Copper tubing on pressure control switch (C) Daniel FriedmanWell Water Pump Diagnostic FAQs
Problems with the well pump

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Well water pump diagnostic FAQs:

this article provides answers to frequently-asked questions about how to diagnose problems with the water pump bring well water to a building or boosting water pressur at a building.

If the well pump runs too often, is noisy, seems weak, runs intermittently with no apparent reason, or is otherwise misbehaving, these questions will help sort out what's wrong.

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Problems with well pumps, well pumps that run too often (short cycling), well pumps that won't stop running, noisy well pump, well pumps won't start

Question: The water pump keeps running and won't shut off, what do I do now?

I lose pressure seconds after turning the well water pump off. When the water pump is running it only gets to 25 to 30 psi and stay srunning all the time. The pump never satisfies pressure switch so I turn the pump off to avoid damaging it. Any idea of what I can do? - Arthur

I live in a mobile home with a point well system (2"). Today the pump kept running while I was sprinkling the garden. It did shut off when I turned the water off. Usually it cycles on & off while the water is running. Any suggestions? - Sharon 9/1/12


Arthur and Sharon:

When a well pump keeps on running - just won't stop on its own, you will want to follow the well pump diagnostic steps at WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING.

The cause of a well pump that keeps on running could be any of a number of problems that we list in the reference I gave above, but because you are also losing water pressure, it sounds as if there may be a loss of water supply in the well itself or a serious leak in the well piping.

Question: The water pump keeps running and I hear water running, I may have damaged the pressure gauge

I have a 285ft well. Sometimes the pump goes on when no water is being used in the house. Tonight, after running the outside sprinklers, the pump kept going on. When I went to check the guage, I could hear water running. All water was off in the house and outside. I turned off the valve which is between the pipe to the well and the bladder tank and the noise stopped.

What could be leaking? I opened the valve up and the running water noise slowly subsided. I also made the mistake of shutting off that valve before I turned of the pump and the pressure gauge went crazy. After turning everything back on the gauge shows the pump shutting off at 80psi and on at just below 60psi. Always went between 40-60. Did I blow the gauge? - Doug


Doug: Indeed the sequence of closing the valve between a water pump and the tank and pressure control switch that control that pump turning on and off will make the pump "go crazy" rapidly turning itself on and off - risking pump damage. If you caught it quickly and turned off the pump you're probably OK. But wild gauge pressure oscillations might have damaged the gauge. If the gauge is not behaving normally just replace it.


See INTERMITTENT CYCLING WATER PUMPS for a procedure to figure out why the well pump goes on when no water is being used in the house.

Question: Problem with loss of pump prime, water pressure drops, supply to house shut off

800 gal reservoir is full to ground level and impeller style pump is on basement floor. I installed a new foot valve in the well. Pump is three yrs. old. Pressure set between 40/50 psi
Tank bladder at 38 psi.

When pressure gauge shows 50 psi and I isolate the house with a gate valve, the pressure gauge drops below 40 psi and the pump starts but 40% of the time it doesn't deliver any water and at this point I need to open a tap near the pump before the water flows again. When I open this tap I hear air for a few seconds before water starts to run from the tap and at this point the pump will start delivering water.
Whats my trouble and your response................. thanks, Shep

(Mar 23, 2014) Clinton said:

we have a shallow (about 10') hand dug older well and have installed a newer pump similar to the old pump we replaced, installed new lines from the pump to the supply lines to the house and primed the pump by filling the pump housing and lines, however we did not fill the supply line coming from the well to the house, and the pump is working, but not drawing water from the well.

we filled the line from the pump to the supply line, but not the supply line that runs from the well to the house under the ground. My question is, does the supply line running under the ground from the well to the house need to be filled with water in order to properly prime the pump and draw water from the well? the well has water.

Reply: check for a bad foot valve, check valve, well piping leak


regarding "the pressure gauge drops below 40 psi and the pump starts but 40% of the time it doesn't deliver any water and at this point I need to open a tap near the pump before the water flows again. When I open this tap I hear air for a few seconds before water starts to run from the tap and at this point the pump will start delivering water. "

and your title, indeed it sounds as if the pump is losing prime. If you're sure the foot valve is good, I'd look for an air or water leak in the piping between the pump and the foot valve bottom.

If I understand correctly, "and I isolate the house with a gate valve" means you are closing the valve feeding the house from the pressure tank - thus making sure no water is being run in the house that might drop down the pressure you see at the pump and tank = correct procedure for this diagnosis.

