4 Well Pressure Tank Problems and How to Fix Them

Posted by
John Woodard on March 15, 2024

A well pressure tank plays a vital role in maintaining the health and efficiency of a home’s well water system. When a pressure tank does not work as intended, it compromises the entirety of your home’s water system. In this article, you can find solutions to common well pressure tank symptoms and problems.

What is a well pressure tank?

A well pressure tank is a major component of a well water system. It is a container that provides pressurized water from a well pump to a home. The pump fills the tank with water, causing the air inside the tank to compress, increasing the pressure inside the tank. When water is drawn out of the tank, the pressure decreases to a preset cut-on point, and the pump turns on and refills the tank. When the pump fills up, pressure increases until it reaches a cut-off point. At this cut-off point, the pump turns off and will not activate until the tank’s pressure drops below the cut-on point. A well pressure tank preserves the life of the well pump by decreasing the number of times the pump must turn on and off. The larger the capacity of the tank, the less often the pump needs to activate if the pump is sized appropriately.

Learn more: How to size a well pressure tank

What is the ideal pressure for a well pressure tank?

An empty well pressure tank’s pressure should be at 2 psi below the cut-on point of the tank. The pressure switch will activate the well pump when pressure drops below the cut-on point. The cut-off point is the pressure where the pressure switch shuts the pump off to prevent pressure from building too high. For example, a tank with a cut-on point of 30 psi and cut-off point of 50 psi should be set to 28 psi. This allows the pump to turn on when the tank is almost empty and ensures that you do not run out of water. The pump will continue to run until it reaches the cut-off point of 50 psi. The cut-on/cut-off system allows the pump to turn on and off as little as possible to elongate its lifespan.

Learn more: How to check your well tank’s pressure

What causes a well pressure tank to fail?

Three common reasons for a well pressure tank to fail are the following:

  • Wear and tear from extended use
  • Corrosion caused by poor water quality
  • Pressure switch failure

While a tank wearing down due to old age is unavoidable, managing water quality and the health of your pressure switch can help prolong the life of your tank. A yearly inspection of your system can help catch factors that may be shortening the lifespan on your system.

Learn more: Well water contamination symptoms

Signs of a bad well pressure tank

If you notice any of these symptoms in your well system, there is a problem that needs to be addressed:

  • Increased sediment in water
  • Change of color, odor, or taste in water
  • Increased hardness, iron, or sulfate in water
  • Decreased water pressure
  • Presence of bubbles in water
  • Decreased levels of water yielded by the pump
  • Too much water in the tank
  • Increased electrical costs

What happens when a well pressure tank goes bad?

When a well pressure tank goes bad, the well pump and plumbing inside your home can suffer harmful consequences. Problems like water hammer, increased electricity bills, and well pump failure can all occur when your pressure tank fails.

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

Water hammer

Water hammer, also known as hydraulic shock or hydraulic surge, is an event where water abruptly stops or changes directions. When this happens, pipes knock together to make a banging sound. When water hammer occurs, pressure inside the pipes can exceed ten times the normal pressure of the system. If this hydraulic shock occurs frequently, pipes can leak, rupture, or cause damage to connected pumps and valves in the system.

Increased Electricity usage

Certain well pressure tank problems, such as a broken foot valve, can cause the well pump to run constantly. As a result, the pump uses far more electricity than under normal operation. To know if your well water system is using too much electricity, monitor your electrical bill every month to determine any spikes in the future.

Problems with the well pump

Numerous problems with a well pressure tank can cause the well pump to short cycle or run constantly. The well pressure tank is designed to alleviate the workload of the pump. When the tank is nearly empty, the pressure switch turns the pump on until the tank reaches a preset pressure. When this upper pressure threshold is reached, the pump switches off. This allows the pump to run as little as possible while maintaining the highest efficiency. When the pressure tank fails, however, water pressure fluctuates, and the pressure switch may activate the pump too much or not at all. When the switch activates the pump constantly, the pump overheats and the motor wears down. When the well pump fails, no water can reach the pressure tank and, consequently, the home. This constant abuse on your well pump can also have serious consequences, as constant operation or short-cycling can lead to the premature failure of the pump.

well pump repair

Common water tank problems

Because of the nature of well pressure tanks, most problems that arise are not fixable and necessitate replacing the entire tank. Most parts in well pressure tanks are not easily replaceable, but there are some instances where corrective maintenance is possible.

1. The well pressure tank is waterlogged

Solution: Replace the well pressure tank

If your tank is waterlogged, that means that there is too much water and too little air in the tank. The rubber bladder inside the tank expands and contracts to keep water and air separate inside the tank. When this bladder ruptures, the water and air are no longer kept separate, and the pressure inside the tank drops. Because the pressure inside the tank drops, the pump does not deactivate, and the tank intakes too much water. Air is necessary to create pressure inside the tank, so a waterlogged tank will cause noticeable fluctuations in water pressure. A well pressure tank’s bladder is not replaceable, so the entire tank must be replaced when the bladder ruptures.

