5 Common Well Pump Problems and How to Fix Them

Posted by
John Woodard on January 12, 2024

Well pumps are the heart of a well water system, providing your home with running water at a moment’s notice. However, when a well pump stops functioning, water cannot enter your home, and you are unable to enjoy the convenience of running water. Other problems within a well system can even mask themselves as issues with the well pump, causing confusion about the source of the problem. In this article, you can discover answers to common questions about well pumps, how to fix common well pump problems, and how other well components can disguise themselves as well pump issues.

What to check before assuming your well pump failed

In many cases, what seems like a well pump failure may be caused by another part of the well system, particularly the pressure switch or pressure tank. This is because these components work directly with the well pump, affecting its performance and efficiency. However, the pump may be completely fine, even if it is performing abnormally.

Learn more: What are the parts of a well water system?

Pressure switch

The pressure switch signals the pump to turn on and off, so a faulty switch can cause the pump to run at irregular intervals. If the pressure switch causes the pump to run constantly, the pump will eventually become damaged. If your well pump constantly runs, it is important to check the pressure switch and pressure tank before assuming your pump is at fault.  

Learn more: What is a well pressure switch and how does it work?

Pressure tank

The pressure within a well pressure tank is read by the pressure switch to determine if the pump should turn on or shut off. If something is wrong with the tank, it may send a faulty reading to the pressure switch, causing the pump to run too much or not at all. A ruptured tank bladder, for example, causes a well pump to cycle rapidly. This both waterlogs the tank and can damage the pump. Just like with a pressure switch, ensure you check the pressure tank is operating correctly before assuming your well pump is at fault.

Learn more: Well pressure tank problems and how to fix them

How long do well pumps last?

On average, well pumps last between 8 and 15 years, but some can even last 20 years or longer. When your well pump needs to be replaced, it will show you signs that the time is near. Properly maintaining your well water system ensures that you get the maximum lifespan out of all your well components.

Signs of a faulty well pump

When your well pump’s life is coming to an end, it will demonstrate some of or all the following symptoms:

  • Fluctuations in water pressure
  • Constantly running pump
  • Sputtering water flow in home
  • Sediment in water lines
  • Unusual sounds from pump
  • Changes in water quality
  • High electricity bills

Just because your well pump is demonstrating one of the above symptoms does not mean that it is necessarily dying. Some components may exhibit their issues by causing the well pump to run abnormally.

When to replace a well pump

You should only replace a well pump after confirming all other components of a well system are operating correctly. Under normal conditions, your well pump should last between 8 and 15 years. If your well pump is relatively new and exhibiting systems, another issue is likely to blame. Rarely will a faulty well pump cause another component to fail, but the inverse is not true. A faulty pressure switch, pressure tank, or well screen can cause damage to the pump and cause it to fail. Always consult a professional if you are unsure of the cause of your well system’s issues.

Common well pump problems and their solutions

1. Pump is pumping sediment

If your well pump is pumping sediment into your tank, it may signal one of the following problems:

  • Faulty well screen. A well screen prevents loose debris and sediment from entering your well pump. If the screen becomes compromised, it may lead to sediment entering the pump and, consequently, your water supply. If this is the case, the well screen must either be replaced or repaired.
  • Pump is too large. A pump that is too large for a specific well may draw in loose sediment and debris. This causes sand and dirt to enter your water lines, damaging the pump and potentially the entire well system along the way.
  • Pump is too low. If your well uses a submersible pump, it should be installed with enough clearance to prevent sediment from being pulled into the pump. However, if the pump is installed without enough clearance, sediment can be pulled into the pump and make its way to the tank.

2.  Pump is pumping air

If your pump is pumping air or is causing your water flow to sputter, this indicates an issue with either the pump or the well itself. If a well’s water levels are too low, The pump may not be able to draw in enough water to match its flow rate. As a result, air is mixed in with the water, causing your water flow to sputter. Sputtering water flow could also signal that your pump needs to be reprimed to purge all air out of the system.

An uncommon cause of sputtering flow rate in wells is gas pockets. The buildup of these gases can cause potential danger, so contact a professional immediately if you suspect a gas pocket is in play.

3.  Water pressure is low

Low water pressure is a common symptom in homes that use well water, and it can be caused by many issues that are not related to the well pump. However, low water pressure could also signal troubles with the pump. Causes of low water pressure in a well system include the following:

  • Pressure switch setting
  • Clogged well screen
  • Broken well pipe
  • Aging well pump
  • Clogged faucets and fixtures

Pressure switch setting

One way to improve water pressure in your home is by adjusting the pressure switch. Follow the below steps to adjust your switch:

  1. Shut off power to the pump.
  2. Test the air pressure on the air fill valve with an air pressure gauge.
  3. If the pressure is lower than desired, adjust the large nut on the switch to change the pressure range. If you want to adjust the high pressure in the range, adjust the smaller nut next to the large one.
  4. Restore power to the pump and test the water pressure.

Clogged well screen

Over time, sediment and debris can build up on the well screen, preventing water from entering the well casing. This can cause less water to reach your pump than needed, causing low water pressure.

Broken well pipe

A broken or leaking well pipe can cause water to exit the system before reaching your home, causing low water pressure. Contact a professional if you believe you have a broken well pipe.

Aging well pump

When a well pump needs to be replaced, low water pressure is a common symptom. When the internals of a pump wear out, it cannot move water at its standard flow rate, causing decreased water pressure in your home. An aging well pump must be replaced to restore your water pressure to normal.

Clogged faucets and fixtures

Sediment and minerals can build up in plumbing, fixtures, and appliances, causing weak flow from your faucets and fixtures. The most effective way to prevent minerals and sediment from entering your home is by removing them before they can infiltrate plumbing. Sediment and other large debris can be removed by a whole-home sediment filter, while minerals like calcium and magnesium can be removed by a water softener.

Learn more: What is a sediment filter? | What is a water softener? | What is the best type of filtration for well water?

    4.  Pump is constantly running

    If your well pump is constantly running, this may signal a fault with the pump itself or another component of your well water system. A constantly running pump is normally caused by one of the following:

    • Too much water demand. If your pump cannot keep up with the volume of water being used in your home, it must constantly run to prevent your home from running dry. If this is the case, either the pump is not large enough for your home or there is a leak or damaged appliance in the home that is causing more water to be used than normal. If your pump cannot keep up with your home’s demand, you will need to install a larger pump in your well.
    • Faulty pressure switch. A bad pressure switch will signal the pump to turn on or off when it should not. This can cause the pump to either run constantly or not at all. If the pump runs for too long, it can become damaged. A faulty pressure switch must be replaced before the well system can function properly.
    • Low water levels. If your well’s water table is low or your home is using more water than normal, the water levels in your well may be too low to enter the pump at the usual rate. When this happens, the pump will continue to run to supply water to the tank, even if there is no water available.
    • Damaged pump. A damaged well pump may not be able to pump water at the proper flow rate, thus not raising water pressure inside the pressure tank enough to shut the pump off. If you believe this is the case with your well pump, have it inspected by a professional immediately.

    5.  Pump is constantly cycling

    A pump that rapidly switches between switching on and off is most often caused by a ruptured bladder in the pressure tank. When the bladder inside the well pressure tank ruptures, the air and water inside the tank are no longer separated. As a result, the water pressure inside the tank does not rise, so the pump is not signaled to shut off. A tank with a ruptured bladder must be replaced immediately.

    You can check if your tank’s bladder is ruptured by opening the Schrader valve. If the tank is operating correctly, air will exit the valve. If the bladder is ruptured, however, water will exit.


    If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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