See the more complete diagnostic checklist for water pressure or flow loss at WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE.


Yeah, with a one-line jet pump you will best results if you can get it filled. The alternative is to keep priming the pump, letting it run until its sound changes (indicating it's got air inside the impeller), stopping it, then re-priming. It's for this reason that I like the "garden hose" pump prime method. Don't run the pump dry as it may be damage.

See PRIME the PUMP using a GARDEN HOSE for how I use a hose (which of course is only useful if you either have a close-by neighbor with water OR you can fill a 5gallon bucket and siphon-feed the pump prime that way.

Question: my well pump has been running more often that it should and has been louder ...

Pump has been running more often than it should & it has been louder than usual. Never lostany pressure just a little noise. Two days ago the breaker tripped. I reset the breaker and it has been fine. Again no pressure lost. This morning lost pressure and now have no water to the house at all. I checked the breaker and it was not tripped. Where do I start? - Michele S. 3/15/12

(Mar 6, 2014) Paula said:

I am moving into a house that has been vacant for several years. Prior to the house being vacated, the well was operational; however, the water pressure was not consistent. It would cycle from good pressure for 15 minutes or so to low pressure for 3-5 minutes and back to good pressure.
So now it is several years down the road. I had the electricity turned on, and when I flipped the breaker I heard a sound like the electric kicking on in the control box. After about 10 seconds it clicked off. Then back on after 10-15 seconds. Then off after 5-10 seconds. And so on. It never tripped the breaker. I did flip the breaker to keep it from cycling on and off. Just wondering where to start and what to look at/have looked at.


Michelle, several problems can cause well pump short cycling on and off too often, though the most common one is a water-logged pressure tank. See WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING for steps in diagnosing and fixing this trouble.


what are we seeing now Paula - no water or intermittent water?

If the switch is not turning on the pump that's one diagnostic route;

If the switch turns on the pump but you are not getting water that's a different one.

For those sorts of trouble see WATER PUMP DIAGNOSTIC TABLE

If you've got water, rapid clicking on and off of the pressure switch, if the pump is a submersible unit in the well, could be telling you the pressure tank is waterlogged. see the WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING link given above.

If you lose water for a time that could be a well flow problem OR a pressure switch clog problem. For that trouble see WATER PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL REPAIR

Paula's follow-up:

No water, no pressure. I don't believe the pump is coming on. I know nothing about wells (obviously) and am wondering if there is something to look for in a situation where everything has been off for several years. The pump is submersible (I am guessing because there is electrical wiring at the well cap). I don't believe there is any water in the pressure tank...the pressure guage reads 0 and the tank sounds hollow/empty when I knock on it.


No water, and pump won't start: I'd start by calling a licensed plumber who has experience with pump and pump control repairs; s/he will doubtless confirm the presence of electrical power, check the pump control switch, then check the pump wiring and possibly the pump motor. To check yourself see NO WATER PRESSURE

Question: pump won't start: my well pump doesn't run it just hums, how can I fix it?

I have a approx. 10 year old well pump that hasn't been ran in about 2 years. The motor ohms out good but just hums. Is there an easy way to break it free from not running for an extended period. And will just taking the pump out and turning the impeller by hand and then cycling power to run it back in to free it up cause any kind of water logging or vapor locking of water side? - Ken 3/18/12


Ken the motor could be frozen - it may be freed by a complete disassembly and cleaning of the pump motor. OR the problem could be a broken or jammed pump impeller. If you disconnect the impeller assembly from the pump motor you can see which part is jammed, and what to replace.

If the pump motor and impeller will both spin by hand (power disconnected so you don't get killed), then the problem could be a bad pump motor start capacitor if your pump uses one. See CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS for details.

(Feb 3, 2014) Donna Giles said:

we have a well and the pump froze up. so we purchased a new pump we made sure that there is water in the well. we wired in the new pump put it in and it would not start . we pulled the pump checked the wiring and made sure that the pump worked. it started fine .we put in back in the well and it will not start. what could the problem be?


his question makes me a bit nervous.

IF I've got this right, when you connect the pump while it's out of the well it runs, but when it's in the well it does not.

You could have an electrical short or improper wire connections at the well or in the well - which sounds like a hazard.

Or it could be that your out-of-well test did not run the pump through the pressure control switch. If the problem is in the pressure switch or its pressure sensor that could leave the pump "off".