Learn more: How do I replace a tank with a failed bladder?

How can I tell if my well pressure tank is waterlogged?

There are multiple ways to identify if your well pressure tank is waterlogged. The following are symptoms of a waterlogged tank.

  1. The water pressure fluctuates.

A common symptom of a waterlogged pressure tank is constant fluctuations in water pressure. You will be able to notice these fluctuations in all outlets in a home, especially the shower. You can see a visual representation of these changes on the pressure gauge on the outside of the tank.

  1. The pressure tank is completely full.

A full well pressure tank is by definition a waterlogged tank. A simple knock on the outside of the tank will be able to tell you if the tank is completely full. When air is present inside the tank, knocking will create an echo. When the tank is full of water, on the other hand, knocking will be met with a singular “thud” sound.

  1. The well pump short cycles.

A pump’s repeated turning on and off is called short cycling. When the bladder inside the tank ruptures, pressure is no longer regulated inside the tank. This causes the pressure switch, which depends on regulated pressure, to rapidly switch between “on” and “off” states. The pressure switch tells the well pump when to turn on and off, so the pump will also fluctuate between pumping water to the tank and shutting off. This overheats the pump quickly and can cause it to fail. As a result, water cannot be pumped to the pressure tank, and you will be left with no water at all.

  1. The water quality decreases.

Filtration systems connected to your well pressure tank require water pressure to force water through a filter media. If your tank waterlogs, the water pressure will decrease, and the filters will not be able to effectively remove contaminants from water.

2.  The well pressure switch has stopped working

Solution: Replace the pressure switch

The pressure switch sends signals to the well pump when the pressure drops below a cut-on point and rises above a cut-off point. When a pressure switch fails, it can cause damage to the pump and tank if not resolved promptly.

Signs of a bad well pressure switch

If your well pressure switch has stopped working, you may notice some of the following symptoms:

  • The pump does not turn off when the tank’s pressure exceeds the preset cut-off pressure.
  • The pump does not turn on when the tank’s pressure drops below the preset cut-on pressure.
  • The pump short cycles.
  • The pump is running, but the water pressure in your home is low.

A short-cycling pump and low water pressure may be caused by a ruptured bladder. A tell-tale warning that your pressure switch is not working is the failure of the pump to turn on and off at the cut-on and cut-off points. This failure could also be caused by a faulty pump, but you should check your pressure switch for faults first.

If you believe that your well pressure switch may be faulty, a professional will be able to diagnose the problem in your system. A yearly inspection of your well system can allow you to avoid damaging problems to your system by catching issues early on.

Can I replace a well pressure switch myself?

If you discover that your well pressure switch is faulty, you will want to consult a professional to replace the switch for you. Improper installation can cause numerous problems for your well water system and jeopardize the health of both your tank and pump.

How much does it cost to replace a well pressure switch?

The price of a well pressure switch itself typically ranges from $20 to $40. When labor is factored in, the total cost of replacing a well pressure switch averages between $120 and $175.

Learn more: What is a well pressure switch?

well pressure switch and gauge

3.  The check valve stops working

Solution: Replace the check valve

A broken check valve, also known as a foot valve, is more of a problem with the well pump than the pressure tank, but it can affect the tank as well. The check valve prevents water from flowing back down into the well after being pumped. When this water flows back into the well, it causes the tank to empty. When the tank empties, the water pressure inside decreases, and the pressure switch activates the pump. Because the check valve is not preventing backflow, this cycle of the tank emptying and the pump running will continue. This causes the pump to run constantly. Not only will this shorten the life of the well pump, but it will also cause your electrical bill to be higher than normal.

Can I replace a well foot valve myself?

While it is possible to replace a well foot valve yourself, you will want a professional to install it for you. Improper installation can cause damage to the pump, pressure tank, and even the plumbing in your home.

How much does it cost to replace a well foot valve?

A foot valve for a home well system costs about $20 for a plastic valve and around $30 to $40 for a brass valve. Adding in the cost of labor, a foot valve replacement costs around $150 to $250.

4.  Water is leaking from the well pressure tank’s air valve

Solution: Replace the well pressure tank

If water is leaking from your bladder tank’s air valve, that means that the bladder has ruptured, and your tank needs to be replaced. You may be able to draw water out of a pressure tank with a ruptured bladder for a short time, but eventually the bladder will cover the water inlet and the tank will not be able to function.

Learn more: Why does my pressure tank have water coming out of the air valve?


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

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