How to Troubleshoot Water Well Problems With the Pressure Switch

Moving to the country changes how a homeowner approaches most anything, including the water delivery to his home. In the city, the homeowner doesn't think much about where his water comes from, unless something goes wrong. In the country, any number of things can affect water delivery. And most of the control of that water delivery sits in a little 3-by-4 inch gray box between the well pump and pressure tank called the pressure switch. This switch operates on the pressure in the water line and tells the pump when to kick on and off.

Step 1

Check the automatic shut-off lever on the side of the pressure switch box has not kicked off. Sometimes when too much of a drain happens to the water delivery system, some switches are set to automatically kick the entire system off to avoid burning up a well pump. Shut all water valves leading from the pressure tank so no demand is placed on the system. Pull up on the lever until you feel it click about halfway through the lift. This may take some maneuvering as you can easily move the lever past its lock-in setting. Gently open the main water valve and see if the lever kicks off the switch again. If it does, look for a broken pipe somewhere in the water delivery system that's placing too much demand on the pressure tank. If it doesn't, there may have been a temporary overload to the system.

Step 2

Isolate the water line to the house by turning off the water valve if that doesn't fix the problem. Open a faucet below the pressure tank and let the water drain.

Step 3

Pay attention to the pressure gauge next to the pressure switch and make note of the pressure reading at which point the switch signals the pump to kick on. If the setting is below its normal setting, adjust it by shutting off the power and opening the pressure switch box. Unscrew the castellated nut on its top, lift the cover off and adjust the pressure setting by turning the appropriate screw or nut clockwise. Look on the inside or front of the pressure switch cover for the map that displays which screw or nut to adjust. This may vary depending on the type of pressure switch you have. For a pressure tank setting of 38 pounds per square inch, the pressure switch pump kick-on setting would be 40 psi, with the second setting, the kick-off setting at 60 psi.

Step 4

Inspect the contact points on the pressure switch. The contact points are similar to ignition points on cars with mechanical distributors. If they appear welded together, the pressure switch is faulty.

Step 5

Look for any loose wires or something amiss. Sometimes insects get into the box and may cause the contacts points not to work. Clean the contact points and put the cover back. Screw the nut back into place. Turn on the power – if the pressure switch still does not function, replace it. Of the three elements that make up the water delivery system, the pressure tank, the pressure switch and the well pump, the pressure switch is the least costly to replace and the sacrificial item. These are sensitive units that easily fail.

Step 6

Leave the power off and check the pressure tank to ensure that isn't the problem. After the tank is empty, slightly push against the tank to determine if it still has water in it. A pressure tank with a broken water bladder will be waterlogged.

Step 7

Check if the well pump seems to cycle on and off -- this could be a symptom of a faulty pressure switch since it controls the well pump. Replace if nothing else seems to work.