There is a saying that “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” This concept can be all too familiar for anyone who has ever neglected a pump. A dependable pump is not truly appreciated when it is working properly. However, that dependability is really missed if a pump’s performance declines, or worse, the unit stops working altogether. To avoid pump downtime and subsequent headaches, a preventive maintenance program must be followed.
Start each day with a pump inspection that includes:
- Oil and fuel quality and levels
- Air filters
- Checking the machine for broken bolts, nuts or loose parts
- Priming the pump
Oil & Fuel
Among the most important daily checks is the quality and level of the engine oil. Oil that is contaminated can cause serious problems and decrease the life of an engine. The same is true if the oil is at an insufficient level. Change the oil or add more if necessary to reach the level recommended by the manufacturer.
Check the gasoline level as well, ensuring that the tank is full, or at least full enough for the day’s usage. Also, look for any evidence of fuel or oil leaks. If a fluid is dripping, inspect the area for any parts that may need to be tightened or replaced.
Cleaning or possibly changing the air filter is another important practice that can prevent significant damage down the pipeline. A clogged, wet, dirty or damaged air filter can lead to a loss in power and shorten the life of an engine by allowing dirt or water into sensitive areas. A foam filter can be cleaned and reused, so it is fine to check daily. A paper air filter, on the other hand, should always be replaced upon removal. Follow a recommended schedule to replace paper air filters in a timely fashion.
Hoses & Final Check
Inspect the condition of the hoses regularly. If they are worn, frayed or have any holes, the air gaps will likely cause the pump to lose suction. Patch all holes and seal leaking joints. A severely worn hose should be replaced.
Finally, inspect the machine for any other problems such as broken bolts, nuts or loose parts.
Prime the Pump
Of all the pre-operation checks, perhaps the most important for daily maintenance is priming the pump before starting. Running a pump dry will damage the seals, causing a chain reaction of further problems. If it is a self-priming pump, simply add water. The term self-priming is somewhat of a misnomer, as water must be added to the pump each time it is used. The pump will then take over, build pressure within the volute and begin discharging.
Periodic Maintenance Routine
Once the pump has been prepped with the daily routine, it is ready to go to work. In addition to daily checks, a pump requires other maintenance checks and services that are less frequent but no less important. They are crucial to the pump’s life and should be conducted on a regular schedule. Generally, quality pump engines can operate up to 2,500 hours, and following recommended maintenance schedules can only increase that time and the pump’s return on investment (ROI).
Some components should be checked a couple times each month, and others can be inspected less frequently. A paper air filter should be changed monthly. Although a foam filter can be cleaned and reused, it should be replaced monthly.
Dirty spark plugs can cause a decrease in power and poor starting performance. The spark plugs should be checked semimonthly for dirt, damage or excessive carbon buildup. They should be cleaned with a wire brush or spark plug cleaner. Immediately replace any spark plugs that have cracked porcelain.
Fuel Strainer & Filter
Clean and inspect the fuel strainer and fuel filter every month. Fuel can become contaminated during operation. If the contaminants are not removed, they can lead to trouble with engine starts. Replacing the fuel line and carburetor is expensive, so preventing contamination damage to these components is essential.
On an annual basis, give the pump a thorough inspection for dirty, broken or misaligned parts. Such parts can cause problems with the engine or pump components. Inspecting the entire machine gives the most comprehensive view of what needs to be cleaned and repaired.
Also note that dusty conditions typically shorten the length of time between regular services, because extreme dust can clog filter elements or contaminate the fuel and oil. Depending on the pump’s environment, maintenance schedules may need to be adjusted to accommodate for less-than-optimal conditions.
Even with a regular, proper preventive maintenance program, pumps may still experience problems. This is unfortunate, but common. Knowing what to look for and addressing it quickly will keep the problem from becoming a more expensive, time-intensive repair.
If a pump simply will not run, the culprit is likely the impeller or engine. If the impeller is sticking, simply disassemble it, clean and reinstall. As for the engine, several different problems could affect it and prevent if from starting.
The first component to check is the spark plugs. If they are dirty, clean them. If they are damaged, replace them. If they are clean and damage-free, connect them to the plug cap and ground the plug against the engine body.
Pull the starter to see if the spark is weak or nonexistent. If a new plug does not spark, the ignition system is faulty and will need repairs.
The engine also might not start if the spark plug is loose or if the plug is wet with fuel. If the spark plug is wet, check to see that the fuel cock is closed. If so, close the choke lever and pull the starter handle a half-dozen times to see if the electrode becomes wet.
If so, the problem may be that the fuel is stale, in which case it should be drained and refilled with fresh fuel. If the electrode is dry, the problem may be with the fuel intake of the carburetor. Try to see where the fuel stops in the engine.
If a pump will not self-prime, a number of issues could be the cause. Start by checking the air on the suction side of the pump. Tighten the suction hose or pipe, if needed. Check the drain plug as well to ensure that it has been tightened completely. Insufficient water inside the pump casing will also prevent the pump from priming. Engine speed can also affect pumping volume. If the pumping volume has dropped, check the wear on the impeller. See if the suction hose may be too thin or too long, or retighten any loose parts on the suction chamber. This also might be caused by a high suction lift that would need to be lowered, water leaking from the water passage, a broken mechanical seal or a drop in engine output or speed.
Adopting a proactive, preventive approach ensures that crucial maintenance services will not be neglected. This can prevent a domino effect of problems because, if the pump goes down, time is lost, and repair costs add up. It is simple and straightforward: pump maintenance now means fewer issues later. Following a good maintenance program, such as the steps detailed in this article, is among the best and most inexpensive ways to keep a pump flowing.