What you need to know to get that sump pump repaired!

First you need to determine how your pump is configured.  Basically it will be submersible or pedestal (above the pit), and it will have an integral or separate float system.

Once you know your sump pump setup, you can choose which repair pertains to your pump.

Let’s start with pedestal pumps.  You can tell if you have a pedestal pump when the motor is above the lid of the pit.

If your pump doesn’t run at all, first check to make sure you have power at the outlet the pump is plugged into.  While many inspectors will with all good intention require a GFI type outlet at the sump pump, this is never a good idea.  Many pumps draw high amperage and will “blow” the GFI integral breaker causing the pump to fail to run.  This will happen repeatedly until the outlet is changed to a standard type outlet wired to the proper size breaker or fuse in the panel.  Consult manufacturer’s requirements for this information.  If you already have a standard outlet—check the breaker or fuse at the panel.  Or if you know how to check the power at the outlet safely, do so first.

Once you confirm you have power, you can manually operate the float to see if it is just stuck.  If it is, you must correct the condition causing it to stick.  Don’t just “un-stick” it and assume it will be OK.  It will probably just stick again if you do that.

At this point if you can’t get the pump to run, you either have a bad switch or something else is wrong.  

If your pump has 2 plugs on it that piggyback one into the other, then you can now test the pump to see if it will operate manually.  Unplug the piggybacked plugs and plug the one attached to the pump (not the one attached to the switch) and see if the motor runs.  If it runs and pumps water, then you have a bad switch.  If it hums but does not pump water, you have another problem.  If the water in the pit swirls but does not pump out, the check valve is jammed or the discharge line is plugged.  Disassemble and check both.  If the pump hums and the water does not swirl, unplug the pump and remove it from the pit.  Try to move the impeller by hand.  If you can move the impeller by hand, replace the pump.  If you cannot move the impeller by hand, check to see if something is jammed in the impeller and is keeping it from turning.  If nothing is jamming the impeller, replace the pump.

If your pump has only one plug, then pull the integral float rod manually upward and see if the pump will run.  If it does, then correct the problem that was causing the float to stick in the down position.  If it does not, then remove the pump from the pit.  Try to move the impeller by hand.    If you cannot move the impeller by hand, check to see if something is jammed in the impeller and is keeping it from turning.  If nothing is jamming the impeller, replace the pump.  If the impeller turns freely, then you may have a bad switch.  Replace the switch.  If the pump still will not run, replace the pump.

Next we have submersible pumps.  Just as the name implies, in this case the whole pump is below the pit and only the piping shows above the pit lid.

If your pump doesn’t run at all, first check to make sure you have power at the outlet the pump is plugged into.   While many inspectors will, with all good intention, require a GFI type outlet at the sump pump, this is never a good idea.  Many pumps draw high amperage and will “blow” the GFI integral breaker causing the pump to fail to run.  This will happen repeatedly until the outlet is changed to a standard type outlet wired to the proper size breaker or fuse in the panel.  Consult manufacturer’s requirements for this information.  If you already have a standard outlet—check the breaker or fuse at the panel.  Or if you know how to check the power at the outlet safely, do so first.

Once you confirm you have power, you can manually operate the float to see if it is just stuck.  If it is, you must correct the condition causing it to stick.  Don’t just “un-stick” it and assume it will be OK.  It will probably just stick again if you do that.  Raise the lid on the pit and observe the float.  If it is a free floating type switch, lift it into the upward position to see if the pump starts.  If not you will need to check the pump (see below).  If it does start and the pit had enough water in it to float the switch into the upright (on) position, you must correct the condition causing it to stick.  Again, don’t just “un-stick” it and assume it will be OK.  It will probably just stick again if you do that.

At this point if you can’t get the pump to run, you either have a bad switch or something else is wrong.  

If your pump has 2 plugs on it that piggyback one into the other, then you can now test the pump to see if it will operate manually.  Unplug the piggybacked plugs and plug the one attached to the pump (not the one attached to the switch) and see if the motor runs.  If it runs and pumps water, then you have a bad switch.  If it hums but does not pump water, you have another problem. If the water in the pit swirls but does not pump out, the check valve is jammed or the discharge line is plugged.  Disassemble and check both.  If the pump hums and the water does not swirl, unplug the pump and remove it from the pit.  Try to move the impeller by hand.  If you can move the impeller by hand, replace the pump.  If you cannot move the impeller by hand, check to see if something is jammed in the impeller and is keeping it from turning.  If nothing is jamming the impeller, replace the pump.

If your pump has only one plug, then pull the integral float manually upward and see if the pump will run.  If it does, and the pit has a water level higher than the top of the pump, then correct the problem that was causing the float to stick in the down position.  If it does not, then remove the pump from the pit.  Try to move the impeller by hand.  If you cannot move the impeller by hand, check to see if something is jammed in the impeller and is keeping it from turning.  If nothing is jamming the impeller, replace the pump.  If the impeller turns freely, then you may have a bad switch.  Replace the switch.  If the pump still will not run, replace the pump.

If at any time you feel the need for professional assistance at your home, give Yes! Plumbing a call.  Our phones are answered by live customer service reps, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.