What Happens If My Pool Pump Runs Dry?

You might not even know that your pump is running dry. This can slowly start to happen over a long period. Your pump may have been running dry when you start to notice signs such as water leaking, loose covers or the pump is tripping the electrical distribution board.

If you leave your pool pump running dry for an extended period of time, you will destroy the pump itself. The dry pump will run at a very high speed, superheating any water left in the pump into steam. This steam can heat up and melt the plastic components of the pump.

Let’s look at what causes a pump to run dry, how to avoid this from happening, and how to determine if your pump has been damaged in any way from running dry.

How To Prevent My Pool Pump From Running Dry?

Prevention is always better than cure, so always make sure that your water is topped up to the level of the skimmer, that your hoses are in good condition and that your skimmer basket is cleaned regularly. If you keep this up, you should ever have this problem.

Unless something is wrong… In that case, you will need to find the problem and fix it.

Your biggest enemy is air leaks

The main problem of a dry-running pump is that the line has lost prime (no water in the line) and is basically pumping air.

Pro Tip: Tiny bubbles in the outlet is a telltale sign that there is air being leaked into the system, somewhere…

What is causing your pool pump to loose prime and run dry is air leaks. If you find that you constantly have to prime the pump because of dry running, you need to first establish if there are any leaks in the system.

Let’s do this in a logical order, saving the most difficult checks for last so that you don’t unnecessarily dig up the entire yard.

That would be pretty embarrassing.

Make sure the water level is above the skimmer

We will start at the beginning with the water level. It is important to keep your pool topped up above the skimmer opening, even when you are running a pool cleaner. Air can still leak through the hose connection when the skimmer is empty. This air can cause a water void big enough for the pump to lose suction and start to pull air into the system.

Remember, when your pump is not pulling water, it is pulling air.

Is the skimmer Basket clean?

While you are checking the skimmer, make sure the basket is nice and clean. If it is full of leaves, it will block the flow of water to your pump. If your pump cant draws water from the skimmer, it will draw air instead, which in turn will dry the line and the pump will end up running dry.

Is the pool cleaner’s hose leaking?

You also want to make sure the hoses for your pool cleaner are in good condition and aren’t leaking air into the line.

Check that pool pump fittings and connections are airtight

If the line-in is airtight, then let’s have a look at the pump and its connections. Make sure that the pump lid is on tight and the rubber gasket is lubed and is creating a proper seal. Check that the line-in connection is tight and is not leaking air into the system.

Leaks in the Line-In – Time to get your hands dirty…

You will want to do this check last as it may require some excavation. If all of the above seams in order, then you will want to check that the line from the pool to the pump doesn’t have any leaks. Unfortunately, you might have to dig up the line to do this check.

By now you have hopefully found the problem and fixed it. It’s time to address the elephant in the room…

Has My Pool Pump Been Damaged From Running Dry?

How does a pool pump actually get damaged when it runs dry?

If the pool pump runs dry for an extended period of time, internal plastic parts can melt. Usually, the shaft seal is the first part that breaks in this case. This is the seal between the pump motor itself and the wet part of the pump mechanism. Once this seal goes, water will leak into the pump compartment which can damage the pump. This will also usually trip the electrical distribution board.

Can a pool pump be saved after being damaged?

Some pool pumps have safety mechanisms that prevent this damage. The mechanism consists of a high-temperature sensor that switches the pump off so that no further heating and damage can occur.

If for some reason the motor survives this, it may be an easy repair by simply replacing the shaft seal.

Since there is water leaking into an electrical component, I highly recommend that you get a professional to check the system before attempting to run the pump again.

Once you have found the leak or blockage, repaired it, and had the pump repaired (by a professional, hopefully), then we can attempt to start up the pump again.

Restarting The Pump after it has been repaired

Make sure that no water can enter the system again

So you have had the pump and the motor repaired and you’re ready to start it up again. Before you do this, I suggest that you do a full check again using the list above.

Prime the pump with water before turning it on

You also want to prime the pump by removing the lid on the pump and filling the priming basket/compartment with water. Make sure you replace the lid as tight as possible before starting the pump again.


Okay, awesome…

We have covered what causes a pump to run dry, and how to find and fix the problem. We know now that running a dry pump can certainly damage the pump housing and even the motor.

To avoid this from happening, we need to check the entire inlet system for any leaks or blockages.

We should make sure the water level is above the level of the skimmer, and that the skimmer basket is clean of obstructions like leaves or branches. We should also check the hoses that connect the skimmer to the pool cleaner for damage and leaks.

Before digging up the entire line from the skimmer to the pool, we should check all the connections as well as the priming basket lid on the pool pump itself.

Then if all else fails, we will need to check the pipes that connect the skimmer to the pool pump, which are sometimes underground, so you may need to grab that spade and start digging!

Once we have identified the problem and fixed it, we need to make sure we prime the pump again so that we remove any air voids in the line.

That’s it for now, if you have any specific questions about this, please leave me a message in the comments section of this post.

PS: What game do unvaccinated kids play in the swimming pool? Marco Polio

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