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Diagnostic FAQs on how to prime a water well pump:
Questions & answers on how to prime a water pump using a garden hose and a remote water source (from a neighbor). This article provides diagnostic questions & answers that can help you if you're having trouble priming the pump.
This article series describes how to prime a water pump to restore water pressure to a building by priming the well pump to restore the pump to operation after it has lost prime.
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Illustration: my pen points to the priming plug on a jet pump.
[Click to enlarge any image]
(May 26, 2012) mrac5 said:
After 3rd time it worked like a charm. Thanks!
(Sept 1, 2012) Evelyn said:
We are losing our prime, we have a one line jet pump, 1 1/4 inch line, 140 feet to well and about a 19ft drop, the pump sits below the water line, we have primed from the foot valve many times,
we are priming from the foot valve and had the water working, but have lost the prime again, this is the third foot valve, and we have replaced the pump with another one and made sure the pump worked before installing. Help!!
(Oct 28, 2012) Dave said:
my well is on a hill about 15 higher than my basement where my pump and tank are located..spent all day trying to prime my 2 line jet pump and push that water up the hill to fill all my lines..
tried the garden hose method...pump was primed and running under 15 minutes...thans to whoever came up with this idea!
(Nov 18, 2012) karen said:
motor to electric well water pump running, but no water is pumping through. What can we do?
If priming the pump still gets no water then there is a piping leak, a damaged pump, or similar problem.
If priming the pump gets water but the pump keeps losing prime, most likely there is a bad foot valve, check valve, or a piping leak....
Or of course your well could be dry.
(Nov 27, 2012) Stacie Andrews said:
Hi, My switch reads 58 psi but I'm getting nothing but air throughout the house. We have a submersible pump. Where should I start?
If yours is a submersible well pump, priming isn't the issue as the pump is under water in the well. In that case I suspect a defective air volume control system problem or a piping leak problem.
(Nov 30, 2012) David L said:
My pump runs 5 min build up the pressure to 50psi, then stop, the pressure keep dropping for about 2 min, then down to about 40 psi, the pump starts again. I use 20kwh electricity a day just the pump. I can hear the water running back down to the pump with the "sssssssss" noise.
There is no control value between the pump and the wall leading to the well. If I add a check value between the pump and the wall, do you think it will solve the problem?
That hissing noise is typically air escaping from an air volume (AIR VOLUME CONTROLS, WATER TANK) control that is releasing excess air.
Your well may use one of several types of SNIFTER & DRAIN BACK VALVES
(Dec 30, 2012) cory said:
my pump won't catch a prime
Cory if you are priming through the pump opening you may have success with the garden hose approach in the article above. Othewise I suspect a well piping leak or loss of water in the well or a damaged well pump.
(Jan 8, 2013) Billy Ray said:
After loss of power during a short blackout the Jet pump constantly ran and no water as coming into the house. I attempted to prime the line via an opening on top of the jet pump which house a pressure gauge.
The water would come to the top and blow out of the opening. i continued on with this for days, adding water till it gets tot he top and re screwing the gauge back on then tuning the pump on to no success. I finally decided to check the foot valve and found that it was broken; so I replaced the foot valve; still no water.
found a crack on the larger pipe where it was connected to the jet pump; so I cut the length of the crack off, then purchased new pipe and cut it to length and attached with a connector. still no water is coming into the house whatsoever and I'm not sure what to do at this point.
I do however hear water coming into the larger pipe when I'm in the man hole that the well originates from and can hear water running back down the well when the pump is shutoff. it's almost like the water is coming up to the pump, but stopping there and not entering the house.
Often a bad check valve or foot valve is slowly leaking water from the pump back into the well, but because we have electical power, when pressure drops the pump comes back on and restores pressure and water to the water tank often enough that the system never loses prime.
We describe this process as one of th causes of WATER PUMP INTERMITTENT CYCLING
But when we lose electricity the pump can't keep re-priming itself so we lose prime and lose water.