Is your pressure switch turning on the pump?

Question: how much electricity does my well pump use?

how can i find out how much electricity my well head and pressure tank are using? The well pump is 1/2 horsepower. The pressure tank has no label or information on it. I am in the process of installing a back-up generator and I need to know the amount of power consumed at start up by these systems. - Anon. 3/5/12

Reply: some ways to figure out how much electricity an appliance or well pump is actually using

Anon, here are several approaches to finding out just how much electricity your well pump or any other electrical appliance in your home is actually using:

  1. You can record the information on the data tag for your pump motor, noting the RLA figure. See DEFINITIONS of ELECTRICAL TERMS and understand amps, current, volts, watts, and you can calculate the theoretical electricity use.
  2. You can turn off every single electrical thing in your building except the well pump, then watch your electric meter spin. That timing or LCD readout combined with the meter specifications from your electric company can give you a good idea how much electrical power the pump is actually using when it's operating. To that you'll need to monitor how often and for how long the motor runs during an average month.
  3. You can also measure the pump's current draw using a clamp-on ammeter.
  4. You can also rent or buy electrical use metering equipment that you'd hook into the circuit.

To compare the energy efficiency of different versions of a home appliance such as an air conditioner, refrigerator, or heat pump, see SEER RATINGS & OTHER DEFINITIONS.

Question: How to preserve or mothball a submersible well pump for later use

What needs to be done to save a used submersible well pump for later use?

Reply: tips for preserving and storing submersible well pumps:

Jim assuming the pump was previously running and there's no question about the condition of its motor, the minimum is to be sure that the pump is drained of water and stored in a cool dry place.

A more extensive job could include disassembly and inspection/cleaning of the pump impeller assembly to remove any mineral deposits, debris, crud, and to be sure that it is not damaged

Question: At our cabin he well is only used a few times a year - power otherwise left off; lost water pressure

I have a question about a well problem at a cabin in the mountains. The well is only used a few times a year and the power is turned off during the periods of non use. The water has been without problems for years.

More recently the pressure seemed to surge at one point then the next time we used the cabin the water would come on, run for 4 or 5 minutes then the pressure would drop to zero. Then a few minutes later the water would be at full pressure then 4 or 5 minutes later it would drop to zero flow. I turned off the water and when I returned to the cabin again it was the same except this time after three of the above cycles the pressure dropped to zero and didn’t come back.

The next time I returned to the cabin there was no water at all. I replaced the pressure switch and there is no water flow. I noticed something odd, about every minute, the cabin lights would dim slightly for 5 to 10 seconds then return to normal. So, I measured the voltage at the pressure switch and it’s 240 volts then when the light’s dim the voltage drops to 232 volts. When I turn off the well braker the lights stop dimming. When the pressure switch was replaced water freely came up out of the fitting telling me two things, there was water in pipes of the house and the well probably still had a prime. - Well Pump Problems 6/22/12


Well Pump Problems:

Dimming lights sounds like a motor that is seizing and drawing high current. Especially if that's a new condition. Check the current draw on the well circuit and figure you've either got a wiring short or a seized pump motor.

Question: well pump noise - noisy well pump or horrible sounds coming from the water pump

The pump keeps running & making a loud noise - Ron 7/10/12


Ron, some well pumps are just noisy to begin with, depending on the motor and bearing quality (and cost) of the pump itself. But if your pump has changed in the volume or type of noise it is making here are some common sources of that sound:

  • Lost water pump prime: the water pump noise will be louder when the pump has lost prime or partially lost prime - there's air in the impeller or pump assembly. Often we hear more noise from a jet pump at the beginning of its cycle. A lost prime or partly lost prime could be due to a bad foot valve, check valve, or a leak in well piping.
    Watch out: if you keep running a well pump dry it may be damaged.
  • Damaged water pump impeller: a broken pump impeller or debris inside the impeller aseembly can make a horrible noise when the well pump runs
  • Damaged water pump bearings: worn or damaged bearings at the well pump impeller or motor can also make the pump noise increase
  • Loose pump motor mounts: the water pump may be vibrating and bouncing around on its mounts - fix this promptly to avoid a plumbing leak, electrical hazrd, etc.
  • Pump motor humming and trouble starting: if the pump motor hums but does not start, the motor may be seizing, may need replacement, or a start/run capacitor may need replacement. See CAPACITORS for HARD STARTING MOTORS
  • Also see NOISE, PLUMBING CHECKLIST where we discuss and describe a range of sources of noises in the plumbing system including from well pumps.

