Pool Care Pool Equipment

10 Causes a Pool Pump to Trip the Breaker and Troubleshoot

10 Reasons Your Pool Pump Breaker Keeps Tripping

Without your pool pump running, you have a serious problem. Your pool can easily turn green and get quite dirty. And that could happen if your pool pump keeps tripping breaker, to the point that your swimming pool isn’t getting enough turnover rate. It’d be best to troubleshoot the problem before things get out of hand and the best place to start is to understand why this is happening.

A pool pump breaker trips mostly when the pump circuit draws more current than that of the breaker. It could be that your pump has an internal short circuit, the GFCI is malfunctioning, overloaded motor, earthing issues, faulty capacitor, clogged pump, and faulty motor windings. Troubleshooting these issues is the only way to fix the problem.

I’ve taken my time to figure out the most appropriate way of dealing with such issues, which I will discuss with you in this post. However, before you start anything, a disclaimer: working with electrical devices is extremely dangerous. I suggest you leave it to a qualified electrician, but you can do it yourself with enough confidence and safety.

Why Does Your Pool Pump Keep Tripping Breaker? (10 Possible Reasons)

Your pool pump is tripping breaker because of either of these common problems:

  • An Electrical Problem: the first and most common problem causing the pump to keep tripping the breaker is an electrical problem. It could be with the breaker itself, especially if you’re using a GFCI breaker. It could also be an electric short circuit at the breaker or between the pump and the breaker. It’d be best to diagnose each component involved individually to understand the cause of the problem and how to fix it.
  • Over-Worked Pump Motor: apart from the common electrical problem, an issue with the pump operation could also cause the breaker to trip. Mostly, the issues restrict the pump operation causing it to work harder and thus drawing more current than the breaker is designed to handle. If that happens, the breaker trips.

After breaking down these two categories, here is what I came up with; it’s a list of potential faults that could be making your pool pump to trip the breaker.

1) Faulty Motor Starting Capacitor

Pump motors come with a capacitor that allows them to have a smooth start. They do go bad from time to time, and during this time, the pool pump could draw a lot of power to try and force a start.

When that happens, the breaker will trip. A common sign the pump capacitor is dead is a humming sound from the pump when it starts for a minute before tripping the breaker.

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But before you can swap the capacitor, you might want to check the pump basket and impeller for clogging. You will get a similar sound when these two parts are blocked or when your pump isn’t priming.

With the pump off, check the pump basket for debris. Also, insert a screwdriver through the hole and try to reach the impeller. You want to make sure it’s rotating smoothly and you don’t feel any debris in there.

Suppose any debris or anything doesn’t block the pump; it might be time to replace the capacitor. You can use your pump manual to locate it – normally at the back of the motor under a metallic hood. The back motor cover might also cover it.

Before making any disconnections, you want to discharge the capacitor. Why? Capacitors hold a large quantity of charge that can electrocute you badly. Hold a Phillip screwdriver by the handle and touch the two terminals on the capacitor to discharge it. If unsure, it’d be best to leave it to a qualified electrician.

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You can sometimes tell if the pump capacitor has gone bad by looking at its physical state. If its top is swollen, has burn marks, or has burst, then it’s probably faulty.

You can also measure the capacitance or its resistance, which should increase gradually to infinity. But you have to disconnect the capacitor, discharge it, and set the multimeter to ohms. Connect the leads to the capacitor terminals. If you get zero ohms, then you need to replace it.

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Note: when finding a capacitor replacement, watch out for the readings. Make sure they are in any way less than the original capacitor and not too high.

2) Water or Moisture is the Motor Causing Short Circuit

Even though a pool pump design and function is to push water to the pump, its motor has to stay dry – it cannot get wet at all. Its electronics must stay dry at all times. If your pool pump trips the breaker when it rains, it could be that water or the moisture from all the rain gets into the pump motor. Water being an excellent conductor can cause a short circuit, which would trip the breaker.

Troubleshooting such a problem requires you to ensure there is no water getting into the pump motor. It would be best if you also made sure that the water in the motor dries out before resting the breaker. You can open the housing and dry the electronics using a heat gun or a hair drier to speed up the process. It should go without saying, the pump has to be OFF at the breaker before attempting this.

The best way to prevent this problem is to protect your pool pump against the elements and give the motor enough ventilation to breathe and cool down. Your main goal is to make sure there is no water or moisture pooling around it. Also, make sure that water doesn’t collect anywhere near the pool pump.

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3) Bad Motor Windings

A pump motor is all covered with windings coated to stay together and maximize their efficiency. With time, their coating wears out, especially if the pump motor runs at max speed for long to an extent it overheats frequently.

When the coating wears out, the winding completes the circuit, which causes a surge from the short circuit, thus tripping the breaker. It could happen twice or thrice before the motor stops starting again. And a section of the motor windings was to get compromised; the pump could even increase the power draw that will also trip the breaker.

It’s a common issue that most pool owners face. To troubleshoot the problem, you need a multimeter or an ohmmeter. With the pump breaker off, disconnect the motor wiring from the outlet. Open the back motor cover and measure the resistance across the motor terminals.

The resistance shouldn’t be too low or zero; it should be an increasing figure. If you get low or zero readings, the windings are faulty. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is to replace the motor. Sometimes replacing the motor can be close or costlier than getting a new pool pump, especially when you don’t know the cause of the windings wears.

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4) Loose Wiring Terminals

Breakers are sensitive to surges, and if your pump wiring terminals are loose, they will trip off every time. The terminals need to have enough contact to ensure they’re a good flow of charges. Troubleshooting the problem will have to do with you making sure all the connections are tight.

