Hot tubs require maintenance. From the regular water tests to cleanings, it’s important to keep all parts in working order. From time to time, parts will break or malfunction. This can be the big components like a motor, or smaller parts, like the seal on a single jet.
When the latter is the issue, we’ve got some pointers to get the repair underway.
Step 1 - Drain the Hot Tub
While you don’t have to drain the entire hot tub, if you’re draining it for cleaning or other repairs, it’s a good time to check the jets too.
If the jet or jets are the only repair you’re working on, drain enough water for easy access.
To drain the water from your hot tub, begin by turning off the power at the circuit breaker. Ensure the tub is no longer receiving power by looking at the display.
Then remove any access panels on the side of the hot tub surround. Locate the drain spigot, which is typically near the bottom of the motor components.
Open the valve to release the water. Your hot tub may also be equipped with a hose attachment assembly. This allows you to use a hose to divert the water any direction you see fit.
Step 2 - Remove the Jet
You really won’t be able to see what the issue is until you remove the entire jet unit. The process for removing your hot tub jet varies across models. Locate your owner’s manual or find an online version for reference.
Most jets simply require unscrewing the face portion in a counterclockwise direction. If you can’t get a good enough grip by hand, use a wrench to loosen it.
Once out, you’ll see the unit has several components, mainly the through wall, gaskets, and jet nozzle.
Step 3 - Find the Cause of the Leak
Sometimes this unit is referred to as a "thru-wall." While the jet portion you see makes up the front of the unit, it actually extends to the other side of (“through”) the hot tub.
With the unit in hand, closely inspect it, looking for cracks in the thru-wall and the nozzle itself. If you find a crack, see “Repair Cracks” below. If you find no cracks or broken pieces on the unit, the problem is likely with one of the rings.
Look inside the jet unit and you’ll likely find a gasket at the bottom. This ring can become hardened, cracked, or torn with use. Replace the gasket.
On the outside of the unit, where the jet body seals to the tub, you’ll see another o-ring. If that gasket is cracked, torn, or misshaped, replace it too.
Silicone is often recommended when replacing a gasket, but it can actually cause seating issues with the gasket. Instead, replace the gasket and apply silicone to the outside (dry part) of the jet before putting the retainer nut back on.
Perhaps the easiest, albeit the most expensive, solution, is to replace the entire jet unit with a new or refurbished part. In contrast to replacing gaskets, a complete jet replacement is a long-term fix.
Step 4 - Repair Cracks
If you see cracks of any size in the jet housing, seal them and allow the treatment to dry thoroughly.
Several products can do the job. Try a two-part epoxy seal like JB Weld, following the directions on the package closely.
Another option is a quick-set putty. This product comes in a tube and is applied by pressing it into the crack. It is similar to modeling clay so it’s easy to work with.
For small cracks, you can use a silicone sealant. However, many experienced repairers report mixed success with silicone. It's generally thought of as less durable than other options. For hairline cracks, it may hold just fine though.
Tip: Whether using silicone to repair a crack or seal a gasket, avoid water-based latex silicones that will quickly wear out in the water environment.
Step 5 - Put the Jet Back in Place
Once the repair is complete, put your jet back in place. This typically requires reversing the steps used when removing the jet, ending with turning the face of the jet clockwise until tight.
If you find your jets floating around your hot tub at any given time, you may not have properly seated the jet upon installation.
You can hear a snap when some jets are properly installed. Again, refer to the manual for your specific model.
Many jets also have tabs that hold them in place. If your jet won’t seat properly, you may have a broken tab.
Step 6 - Anticipate Other Leaks
If your gaskets are showing wear in one jet, you can expect the other jets to follow suit within a short period of time.
It’s worth the time, money, and effort to simply replace gaskets or entire jets when one fails to save yourself the effort of repeating the process as other components wear out.
Step 7 - Evaluate Chemical Damage
While you’re up close and personal with the individual components of your hot tub, take a close look at the parts. While through-wall gaskets can fail, if your spa cover and headrests are showing visible signs of chemical damage, the flexible PVC pipe may also be wearing out, which can lead to additional leaks and further problems.
Step 8 - Inspect the Repair
While sealing a hot tub jet may turn out to be an easy fix, you may also find yourself with more problems than you started with.
Often, if all parts are feeling the effects of chemical damage, replacing one part will bring an issue with another part to the surface.
Once you’ve made your repair, fill and heat the hot tub. Then run it, looking for leaks everywhere, even outside of the original repair area.
Step 9 - Evaluate the Source of the Problem
Sometimes parts just wear out. It’s part of the joys of hot tub ownership. However, there are certain practices that contribute to early degeneration of seals and working parts of the hot tub unit.
Hard water may be one issue. If you’ve ever dealt with hard water in the home, you know the damage it can cause. Issues range from water spots on stainless steel faucets to rust spots on fiberglass showers.