Question: well pump is very loud on my sprinkler system

I have a well pump that provides water for my inground sprinkling system (there is no tank). The pump is VERY loud and it seems like the pressure has been gradually decreasing over the past few years. Is there any regular maintenance I could/should do on it? - Bill 7/11/12


Bill, check for the pump noise problems I've described just above. I'd add that running a water pump with no pressure tank makes the pump work harder and may lead to shorter pump life.

Question: Summer cabin well pump won't start, can I use solar power to run my well pump?

Can I use solar power to run my well pump? I had a solar power hookup but now the pump has stopped running. Gary 7/13/12

We have a summer cabin in the mtns. Two yrs ago we had a deep well submersible pump put in our well. At this time there are no componets to the well pump. We have the wiring to the pump and that is all. When power was applied at the time the pump was put in, all worked well. The system has not been used since then. We tried to start the pump with solar power from the cabin (extension cord) the pump would not start. My question is, why wont the pump work now, when it did two yrs ago? Thanks for any info. - Gary 7/15/12

Reply: yes but ...


About using solar power to run the well pump:

First check that all of the wiring is intact, continuous, without shorts or breaks.
Then check the voltage delivered by your solar converter as well as its current capability (amps) against the pump specs. And if your well pump uses a separate start relay (separate from the pump pressure control switch at the water pressure tank) check for a bad start/run capacitor. There are also resistance tests that with power off can tell you if the pump itself has frozen up.

Question: submersible well pump will not start - it has power

My submersible pump will not start. It is getting power to it but it wont come on. I tested it before putting it in the well and it was fine but now I cant get it to come on. Power is there at the pump but it just wont come on. What is wrong with it. Its only a couple years old. - Joe 8//3/12


Joe, check the amps - current draw when your pump switch sends current to the pump; If there is no current then there is an open break in the wiring; high current sounds like a seized motor.

Similarly, with power OFF and the pump wires disconnected from the circuit above ground you can use a VOM to check for a short, open wire, in the pump circuit and motor.

Unfortunately, unless you find a wire damaged or bad switch above ground it probably means pulling the pump and wiring again. See WATER PUMP WIRING DAMAGE

Question: black oil came out of my water pump

Turned on pump before hooking to tank, looks like black oil came out, what did I do wrong? - Michael 7/29/12


Michael, I agree it sounds odd to get oil coming out of a water pump; sometimes however when we've been hooking up new plumbing fittings and equipment, the first time we turn things on we see solder paste and oxidized debris in the flush-out of the system. It's a good idea to flush out the water system after working on it. YOu may not have done anything wrong.

Question: well pump circuit breaker trips repeatedly

The circuit breaker for my well puump has tripped twice today. Well pump is 20 years old. This occurred both times when we had outside spigots open for watering flowers. - Dean 7/1/12


Watch out: for electrical shorts, fire hazards, shock hazrds - if a breaker keeps tripping, leave that circuit off until it's properly diagnosed and repaired.

Circuit breaker trips could be due to a pump motor that is seizing, or a fault in the circuit, wiring, or control switch.

Question: Shallow well pump keeps shutting off

My shallow well pump shuts off after 15 seconds. Looks like no water is getting to the tank. When the pump shuts down the water flow stops.
I disassembled the pressure switch, cleaned contacts and diaphragm and made sure the hose for the sensor was clear of debris.
Same problem.
Next I removed the tank and let the pump run for a few minutes. It didn't get overly hot and kept on pumping.
So it looks like the tank diaphragm is stuck.

My question is - Could it still be a defective pressure switch or is it definitely the tank?
Thanks - Mike 7/13/12

In reference to my (the) last comment.
I connected the tank to a garden hose from my house water supply and the tank filled up!
So it's either the pump or the pressure switch.


Mike regarding your good steps in well pump diagnosis,

"I connected the tank to a garden hose from my house water supply and the tank filled up!
So it's either the pump or the pressure switch." earlier you said "When the pump shuts down the water flow stops. " which to me indicates that the pressure tank had no charge - it could have been waterlogged and thus full, so no water would enter, but if it had zero air, it would not function to push water into the house when the pump was not running.

Check the pressure tank - and its air charge.

Question: water keeps kicking off (or turning on and off)

(Feb 25, 2014) Kathy Kerr said:

Have well water. Water keeps kicking off. New pressure switch, correct amount of pressure in tank. What's wrong? DESPERATE!

