Tip & How-To about Pool & Spa

My electric motor just buzzes or hums and won't run

It can be quite frustrating when all of a sudden a motor on a pump or other piece of equipment suddenly quits working. Instead of starting up, all you get is a loud humming or buzzing sound. There are several possible causes for this so let's cover the basics...

It could be the pump or whatever else the motor drives is bound up. Check for free rotation wherever you have access to the shaft(s). Be CERTAIN the power is off before checking this!

It is more likely the motor is the source of the problem. It may be a small part such as the capacitor or the starting switch, but could also be more severe such as the winding itself.

While you are at it you will also want to examine the shaft where it passes thru the pump and motor and look for signs of rust from a pump seal leak. If there is, replace the pump seal when you repair the motor.

Now for the motor: You should start with the capacitor. Use a digital multi-meter (DMM), preferably with a capacitor setting, or an analog meter set for Ohms. With an analog, you should see the needle deflect as if testing a closed circuit then it will slowly drop to 0 if the capacitor is good. If it doesn't move or moves and stays to the side showing a closed circuit the capacitor is bad. If you notice a burn hole near the terminals on the end of the capacitor do not bother to test it. If you do not have access to a meter you can try grounding the posts together with a screwdriver to see if they arc although it is not a very reliable test method. Be sure you are holding on to an insulated handle for the tool you use to short the terminals together or you can get a good poke.

If the capacitor is OK inspect the winding and start switch inside the motor for damage. A damaged winding is not worth fixing and will require a new motor. Checking the start switch means look for continuity thru the contacts with the power off and the motor at a stand-still. You should have a closed circuit. If not, look for bent switch arms or blown contacts. You may need a new switch.

If you are not familiar with testing these parts your best bet would be a local electric motor repair shop to see if the motor can be repaired or if it would need to be replaced. They should also be able to ensure there is no pump damage. If you wish to continue to try to repair it yourself please post a problem with any details you have and any questions you have as you work thru the pump and motor.

If this tip does not fix your problem, please post any details as a new problem here on Fixya or contact me thru our site at www.arrowpools.net for assistance. I'll do what I can to help.


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