Most Common Problems With Above Ground Pools

An above ground pool might seem like an easier option to handle than an in-ground pool, but they still have plenty of things that can go wrong. However, the joy they bring can far outweigh some of the issues they might have as they age. Nonetheless, if you want to keep your pool running smoothly and enjoy it for as long as possible. You’ll need to make sure there isn’t low water pressure at the returns, air in the system, or plumbing leaks.

Filters Aren’t Working

There are several things that can be wrong with your filter if it’s not working. Pool filters may not be electrical or highly complex, but they’re the source of many pool problems.

Spider Gasket

Inside the valve on the sand filters and DE filters, there is a gasket that looks a little like a spider web, meaning there is a ring in the center with spokes coming out to the outside ring. The spider gasket is pretty simple and small, but it’s the source of many issues that go wrong with filters.

If leaks occur around the valve or water comes from the waste line despite the valve being set to filter, then the gasket could be damaged or worn out. Damage to this gasket happens by moving the valve handle while the pump’s operating. If you need to replace the gasket, take a look at the valve body for a model number. With this number, you can find the right gasket by cross-referencing it.

It is worth letting you know that some manufacturers will only include the gasket as part of the diverter. If this happens to you, then you have to purchase the entire diverter assembly. If you’re unfortunate enough to have this issue, then compare prices to purchasing a new valve.


One of the most problems for filers is DE powder or grit going back into the pool. For a sand filter, a broken standpipe or some cracked laterals are the issue. You can purchase replacement laterals individually or as part of an entirely new standpipe assembly. You can purchase the standpipe separately too if all the laterals work.

For the DE filter, you’re looking at worn grids that have tears in them. As you inspect the grids, make sure to check the standpipe O-ring for damage. Another cause of DE in your pool is just adding too much powder when you’re recharging the grids.

High Water Pressure in the Pump System

Some filters problems can be caused by an excess in pressure build-up in the tank. High pressure can be created by having a filter that’s not the proper size for the pump, which means the pump pushes more gallons per minute than the filter is able to handle. Another cause can be a dirty filter with cartridges that have to be rinsed. If you’re still experiencing high pressure after cleaning, there might be a clog in your plumbing lines. High pressure is the culprit to cracked laterals and leaking sand into the pool. It can be the reason for a cracked tank or the filter lid blowing off.

Low Water Pressure at the Returns and in the System

While high pressure is a complication, so is low pressure in the filter system. This can be caused by an obstruction in the water going into the filter, which will impact pool water circulation and can be a cause of the algae buildup discussed in the last section. The first step is to check the impeller and pump strainer basket for anything in there, such as leaves. Clean it out and see if the water flow increases.

If that doesn’t work, then it could be the pool skimmer that might have a clogged basket or a weir stuck in the open position, which causes low water pressure at the returns. Reduced water levels will cause low pressure, too.

It is worth taking note that a broken pressure gauge might give you a false reading, so check to make sure the gauge needle goes to zero when the pump is off.

Plumbing Leaks

It’s not uncommon for above-ground pools to spring leaks in the equipment or in the lining of the pool. Finding a leak can be difficult, but if you follow these steps, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hassle. First, check the equipment. Even if you think the pool’s lining is the culprit, the equipment is easier to fix and easier to find a leak in.

  1. Clean the equipment area first. If the pump or filter area is overgrown and cluttered, clean all the weeds away.
  2. Turn on the pump. Some leaks will leak even more if the pump is running. It’s easier to see a bigger leak, so you’ll want the pump to be on.
  3. Inspect the area for any signs of dampness.
  4. Look at everything closely. Look at all the fittings, hoses, and lids for any signs of leaking. Pay attention to the area beneath the pool’s pump. A shaft seal can leak straight into the ground, and sometimes there isn’t any visible ground moisture.
  5. Inspect the skimmer and return. The skimmer box and return are the most common areas for a leak in pool equipment. Look beneath the box and return. Use a dry towel to remove any moisture and look for more water accumulation.

Above Ground Pool Interior

If you’ve checked everything in the pool equipment area, then it’s time to move on to inside the pool. While it’s not uncommon, it’s difficult to find pool liner leaks. They can be very small, so you need some dye in a squeeze bottle.

  1. Turn off the pool’s pump to let the water become still. You have to be able to see the bottom of the pool as clearly as you can as you’re standing outside of it.
  2. As you stand outside the pool, inspect the bottom all the way around. When there is a leak on the bottom of the pool, the sand or the earth bottom tends to be washed away over time. When this occurs, divots form in the pool liner’s bottom. If you happen to see one of these, then it’s time to get in the pool.
  3. When the previous step doesn’t get you results, then it’s time to check the outside bottom of the pool. If it’s covered, then dig around the wall to expose the bottom track. This is the tracing that the wall fits into at the bottom. Look for excessive wetness around the track.
  4. Before you get into the pool to find a leak, vacuum and clean it. You’re looking for a small hole, so dirt in the liner can make it harder to find. Make sure the water quality is good. Put on a pair of goggles or diving mask and an applicator filled with food coloring or dye. Make sure the pool pump is off.
  5. Holes can be anywhere in the liner, but most of the time, it’s at the bottom and close to the pool’s wall. Look for any divots or valleys you saw earlier and puts some dye around the area to see if the dyed water goes into the hole. If it does, then you found the leak. If it doesn’t, keep looking.

Fixing leaks in the equipment is as simple as unclogging any debris to make sure the pressure is right, and then replacing any components that look worn out. Fixing a leak in the liner can be a little more difficult. There are underwater vinyl patching kits you can find at a local pool supplier or online that allow you to fix the liner without having to drain the pool. This is going to be your best bet, and most of them last up to five years.

Air in the System

Excess air in the pool’s pump and filter systems is a lot more than just an annoyance. It can be the sign of a serious problem, one that would require a major or a minor fix. If you leave it unaddressed, however, it will turn into a serious problem quickly. Remember, any pool’s filtration equipment is going to create a few bubbles from time to time from the return jet, especially during the startup of the pump and after. If this happens at startup, then it’s probably normal. However, if large amounts of air form into bubbles, continually streaming out of the returns, and the water level is barely filing the trap of the pump while it’s running, then there is a problem.

When bubbles pass through the return, this can result in bad filtration, which means cloudy water that can foster algae growth. Low water levels in the pump trap can be due to a burnt-out motor or an overheated motor. An overheated motor can be a pain, but a burnt-out motor can be a disaster that leads to expensive repairs.

Water Level Issues

If the water leading up to the skimmer opening is not half to three-quarters of the way up the skimmer, then this can allow air to get into the pump. This is the easiest problem to fix. Just raise the water level of the pool.

Compromises in Pump Lid

Anything that is cracked, split, or overstretched in the pump system can cause air to get in at the pump lid, especially because the suction is the strongest there. If any of those things are true, then you’ll need to replace these parts instead of attempting to fix the situation with epoxy or another type of Band-Aid.

Loose Fittings

If the previous issue is not the problem and the water level is fine, then you might be looking at a loose fitting being the problem. If there is any movement in the plumbing that enters the pump, then the fittings in that area might need tightening. Replace or tightening the fittings that seem off if you’re confident in doing this. If not, then hire a professional. It might seem costly, but it’ll be much better than having to replace a burnt-out motor in the future.

Cracks in the Skimmer

Pools settle just like a house does, which means cracks pop up anywhere. To see if there is a crack in the skimmer, turn off the pump system and let the water settle down for a little while. Then, squirt some dye into the skimmer and watch for any dye coming out at an unusual place.

A crack in the skimmer can be easily fixed by using an underwater epoxy or just replacing the entire skimmer.