You may need to prime the system.
If that doesn't work and if we are sure there are no other well piping leaks (check in the well too), then possibly that long run-time on the pump ran the pump dry and damged the motor, bearings, or pump impeller.
Then see - WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE
(Mar 1, 2013) Dan said:
Hello, I'm trying to troubleshoot a problem with the water system in my home. The information at this site has been a big help thinking the problem through, but I haven't figured it out yet. I'm hoping you may be able to help.
My home has a pump and pressure tank that draws water from a buried 1500 gallon water tank in the yard.
The buried tank is filled from a well with a well pump which is triggered by a float switch in the tank. Recently the pump to the pressure tank in the house started to run continuously without increasing pressure in the tank. I shut the pump off via the circuit breaker and found the water line into the house from the buried tank was empty (that pipe has heat trace to prevent freezing and so was hot to the touch, indicating it was empty).
I checked the buried tank through the stand pipe and found it was over 1/2 full and so that was not the problem. I then reset the circuit breaker to the pressure tank pump and after about 30s of running it began building pressure to 50 and shut off and there was water in the waterline to the pump again.
However, a day later the problem reappeared: pressure tank pump was running without building pressure and water pipe into the house was empty despite the buried tank having water in it. Again, I tripped and reset the circuit breaker and the pump ran and built pressure and all was well. This problem seems to reoccur every day or so.
The only change I've made to the water system in my house recently was replacing the hot water heater last month. When I replaced it, I added 2 ball valves to the waterline upstream from the pump. All the soldered connections seem good.
It seems there might be a problem with the line between the tank and the house, but I don't understand why resetting the the pump solves the problem for a day or 2. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
(Mar 11, 2013) jessica 3/11/13 said:
my question was should i replace the pressure gauge now that i already replaced the pressure switch due to kept on tripping and had to refill water for repriming pump, not building any pressure.??
It's very inexpensive and now is a good time to replace a gauge that is damaged or ot working. And if the root problem was debris clogging at the pressure switch then the gauge may be clogging too.
Jan 25, 2014) Anonymous said:
my pump doesn't loose prime, but it still will not bring water into the basement--why?
(Mar 7, 2014) Kevin Airheart said:
My pump came on and pumped water for about 10 mins then shut off...Now when U turn it on U can hear the pump running but no water...
Anon, if you get no water into the building and the pump has prime there may be loss of water in the well, a well piping leak, or a frozen pipe.
Search InspectAPedia for
Diagnose loss of water pressure
To see a list of things to check
Since you had water for a time, if you lost water while the pump was still running that suggests that either the well has run out or there has been a leak in well piping, or the pump itself is damaged;
If you lost water after the pump shut off, then turned back on, the well may have lost prime, perhaps from a bad foot valve or check valve.
(Mar 11, 2014) connie said:
A friend came this afternoon and primed the pump . He also added air to the blue tank.
So I have water pressure in the house but the pump is running a long time...is it refilling the water heater?
I now, have turned the pump off ..it was hot. The pressure wouldn't go above 20 even though we were at 45 or so when he left.
We can't tell without further diagnosis, but the problem could be
- a leak in the well piping
- low water in the well
- a damaged pump that can't reach full water pressure
- low voltage to the pump
- or water running in the building that you didn't notice
If you turn off water into the building and the pump still can't bring the pressure tank up to pressure high enough to turn off the pump, then the problem has been narrowed down somewhat.
For a diagnostic procedure see WATER PUMP WONT STOP RUNNING
5/27/14 George McVey said:
Shallow well is 15 meters deep, 5+ meters of water. A 1hp jet water pump is rated for 22 meters head pressure, but NO water comes out.
Foot valve was checked and working properly. Primed pump using prime hole, after filled with water, water level stayed up. Returned prime screw, turned on pump...and still very little water for a few seconds, then nothing. Is pump worn out? What does it take to repair pump?
George the pump impeller could be damaged, but before replacing the pump I'd try a more thorough priming.
