Troubleshooting Sump Pump Problems

sump pump
  • 1-2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-75
What You'll Need
Work light or radio
Rubber gloves
Rubber boots
Safety glasses
Work clothes
Plumbing wrench (for disconnecting drain pipe)

Nothing good can come from a sump pump that isn't working. Before you begin the hard work of replacing a basement sump pump, you can save yourself grief by knowing why your pump is not moving water from your basement. The 5 tips below will help you determine what is wrong with your pump and map a course of action.

Take Safety Precautions

Water and electricity can be a dangerous duo, since water is an excellent conductor of electricity and a sump pump gets its power from electricity. If your pump or its power cord is submerged in water, you could be stepping into a dangerous situation. Wear rubber boots to keep water on the floor from contacting your body.

Check the Pump's Power Source

The most easiest fix for a sump pump may be its power source. If your pump is not getting power, fixing it will be much easier than other repair options. Check that the pump is plugged into a live receptacle and that the electrical current is reaching the receptacle.

Make sure your hands are dry. Plug a work light or radio into the receptacle. If it works, you can assume the problem is not in the power coming to the receptacle. If your pump has a switch, check that the switch is turned on.

Check the Pump's Float Switch

If your pump has a float switch, check it. You can identify this switch by its egg shape, which is connected to your pump by an electrical cord. Check that it moves freely. If it doesn't, check whether it is lodged under something that keeps it from moving.

Feel the Pump

When the pump is operating normally, you will feel it vibrating when you touch it. Feel the pump now for this vibration. If you feel vibration, but the pump is not moving water, you can be sure the pump is getting power.

The problem could be something that is plugged or a defect in the pump itself. Check the pump screen and the drainpipe for clogs. Check the intake screen at the bottom of the pump to see if there is something inhibiting the flow of water. Check for a plug at the drainpipe where water enters from the pump.

Check the Pump's Drain Pipe

Disconnect the drain pipe at the pump, then power it. If water flows from the pump, there is a very likely a clog between the pump and the place where water empties out of the drain pipe.

If you have found no problems in any of these checks, there is a strong possibility that the sump pump itself is defective and may need to be replaced.