How to Fix Air in Your Pool Pump

Written by Michael Dean
May 15, 2024

air coming into a pool pump

As a pool owner, you know the heart of your swimming pool lies in the pool pump and filter. Unfortunately, just like any other part of the pool, the pool pump can fall victim to various issues. One relatively common issue you may come across is air in your pool pump.

In this article, I will walk you through my handy step-by-step process to fixing air in your pool pump, troubleshooting, causes, and more. Let’s dive in!

Main Takeaways

  • First, you’ll need to turn it off and check the water level, skimmer, pump basket, and the pump’s plumbing.
  • You may have this issue when you notice any of the following: air bubbles, loss of prime, reduced water circulation, pump lid vibrations, leaks, or pressure gauge fluctuations.
  • Too much air is a problem because it can lead to reduced pump efficiency, damage to the pump, ineffective water treatment, increased energy bills, and noisy operation.
  • Air may get into the pump due to many reasons, including a low water level, leaks, clogged skimmer, and loose fittings.

Step-by-Step: How to Fix Air in Your Pool Pump

There is no need to panic; you can easily fix this issue with my step-by-step process below.

Step One: Turn Off the Pump

First things first: turn off the pool pump. Make sure it’s completely disconnected from the power source by turning off the breaker.

Step Two: Check the Water Level

One of the main reasons for air in your pool pump is the pool’s water level. The water should reach halfway up the skimmer. If it’s too low, top it up!

Step Three: Check the Skimmer Basket

Closely inspect the skimmer baskets. Check them for clogs and ensure they are not damaged. Additionally, ensure the baskets are placed correctly in the suction holes. If they are damaged, replace them. If they are not placed properly, fix that.

Step Four: Check the Skimmer’s Weir

The skimmer weir is the flap in front of the skimmer that traps larger debris. Ensure it’s not jammed and water can still flow through the system.

Step Five: Inspect the Pump Basket

Remove the pump basket lid and inspect the basket (and the lid!) for any cracks. If there are any cracks, you’ve found your culprit! Replace the broken pump basket.

Step Six: Lubricate the O-Ring

If the pump basket itself is not cracked, another issue within the pump basket could be the O-ring. The O-ring is the rubber seal that keeps the air out. Over time, the O-ring can dry out and lose effectiveness, allowing air to infiltrate. If the O-ring is rotted or splitting, replace it entirely. Otherwise, you can simply lubricate it with a Teflon-based or pool-safe lubricant.

Step Seven: Check Drain Plugs

Locate the drain plugs in the pump’s housing, where you’ll find one or two drain plugs. Make sure the drain plugs are not loose. If they are, use plumber’s tape to secure them.

Step Eight: Check the Unions

If your pool pump still has air after all the above steps, check the pool’s plumbing. Check the pipes for any cracks – in particular, the unions. Unions are white plastic connectors between piping. Check the O-ring within the union for any damage. If it’s damaged or cracked, replace it. And, of course, make sure to lubricate it.

Step Nine: Fill the Pump Basket with Water

Fill the pump basket with water using a garden hose to ensure that your pump is properly primed. Once full, quickly replace the pump lid, ensuring it’s sealed tightly.

Step Ten: Prime the Pump

With the pump lid securely in place and all components checked and sealed, it’s time to prime the pump. Turn the pool pump back on and wait for the water to flow. You’ll know it’s primed when water flows consistently into the pump basket and all air bubbles have been purged from the system.

If all is well, congratulations! You have successfully restored your pool pump to its former glory!

How Do You Know If You Have Air in Your Pool Pump?

Of course, before you turn off your pool pump and go over all of the troubleshooting steps above the issue, you want to determine whether or not you have too much air in this piece of equipment in the first place! Here are some telltale signs that air might be infiltrating your pool pump system.

Visible Air Bubbles

If you have excess air running through your pump, you’ll likely see air bubbles escaping into the pump basket or through the return jets in your pool. This is a clear indication that the system is drawing in air.

Loss of Prime

One of the most common indicators of this problem is the loss of prime. If your pool pump struggles to maintain its prime (the process of filling the pump and suction line with water), it’s a strong sign of air infiltration. You might notice the pump making unusual sucking or gurgling sounds as well.

Reduced Water Circulation

If you notice a significant drop in the water flow rate from your pool pump system or a decrease in the effectiveness of your pool cleaner, it could be due to air in the pump.

Pump Lid Vibrations

When air enters the system, it can cause vibrations or excessive movement in the pump lid. These vibrations are not normal and suggest that something is wrong!

Visible Leaks

Air can also infiltrate your system through leaks in the suction side of the pump. If you notice any water or moisture around the pump connections or the surrounding area, investigate it immediately, as it could be a sign of air being drawn in through a leak.

