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Diagnosing automatic pool cover service quickly and accurately

Step two: Diagnosing electrical issues

Sometimes the most obvious problem can be answered with the simplest question: “Is there power to the pool cover?” The quickest way to test for power is to use an electrical tester pen. When held against power cords, it will illuminate to indicate whether power is present. Not only are these devices handy, they are also affordable; they typically cost less than $10. As such, they are a must-have for any service technician. If no power is present, the problem might be solved in the first five minutes—a tripped ground fault interrupter (GFI) circuit breaker.

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A step-by-step guide to diagnosing mechanical issues on the motor end of the drive system.

If this is not the case, the path of power (or reverse path of power) should be followed. The technician should start at the electrical box to see if the breaker is on. If it is, he or she should continue to look for power at the next connection, usually a junction box near the motor or controller. Each location should be investigated until the location of the breakdown has been determined. The ultimate goal of this process is to determine whether the problem at hand is an electrical issue or an electrical component issue, either the controller or motor.

Next, the controller should be gently operated to see if the motor shaft is able to move in both forward and reverse. If it moves in both directions, but the cover does not, the technician is dealing with a mechanical issue. If this is the case, he or she can skip further electrical diagnosis. If the shaft does not move and the motor still has no activity, it is time to move on to the next step.

Electrical issues are not always the motor or controller components, but can be attributed to wiring and/or connections between these components. These connection locations are usually the most difficult electrical problems to diagnose and repair. When all else fails, all connections at junction boxes and components need to be rewired.

If all of the above steps have failed, the problem lies within the motor or controller. Of course, since each manufacturer’s product is different, technicians should consult the manufacturer or its manual for repair details.

Step three: Diagnosing mechanical issues

While it is important to remember each manufacturer’s system is unique, these checkpoints are the best starting point for any technician looking for a mechanical issue with an automatic cover. After the housing lid has been removed, the motor end of the drive system needs to be checked using the following steps:

  1. Check for secure electrical connection to motor. Whether the motor is quick-connected or hard-wired, the connection must be secured.
  2. Check for broken or loose motor coupler bolts. Broken bolts are an indicator of other problems, not necessarily the main cause of a cover not operating. These bolts are not designed to break, but will fracture if put under an inordinate amount of torque over a prolonged period of time.
  3. Check for proper tension on rope reel tension blocks. The technician needs to ensure there is enough tension on the rope reels to make turning them by hand somewhat difficult.
  4. Check for tangled or broken ropes. If ropes are tangled, it is very likely due to a lack of tension on the rope reel tension blocks (see step #3). In this case, the technician must first untangle the ropes and go back to step #3 to prevent a recurrence. The ropes should then be inspected for exterior wear or diameter inconsistency. Ropes should always be 6.35 mm (0.25 in.) in diameter. Any part of the rope less than 3.175 mm (0.125 in.) in diameter is showing signs of internal wear and should be proactively replaced at this time. If the rope or ropes need to be replaced, the technician should check with the individual manufacturer for replacement instructions, as each has different guidelines on replacement procedures.
  5. Check for a broken drive pin. While some systems have a shear pin, technicians should not confuse this with the present drive pin. Most modern drive pins are made of hardened steel and should not break, but should be checked regardless.
  6. Check the shifting dogs (or shifting gears) for accurate alignment. If the shifting dogs do not engage each other, the pool cover can not move. This misalignment is more common on older systems and rarer (though still possible) on newer ones. A few common reasons the dogs do not engage are possible corrosion or a burr on the drive shaft, preventing a complete shift of the double dog from one side to the other. If that is the case, the two motor coupler bolts can be easily removed, allowing the technician to lift the mechanism out of the frame, file or replace the shaft and re-install the mechanism, all in about five minutes.
  7. Check for proper tension on the roll-up tube tension blocks. The tension blocks for the roll-up tube prevent the tube from free spinning. As with the tension blocks for the rope reel, the roll-up tube should be somewhat difficult to move by hand when the bolts have the proper amount of tension.
  8. Check for worn pulleys. This can either be done manually or by gently activating the controller and observing the effectiveness of the pulleys while the rope passes through them. There are typically six pulleys on every pool cover system. Three are located on the motor side of the drive system; one is located at the end of the tube, on the side opposite the motor; and two are located at the end of the tracks (one per track side). The two track pulleys are not easily seen and often overlooked by inexperienced service technicians. A great pool cover service technician must inspect these track pulleys and change them every five to seven years.
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