9 Practical Solutions for Pesky Swimming Pool Filter Problems

Is something wrong with your swimming pool filter?

Are you having trouble keeping your water clean and your filter functioning properly?

Do you hear strange sounds or notice leaks or other damage going on with your filter?

Whatever is going on with your pool filter, don’t worry. Problems happen, and just because there’s something keeping your filter from functioning the right way, that doesn’t mean you have to simply throw it away or give up on your swimming pool experience altogether.

In this article, you’ll learn about nine of the most common pool filter pump problems. You’ll find out what causes each of these potential issues, what this can mean for your whole pool system, and how you can go about solving the problem. You’ll even get a few tips to help make it easier for you to recognize these potential areas of concern so you won’t have to wonder what’s wrong with your filter before you try to fix it.

There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a pool, and there are plenty of swimming pool filter problems that might one day affect you. When this happens, just stay calm and try to remember the information in this article. The more you educate yourself on potential filter problems, the better you’ll be able to take care of them when they happen.

Now, are you ready to start learning? Read on to find out more!

What do pool filters do?

If you’re very new to the world of pool filters, you might be wondering more about what they do and what makes them so important. It’s a good idea to have a firm understanding of your pool filter before you start working on troubleshooting issues.

At their most basic, pool filters filter the water in your swimming pool. They work to remove large pieces of dirt and debris before they can move from the pool itself into the lines and pump, but filters also clean up the water as it moves from the pump into your pool. Basically, they keep the water safe and keep the inner workings of your pool free from contamination.

pool pump problems

There are plenty of good reasons to use a filter in your swimming pool. While it’s possible to operate many types of pools without one, you need a filter for several reasons. Even if your filter is damaged or not working correctly, don’t hesitate to take care of the problem and repair the damage or replace the filter as soon as possible. Here are just some of the reasons why this is so important:

  • Pool filters keep you safe. Any time you enter a body of water that isn’t filtered or treated, you run the risk of catching a waterborne illness or being infected with a parasite or bacteria present in the water. Filters prevent this from happening.
  • Pool filters keep your pool working well. Some pools won’t operate at all without a filter, but even if yours will, you may notice the pipes and other inner working parts becoming damaged quickly without a filter present.
  • Pool filters are required by law in some places. Depending on where you live, it may be against the law to operate your pool without a filter. This is for the safety of you and everyone who lives around you.

Different Types of Pool Filters

There are three main types of pool filters on the market today. Although other styles are cropping up fairly regularly, chances are good your filter is one of these three types. Each type has its own potential issues, so be sure you know what kind of filter you have before you work on your swimming pool filter pump troubleshooting.

  • Cartridge filters – These are the most common form of pool filter with very widespread use. These filters incorporate one or more paper or fabric cartridges to catch debris and contaminants in your pool water. Cartridges must be replaced regularly and should be cleaned often. These are the most affordable type of filter, but may be expensive in the long run.
  • Sand filters – These filters use a small ball or cylinder filled with pool sand to allow your water to move through the sand for filtration purposes. The sand catches contaminants and keeps them from finding their way into your pool. These filters are expensive to set up but don’t need a lot of maintenance or regular work.
  • Diatomaceous earth filters – These filters are also very expensive, but they’re becoming more popular because of how easy they are to take care of. They don’t require much maintenance after their initial setup. They work much like a sand filter, except the diatomaceous earth inside the tank clings to fabric grids and filters your water in this way.

Problems with Pool Filters

There are a lot of different problems you might encounter when working with your swimming pool filter. Depending on the type of filter you have, you might be facing one or more very common issues that many pool owners have to deal with on a regular basis. While some types of filters are less likely to have problems than others, if you have a pool for very long, you’re bound to run into a snag at some point. Check out this list of problems to help you with troubleshooting when that time comes.

1. Filter media is entering the pool water.

pool filter problems

Type of filter affected:

This problem affects all types of filters, but it is most common in diatomaceous earth filters.

Signs to look for:

This problem is easy to spot. You will be able to see visible signs of sand or diatomaceous earth floating in your pool or sinking to the bottom of the water. If you can’t see this, you may still be able to feel it while you’re swimming in the pool.

Causes and contributing factors:

This usually happens when your pool filter has a broken inner lateral piece that is causing the filter media to move into areas where it shouldn’t be. Worn out filter grids can also lead to this issue, as can broken or damaged o-rings and valves inside the filter tank. In some instances, it’s simply because the filter has too much sand or diatomaceous earth present.