Have not taken pump out of well. Have not checked the well at all except to look down in and saw water. Have only checked pressure switch to pressure tank and made sure there is 28# of pressure in pressure tank.

(Mar 28, 2014) cherese said:

hi, I have an artesian well. my pump keeps coming on then off every 2 mins. when we checked we have no water coming into the tank. I know it's prob a problem in the well itself but what could it be?


Kathy & Cherese,, in the event that the problem may not be the pump (though as yet I wouldn't rule out a wiring problem) you may want to take a look at


Or see WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR where we begin diagnosis of a broader range of problems. The live link to that article is in the left column near the top of this page.

Cherese I'm a little confused in that an artesian well sends water to the surface without pump pressure;

Anyway, if you are no longer obtaining water from the well the problem could be in the piping

- a disconnected or leaky well pipe
- a dirt or soil clog
- a check valve failure and clog

or in the well

- dropped water level, loss of artsian flow, or a fallen or failed well spool or seal inside the well

- or something else we've not thought of

Question: the well pump runs but no water comes out, prime has not been lost

Above ground pump two line. it has water comong out of the primer plug when removed. i replace the plug and turn on the pump no water. cloged jets? - Fred 8/1/12


Fred, I agree that it sounds as if the problem is not a lost prime at the pump; but quite a few other problems can explain no water, such as

  • a damaged pump impeller - this can look the same as a pump that lacks adequate lift capacity for your well
  • a leaky or broken well pipe
  • a well that has gone dry

Fred: if the pump was working OK Previously I doubt that the root problem is "weakness" in the pump, and more likely guess that its impeller was damaged or there is a partial clog. But if the pump never worked well then your well guy's suggestion sounds quite reasonable.

Reader follow-up

Well i had a well man look at it and he got us water. He said the pump was week and a cheep one. A new good one would be over $500. No charge this time. thanks for your help. - Fred


Fred if the pump were "weak and cheap" since new, I don't understand why it used to work but now no longer does. Perhaps the pump has become damaged as I described above.

Question: we find water on the floor under our well pump

Our water pump is working fine (knock on wood) but there is some water on the floor underneath/next to the pump. Normally our basements leaks when a big rain storm hits, but it hasn't rained that much to warrant this much water on the floor. I.E.: it's not drying up like it normally does. Is this a sign that our water pump is on it's way out? If so, how much does it cost to replace a water pump that is connected to a private well? - Stephanie 8/14/12



First wipe off all of the wet components and surfaces so that you can see where water is coming from.

Next, when the pump is running, look for leaks at the pump assembly or piping fittings nearby; also look for leaks at or around the water pressure tank

If you don't see any active water leaks watch for condensation forming and dripping off of the piping, pump, or water pressure tank.

I would not replace the pump before you have an accurate diagnosis of what's going on. It would be a mistake to replace the pump only to find that the problem was a plumbing pipe connection leak.

Question: well pump runs but water pressure won't get past 30 psi

(Mar 29, 2014) Anonymous said:

my house runs from well water and bought a new pump and new lines and all that but for some reason not getting no water preasure pass 30 and it is like there is air in the line and done everything I can think of to get it out so woundering what I am doing wrong need some advice plese


When the pump runs and delivers water but can't pressuize the water tank enough to shut off the pump, and water pressure reading is low as you describe I'd look for

- a damaged pump impeller

- low voltage to the pump

- a leak in the well piping

- low water in the well

Conversely if the pressure reading on the gauge doesn't change as the pump turns on and off, or if the pump switch doesn't seem to be turning off the pump or turning on the pump when it should, I'd guess the pressure switch or its sensing tube is debris clogged and is not sensing water pressure - change the switch itself and also tube or small diameter pipe nipple on which the switch mounts. You may also need to replace the pressure gauge.


Water used to recover overnight but now the pump won't start and we have no water

5/16/14 David said:

I used to be able to just wait overnight or so and restart the pump and everything was fine. Now, IF the pump starts up (which it won't right now)the flow is abt. 1/2 of what it used to be and trickles down to nothing. This is a Sta-right 1.5 hp motor/pump. Sounds like it's an electrical problem. Any ideas from you pros?



It sounds as if your well recovery rate has been slowing for some time. If a pump is run continuously without water it's likely to be damaged. So you may be facing a double problem: low flow rate in the well and a damaged pump.


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