I do a lot of bathtub spa repairs, and on one particular job the pump fittings were faced away from the service ‘port’. They (pump unions) were almost impossible to get to, and definitely impossible to loosen. There was very little room to put any conventional tools – I mean, anything that would fit, would be too long to even manipulate inside that small space.
Well, yesterday I was at Harbor Freight looking for a different version of a channel lock style pliers, that would have jaw openings large enough, but handles that I could possibly make shorter with a sawzall. Right when I came up to the check-out counter, the end-cap display had these things:
For like 8 bucks. Hmmm, this looks very interesting- I like the ‘teeth’ on this sucker. The jaws are designed for circular fittings, the handles are SHORT! It’s an OIL FILTER WRENCH! I’m guessing this product is new as I cannot find it on the Harbor Freight website. I put back the channel lock set I was planning to chop up and bought this thing instead.
Once I got out of the store, I got a 1.5 inch spa pump union and wrapped this thing around it. Holy COW! It grabs the outside of a pump union perfectly, the teeth on this tool are fantastic for this particular application!
Little did I know when I went back to this job today how essential these teeth are. Normally with channel locks, you need to be at a 90 degree angle for them to be effective. And based on how much access I had there was no way this was going to happen. Access and difficulty for this today was a 10 on a 1-10 scale and I could not take a picture because it was just too small an area. So to make the point, here is shown on a later job today how effective these oil wrench pliers are on a pump union fitting, without being at a 90 degree angle:
These pliers grab and loosen/tighten this fitting with very little effort. Here I’m at about 45 degree angle to the fitting and those ‘teeth’ are hanging on to the pump union perfectly.
Without the ability of using this very high ‘angle of attack’ on a pump union in an extremely tight space, this bathtub would have had to been removed just to change the pump, as the left side was the outside wall of a commercial/residential building.
Successful job completed. Thank you Harbor Freight! This crazy oil filter wrench is PERFECT and will forever be a mainstay in my tool box!
I just checked the Harbor Freight website for this tool. They must be just about ready to publish the product, as the URL comes out as:
The hot tub pump hums, doesn’t do anything. Then stops humming. It repeats after a few minutes.
My spa pump sounds like a fire alarm in high school! (REALLY LOUD, vibrating slamming noise).
When my hot tub/spa pump is running, it sounds like metal on metal.
My hot tub pump screams like a banshee when it’s running.
My spa pump makes no noise whatsoever. But the jets work!
One by one, we’ll explain what to expect based on the above.
1. Hums, does nothing, gets quiet, then repeats… This is the most classic symptom for a faulty pump motor. You could actually duplicate this problem simply by putting vice grips on the motor shaft and applying power. It won’t go anywhere. A few things that may be causing this:
Bad/Stuck bearings (especially important with bathtub spa pumps that rarely get used).
Bad Start/Run capacitor (yes I have had motors with only run capacitors go bad refuse to start).
Burned/Fried contacts on the centrifugal switch.
Improper voltage; (only a few motor manufacturers will have this issue, as most 230V motors will run fine with no load on 115V).
2. Hot tub/Spa Pump sounds like a school fire alarm! This one is unmistakable. It sounds like a Freightliner driver slamming on his brakes, and all his brake pads are gone. Stopping a 80 ton tractor trailer rig with metal on metal. It’s the loudest sound your hot tub will ever make for faulty equipment. If the above doesn’t get it, then do you remember what the fire alarms sounded like when you were in K-12, and had to go outside and count everyone? That’s the sound. AAAAANNNNNNNKKKKKK!!!!
This is one nasty destructive beast too. If your hot tub is making this sound, DO NOT turn on the power again unless someone qualified in servicing appliances like this is present. It’s not the noise that does the damage, but the excess current traveling through the control pump relays, and the pump centrifugal switch contacts. What causes this problem with your hot tub pump:
You mis-wired the two speed pump that you bought off of ebay (or other online retailer) when you installed it. Common, Line (common), should always be WHITE. Be sure what you have hooked up works with the diagram on the side of the motor. The common line is the most important. Mess this up and you could end up buying a new controller or having your board repaired due to fused relays. You can always reverse the black and red wires without harm, but if you EVER get the white wire wrong, you are in very damaging territory. If you find this, fix it, and it still works, consider yourself very lucky you dodged a bullet.