Worst possible outcome:

This usually just causes the water in your pool to get dirty and uncomfortable for swimming. It often won’t lead to more significant issues unless it goes untreated for a very long time.

Solution:

  • Open your pool filter and take a look inside.
  • Perform a regular backwash as you would for a normal cleaning.
  • Remove the inner laterals and grids and examine them for any damage. If you notice damage, replace the broken piece immediately.
  • If you don’t notice any damage, you’ll need to reset your filter cycle.
  • Complete the cleaning process as normal and remove all of the sand or diatomaceous earth from inside.
  • Replace the filter media and let the filter cycle a few times.
  • Take extra care not to put too much filter media inside. Only use just enough to keep the pressure correct.

2. Filter needs to be cleaned too often.

 pool sand filter problems

Type of filter affected:

This problem affects all types of filters, but it is more common with cartridge style filters.

Signs to look for:

There are a couple of signs that can point to this problem. First of all, if your pool water is getting dirty often, this may be a sign that your filter needs to be cleaned too frequently. Another great way to tell is simply to check inside your filter. If the filter media is dirty even though you recently cleaned it, then this may be the problem you’re dealing with.

Causes and contributing factors:

This problem usually comes from a swimming pool that’s used too often or is too large for the filter or pump that it has. Sometimes, however, it comes from other parts of your filter breaking or becoming damaged. This may also happen when you have very hard water.

Worst possible outcome:

Usually, the worst result of this problem is the water in your pool staying slimy from algae or being gritty due to debris and dirt present. Sometimes, however, this problem can affect all the parts of your filter, including the pump and lines.

Solution:

  • Look up information about the make and model of your pool filter. Determine whether or not it’s strong enough for the size pool you have.
  • If your filter is strong enough for your pool’s size, think about how frequently you use your pool. If you use it often, you may need to upgrade.
  • Try replacing the filter media with fresh, new media first to see if this helps.
  • If it doesn’t, you’ll need to upgrade the power of your pump and the size of your filter.
  • You can also consider adding a microfilter to help improve the quality of your water.

3. Water isn’t getting clean.

filter pump problems

Type of filter affected:

This problem can affect any type of filter and any type of swimming pool.

Signs to look for:

Once again, this one is a problem that should be easy to spot. If your water is very dirty if you notice large pieces of visible debris floating in the water (not including leaves or insects that may have fallen in from around your yard), and if you notice your water getting very green or slimy, you may have an issue with your pool filter not filtering.

Causes and contributing factors:

There are all sorts of different problems that can lead to the water in your pool staying dirty even when you run your filter often. Most of the time, this happens because your filter isn’t strong enough for the size of your swimming pool or the number of times it’s used in a given week. Sometimes, this also happens because of damage to one of the many working parts of your filter system.

Worst possible outcome:

In a worst-case scenario, your pool water could become contaminated with a waterborne illness or a parasite that could make you or your family ill. The more likely outcome, however, is that your pool water will become very dirty and be next to impossible to get clean without completely overhauling your filter system.

Solution:

  • Shut off your filter and open it up. Take a look inside and see if you notice any visible issues.
  • Broken pieces inside your filter should be replaced immediately. Damaged or leaking pipes should also be replaced right away.
  • If your filter media is very dirty or gunky, replace it immediately and perform a complete filter recharge and cycle to determine if this fixes the problem.
  • If the water still isn’t getting clean, you’ll need to upgrade your filter, choose a more powerful pump, or add a microfilter.
  • You may also need to use different or more powerful pool cleaning chemicals.

4. The filter has a leak in the tank.

filters troubleshooting

Type of filter affected:

This problem can affect both sand and diatomaceous earth filters. Cartridge filters may have other types of leaks.

Signs to look for:

A leak in the tank will be fairly noticeable. You may find that the pressure in your filter isn’t correct, and you might notice that your water isn’t getting clear enough. In some situations, the tank leak may be severe enough that you notice water dripping from the tank down the side of the filter or pooling in your yard.

Causes and contributing factors:

Many different issues can cause a leak in your filter tank. Most commonly, this problem comes from simple over-exposure to the weather and elements. If you keep your filter tank in the direct sunlight, it will become very prone to potential cracks and damage. Other accidents can also cause this problem.

Worst possible outcome:

A leak in your tank will cause low pressure pool filter issues, which in turn will keep the water from flowing properly and cause your pool to get green and dirty very quickly. You’ll find that you need to run your filter much more often, which will also contribute to added electrical expenses until the problem is repaired.

