What are the signs of a pump that requires maintenance or repair?

Repairing and maintaining your pond pump can sound like an intimidating task. Luckily, the process is straight forward, once you've got the hang of the standard maintenance steps.

Usually your pump will have stopped working because of something simple. For example, a blockage inside the pump is arguably the most common reason. This is often caused by a pesky twig, a pile of debris, leaves or a build-up of blanket weed... And generally these things can be prevented with simple pond pump maintenance. A bit of cleaning and care is best recommended, but in rare circumstances, this can be out of our control. Therefore, pond pump repair is required.

Your pond pump is running fine, only to suddenly stop working at the most awkward time.

Before you dive into your pond, remove the pump and return it to where it was originally purchased - there are several steps we suggest before resorting to sending back the pump to the supplier.

Pond pump maintenance is not something you leave for an expert. Basic understanding of the pump you have purchased is required, and straight forward. Cleaning the pump is the best possible way to avoid common problems with your pond pump.

Here at Swell, we sell hundreds of pond pumps every week. Our Returns Team receive a dozen pumps sent back from customers who think their product is not working. 9 times out of 10, the pump is working perfectly fine, and the whole issue could have been resolved with some simple maintenance.

Pond pump repair is easier than you think

Swell returns manager Phil Cross tests and services all pond pumps that are sent back for inspection. For the most part, he can repair any issues in two minutes with a screwdriver and some paper towels. Pond pump repair ironically isn't an actual repair - more like "pond pump spot maintenance." 

Phil explained: "Pond pump repair really isn't that complicated. When a pump stops working, it's usually because of one of two things. Either the owner has a problem with their electricity supply, or they haven't bothered to do any basic maintenance on their pump."

Check your electricity supply

The power source can be an issue that is easily resolved as well. Pond pumps are designed to be used outdoors, therefore they do not come with a 3-pin plug like standard appliances sold on the UK market.

Your pond pump is an outdoor-based product powered by electricity. Therefore, you should always invest in a Residual Circuit Detector (RCDD). This ensures the correct and safe installation of your pump, and is strongly suggested for all outdoor electric based products.

Phil said: "A common problem in pond pump repair and diagnosis is with the cable. People bury them underground and then accidentally cut through them. Your wiring must always be protected. If you have multiple appliances, using a switchbox is highly recommended. Swell UK offers the Blagdon Powersafe Switch Box, designed to run a maximum of 5 appliances.

If you have not found a problem with your electrics or wiring, and your pond pump is still not working, this is where maintenance comes into play. Phil said: "It doesn't matter how good a pond pump is - they will always let in particles or debris from your pond. Over time, these particles act like sandpaper and become an abrasive on your rotor. Some basic spot cleaning resolves this issue easily."

Pond pump repair: A simple guide

How do you go about pond pump repair and maintenance? Phil let us into his workshop and explained. "Start by checking the power supply, then the cable, then the pump." As Phil took us through the stages of running diagnostics, he showed us one pump that had been sent back by a customer. He unboxed an Oase Eco Max 4000 - a top of the range pump, but even a top of the range pump needs a little TLC.

"Straight away I can see they have a problem with blanket weed," said Phil. Upon inspection, the pump's outer casing is a striking shade of green. It stands to reason - blanket weed in the pond, equals blanket weed in the pump. Something that does not make for happy running.

When maintaining and checking the pump, it is important to ensure the product is disconnected from any power supply. With a few turns of the screwdriver, Phil opened the case to reveal the pump inside.

You can easily check for any simple blockages. This pump is pretty clean, so maybe the problem is inside the motor housing. Checking inside the case, both ends appear to be clear of twigs and grit. Therefore, we need to check out the rotor chamber and impeller.

"First you have to check for any blockages in the chamber. Pumps will suck in anything floating around in your pond water. For example, if you have overhanging leaves, berries or twigs, these can find their way to blocking the chamber."

Phil removes the rotating impeller and checks the chamber for any debris caught inside the pump itself. Luckily, this model appears to be free from any blockages that could restrict the impeller.

Phil wipes the impeller magnet, removing any mud or slime that may be present. He can then check the impeller for any scoring, which usually occurs when sediment is caught inside the chamber. When the impeller rotates, this will catch against a small piece of debris, resulting in scored lines appearing across the magnet. This can cause the pump mechanism to fail. Therefore, it is best recommended to regularly check the chamber when maintaining the pump.

Pumps working with Filtration Systems

When your pump is working in conjunction with a filtration system, it is advised to also check your pond filter and ensure this is kept clean. If the filter contains a sponge or a natural pre-filter, this will need to be maintained and kept clean.

If your filter is clogged with mud, this will restrict the flow of water from your pump. It will struggle to push water through your filtration system. We've previously seen pond pump returns which the unit is so badly clogged, the motor will fail and burn out. When this occurs due to a lack of maintenance, it's not covered under the manufacturer warranty.

Similarly, if you purchase a combined pond pump, filter and UV unit, make sure you check inside to see if there are any plastic bags still present on the media. Some suppliers place biological filter media in plastic bags, which counts as packaging for the product. It is vital you remove these. Otherwise, they can block the flow of water and cause the pump to break.

When disassembling the pond pump, the impeller is arguably the most fragile component. Phil said: "The impeller (also known as rotor) is particularly prone to blockages in the south of England. They have quite hard water that is chalky and causes limescale on the rotor. It becomes like a cement and makes it difficult for the rotor to do its job properly."

Limescale can be removed by soaking the pump in white vinegar, or by purchasing a pump clean product such as the Oase AquaActiv Pump Clean. This is a treatment designed to remove limescale and other deposits, and is an alternative to using white vinegar.

Importance of maintaining your Pump regularly

Phil puts the pump back together, drops it into his testing pond. After cleaning and checking the pump, it now works perfectly fine. If the customer had followed the basic steps of maintaining their pond pump. this whole process could have been prevented with some simple steps.

"Another thing you should remember," he said, "is to always test your pump with it fully submerged in water. Many pumps will not run dry, and are submersible. Some pumps like the Oase range have a sensor that stops them from working if another device in the pond has an electrical problem."

Phil concludes that prevention is better than cure in pond pump repair.

He said: "9 out of 10 pumps we receive back have stopped working because they have not been maintained correctly. Usually, this is because they have not looked after their filtration system either."

Phil reiterates that it does not matter how good a pump is - if you do not maintain it, expect problems.

He said: "Oase have always been the Rolls Royce of pond pumps. Then you have your Blagdon, Hozelock, Fishmate and now Bermuda. They all get sent back to us because they all require maintenance. When maintaining the garden or checking the pond, every few weeks, clean out the pump and check the filter. You will save yourself a lot of problems in the long term. Maintaining your pond equipment is vital, especially for fish keepers. If you choose to neglect these products, you endanger your live-stock.

For example, sending back your pump will leave your pond without any circulation. Therefore, in order to avoid this, it is best recommended to follow simple maintenance steps. Pond pump repair is often a case of "a stitch in time saves nine."

Pond pump repair components are available via the Swell UK website. It is highly recommended to keep spares of any consumable components, such as pond pump impellers. You can view the available accessories we stock for pond pumps via our website on the Accessories webpage.