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Maintaining Your Sump Pump: How to Detect and Fix the Most Common Problems

April 14, 2021

Dealing with a flooded basement is not a pleasant experience. Not only do you have to get the water out, but you also have to dry everything, from walls to furniture. Even then, you could end up struggling with mold infestation. If you wish to avoid these problems and have one less worry on your mind, make sure your sump pump is fully operational. If this device does not work properly, you could easily end up with water damage. 

crew checking sump pump

The wisest homeowners leave nothing to chance, so don’t just sit and wait to see what will happen during the next storm. Repairing your water-damaged basement can cost thousands of dollars, so it is much better to be safe than sorry. Make sure your sump pump works perfectly and you won’t have to bite your nails every time the rain falls. 

In this post, we will address common sump pump problems and ways you can maintain this device. 

Frequent Sump Pump Problems 

Just like every mechanical device, a sump pump can also develop problems that will prevent it from properly functioning. Here are some of the most common problems with the sump pump and ways to fix them. Although you may be able to do some of these things on your own, that doesn’t mean you should. A sump pump is a very important piece of equipment, so calling in a professional to maintain it is always your best bet. 

Not Working 

If your pump won’t start, that means its engine is not running. Check the power cord and see if it is disconnected. If not, maybe the receptacle has poor contact, and you might need to replace it. 

Not Ejecting Water 

If your pump activates but it won’t eject water, the impeller may be loose or clogged. Therefore, make an effort to tighten the fasteners, and remove the screen cover to clean the impeller. 

Starts Operating Momentarily, Then Stops 

This happens due to an internal motor defect, so contact a local electrician and ask them to check the pump and repair the circuit. 

Won’t Stop Running 

When the pump functions properly, it stops working when the water has been removed. However, if your sump pump continues to work even once all the water has been ejected, there may be something wrong with the level switch. If you are experiencing this problem, turn off the power, detach the pump, and examine the impeller and shaft rotation. Try tightening fasteners and replacing the key and you might fix the issue. 

Frequent Cycles 

There are two possible causes of this issue: Either the check valve is defective, or there is excessive water flow. If you clean the gate of the valve and readjust control floats and the problem isn’t fixed, you will need a larger pump. 

Keeps Turning on and Off 

If this happens sporadically, the float operation may be restrained or obstructed. Readjust the weights or control floats and your pump may work. 

Too Noisy 

This is a common problem that happens when the impeller is rubbing the inlet plate housing. If your pump is squealing, grinding, or hammering, it is also possible that the impeller is loose, or rotating parts are blocked in some way. These excessive sounds may also signal that the pump is not positioned firmly to the ground. If you tighten everything and the noise doesn’t go away, you may need to replace your pump. 

Inspecting the Sump Pump 

If you notice that there is something wrong with your sump pump, there are two ways you can figure out whether it is faulty. A waterproofing contractor in your area can also inspect the pump and see whether it is broken. 

Step 1: Unplug It for a Minute 

Here, you will need to restart your sump pump the same way you would reboot your computer. Keep in mind that a sump pump has two distinct plugs for the float switch and the motor, so make sure you unplug both. When you plug it back in, pay attention to what happens. If your sump pump hasn’t turned on immediately, it is time to ask a professional for help. If everything seems to be in order, you can move on to the next step. 

Step 2: Flush the System 

The easiest way to test the pump is with a bucket of water. Slowly pour the liquid into the sump pit and see what happens. If the pump immediately comes on, pumps the water out, and then turns off, everything is in order. However, if it doesn’t automatically turn on or doesn’t stop running after the water has been pumped, you have a faulty sump pump. In this case, you will need to determine exactly where the problem is. There are four steps you should take to detect the issue: 

  • Inspect the float. As you pour the water into the sump pit, make sure it travels easily on the float rod. 
  • Clean the filter. Things like dirt, pebbles, and small rocks can jam your pump, so it is advisable to clean it from time to time. Otherwise, the dirty filter could prevent the pump from working properly and cause the motor to burn out. 
  • Check the discharge pipe. Just like the filter, the discharge pipe can also get clogged with debris. If the water cannot go through the pipe, something is blocking it, so you will need to clean it. 
  • Inspect the check valve. There should be a 3/16” weep hole between the pump’s discharge pipe and the check valve. The point of this hole is to stop your pump from going into vapor lock. 

How to Properly Maintain the Pump 

If you wish your sump pump to serve you for years to come, you should replace the battery on the backup pump every three years and install a protective cover. Every now and then, you need to clean out the air hole located in the discharge line, readjust weights and floats, and clean tiny particles with vinegar. You could also apply water repellent so your pump doesn’t rust and clean the vents so it can function properly. 

If you have taken all the necessary steps and there is still something wrong with the sump pump, you should call your local waterproofing professional today to inspect it.