Signs That a Submersible Well Pump Is Going Out

A marvel of modern engineering, the submersible pump is a tube-shaped motor, attached to an impeller, suspended inside a pipe. Pump locations average between 50 and 300 feet below the surface of the well. The motor spins the impeller to push water up the pipe. It shuts off and on, over and over again, for years and years. It's no wonder why these devices occasionally act up.

Trucks and Options

It typically requires a truck equipped with a crane to remove a submersible pump from a well. It's expensive, and professional help is typically required. Proper diagnosis and repair of the problem without unnecessarily pulling the pump from the ground will save you money. Keeping track of the warning signs can help you make an educated decision.

Jet or Submersible

Identify your system before troubleshooting it. There are two basic types: Shallow well pumps, also known as jet pumps, remain on the surface of the ground. The motor is inside the home or in a pump house outside. Jet pumps suck water up. Submersible pumps push water up. Identify submersibles by a capped-off, 6- or 8-inch steel casing rising from the ground to a height of about 12 to 18 inches.

No Water, No Sound

Turn on the faucet. If you have no water, listen. Go to the pressure tank in your home. Walk outside to the well head or casing. In most instances you can hear a faint hum, or detect a vibration in the casing if the pump is running. If you hear nothing, the problem is likely electrical. Call an electrician.

Pressure Tank Problems

Pressure tanks regulate water pressure. They ensure that even when the pump is off, a consistent, even supply of water emerges when you turn on the faucet. Pressure tank issues are one of the most common culprits when your system isn't performing properly. Rule out pump problems, if possible, by diagnosing problems with the tank. Symptoms of tank problems include:

  • Pump shuts off and on, cycling in short intervals.
  • Pump shuts off and magically restarts after a period of time.
  • Water pressure is diminished or uneven.
  • Water can be seen on floor around tank.
  • Air is leaking from tank.
  • Air is discharged from the faucet.
  • Pump runs, but no water enters the tank.
  • Pressure drops to nothing before pump comes back on.
  • You hear humming or clicking sounds that weren't there before.

Possible Solutions to Tank Issues

Pressure tanks are regulated by an interior rubber bladder. Most tanks have a valve or meter on top. Recommended tank pressure is typically printed on the tank's label or in the manual. If the tank pressure doesn't correspond with the recommended pressure, adjusting the pressure can help solve the problem.

Won't Stabilize

If the pressure won't stabilize, or air is discharged when you turn on the faucet, it could mean that the rubber bladder has a hole, or the system is leaking. It can cause the pump to overheat and shut down, only to come back on when it cools down. Check for leaks and repair them. If nothing works, the tank may need to be replaced.

Pressure Switch

The pressure switch tells the pump to shut off when the tank is pressurized and come back on when pressure is low. If the switch is clogged or fails, the pump won't come on, or it won't shut off. If you suspect the switch might be bad, consult a professional for replacement.

Deeper Problems

Symptoms of pump distress may be similar to or overlap tank problems, but if pressure tank issues are solved and problems still exist, it could mean that the pump itself is in distress, or the water table has dropped below the pump.

Symptoms of Pump Distress

  • High power bill.
  • Plastic, sand or other debris comes out the faucet.
  • Low or uneven water pressure.
  • Pump runs continuously.
  • It pumps water for a brief period and then water stops.
  • Vibration, humming or clunking noise in well casing.

Pump Runs All the Time

A high power bill might mean your pump is running all the time. It might be that the impellers -- screwlike propellers that force the water up -- are worn out. If this is the case, you might see sand, plastic or other debris coming out of the faucet.

Clogged Check Valve

The check valve is at the bottom of the pump. It prevents water from going back down. If it gets clogged with sand or fails, the pump runs all the time.

Low Water Table

If your pump initially pumps water fine, but the water stops, it might mean that the water table has dropped below the pump. Test it by running the pump until there's no water and then shutting it off . If the water continues after the pump rests for a period of time, it can mean that the water table is too low.

Noise in Casing

Excessive vibration, clunking or any noise other than a light hum coming from the well casing are signs that your pump may be worn or damaged. Impellers become corroded and wear out. Bearings and pistons can fail and cause noise.