With the breaker off, make sure all the connections and joints between the breaker and the pump, including the connectors in the pump motor, are tight and snug. Make sure you take the necessary safety precaution and use an insulated electrician screwdriver. Again, it’d be best to have an electrician do this for you.

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5) Using Underrated Circuit Breaker

If it’s a newly installed pump or a replacement, there is a possibility the circuit breaker it’s using is underrated to handle the unit’s power demand. If that is the case, it will trip the breaker every time you reset it.

The issue could be you replaced the older fixture with a higher current unit, or you installed the pump on the wrong size breaker. There is also the possibility wiring and breaker installation was done incorrectly.

Check the breaker amperage before concluding it’s a problem. Check the pump motor rating on a tag on its side or back, or check the pump manually. Head to your service panel, hoping the breakers are well labeled, and check for the writing on the pump breaker. Check if the amperage reading, labeled A or Amps, matches. Typically, the rating will be either 20A or 30A.

If the breakers reading is lower than the pump’s rating, that’s the problem, and you need to replace it with the right match. For your safety, if you’re not comfortable dealing with electricity, get a qualified electrician to help out.

And the same could happen with the voltage rating. If you’re using a pool pump rated to run on 230-volt power and connect it to a 115-volt circuit, the breaker will immediately trip. That could even get worse when the wires start to overheat from the increased power draw.

You can easily solve the problem by getting a qualified electrician to inspect the connection if you suspect it. Of course, after checking to make sure the breaker reads okay.

You could also check by looking at the number of wires on the back. Normally, a 230-volt connection will have two live (same color) wires and a common or two same color wires, a common and earth.

6) Worn-Out Breaker-to-Pump Wiring

If your pump’s wiring is aged, it might be the reason why the breaker keeps tripping. Like any product, the wiring will wear off, especially the insulation.

If that were to happen, there could be a power leak between the wires and that could lead to GFCI breaker tripping or a short circuit that can lead to breaker tripping.

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You can test this by checking the voltage passing through the wires. It’s RISKY, and it’d be best to hire an electrician for this step.

7) Clogged Pump

A clogged pump will work hard, draw more power, which leads to overheats. When it happens, there is a chance it’ll trip the breaker.

Pump clogging happens when too much debris is inside the pool basket, preventing water from flowing through to the impeller.

It’s a common issue experienced during a windy season when the swimming pool collects many leaves and small debris that pass the skimmer unto the pump housing. With time this debris and dirt accumulate and clog the pump.

When that happens, the motor will struggle to pull the water on the other side of the debris, thus overheating from the high current draw. At some point, the motor with auto-shut or the breaker will sense the difference and trip.

Troubleshooting this issue should be easy. Start by switching the pump breaker off. Open the pump basket cover and take out the pump filter. It needs to be clean and free of debris. If filled, then you need to clean it.

If using a filter pump, take out the cartridge and check it for clogging or backwash your sand filter.

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8) Worn Pump Bearings

Worn-out pump bearings are another problem that can overwork a pump motor forcing it to trip the breaker. This happens when the bearings stop turning freely, requiring the motor to draw enough power to spin the impeller.

As pumps get older, the bearings wear and tighten up, making it hard for the motor to spin. When this happens, the pump gets hotter and draws more power to try to spin. If the current the pump is drawing exceeds the circuit breaker’s rating, the breaker will trip.

As your pool pump gets older, the bearings will wear out and tighten out. That strains the motor. Next, the motor tries to recover by drawing more power exceeding the rated current for the breaker, causing the tripping.

You can check this by shutting off the pump motor, remove the housing cover and the basket, insert your hand and try to turn the impeller. The shaft has to spin freely. If not, then the bearings need replacement.

Same as replacing a pump motor, the repair could become an expensive option compared to getting a new pool pump.

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9) Stuck or Jammed Impeller

An impeller is the little plastic piece inside a pool pump that rotates to push the water. If jammed or stuck, the motor has to try harder and force it out. When the cause of the jamming is stronger, the motor will overheat. The increase in power draw can be high enough to trip the breaker.

The jamming could be caused by debris getting through the pump basket skimmer and finding its way into the impeller. Troubleshooting the problem requires you to shut off the pump breaker, open the basket cover, remove the pump filter and try to reach inside the basket to feel the impeller.

Try rotating it. If it feels stuck, then there is debris holding it back. You will need to unscrew the bolts holding the motor to the housing to reach the impeller. If you’re using a filter pump, the impeller is under the cartridge or filter sand.

Clear any debris or dirt you find there and restart the pump.

10) Bad or Wrong Breaker

A bad breaker could be the problem. With time, the breaker can fail due to age or low-quality construction. If nothing is wrong with your pump or the enter pump-breaker connection, consider replacing the breaker.

How to Prevent Pool Pump from Tripping the Breaker

  • Make sure the pump stays dry at all times. It might be in a spot that doesn’t collect any water.
  • Give it the proper maintenance by ensuring it’s primed and its basket is clean before any circulation cycle.
  • Have your pool pump or its replacement installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Get an electrician to inspect the breakers once in a while for faultiness.

Related Questions

How can you tell if your pool pump is going bad

  • Age – if your pool pump is older than ten years, it might be on the verge of wearing out. Its parts will start to cause some issues soon, and it might break down abruptly.
  • Pump tripping the breaker – if your unit keeps tripping the breaker, that is another sign your pump might be developing issues, especially with the motor.
  • Pool pump producing noises – if you hear unusual noises from the pump and it’s primed, there is a problem.
  • The unit loses suction – if the pump loses suction often, that’s a sign of an internal problem, possibly with the impeller.

About the author

Sharif Miah

Hi! I'm Sharif, the founder of Globo Pool® and I have been working in the pool & hot tub industry for the last few years. I love to share my experiences with people & hope you are enjoying my information and lessons!

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