Often if you are filling the pump cavity with water (priming the pump) but the whole line to the well is air-filled, that single water dose isn't enough. The pump quickly draws air into the pumping chamber and is air bound again.
The solution is repeated priming through the pump prime opening, or easier is to use the garden hose hookup for priming as described in the article above.
If that still doesn't work see See WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR
Keep me posted
(May 29, 2014) (mod) said:
I'm not sure, Jerry. Usually this sort of problem comes up because while power is off a leak, say at a foot valve, causes the system to lose prime.
Some pressure switches have a safety feature (to protect the pump) that switches off the pump until manually reset if the switch sees that the pump is running without delivering water.
It might be that a cycle or two is in your case enough to restore prime and thus water.
(June 9, 2014) Alex said:
I have a submersible pump system with a 62 gal tank w/bladder and I have a water leak somewhere.
I assumed my system was quite old (installed in 1973) so I installed a new tank, switch & guage. DIDN'T HELP. I also have a frost free spigot which could be bad.
(July 3, 2014) James said:
Do you know how much air i'm supposed to put in the air tank?
we explain how to figure out how much air pre-charge to put into the pressure tank. Please take a look at that data and let me know if it's unclear in any way.
(July 5, 2014) Bobby Loepz said:
I have a well that I use only to water my property. Over the last few weeks the flow has diminished greatly and it surges every few seconds. What could be causing that?
Bobby for surging water pressure please see the diagnostics at
(July 13, 2014) Ray said:
We live in a rural wooded area. with a submersible well pump out side and a jet pump sitting on top of a pressure tank in the basement. Cycles between 30-50 psi. Everytime we lose power, I have to prime it again and it takes about 10 gal into the jet pump than I'm good again.
Doesn't matter if I use no water and the power is only out for an hour, I still need to prime it.
When we do have power, the jet pump gauge drops slowly and will cycle on and rebuild pressure also if don't use any water. I have turned off the water line coming off of the jet pump when the power goes out to avoid losing prime, but that still doesn't work. Im just starting to get annoyed with priming everytime the power goes out.
Do I need to replace the pressure tank? or something in the outside well?
Surely you don't have two pumps,ma submersible in the well and an above ground jet pump. I'm unclearmhowmthat system would work. The rest of your query suggests a leaky foot valve in the well.
See PUMP PRIME, REPEATED LOSS of if you can't keep the pump primed
(Aug 6, 2014) Pump is runing hot said:
Pump is runing hot
keep us posted -
(Aug 14, 2014) Barry said:
I have a franklin j-class series v pump that is constantly running and not pumping any water.
The pump is only three months old. It is installed in a large holding tank that is part of my water treatment system. The problem started after I drained the tank to clean it. when I fillled the tank back up, I turned on the power, and the pump ran constanty without pumping any water.
I believe this pump has a check valve...but not sure how to get it to start pumping water. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Some pumps, run for a time dry, can suffer a damaged bearing or impeller. I'd pull the pump and inspect it.
Look for a damaged impeller.
(Oct 17, 2014) Roy E. Pierce said:
If bladder has a hole in it and you trying to prime your pump will that make the pump not want to prime?
Yes, no, yes as follows:
(Oct 23, 2014) compton said:
I have a well with a submersible pump I open the plug on top of the well and throw in a mixture of 3 gallons of water and 4 pints of chlorine sanitizer into the well
then I put my garden in the hole on top of the well from my out side faucet try to flush the system out and
about 15 minutes after I started to lose water pressure very fast i close off the faucet and the pump takes along time to build back pressure when I open a faucet could anyone tell me what I did wrong and how to get back my normal water pressure.
I can't quite see from your message what went wrong. I'd look for a leak somewhere in the piping system or loss of water in the well itself.
(Nov 29, 2014) Eric said:
I have a water pump which flooded 3' of water. I acquired sump pump to get rid of the water. I noticed the small hose on the pump was disconnected. after cleaning the pump I turned on electrical power which blew a circuit. Is there a way to prime the pump?