Then there’s the white, crusty build-up everywhere hard water touches. This build-up is a result of minerals in the water, including calcium deposits and others.
Hard water can do a number on the functional capabilities of your hot tub. For example, you might notice jets getting frozen in place because of build-up within the unit.
You may also notice a white film on the walls of the hot tub or cloudiness in the water. Hard water may also leave your hair and skin feeling dry and brittle.
You can evaluate hard water build-up visually, but the best way to monitor it is through testing. Be sure you have the right type of water testing kit. There are many different types on the market. Just make sure you are measuring water hardness.
You can treat water at the source by adding a water softener where it feeds into your home water supply. Depending on your system, this can be near the water meter or pressure tank. It can also be where water feeds into the water heater.
Installing a system-wide water softener may be the answer if you are having hard water issues throughout the home, but it's a costly endeavor.
If you aim to focus solely on the hard water issues in the hot tub, you can balance them through the use of water softening chemicals.
Another option is to use a pre-filter. Because the water coming from the outdoor water spigot is likely not going through the home’s water softening system, you can add a filter to your hose instead.
This device simply screws onto the hose so water is forced through it as you fill the hot tub. The filter effectively pulls out debris as well as calcium deposits.
Even if you don’t have hard water issues, keeping your hot tub’s water balanced is essential to the maintenance of the unit. Hot tub owners rely on chemicals to keep water at optimal levels.
However, those same chemicals can eat away at plastic, rubber, and fiberglass parts. Chemicals are often the culprit for dried out PVC pipes and decaying o-rings.
While they are a critical part of hot tub care, evaluate the chemicals you’re using. Talk to a professional at a pool and hot tub supply store.
Also consider using household items like baking soda, bleach, and TSP to meet the water balancing needs of your hot tub with less corrosive results.
While a faulty seal is the most common culprit for leaks, if you’re having issues with your jets producing consistent or strong enough pressure, the problem may be with the pump.
A hot tub pump has the obvious job of pumping water around the tub, including through the jets. If those jets don’t have enough pressure, you may have air inside the pump.
You can release that air by slightly loosening the coupling on the pump. When you start the hot tub, the air will forcefully escape through the loosened space. Once tightened, the airflow should increase, improving jet pressure.
If your jets have pressure, but the water seems to pulse as it enters the tub, you likely need to clean or replace filters. If you remove the filters and the tub functions properly, replace them.
Also check to ensure your water level completely covers the jets. If it doesn’t, air incorporates into the mixture, which results in jets spitting a mixture of air and water.
Regardless of the causes of your jet issues, once you have them resolved you’ll want to keep them at bay.
With better balance in your water and a properly working pump, you shouldn’t have to repeat the process anytime soon. Properly maintaining your jets can add to performance and longevity.
Clean and descale your jets annually by first removing them from the hot tub. Submerge the jets in a large container filled with a mixture of white vinegar and water. Allow them to soak overnight. The next day, rinse and dry your jets before reinstalling them into the tub.
What Can I Use to Seal My Hot Tub Jets?
As mentioned above, there are a variety of options when it comes to products you can use to repair your hot tub jets.
Part of the decision comes from whether you’re repairing a seal or a crack in the jet housing. Once you’ve identified the problem, match the proper product to address the issue.
Typically, you’ll want to look for products that are labeled for pool and spa use. These products are specially formulated to address the unique forces, heat, and moisture issues within a submerged water environment.
Boss 802 Clear Pro Grade Silicone Sealant for Pool and Spa is recommended for the exterior of the tub and repairs mostly above the waterline.
A similar product, Pool & Spa Clear Neutral Cure Silicone Adhesive is impervious to the effects of chlorine and bromine and is recommended for underwater repairs.
Before you tear into your hot tub jet seal repair, you may want to consider a stop-leak liquid like Fix A Leak Pool Leak Sealer. This is recommended for small leaks within the system. It works in a similar way to stop leak products for car engines. You simply dump it in and allow it to run through the system.
It may be an option for some hot tub leaks, but as with most stop leak products, it’s more often a band-aid type solution rather than a cure. However, it can be worth the relatively small investment in cost and time to see if it solves the problem.
For an epoxy putty that is inexpensive and easy to work with, try something like the J-B Weld 8277 WaterWeld Epoxy Putty Stick. It’s compatible with a variety of different materials, including plastic and fiberglass.
It’s formulated for use underwater. You will want to investigate the color options if you’re concerned about the repair showing, but if we’re talking about inside the jet components that won’t be an issue.
Repairing your leaking hot tub jets is a common requirement of hot tub ownership. If you’re having other issues, check out Hot Tub Troubleshooting: Heater Problems or Troubleshooting Hot Tub Blower Problems for further guidance.
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