A broken pool pump timer will have you taking multiple trips back and forth to your timer to manually switch it on and off which can be pretty frustrating on a hot summer day when you just want to relax in the pool. How can you get the timer working again and avoid those multiple trips out of the pool?
When a pool pump timer isn’t working properly, it’s usually a problem with the unit’s electrical system. You’ll want to check the circuit breaker and inspect the unit for any visible loose wires. If those obvious fixes don’t solve the issue, it’s probably time to replace the entire mechanism.
In this article, I’ll walk you through a few troubleshooting steps you can take to figure out what is going on with your pool pump timer and offer a couple of solutions to those problems so that you can get you back into the pool in no time!
Why Is Your Pool Timer Not Working?
The reason you have a pool pump timer is that you don’t want the pump to run all day every day. Eight hours in the summertime and 4-6 hours in the winter is enough time to keep your pool fresh and clean.
Sometimes though, the timer doesn’t work properly, or it runs longer than expected, or it shuts itself off before the time expires
If you’re having trouble getting your timer working properly, here are some common reasons why it might be acting up.
Power outages can be a common problem during the summer months. When an outage happens, one of the first things you will want to check is the pool timer.
If the power is suddenly cut off, the timer will stop working. And when the power comes back on, just like a clock, the timer will be set to the time when it lost power, rather than the correct current time.
So you may need to reset the clock and make sure the timer is set correctly. If it’s not, turn it off and restart it. Then wait about 15 minutes for the system to start up again.
Problems with your circuit breaker
Circuit breakers are designed to protect against overload conditions. When a breaker trips, it interrupts power to prevent damage to equipment.
There are several things that could cause the circuit breaker housing your pool pump and pool pump timer to trip like an overheated pump, pool vacuum, or pool heater. It could also trip if water gets into the motor.
If you have a tripped breaker, you’ll want to address the situation right away. Failure to do so could make things worse and damage the parts that keep your pool and the pump timer working.
The timer tags are loose
Timer tags are basically the “on” and “off” switches for your pool pump’s timer. They allow you to control when the pump turns on and off by presetting those times.
They are the little metal tags that point to the times on the clock. Sometimes the screws holding them down can loosen unintentionally and the timer tags can slip down. If that happens, the timing will be off and it could cause your pump to stop running when you want it to, or even altogether.
So if your timer isn’t working, double-check that all the tags are set to the correct time.
Your wires are loose or disconnected
You should have two wires coming from the breaker box into your pool pump timer, and then two more going from the pool pump timer into the pool pump.
If any of those wires get crossed, come loose, or break, it could cause a power problem to the entire unit. So the first thing you need to do is determine if you are getting electricity to the timer.
If not, visually inspect the unit to see if wires may have been disconnected or come loose.
Similarly, if you didn’t connect the wires correctly in the first place, the timer will not work correctly.
Installing a pool pump timer can be done on your own, but you want to make sure it’s done correctly to avoid problems. So if you’re not confident while working with electrical components, I would recommend hiring a professional to get the job done.
First, you’ll want to make sure all power is cut off the pool pump by flipping the breaker switch. You can double-check this using a voltmeter. Then put the wires through the hole in the timer box and secure the timer to the wall or wherever you want to put it.
Next, you need to wire up the pool pump timer. The green wire is the ground and should be wrapped around the green screw. Then you should have 2 wires going from the circuit breaker into the timer and 2 more going from the timer into the pool pump. The instructions should come with a diagram for you to follow but again, hire an electrician or pool professional if you are unsure of how to go about this safely.
Once your timer is wired, you can close the timer box and turn back on the circuit breaker. Set your timer for the times you want, and test it to see if it works.
Your timer motor is broken
If you know that there is power going to the pool pump timer, but the gears in the motor are not turning, your timer’s motor is broken or has burnt out.
You should be able to see the gears turning by looking into the hole in the metal plate to the side of the clock on the timer.
Pool pump timers are designed to last five to ten years, but often times the motor will fail before that time. And without a motor, the timer is useless.
Best Fixes for Your Pool Pump Timer
Now let’s take a look at a few fixes for those most common issues I mentioned above. You can do most of these things yourself, but remember, you will be working with electricity and since it is a pool timer, it’s possible you’ll be around water. So make sure to take the proper safety precautions and if you are not comfortable, call a professional for help.
Check your pool’s circuit breaker
When you are having problems with your timer, the circuit breaker should be the first thing you check. A simple tripped breaker may be the cause and it is an easy fix.
To check it, simply find the breaker that goes to your pool pump timer in your main breaker box. If it is switched to the “off” position, turn it back to the “on” position. Now check your timer to see if that fixed the problem.
If there is no problem with the breaker, try checking the fuse panel next to the breaker box for blown fuses. Fuses can blow out during installation or during normal use. If you find one that is burned out, replace it.
Tighten the pool pump timer tags
Since the timer won’t work properly if the tags are out of place, you need to make sure they are secured at the times you want to turn your pool pump on and off.
To tighten them, simply take a small screwdriver, return them to the correct times, and tighten the screw on the front.
You can also remove the pool timer tags completely and inspect them to make sure they aren’t damaged. If they are damaged, rusty, or just pretty old, you might want to replace them with new ones. It’s a relatively cheap fix to a problem that could be quite annoying if they keep sliding around.
Check the pool pump timer’s wire connections
As I mentioned above, if one of your wires is loose or disconnected, you won’t get power to the unit. You can first do a visual inspection to see if you notice any wires amiss or out of place.
If nothing catches your eye, you can check the wires for continuity using a multimeter. This will be able to tell you if there are any breaks in the wires that you may not be able to see.
Replace your timer motor
If your pool timer motor is the problem, it can be replaced. But depending on the age of your pool pump timer, you might want to consider just replacing the entire mechanism.
To just replace the motor, make sure the power is off first so there is no risk of shock, and then press the tab at the top of the timer to pop it out. You’ll find the motor directly behind the clock.
Remove the two screws that are holding the motor in, disconnect the two wires that are connected to the motor, and put your new motor in. Secure it with the screws, and reconnect the wires. When you turn your breaker back on you should have a working pool pump timer.
Replace your pool pump timer
If the motor is burnt out, or any of the wires are broken, and your pool pump timer is getting on the older side, you may consider replacing the entire mechanism. Remember, the lifespan of these timers is about ten years.
When you buy a new timer, it will come with a new box. But I prefer to just pop the timer mechanism out of that box and put it into the existing box if it’s still in good shape.
Then all you have to do is turn off the power, push the tab to pop out the old mechanism, disconnect the wires, pop your new timer in, and wire it back up.
When Should You Call a Professional?
When you’re having issues with your pool timer, you could call a professional, but he might charge $100 just to look at the problem. Most of the things I mentioned above are easy enough to handle on your own. And since replacing the entire timer will only cost you about $50-$75 and take a total of 10 minutes, I would give it a try on your own first.
Of course, if you don’t know how to safely work with electrical components, it’s best to call a professional.
So the bottom line is; if it’s not an electrical issue, it is likely a mechanical one and either the timer tabs, motor, or entire timer needs to be replaced.
If you want to save money and are comfortable working with electrical systems, by all means, do it yourself. If not, call a professional to come and help.
I hope this guide gets your pool pump back in working order and you back to your regularly scheduled summer.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.