Watch out: flooded electrical equipment is unsafe, may be shorted, may risk shock or electrocution hazards. Best advice is to have the equipment and circuit inspected by an electrician who is familiar with water damage.
Second your pump may have been damaged and thus will bind or is stuck and thus cause a circuit breaker to blow. I would leave the pump off.
There is no point in talking about priming the pump motor when the pump does not run and the electrical circuit is unsafe.
(Feb 18, 2015) sue said:
well that PRIME the PUMP using a GARDEN HOSE is useless. Nearest neighbor is a mile away.
Thanks Sue. Obviously the hose procedure for priming.a well pump is not for everyone. This article series explains other pump priming methods for
people in your position and disposition.
At WATER PUMP PRIMING PROCEDURE you can read how to prime a well pump directly through the pump's priming port.
Before assuming that a water problem is due to the well itself, remember that there could be other troubles, even simply a loss of power to the pump.
See WATER PUMP REPAIR GUIDE an specific case which offers an example of diagnosis of loss of water pressure, loss of water, and analyzes the actual repair cost.
(July 15, 2015) William F. said:
My lawn tractor recently broke a PVC pipe coming out of my well pipe. The PVC pipe contained a check valve. I replaced the PVC pipes and check valve, but cannot figure out how to prime this lawn sprinkler system. I removed the cap in a tee at the top of the well and ran water from a hose into the well for some time without noting any difference.
Should the well fill? It has been dry lately. I could and may prime the pump itself, but I imagine that if I haven't primed the well, the pump will not pull water with an air pocket in the well pipe. Any advice?
I called a pump person to come out to prime the system. It was not as hard as I imagined.
We put water in the pump and turned it on. It eventually pulled water up into the sytem. The pump person had a hand held pump that was attached and used it though I doubt that it was doing that much since the pipes going out of the pump were left open.
So apparently the pump pulls air as well as water. Next time I'll know what to do.
Thanks for the comments. In fact some pumps can pull a limited amount of air out of well supply piping and can re-prime themselves with a little help.
When water enters the pump the sound it emits changes significantly - usually to a quieter hum.
If I don't hear that sound and don't see water being delivered after a minute or two I turn OFF the pump and prime further.
WATCH OUT: running a pump dry can destroy the impeller assembly or bearings.
Oct 5, 2015) wilsq36 said:
How much water should it take to prime a deep well jet pump? My well is 60'.
I have a two-line Gould J05 jet pump mounted to my tank. I have lost all water pressure and I tried to prime through the plug on top of the pump.
I don't have a close enough water source to use the garden hose method, so I will need to prime it manually.
You may need enough water to fill the volume of the pipe from pump to foot valve in the well as well as the pump body itself.
If you need to actually calculate that volume you need only to know the length and internal diameter of the piping that you need to fill, plus allowing a few quarts of water to fill the pump body.
See STATIC HEAD, WELL DEFINITION for calculation details that will let you compute the volume of water needed to fill a pipe.
(Jan 15, 2016) Tracie said:
Well isnt losing prime but water flow stops after bout ten minutes. When i check the pump is running and its still primed. Checked for leaks. None. Now what do i try?
Tracy, turn off your well pump for half an hour.
If water pressure returns then you know the problem is not your pump so that you're well flow rate is very poor and you are running out of water.
(Jan 18, 2016) Lora said:
After priming pump it builds pressure kick pump out then when you open the valve the pressure drops and pump kicks back on but then you lose prime
Maybe a bad foot valve or check valve
(Feb 13, 2016) buster said:
My pump is small with no primer plug. It's a shallow well. Can i prime it by filling the tank?? It's the only thing with a plug.
IF water from the pressure tank can back-drain into the pump (that depends on where the pump is located) you can probably make that work. Take care not to run the pump dry or it may be damaged.
Or connect a garden hose to the tank drain and back-prime the tank and pump from a nearby source that has water pressure.