Your spa control has a stuck relay, and is sending high and low speed power simultaneously. This one is a dog; No kidding. What’s happened usually, is that a previous miswire (like above) or other high current situation has fused the low speed relay closed, and when you switch the pump to high speed mode, it’s getting both high and low speed voltage at the same time. This requires a circuit board repair, and possibly a pump repair. This could also be cause by a lightning strike, (a MASSIVE power surge), or a pump motor designed for 2hp duty, being used with a 4hp wet end… (too much work, draw too much current, burn/fuse relays).
Lastly, and I ran into this condition yesterday. The pump bearings are so bad, that the armature is making physical contact with the stator (field coils). This one is rare as it requires at least 1/32″ or more vertical movement in the shaft to physically make contact with the stator. It doesn’t sound like much, but in this domain, it’s a lot. And it is really nasty when it sounds the alarm.
3. Metal on Metal Sound – Noisy Spa Pump Motor Bearings. That is, the pump works and all that, but it’s really noisy. You need to get this fixed asap. This is the most common problem you will ever encounter and it is cause by the water being caustic or acidic enough to do damage to the pump seals, so much that that same water ends up going into the front bearings of the pump motor. Crappy water and grease don’t mix well. Eventually the bad water wins the game, and the resultant damage is that you’ve got ball bearings running around at 1725 or 3650 RPM, with NO GREASE! This is just like a toothache. If you don’t fix it, you will lose it. Your motor will not only have to generate the work force necessary to move the water in your tub, but it also has to generate enough energy to get past the resistance of the now defective bearings with no grease, and after time are increasing the work load just to make the armature turn. Given enough time, you’ll end up having to replace the entire pump motor (it will be non-repairable) because the windings are smoked because of the excessive load simply because of the bad bearings.
4. My Hot Tub Pump Screams like a Banshee. Due to #3 above, you are at the cusp of either fixing this thing now, or waiting for imminent destruction. Fix it now. Or just buy a new one online.
5. Spa Pump makes no noise, but the jets work. Perhaps there’s a definition conflict. There are two types of spa pumps. Jet Pumps, and Circulation Pumps. In many cases there is one two speed jet pump that does both heating/filtering /circulation (on low speed), then gives lots of water action on high speed. There may be a second pump, (old school we call this a booster pump).
So you end up with one pump that’s two speed, and does all heating/filtering/jetting depending upon speed selected for one set of jets. And you may have a second pump that controls another division of jets.
OR – you have what is called a dedicated circulation pump, and you’ve got one or two single speed jet pumps for your hot tub jet output. Most dedicated circulation pump system designed have their own discharge port. If you have this you may be getting flow or pressure errors, and no heat at all.
In any event, you’ll have the typical symptom that the water is cold.
If you’d like more information on troubleshooting your spa/hot tub problem, please give me a call. We’re here to help.
As of 2015, we no longer rebuild spa pumps. The problem is that the stuff that was manufactured since around 1996 is everywhere, and most, if not all of it came from Mexico. These motors are not worth rebuilding, and we recommend purchasing a new one online. The rest of this article will remain in place as a place holder.
If you’ve got a pump that’s making a lot of noise, or perhaps not working, give us a call and we’ll let you know if it can be repaired for much less money than buying new. Frequently, we find that about 70-80% of the pumps that are having problems can be repaired and put back into service for another 10-20 years.
The only exception to this rule, is if your windings have been burned out, or abused by an oversized wet end. (IE 4 hp wet end on a 2hp pump motor!). Or… if your windings are open. If this is the case, sometimes we can locate a donor motor with a good set of windings that can be used to repair your pump. I’m frequently asked about ‘getting the pump re-wound’. This is simply not done with these types of motors as they are designed as ‘throw-away’, and you cannot remove the windings, as the frame is tack welded inside the motor case. Besides that, even if you could, with the price of copper at a premium these days, it would be cheaper to get another motor.
And if you decide to purchase your own pump, please do not throw your old motor in the trash! There are a lot of people looking for metal to recycle, and they’d be happy to take it off your hands! RECYCLE! The motor does have value and we don’t need to throw away our valuable resources into landfills.
Please give us a call if you have any other questions about repairing or rebuilding your swimming pool, spa or hot tub pump.
We replace wet ends, seals, capacitors, bearings, and centrifugal switches to bring your old pump back to life again.
Or you can contact us using the slide out contact form at the upper right + we are always available at SpaXpert At Gmail.Com