By Tiffany Nagy
Today’s pool professional has learned to incorporate automatic swimming pool cleaners into their service routine and retailers are frequently selling these maintenance accessories to their customers. With a vast number of automatic swimming pool cleaners in the market, industry professionals must now be well-versed in troubleshooting common problems as well as successfully correcting user-error issues. Like any robotic product, there are common user errors and sometimes faulty parts that can cause an automatic swimming pool cleaner to malfunction. This article provides a number of troubleshooting techniques for service and retail professionals when automatic swimming pool cleaners are not working properly.
What causes an automatic pool cleaner to ‘flip’ or do ‘wheelies’?
The swimming pool’s water level is one of the most common reasons for automatic swimming pool cleaners to flip over. When the water level on the pool’s skimmer is too high, the water line is too close to the coping. Therefore, when the automatic cleaner starts to climb the pool wall, it hits the coping and flips onto its back. When this happens, it is detrimental to the cleaner’s motor(s) because it is no longer in the water, but rather exposed above the water. When in operation, the motor is actually cooled by the water; therefore, when it runs out of water, the motor will quickly become hot and potentially fail. Further, depending on the temperature, the motor could fail within an hour of being out of the water. If it is really hot, e.g. 32 C (90 F), it may only take a matter of minutes.
Another common problem is when the homeowner first uses their automatic cleaner they often forget to remove all of the air in the unit before starting the machine. Not only can this cause flips and wheelies, but it can also prevent the cleaner from performing correctly. If the unit still contains air, it tends to ‘float,’ sometimes just 2.5 cm (1 in.) above the floor—so it looks like it might be working as it moves forward, however, the cleaner is not touching the floor to actually pickup any debris. Therefore, service and retail professionals should remind their customers that it can take up to 30 minutes to remove all of the air from the unit.
To do this, one must hold the pool cleaner under the water and shake it left to right as well as up and down while watching the air bubbles release. Once the air has been removed, it is important to watch the automatic swimming pool cleaner carefully to ensure it actually hits the shallow end floor.
Finally, it is also good to remember there is the possibility the pump motor may be weak or is turning to slow. In this case, the only solution might be replacing the motor.
The following are some similar, specific calls/complaints experienced by automatic swimming pool cleaner service/retail professionals:
Cleaner does not lay flat on the pool floor
Most likely the poly vinyl alcohol (PVA) brushes have not absorbed the water. This is a common call and easy fix. Simply let the automatic pool cleaner sit in the pool for at least 30 minutes or until the brushes are soft. Once the brushes are soft, the unit will lay flat on the pool floor.
Cleaner will not climb walls
Fixing this problem can sometimes be as simple as ensuring the pool water is not too cold. In order for the robotic cleaner to operate correctly, the water needs to be at least 15.5 C (60 F).
Water can also get into the system’s handle, which may cause the unit to lift brushes from the wall and break the suction, thus the unit will not climb the wall. In these cases, users should try placing the handle on an angle to remove the water, or in worst cases scenarios, replace the handle altogether.
If the temperature is above 15.5 C (60 F) and the handle does not have water in it, then there is also the possibility the pump motor or propeller is defective. If this is the case, service/retail professionals will likely see the unit shut down early and the pump motor will need to be replaced.
Cleaner falls backwards off the pool wall
Should the cleaner start climbing the pool wall but fall backwards, once again, it is likely water has collected in the pool cleaner’s handle. Further, if the handle is cracked, water will leak in and disrupt normal operation.
To determine if there is water in the handle, simply remove the unit from the pool and place it on the pool deck. Then, move the handle back and forth and listen for sloshing water.
Cleaner does not move, or moves in short, jerky motions
First, check the power supply to make sure it is connected properly to the electrical outlet. If the unit moves in short, jerky motions it could have a deteriorated drive belt, which can be simply replaced to solve the problem.
Debris stuck in the drive pulleys can also cause this problem; therefore, it is important to inspect for and remove any debris, then retry the unit. If the pulley teeth are filled or missing, replacing the pulley is another simple fix. It is also important to check for any wear and tear of brushes and drive tracks, which can also become worn with use and need to be replaced.
Finally, check the bottom lid assembly to ensure it is secured as it could be dragging on the pool floor, causing the cleaner to make irregular movements. To do this, simply turn the system over and secure the lid. Worst case, the unit may need new lock tabs.