(May 18, 2016) Anonymous said:
we have motor pump now we use priming proper also but the motor pump cant pump water up from the sea, the distance of our pipe going to sea is 300 meters away we used also check valve,can you please advise what to do.
I suspect that the pump impeller is damaged, the piping is leaking, or the pump is under-powered for the lift height. Also check for a stuck check valve.
(May 23, 2016) Bryan said:
On the image of the F&W. What is the black valve under the pressure switch for? I have one on my F&W and wondering what its for, haven't had something like it on other pumps.
Sorry Bryan I'm not sure to which image you refer.
The second pic, the one of the F&W right under the heading "Detailed Step by Step Procedure for Direct Priming a Well Water Pump" the black valve comes off the back of the pump head and the pressure switch is on top of it and then it looks like cooper pipe coming off its side.
Just trying to figure out what the purpose of that regulator thing is for on the F&W pump. I only see 2 pics on this page.
That's an adjustable pressure regulator. The water leaves this pump and tank system through the upper right side of the pump housing.
2016/07/18 firstname.lastname@example.org said:
I have a new shallow well pump that will pump water but not build pressure above 12 PSI. And sometimes fluctuates rapidly between 10-30 PSI. Well has 3 Ft Point (new). and 1 hp new Pump. Why wontit build pressure?
Mark we list the causes of this problem at
2016/07/19 HBaz333 said:
Yesterday the pipe on top of the pump blew off (most likely because it was PVC instead of a galvanized pipe 😡), fixed that but now no water, tried priming it but the person priming left a spigot open the whole time
and also did not notice leaks coming from the pipe that supplies the house. Does this sound like a well problem or that it was just not primed correctly yet? Waiting on a plumber now but if I can do this myself then I'd rather
Let's first be clear, as there are some very serious safety concerns about over-pressure conditions in water systems. If what broke was a plastic pipe part rather than the pump housing itself, then the failure was in the piping not the pump assembly.
Nevertheless, your pressure tank and pump system should include a pressure relief valve, required on all pressurized tanks or vessels by building codes and standards. That will protect against not only damaging but potentially fatal bursting of plumbing system components.
If your pump pressure control switch is not working properly (debris-clogged perhaps) it might fail to properly shut off the pump at a safe pressure.
So after you have restored water by priming the pump as described in this article series, and before using the system, you'll want to assure that the system is safe, the pressure control switch working properly, and that a relief valve has been installed at the pump and tank.
I doubt you can successfully prime a pump and well system if at the same time the water system is draining water out of a faucet or spigot. Close those and try again.
(May 17, 2015) Dave said:
I have a old A.o Smith Corp Well Pump, when i Prime it the water comes to the top of the pump where i install the water,but i have to hurry and put cap on and turn the pump on or it loses its prime,
And it got to where the pump would go off every two min.because it was losing pressure, so i change the pipe and foot valve.I tried to prime it but the water keeps going down
so i toke it apart and the pipe had water in it, so the foot valve is working.there is a small opening under cap where pipe hooks up to. it looks like a air opening the think water might be going though that and going down between pipe and outer pipe casing.
When the pump is losing prime as you describe I think water is running back down a pipe into the well or possibly out through a piping leak.
I'm not sure what opening you are referring to - use our CONTACT link to send me some photos if you like and I can comment further.
If you open the link INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to WATER SYSTEMS & EQUIPMENT found just above
you'll find these articles giving alternative ways to prime the pump
WATER PUMP PRIMING PROCEDURE
PRIME the PUMP using a GARDEN HOSE
WATER PUMP PRIMING DIAGNOSTIC FAQs
May 17, 2015) Dave said:
I just emailed you the two pictures, from my wife's email.
Got em. This looks like an older model Sta-Rite jet pump with an adapter that perhaps mounted the pump atop the well casing or water tank. (If you can see a model number on the data tag that'd be helpful).
