How to Troubleshoot a Bilge Pump

Troubleshooting a bilge pump in a boat is a routine that you need to get familiar with, as it is essential to the safety and general maintenance of your boat. The bilge pump has the essential job of removing the water that builds up in the bilge in the bottom of your boat. Over time, water collects in this area and needs to be regularly pumped out. If the pump stops working as it should, the water will stay there and continue to build up, eventually leading to major problems. Fortunately, there are a few fairly easy ways to check for bilge pump malfunctions.

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Fuse with the appropriate amperage
  • Replacement parts, depending on the problem
  • Screwdriver set

Step 1 – Check the Pump Switch

The first thing you should do is check the position of the switch. This may sound obvious, but it is worth the effort. Normally, a bilge pump will turn on or off automatically as required. However, there will be a main switch which governs whether or not it is able to do this. The pump activates when there is an excessive buildup of water in the bilge, which is detected by a float sensor that in turn activates the pump and gets rid of the water.

Step 2 – Check the Fuse and Wiring

There may also be a defective switch that is causing the pump not to activate when it should. Also check for a blown fuse. Scan the installation for any broken or worn wiring and replace anything that appears to be damaged. In some cases, you may need to replace the entire pump. However, if you find that there is worn wiring, or the switch itself is obviously broken, you will likely be able to get away with just replacing those component parts.

Step 3 – Confirm that You Are Using the Right Fuse

The bilge pump will require a specific fuse with a certain amperage. If you find that the pump’s fuse is constantly blowing, it is highly likely that you are using one which is too low in amperage.

Step 4 – Clean the Strainer

The bilge pump strainer should also be cleaned out regularly. Debris will build up in this over time, and if there is too much, it produces a strain on power and can also cause the fuse to blow. In some cases, it can overheat the motor of the pump, causing further damage.

Step 5 – Check the Hoses

Check if there is any leaking hoses or loose hoses connected to the bilge pump. If the hose has become disconnected or if it has a hole in it, the pump simply won’t do the job at all. In this case, there may not actually be any problem with the pump itself, but in the connecting pipes. Be sure to repair any punctures that you find and refasten any pipes that have come loose.