Pool cleaners and other machines and robotic technologies have one major function in common: they exist to make our lives easier. With a quality pool vacuum installed, you can enjoy the comforts and benefits of a sparkling pool without the time-consuming labor of scrubbing it yourself, at a fraction of the cost of hiring professionals to come and clean it for you.
However, machines and robots can sometimes malfunction, and troubleshooting your pool vacuum can be daunting without a basic understanding of the inner workings of your specific machine. Fortunately, most pool vacuums are relatively simple machines with only a few moving parts, making it reasonably easy to diagnose any problems they may be having.
If you’re experiencing issues with your pool cleaner, don’t get frustrated or give up too soon on your mechanical helper. Keep reading for a list of solutions to some of the most common problems homeowners experience with their pool vacuums.
Common Pool Cleaner Issues and Their Solutions
As with any malfunctioning product, the first step you should take is to look at your owner’s manual for detailed instructions on troubleshooting your pool cleaner. Not all pool vacuums are created equally. The manufacturer’s guide is your best bet for specifics on how your model operates and how to address the various issues you might experience with it.
However, if you’re aligned with the overwhelming majority of consumers who don’t care to read user manuals, here’s a run-down of the most common problems pool cleaners tend to run into and strategies for addressing each issue.
1. Pool Vacuum Doesn’t Move
The reasons why your vacuum isn’t moving can vary depending on the style of pool cleaner you’re dealing with.
For instance, if you have a suction vacuum cleaner that isn’t moving, the reason usually has something to do with the cleaner hose. First, check to make sure the hose is tightly connected to the rest of the vacuum. Once you’ve done that, check for any air leaks or holes. Finally, clear out any clogs or obstructions inside the hose.
A pressure pool cleaner that won’t move may have a problem with its booster pump or filter pump. If those two pieces seem to be operating, your next order of business should be to check the hose for rocks and other obstructions. You should also make sure the pressure cleaner’s connection to the wall is intact. A third possibility to explain why your pressure cleaner isn’t moving is a malfunction in the power train.
For a robotic vacuum that isn’t moving, check the cord to make sure there aren’t any issues with the power supply, such as rips or tears or being plugged in improperly. If that’s not the problem, or if you’re dealing with a cordless vacuum, the problem may lie with the drive motor; if that’s the case, you’ll likely need a new drive motor for your vacuum.
2. Pool Vacuum Moving Slowly
A slow or sluggish cleaner usually has a dirty filter or a clogged pump basket. This happens most commonly in pools that receive a lot of debris, such as leaves from overhanging trees, or in pools that don’t get cleaned very often. Removing the trapped debris and cleaning your pool and vacuum regularly should alleviate this problem.
If that doesn’t seem to be the issue, you might be dealing with holes in your cleaner hose, which cause air to get sucked into the hose instead of water. Inspect the hose carefully for any signs of punctures or tears. Any holes in the hose will need to be patched, or you may need to replace the hose entirely.
3. Pool Vacuum Doesn’t Have Suction
If your pool vacuum has lost its suction power, the most likely culprit is the hose. Check to ensure the hose is properly connected to both the vacuum head and the skimmer or vacuum plate, with no air escaping around the edges.
If that isn’t the problem, it could be that there’s excess air in the vacuum tube, which prevents the pump from working correctly. If this is the problem, you should hear a loud noise when the pump tries to operate.
Failing those two options, the final possibility is that the hose has a leak or is blocked. Lay the hose out on the ground and examine it carefully for obstructions, holes, or tears.
4. Pool Vacuum Has Too Much Suction
At the opposite end of the spectrum, there are times when a pool vacuum’s suction to the bottom of your pool will be too strong, causing the vacuum to get stuck or cause damage to your pool liner. If this is the case, check the brushes on the bottom of the vacuum head. If the brushes are too worn down, the space between the head of the vacuum and the bottom of the pool is reduced, creating stronger suction than is required to clean your pool.
Another potential solution to keep your vacuum from getting stuck to the bottom of your pool is to add a flowkeeper valve to the hose. This valve helps regulate the flow of water going through your vacuum, decreasing the likelihood that too much suction will be generated.