You can also get help from Pentair or direct from Sta-Rite - www.sta-rite.com/ResidentialContactUs_ContactUs.aspx
Dave when you say the water keeps going down - it's got to be going somewhere, right? That should tell us where the leak is.
When you fill the pump through the priming opening if the water is leaking out and it's not visibly leaking at the pump itself then it's either passing into the water tank or into the well.
Double check your piping and connections.
(Sept 18, 2015) JC said:
Pump lost prime while running. Re-piped from well to pump. Primed easy, but stopped pumping water while running after 10 min. No casing pipe drop pipe only, well is about 80'.
I suspect you exhausted the water in the well; else a pipe has broken.
(Oct 12, 2015) RG said:
I have a jet pump inside my house. I will be going away for several months during the winter and will be turning my main water valve off and leaving the pump power on. Will the pump be able to maintain its prime or do I need to periodically have someone run the water?
Perhaps if there is no leaky check valve or foot valve you'll be OK.
Search InspectApedia for FREEZEPROOFING to read some important suggestions.
(Dec 5, 2015) Jorg Backhaus said:
I have a Davey Pump where I have replaced 2.5 years ago, 28 meters of poly pipe, 1x1.5 & 1x2" long
, I checked the footvalve, was ok, now 2.5 years later I had to bring all back up again because I kept losing water and had to prime overnight again & again, I replaced the footvalve lowered the whole lot, it worked for three days and now when I switch the pump on in the morning I need to prime again!
The Bore is 35.7 m down, with the footvalve sitting @ 32 m and the depth of the Water level is 15.7 m! Could you please tell me what I need to do to over come this problem! Kind regards, Jorg
Loss of air in the tank, Jorg, will cause short cycling on and off of the water pump but not intermittent or unexplained cycling.
If there were an overcharge of air in the pressure tank that air normally exits and is discharged at the building plumbing fixtures but it could enter the pump.
(Dec 6, 2015) Jorg Backhaus said:
Thanks for all your suggestion dan joe friedmann!
does a home water pump need a water tank. can i run the water pump without a water tank. some days no water will reach 2nd floor. and some days even on the 1st floor water is weak. currently running no pump. - Ian 9/25/2011
Why do we need a water pressure tank?
with a water pressure tank and the air "spring" that it contains, the pump will short cycle on and off rapidly in many circumstances, delivering water in spurts and short cycling the pump on and off rapidly in any case at which water is being run more slowly than the pump output capacity.
That's because water is practically non-compressible.
The air charge in the water pressure tank acts as a giant "spring" to give a continuous flow of water and to work with the pressure control switch to turn the pump on and off at a range of pressures typically about 20 psi apart, such as on/off at 20/40 psi or at 30/50 psi.
An exception, where no water pressure tank is needed, is when a water pump is being used in an open system, such as pumping water out of a creek or pond into an open stock watering tank or planting field
. In that case, because the pump is picking up water from its source and pushing it to a destination without a restriction in the system, the pump moves water continuously as long as it is on and does not stop until it is turned off.
I used this workaround with great success. It saved me from having to mess with the pump at all. With this solution you really don't need to touch the pump or any of the plumbing. Very clever! DanMan 9/30/2011
In fact we started using this procedure of finding a way to "back prime" the well pump and piping by connecting a garden hose to a good water source (say a nice neighbor) when dealing with pumps that were so old and rusty that it was perfectly obvious that trying to open a pump priming plug or well pipe connection was going to lead to a whole day or more of repairing and replacing parts.
(May 29, 2011) loyd said:
thank you for your help
(Oct 29, 2011) JAMES BIXBY said:
Pump runs and pumps water until water is gone from pipes and pump housing water is gone.
James, please see WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE and let me know if you have further questions.
Continue reading at PRIME the PUMP, HOW TO through the pump priming plug If you do not have such a source available, we provide alternative methods, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
Or see PUMP PRIME, REPEATED LOSS of if you can't keep the pump primed
or if priming the pump is just not working for you see WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR.
Or see this
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