Solution:

  • If your tank has a crack in it, you will need to replace your filter tank.
  • You do not have to replace the whole system. Contact the company that makes your filter and order a replacement tank. Until it arrives, do not use your pool or filter.
  • When the time comes, simply unhook the leaking tank from all pipes and pumps and install the new filter in the same way.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable performing this replacement, don’t hesitate to call a licensed pool technician.

5. The pressure in the filter is too high.

pump troubleshooting

Type of filter affected:

This problem can affect diatomaceous earth filters, but it’s most common with sand filters.

Signs to look for:

You can check the pressure gauge on your sand or diatomaceous earth filter to see if you’ve got a high pressure pool filter problem. If your filter didn’t come with a pressure gauge, you can purchase one for a small amount of money from any pool supply store and from some home repair stores. Your filter’s manual should tell you what pressure you need to maintain in your filter at all times.

Causes and contributing factors:

Pressure in the filter tank is kept up through the pump, water levels, and filter media. When one of these isn’t working correctly, it can affect the filter pressure. This problem can also occur when the filter is very dirty and needs to be cleaned. If you have a lot of debris and contaminants backing up in your filter media, this can lead to serious pressure issues.

Worst possible outcome:

Most of the time, the worst-case scenario with high pressure in pool filter products is the filter shutting off or not working properly until you take care of the problem. In very rare instances, it may affect the functionality of the pump itself, which may cause the whole system to need repair.

Solution:

  • Perform a complete backwash and turn off your filter.
  • Remove all filter media and inner working components. Inspect everything for damage.
  • If you notice a damaged piece, replace it immediately. If not, recharge your filter with new media and let it cycle once or twice.
  • Be sure you are using enough filter media without putting too much in your tank.
  • If the pressure is still not right, check for leaks and damage in the pump and lines.
  • You may wish to use a microfilter to help improve the pressure in your tank if all else fails.

6. The filter is displaying an error code.

pressure in pool filter

Type of filter affected:

This problem affects sand and diatomaceous earth filters that have digital error code displays.

Signs to look for:

On sand filters and some diatomaceous earth filters, there are digital displays that will tell you if something is going wrong with the filter. Sometimes, these displays are prone to showing up error codes very frequently, even when you feel you’re doing everything correctly. It’s a good idea to check these displays every day to be sure there’s no error code present. This is one of the most common swimming pool sand filter problems.

Causes and contributing factors:

 Error codes can come from any type of damage that might be going on with your filter, but the most common problems are pressure and sand or diatomaceous earth levels. If your filter media levels drop too low, this can cause the error code to pop up. In some cases, filters are very sensitive and will need to be monitored regularly to keep levels correct.

Worst possible outcome:

When this happens, your filter will stop running until you correct the problem. There are no major significant long-term effects of this issue, but your pool water will not be clean until it’s taken care of.

Solution:

  • Check your filter’s owner’s manual to determine what the error code means.
  • Most of the time, these codes are related to the amount of filter media present in your filter tank.
  • Try removing some sand or diatomaceous earth or adding a little more to fix the problem.
  • Only go a few tablespoons at a time, since some of these types of filters can be very sensitive.
  • Be sure you’re using the correct type of sand or filter media in your filter. If you aren’t, this can also cause inaccurate readings.

7. The filter has a visible physical crack or broken part.

pressure pool filter

Type of filter affected:

This problem can affect any type of filter.

Signs to look for:

All you’ll need to do to notice this issue is take a look at your filter. If you notice cracks or broken pieces on the tank, handle, valves, or lines, they will need to be addressed quickly. Sometimes, these problems may not be visible with a quick once-over, so be sure to examine your filter carefully about once a month to ensure that it’s operating correctly.

Causes and contributing factors:

This is an especially common problem following storms and other bad weather. Exposure to the elements can cause the pieces of your filter to become brittle and crack, and falling branches or pieces of yard furniture getting tossed around in the wind can also lead to this type of damage. Sometimes, filter pieces just crack or break after a while due to extended use.

Worst possible outcome:

Depending on the location of the damage, this could be as simple as a quick part replacement or complicated enough to cause extensive damage to the filter and pump. Major cracks can cause water to leak significantly and keep your filter from working properly. Some cracks may allow air into the pump, which will cause it to stop working.