Pressure Gauge Fluctuations

Keep an eye on your pool’s pressure gauge. If it shows inconsistent readings or fluctuations while the pump is running, it may indicate air in the system.

Why Air in Your Pool Pump Is a Problem

While it might seem like a minor issue, too much airflow can lead to significant problems in your pool system and is often a result of pump maintenance negligence.

Reduced Pump Efficiency

When air enters your pool pump, it displaces water. This means your pump is not pushing as much water, reducing filtration and circulation. A less efficient pool pump will cause your pool water to get dirty, and you might notice debris and dirt accumulating.

You might even notice cloudy or green water, which is the last thing that you want!

Potential Damage to the Pump

Air in the pump can lead to cavitation, a condition where bubbles form around the pump impeller. This results in air bubbles imploding inside the pump, causing wear and tear on the impeller, pump housing, and other internal components, leading to hefty repairs.

Ineffective Water Treatment

If your pool relies on a chlorinator or other chemical treatment systems, air in the pump can hinder its effectiveness. Proper water circulation is necessary for even chemical distribution. Inadequate circulation due to air can result in inconsistent water chemistry and, ultimately, algae growth.

This could also pose a health and safety risk for you and your family!

Increased Energy Bill

A pump struggling with air has to work harder to achieve the same water flow, leading to increased energy consumption. You’ll likely see higher electricity bills if the problem persists.

Noisy Operation

Air bubbles passing through the pump can create noise and vibration, making your pool area less enjoyable and relaxing.

How Did Air Get in the Pool Pump?

Now you know why it’s bad news, but how does it get into your pump system? Understanding how air found its way into your pool pump is crucial for preventing it from occurring again. Here are some common causes:

Water Level

As mentioned, one of the main reasons for air in the pump is a low water level in the pool. If the water level drops below the recommended water level halfway up the skimmer, air can be drawn into the system!


Of course, any leaks in the suction side of the pump can introduce air into the system. Check for leaks in the pump’s connections, valves, and plumbing. Even a tiny, slow leak can lead to air accumulation over time.

Clogged Skimmer or Drain

Debris, leaves, or foreign objects blocking the skimmer or main drain can disrupt water flow into the pump. When water flow is obstructed, air can enter the system. Regularly clean your skimmer and main drain to prevent blockages.

Loose Fittings

Over time, fittings, seals, and gaskets can wear out or become loose, allowing air to enter the system. Inspect these components regularly and replace or tighten them as needed.

Cracked Pipes

If there are cracks or damage in the pool plumbing itself, they can introduce air into your pump during the suction process. A thorough inspection of your plumbing lines can reveal any issues that need repair.

Pump Lid Seal

The pump lid or strainer basket cover should have a proper seal. Air can be pulled into the pump if this seal is damaged or missing. Replace the seal if necessary.

High Flow Rates

Extremely high flow rates, often caused by oversized pumps or incorrectly adjusted valves, can create turbulence that draws in air. Ensure your pump is appropriately sized for your pool and that flow rates are within recommended limits.

Losing Prime

When your pool pump loses prime, it won’t be able to maintain a continuous flow of water. This can occur due to any of the above reasons or issues with the pump itself.

Tips for Preventing Air From Getting in Your Pool Pump

So, what can you do to prevent air from getting in the pump in the first place? Here are my top tips:

  • Keep the pool water level at the recommended height (halfway up the skimmer) to prevent air from being drawn into the pump.
  • Regularly inspect your pool’s equipment, connections, and plumbing for leaks, loose fittings, and damage.
  • Regularly clean the skimmer to make sure the water flows freely into the pump.
  • Make sure the pump lid is properly sealed; replace if damaged and lubricate when needed.
  • Install pool equipment below the water line to prevent air from getting in.
  • When starting your pool pump, properly prime the pump to ensure the pump is filled with water and free from air pockets.
  • Periodically hire a pool professional for system checks and maintenance to catch issues early. There’s absolutely no shame in getting some extra help!

Get My Free Pool Care Checklist

Download my free, printable pool maintenance checklist to help you accomplish regular pool care tasks for any type of swimming pool.

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Other Common Pool Pump Problems

A pool pump is the heart of your pool filtration system. In fact, without an effective pool pump, your water will stagnate and become green and unsafe for swimming. Air in your pump is a common issue, but it is certainly not the only pool pump problem that can arise. Here are a few other common pool pump problems:

If you’re having any other trouble with your pool pump, check out my article on common pool pump problems.

Successfully Deal with Air in Your Pool Pump

If you have air in your pool pump, you’ll want to fix it quickly to prevent it from breaking or needing expensive repairs. While it is a serious issue, there are many ways to fix and prevent it from occurring in the first place. 

Have more questions? Reach out to me; I am always happy to help!

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