Automatic Pool Cleaner Troubleshooting: How to Solve Common Problems

Written by Michael Dean
June 6, 2023

troubleshooting automatic pool cleaners

Automatic pool cleaners are an excellent investment for any pool owner who does not wish to spend hours cleaning their swimming pool. Pool maintenance requires a lot of work, and automated pool cleaners will take some of that weight off your shoulders. If you’re facing trouble with your automatic pool cleaning machine and want to explore some basic troubleshooting options, read on!

Main Takeaways

  • Automated pool cleaners generally have a lifespan of around 4-8 years.
  • Hoses are a common problem across most automatic pool cleaners, so be sure to replace them regularly.
  • Robotic pool cleaners are the easiest to maintain and generally the most preferred choice for pool owners.

Common Problems With Automatic Pool Cleaners

Here are some of the most common problems with automatic pool cleaners that you may come across.

Short Or Damaged Hose

Issue: This is a common issue with suction-side pool cleaners, which are attached by a hose. Often, they can’t cover the entire pool due to a shortage of hose length. Having a short hose influences the coverage of the pool, limiting the flow of return and, subsequently, the effectiveness of your pool cleaner when it comes to cleaning up pool gunk. There could also be a blockage in the hose or a tear or bend, which can also affect the suction of the cleaner.

Solution: The fix is as simple as checking up on your hose for the issues described above. If it’s too short or has a tear in the rubber, reinstall a longer hose or one that is new and not torn up. For blockages, dislodge any using water pressure until the pathway is clean.

Damaged Brushes Or Suction Vents

Issue: It’s possible to spot a dysfunctioning pool cleaner by examining the bottom of your pool. If you have a suction-side pool cleaner and notice it appears to be cleaning the pool’s bottom at the right pace, but the bottom still looks grimy or sludgy, the issue could be worn-out brushes or damaged suction vents.

Solution: Have a close look at the brushes or the vents. If the brushes look split or worn out, replace the vacuum head with a fresh pair of bristles – this usually costs only about $25 – 40. If the suction vents look clogged, spray them with water or soak them in a cleaning solution to dislodge any stubborn materials.

Pool Cleaner Not Laying Flat

Issue: This is a widespread problem with robotic pool cleaners. It could be that the robot’s PVA (polyvinyl alcohol) brushes are not absorbing water properly. But fear not! This is relatively easy to sort out.

Solution: Refresh the PVA levels by letting your pool cleaner sit in your swimming pool till the brushes have softened – this usually takes around a half-hour or so. Once the PV brushes are soft and pliable, the robot should start lying flat on the bottom of your pool.

Pool Walls Are Not Being Climbed

Issue: Another common cause of concern when it comes to robotic pool cleaners is an inability to scale the walls of your pool efficiently. The reason could be poor suction, pool water that is too cold, or overflow of water into the robot’s handle, causing it to detach from the pool wall due to suction rupture.

Solution: The fixes for this issue are as simple as making sure the temperature of your water is above 60F. Also, check the handle and set it at an angle unaffected by any overflow of water. If this consistently proves to be a problem, replace the handle entirely. If the cleaner still can’t climb walls properly after this, the propeller could be defective and need replacement.

Getting Caught On Steps

Issue: This problem often pops up in pressure-side pool cleaners, where they might get stuck on the steps of the pool and unable to move. This could be because of misaligned thruster jets or a tangled float hose.

Solution: Re-adjust your thruster jets and gently push the cleaner away from the steps. This will result in a new washing pattern for the cleaner but is better for more effective cleaning overall. If the problem is a tangled hose, straighten and unloop the hose and add hose weights to keep it from getting knotted up again.

Pool Cleaner Not Moving At All

Issue: Pressure-side pool cleaners are known to simply stop moving due to a lack of inconsistent or low PSI (pressure per square inch). Another reason for the lack of movement could also be grit, such as pebbles, sand, or gravel being caught in the wheels or on the belt or chain on the power-train side of the cleaner.

Solution: Unless your pressure-side pool cleaner is a low-pressure type that can operate at 17 PSI, make sure your pool’s PSI is approximately 30 PSI. Additionally, check the filter pump, the booster pump, and the inline strainers if they need cleaning. The wheels or belts of the cleaner could also be clogged with sand. Pick it up, examine the wheels, and rotate them to dislodge any grit that might prevent the cleaner from moving around.

Automatic Pool Cleaner Maintenance Tips

  • Take the pool cleaner out of the pool when not in use. Even though an automatic pool cleaner needs to spend a lot of time in the pool for cleaning, leaving it in there for extended periods is the fastest way to hasten the process of wear and tear. After each cycle, when not in use, give it some rest from moisture and keep it in a cool and dry place to keep the parts in good working order. Drain any hoses and straighten them out on occasion. 
  • Take care of your filtration system. Pressure-side and suction-side pool cleaners work in sync with the pool’s filtering system (though robotic cleaners operate independently). Keeping your entire filtration system clean helps your automated pool cleaner and vice versa. Keep a check on your cartridge filters, strainer baskets, and pumps, and have them serviced regularly by professionals to make sure everything is in top shape.
  • Frequently inspect your automatic pool cleaner for signs of wear. Keep an eye out for cracks and any damage to the wheels/belt/chain, the scrubbers, or the bearings for sand build-up. Make sure to rinse the cleaner out once in a while with a garden hose.
  • Check the pool filter often – especially the pressure gauge. If the pressure gauge is reporting abnormal pressure levels, it needs to be serviced so your automated pool cleaner can function at optimal levels of efficiency.
  • Balance the pool chemicals. Keep an eye on your pool pH balance and chlorine levels, and make sure they’re at the levels recommended for the type of pool you have. Additionally, replace your pool water entirely every 2 -3 years to maintain water chemistry. Improper chemical balance can cause wear and tear in your automatic pool cleaner.

Common Signs It’s Time To Replace Your Automatic Pool Cleaner

Automatic pool cleaners have a decent lifespan, with most ranging from 4-8 years, depending on how well they are cared for. 

Robotic ones are simpler to maintain because the parts cannot be easily switched out – that leaves you to just make sure the belts and brushes are changed now and then. You would need a professional servicing center for proper repairs or replace it entirely. They’re expensive but the preferable option for most pool owners.

Suction-side or pressure-side pool cleaners are more cost-effective, but they often need part replacement to keep them going. Sometimes, pool owners rebuild their cleaners entirely, but weigh the costs of whether rebuilding is worth more than a complete replacement.

Commons signs that make it clear that your automatic pool cleaner is ready to retire are easy to spot, especially after some time. Worn-out hoses, broken or rusty propellers, or damaged valves that cause the cleaner to bubble water are a few things to watch out for.

If your cleaner is making strange sucking or creaking sounds while cleaning, that’s another sign that it’s due for a replacement. Rust is also an obvious marker for replacement, especially if the parts are rusted beyond the hope of simple repair services.

Lastly, if you have to service and clean the equipment of your automatic pool cleaner more often than usual, it’s best to get the machine replaced.

All in all, if you’re doubtful about when your cleaner should be replaced, it’s always best to consult a professional and get their opinion on the next best step you can take. If you need suggestions for a new cleaner, head over to my article on the best pool cleaner.

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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Bottom Line

An automatic pool cleaner is a handy device for your pool’s upkeep. Keeping it clean and following the tips mentioned above will help you take care of the cleaner and keep it operating at peak levels of efficiency.

If you have questions or doubts about your cleaner, feel free to reach out and ask me any questions – I’m always eager to help. If you are doing more research on pool cleaners, you can check out more of my advice articles below.

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