In 2012, my pool pump broke. Now as a first time pool owner, rest assure, it can be quite unsettling when your pool pump decides to sound like a chainsaw cutting through metal. You go through all the emotions; fear, anger, denial, acceptance, etc. When I first encountered the issue, I immediately took to the WebMD equivalent for pool owners; Google. Quick googling identified that my pool pump bearings were likely shot and needed replacing. Now being the type of guy who would contract out making breakfast, I still to do this day have no idea as to why I decided to fix it myself. BUT I DID!. And I made every mistake in the book (that doesn’t exist). Many lessons were learned and many could have been avoided if I weren’t such a noob. Below are 5 tips I wanted to share with you when (not if) you are faced with a broken pool pump.
1 – Loud Noise isn’t The Only Sign Bearings are Going Bad
So in my pursuit of finding one of the various parts I broke in this process, I got a very helpful tip from people who repair pool pumps for a living. You see, when getting access to the back assembly in order to secure the motor shaft, I broker the starter switch. If that last sentence is as clear as mud, basically what I said was that I broke this thing.
So naturally, I have no idea what it was called at the time and thus couldn’t Google it enough to find how to order it online. So I sought out to find a local pool pump repair store in hopes they would 1) carry one and 2) sell it to me. I got lucky. So without even telling him what I was doing, he smears his finger along the bottom, looks at it, and says “looks like you need to repair your bearings.” I was like, “no shit, Sherlock, but can you tell me how you knew that from looking at my dohickey?” Well after explaining to me that my dohickey was a starter switch, he also explained to me that when bearings go bad, they tend to leave a ton of residue inside the electrical compartment of the motor.
I thought that was a neat little tip from the insiders and I thought I should pass it along. Perhaps in the future, one reader may even be able to discover their bearings are going bad prior to the horrific noise issue. I love discovering tribal knowledge and airing it out for the world to consume. You’re welcome.
2 – Get Issue Addressed Quickly
I know this sounds fairly intuitive but I was truly amazed at how fast a pool can turn green. My pool pump died in the hot summer months and it took me approximately one month before I could get water circulating again. While 4-6 weeks is probably on the high side for replacing the bearings, I do think you should expect it to take a little longer than expected. I obviously was trying to make a video and was at the mercy of my camera lady, but I also had to deal with the lead times associated with breaking various small parts and researching what they were even called and how to obtain them via the internet or local stores. I believe anyone who is attempting to replace the bearings will encounter some hiccups along the way.
And by green pool I’m not talking about a little film left on the bottom that was a pain to vacuum up. I’m talking about Gremlins multiplying green. In fact, all the algae in the greater Florida area decided to have an orgy in my pool. I couldn’t see the bottom and I seriously thought I did permanent, irreversible damage. For the love of God (Allah), don’t be lazy about it, get it to the shop or get new parts on order ASAP and continuously dump chlorine in the pool in the meantime.
3 – Auto Parts Stores have Pool Pump Bearings
IF you decide to replace your bearings and IF you have successfully been able to get to the point where the bearings have been removed, then you know what the next step is; you have to put new ones on. So I like to order things online but was immediately overwhelmed with the varying sizes of pool motor bearings. You may already have this squared away and if so, feel free to get pool motor bearings here.
However, the differences vary by millimeters and I have no calipers and no desire to own calipers. I also had no desire to make an error like putting the wrong the size of bearings on after finally getting to this step in the process. And remember from Tip #2, time is of the essence so I didn’t want to have to wait a few more days to get the bearings in. So I sought out local hardware stores to find replacements. Lowes and Home Depot disappointed me greatly with nothing at all. Ace Hardware on the other hand actually had bearings. Actually they had a SINGLE bearing and I needed two. I honestly don’t remember how I finally ended up at an auto parts store but it was glorious.
The auto parts store not only had pool motor bearings, but the guys there were more than happy to take them out of the box and hold them up to mine to ensure they were the right size. He even, get this, got calipers out and measured to make sure. I not only bought two right on the spot, but I bought a few more for future purposes.
4 – Go Ahead and Replace the Shaft Seal
Shaft seal replacement is one of those recommended maintenance tasks that probably never gets done. Like changing the water filter in your refrigerator (I hope that isn’t just me). Anyways, if you’ve ever taken the time to contemplate and research what it takes to replace the shaft seal you will learn that it isn’t an easy task. You still have to go through quite a bit of effort to disconnect the pump from electricity, separate the motor from the pool pump assembly, and unscrew everything just to get access to the shaft seal.
So what better time to replace the shaft seal then when you are mucking with the bearings. You have to go through all the effort anyway of taking everything apart so you might as well do this simple maintenance task why you are in there. I know, I know you are feeling nickeled and dimed at this point, but trust me there is no better time. You can purchase shaft seals here. Also, feel free to check out my video on how to properly replace the shaft seal.
5 – Just Replace The Motor!!
There. I said it. Felt great to get that off my chest. Alright, there are always hidden expenses associated with any DIY project. This was no different. However, I encountered a majority of the hidden expenses once I tried to get access into the pool motor housing. I broke the long screws, I broke a flange, I essentially broke everything. Not to mention I had to buy a bearing puller, anti-seize stuff, and the bearings themselves. I wasted a lot of gas driving around town scavenging for parts and a lot of money on chemicals to get my pool blue again.
My biggest lesson learned was that I should have just bought a motor. JUST the motor. Not the whole pool pump assembly. Yes, you can actually just buy the motor portion. I know it seems like $200 may not be worth the $5 in bearings but the level of time and effort wasted would have been well worth the extra $195. And no, the feeling of knowing I did it myself wasn’t worth it. So do yourself a favor, start shopping for a new motor here.