What to Do if Your Pool Pump Won't Prime

The edge of a clean, in ground pool.

If your pool pump won’t prime that means that it is not able to relapse all of the air from the pump and is not moving water through it. This can be a problem because for your swimming pool to stay in tip-top shape, the pool pump has to prime. There are a number of reasons why this might happen, and once you have determined the cause, you can fix it as soon as possible to get your summer back on track.


There may be a number of reasons for this problem to occur. First, there may not be enough water in the strainer housing, therefore a suction leak has been created. A leaking joint, loose strainer cover, or a worn-out or damaged washer—which fits under the strainer housing—can lead to too much air in the pump. Debris can also lodge in the piping and cause a clog or get into the system and damage the impeller.

Your problem may also be caused by poor placement of your pool pump. Before you get involved in a big diagnostic test, you should make sure that the pump is placed at the water level. If you need to, you can place it just a bit above the water level too. The pump should also be close to the pool. If it is more than 10 feet away, it may not work properly. Many manufacturers recommend that you not keep the pump more than 20 feet away.


You can run through a number of tests to determine if you can repair the pump yourself. These tests are easy and may save you from having to call a technician out to your home.

First, you want to turn off the pump and close all of the valves. Your goal is to release all of the air from the system and to do this, you will need to open the air relief valve. Most pools are fitted with such a valve, but if your pool wasn’t, you can open the strainer and allow some of the air pressure to escape that way.

Now it’s time to inspect the pump’s parts to fix any of the problems mentioned previously. Start with checking the strainer basket. See if there is unwanted debris present, and if so, discard it. Look to make sure that the basket is not damaged while you’re doing this, as a damaged basket could harm other pump components. This is also the time that you should check the impeller. It could be damaged or broken from debris, in which case it will need a replacement. You should carefully examine the washer, or O-ring, to make sure it is in good shape.

If you haven’t found a solution among these procedures listed here, you can open one suction valve at a time and try to release any built-up air. After purging each line, you can test the pump to see if it will work. Continue in this way until you have checked each individual suction valve.

If you aren’t able to get your pool pump to prime after checking for and fixing any of these potential causes, you should call a professional.