove the cover on your strainer basket cover. Then remove the gasket generally in a groove around the top of the strainer basket. Check that it is not cracked or has worn spots. This gasket is a common problem and should be replaced periodically. Replace the gasket in its groove and lubricate it lightly with a silicon based lubricant. Do not use Vaseline. Close the cover and hand tighten. Do not over-tighten with a tool.
6. Suction or discharge valves closed - Make sure that at least one suction and one discharge valve is open so that you have a path open for the water to flow.
7. Leaks in glued fittings - Check for leaks in the glued fittings on the suction side of the pump. Sometimes the glue is not spread all around the pipe and you will get small air channels in the glue. Occassionally when you turn off the pump the backpressure will squirt water out this hole. In normal operation, air is being sucked into this hole. If you don't see water squirting out, turn the pump back on and drip some water around the pipe fitting joint. If you see the water getting sucked in, you have a hole. Redo the connection.
8. Leaks in threaded fittings - If you have threaded fitting on the suction side of the pump, you may have a suction leak there. Try the water drip test above. If you find a leak, take the fitting apart and wrap the threaded fitting with 4-5 layers of plumbing tape. You may have to cut the other end of the pipe and re-glue it to get the threaded pipe out.
9. Leaks at unions on suction side - Check for leaks around the glued connection of the unions as above. Then take the union apart and check that the O-ring is good and is seated correctly. Lubricate the O-ring with a silicon-based lubricant. Rewrap the threaded side of the union with 4-5 layers of plumber's trap and hand tighten the union back together.
10. Impeller is clogged - If the pump's impeller is clogged with debris, water will not be able to flow out the side slots and generate a vacuum. Without a vacuum, the pump will not be able to suck water into the pump and it will not prime. Remove the impeller and clean out the debris.
11. 2-Speed pump starting at low speed - When you start a 2-speed motor, it generally has to be started at high speed to created enough suction to prime the motor. After it is primed, the motor can be shifted down to low speed.
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