Your water well offers your home and property many advantages. It affords you absolute independence from municipal water systems. Monthly water bills are non-existent. And you know exactly what is coming out of your faucet.
Yet this independence comes with responsibilities. When the system breaks down, it is your job to get it up and running again. One of the most critical links in this supply chain is the well pump. Without that pump—or an auxiliary method such as a hand pump or sleeve bucket—water cannot be brought to ground level. Learn the common symptoms of a broken well pump, plus ways to fix many of the potential problems that can occur.
Signs of a Broken Well Pump
How do you know your well pump is broken? There will be a few clear signs.
When you turn on a faucet and no water comes out, a broken well pump might be the cause. Another cause unrelated to the well pump is that one of the pipes has burst, diverting water from its destination.
A well pump that continually runs or runs more than expected might also mean that the well pump is broken. Alternatively, this could mean that the pump is trying to pull water from a water supply that is too low or it could indicate a burst water pipe.
Before undertaking any work on your well pump, be sure to cut off the power to the pump at the electrical service panel. At the well pump and any other area supplied by electricity, double-check with a voltage tester to make sure that all power has been cut off. Always wear eye protection when working on your well pump.
Equipment / Tools
- Manual screwdriver
- Eye protection
- Voltage tester
- Pen or pencil
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Teflon pipe tape
- Painter's tape
- Well pump pressure switch (optional)
- Double circuit breakers (optional)
Check and Repair Your Power Source
Lifting water is hard work, and your well pump uses electricity to do that work. If you have a deep well, it might be drawing 220 volts, the same double-breaker power that your home is likely using for its clothes dryer, baseboard heater, or electric oven.
Flip the circuit breaker back and then forward to resume power. If this does not work, changing out the circuit breakers sometimes can help, since breakers can fail. Arc-fault (AFCI) circuit breakers especially are prone to failure.
Repair the Well Pump Pressure Switch
Well pump pressure switch failure is one of the main reasons why well pumps break down. Often, it is best to entirely replace the switch. But there are a few things you can do to keep the switch running for a bit longer.
When the switch's electric relay contacts are lightly pitted or burnt, you might be able to clean the contacts to promote electrical current again. With the circuit breaker off and this area tested with a voltage tester, fold a small piece of sandpaper in half and sand between the contacts until they are shiny.
Replace the Well Pump Pressure Switch (If Necessary)
After removing the switch housing, label the wires with the painter's tape and pen. Depressurize the system, then close the valve leading from the pressure tank to your home's plumbing. Drain the tank of water.
After removing the housing, remove the wires from the existing switch. Turn out the pressure switch counter-clockwise from its nipple standpipe. Clean that pipe, then wrap its threads in Teflon tape. Install the new pressure switch with wrenches.
Connect the wiring as before. Replace the housing, turn on the power, and test the well pump.
Inspect the Foot and Check Valves
At the bottom of the well, the foot valve and its strainer must allow water to pass through freely, unobstructed by debris. Additionally, the check valve—applicable only to submersible well pumps—must be properly holding a vacuum on one side and pressure on the other side. In other words, the check valve permits water to flow in only one direction—upward.
After examining the foot and check valves, look at all plumbing pipes to ensure that water can flow to its endpoint, unobstructed, and without leakage.