5. Pool Vacuum Making a Loud Noise
Some pool vacuums, such as the suction side models, are notorious for making a loud thumping sound that travels through the ground and into people’s homes through the floors. This is a normal, if potentially disruptive, sound. It can be mitigated through the use of flow control valves or by choosing a quieter model of pool cleaner.
However, you should take it as a sign that something is wrong with your pool cleaner if you hear it making any of the following sounds:
- a high-pitched whine or “scream”
- an unusually loud hum
- a knocking or grinding sound
- a low-pitched growl
If your vacuum is making a loud noise that is out of the ordinary, the most likely explanation is that something has lodged somewhere within the machine. Check the hose for obstructions that could be restricting the flow of water through your pool cleaner.
A high-pitched whine could also indicate a problem with the restrictor. Try removing the restrictor to see if that alleviates the problem.
6. Pool Vacuum Gets Stuck
If your machine is getting stuck in corners, the problem may be that the hose is too short. Install a longer hose and see if that alleviates the issue. Alternatively, if the hose keeps getting coiled or kinked and preventing the vacuum from reaching as far as it needs to, you may need to change the way you store the hose when not in use.
The main drain of an in-ground pool is one of the most common places for automatic pool cleaners to get stuck since the suction of the main drain works in opposition to the vacuum’s suction. The easiest solution to this problem is to turn off the main drain while your robot is doing its job. Another possible answer is using the pump controls to adjust the main drain’s pressure.
Stairs and ladders can be insurmountable roadblocks for your pool cleaner as well. Not all pool cleaners are designed to work well around stairs or ladders and are likely to get stuck when they encounter these obstacles. If you notice this happening to your machine, check the user manual to ensure the model you’ve purchased is designed to be used in pools with ladders and stairs.
Another possible solution to prevent your pool vacuum from getting stuck on ladders is to invest in a pool twister. This device works to power-steer your cleaning machine by automatically rotating itself about three times per hour, helping to detangle the hose and keep your vacuum from getting stuck in one place for too long.
7. Pool Vacuum Going in Circles
If you notice your pool vacuum going in circles, the most likely explanation is that the hose has “learned” to curl itself in a spiral. This happens to plastic when it cools off after being warm, and it most likely occurs when your pool cleaner is left in the pool around the clock. Try to only run your pool vacuum for up to 8 hours at a time, and give it plenty of time to “rest” between cleanings.
Do you have a robotic vacuum that keeps spinning around in circles? If so, there may be a problem with an internal mechanism, most likely the gears. Check inside the machine to see if the gears have become obstructed by debris or become so worn down with use that they need to be replaced.
A vacuum that has seen a lot of use may wear down one of its feet more than the other over time, causing the vacuum to list to one side. This can eventually lead to your pool cleaner going in a circle rather than completing its usual rounds.
8. Pool Vacuum Floats
Suppose your pool cleaner is drifting fruitlessly on the water’s surface rather than scrubbing the bottom like it’s supposed to. In that case, the most likely explanation is that something is wrong with the hose, allowing air to seep in instead of water and causing your vacuum to float. Check the hose connections to make sure they’re tight, then take the cleaner and hose out of your pool to test for leaks.
If air is leaking into your cleaner, but the hose seems to be intact, you could be dealing with a worn or damaged O-ring. O-rings are components that keep water from escaping from your cleaning system while preventing air from entering. They’re found in just about every element of your pool, including the pump, filter, heater, and booster pump. If one of these rings is damaged, you’ll need to replace it to stop your cleaner from floating.
The Bottom Line
While pool cleaners make the lives of homeowners much easier, it can be frustrating and a great inconvenience when they stop working. There are many reasons why your vacuum may not be doing its job as expected. In fact, there are as many possible malfunctions and explanations for those malfunctions as there are different types of pool cleaners, if not more.
No matter what type of issue you’re dealing with, your first move should always be to consult your vacuum’s user manual for guidance on what to do. You can also reach out to your local pool maintenance experts for advice or take the machine back to the store where you bought it if you can’t figure out what’s wrong.
About the Author
Stefan Schulz is the founder and owner of PV Pool Cleaner. He spent his college years working at Niagara Pools and Spas, one of the largest Swimming Pool and Hot Tub Dealers in the Eastern United States.
Today, he utilizes his background, experience as a pool owner, and the resources of his digital marketing agency, Orpical Group, to generate informative and engaging content for pool owners everywhere.