Solution:

  • Examine the filter to determine where the damage is coming from.
  • Once you have located the damaged piece, you will need to replace it.
  • For damaged tanks, see the previous section on tank leaks. For other parts, the process is more or less the same.
  • You will need to remove the damaged piece and reattach the new one in the same way.
  • If the broken piece is part of the handle or multiport, you may need to replace the whole section instead of the individual part.
  • If the broken piece is a valve or o-ring, the fix will be as simple as removing the old one and putting on a new one. Be sure to choose replacement o-rings that are slightly smaller than the broken one to account for any stretching over time.

8. The filter has a leak in the lines.

low pressure

Type of filter affected:

This problem can affect any type of filter.

Signs to look for:

A leak in the lines can usually be detected by listening for dripping sounds while your filter is running or looking along the lines for any areas where the leak may be visible. You can also tell the lines are leaking by checking the pressure in your filter tank and the flow rate of the pump from the pool.

Causes and contributing factors:

Anything can cause a leak in the lines. This can happen due to outside interference, such as a branch falling on the exposed lines or even a pet or child accidentally tripping over the pipes. It can also happen due to other filter damage coming from the inside of the system. If your filter isn’t functioning properly, larger pieces of debris can travel through the lines and lead to leaks.

Worst possible outcome:

Most of the time, damage in the lines won’t necessarily cause the entire system to break. However, if there’s too much air getting into your lines due to a leak, this can travel to the pump and cause it to shut down.

Solution:

  • Leaky lines can easily be repaired by putting in new pipes or hoses as needed.
  • Replacement pipes and hoses can be found at any pool supply store as well as in some home repair stores.
  • Before you replace the entire line, take a look at the valve. In many cases, the valve is either loose or damaged, and this is what’s causing the leak.
  • If the valve isn’t the problem, the hose or pipe is. To remove the hose or pipe, you’ll need to use a wrench to unscrew it and to put the new one back in place. You may need a small screwdriver to remove valves and gaskets from smaller hoses.
  • Be sure you turn off your filter before you perform this repair.

9. The sand filter’s inner gasket is broken or not turning correctly.

filter not filtering

Type of filter affected:

This problem can occur in both sand and diatomaceous earth filters.

Signs to look for:

You’ll need to open your sand filter to check on this potential problem. If you’re noticing other issues going on with the filtration in your pool, this may be a good indication that there’s something wrong with the inner workings. You’ll be able to tell if some of the arms or grids in your inner gasket are broken by simply opening up the filter and looking inside. This is one of the more common sand filter pool pump problems.

Causes and contributing factors:

This problem may occur when your filter has been used for a long period of time without being maintained properly. If you don’t regularly clean and backwash your filter, it can become so built up with debris and dirt that it can’t run properly and will break. In some rare instances, filters may arrive already damaged due to shipping or packaging issues.

Worst possible outcome:

In a worst-case scenario, this type of problem can completely destroy the inner workings of your filter and cause the entire system to quit working. It may cause damage to the pump, lines, and even to your pool without being addressed properly.

Solution:

  • Turn off the filter and remove the multiport valve on your filter.
  • You’re looking for a gasket that looks like an old-fashioned wheel with spokes and a center ring.
  • Find the model number on the valve or on the gasket itself. Pick up a replacement piece from any pool supply store or order it directly from the manufacturer of your filter.
  • Unscrew the broken or damaged gasket and screw the new one on in its place.
  • Put the multiport valve back in place and reattach it using the proper tools. You may need a wrench, screwdriver, or pliers for this job.
  • Turn your filter back on and let it cycle through once to be sure it’s working properly.

Conclusion

There are a lot of things that can go wrong when you have a pool filter installed, but none of them have to mean the end of your swimming pool enjoyment. When you keep these cartridge, diatomaceous earth, and swimming pool sand filters troubleshooting tips in mind, you’ll be able to solve any of the most common problems you might come across during the operation of your whole pool system.

Remember that, although these problems can be solved on your own, you should never perform any pool filter repairs you don’t feel comfortable completing. Sometimes, opening your filter without the help of a trained pool technician can void your warranty on the product, so be sure you can complete the task before you get started. If you don’t have a good understanding of what you need to do to solve your filter problem, it might be a good idea to call someone a little more experienced to help.

However, with a little practice and a few simple household tools, you should have no trouble taking care of these common filter problems on your own. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to correctly identify any problem your filter might be having, and you’ll even be able to repair it yourself with little to no trouble. Now that you’ve read through this article, you’re already well on your way to a safer, cleaner, happier pool experience and years of long life and hard work from your filter.

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