Submersible Pump Problem Has Me Stumped....


I have a 1-1/2hp submersible pump that is acting very strange. It is less than two years old and the well is about 90 feet deep. It has been running really good for all this time with excellent pressure. Just this morning the problem started. The shower was running and it just stopped. I waited about 2 minutes and I heard the pump kick on, and the water returned (with comparable pressure). Then after a minute it stopped again. I have used well water for at least half of the last 30 years so I'm no stranger to pump problems. I went out to the well and checked the points in the pressure switch. The psi read about 45 (mine is set to 40/60). I turned on a garden hose but it just emptied the tank and the pump didn't come on. I immediately checked the points. They were only about 6 months old and they still looked good. No bugs or corrosion. But they were totally closed. They were not welded shut however. I was able to seperate them easily with the edge of the plastic switch cap. But as soon as I would release them, they would jump closed again. This whole time the pump had power but did not come on at all. Then it finally came on after another minute. It ran the pressure up to about 45psi and suddenly stopped. It sort of fizzled out instead of the normal kick it puts down when it stops. And the points still remained closed! I went ahead and installed a new pressure switch just to be sure. The same thing happened. I checked to see if the lines were all hot and they were. The pressure in the holding tank was at 38psi. Just where it should be. The only thing left now is the control box (which was installed new with the pump) or the pump itself. I have some water now to get me by, but I only turn the power on at the breaker and only if we really need it. And only for that time. Any ideas?
Thanks.......
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On Sat, 21 Aug 2010 22:14:56 -0700 (PDT), "Aaron Eel (Ehrin)"

A lot of the time it is just a broken wire going down to the pump. It they are not well strapped they rattle around and break from metal fatigue. It could also be the pump. You are pulling the pump either way
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On Sat, 21 Aug 2010 22:14:56 -0700 (PDT), "Aaron Eel (Ehrin)"

Because when you emptied the tank with the garden hose you lowered th epressure to the point where it's supposed to turn on?? So of course the points would be closed.

Is it overheating, or oversomethinging, and then resetting itself a few minutes later?

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The readinf with the power on, points closed and pump off was 45psi. The kick-on psi is 40. The hose was turned on and the holding tank was emptied. 0psi. Nothing for a minute or so. Poits still hot but closed. Then the pump motor kicks on until about 45psi is again realized., Then it shuits off. Points STILL closed. I guess it would repeat this over and over but I didn;t want to mess up my new points.

Question: What is the cylindrical 'thing' in the control box (the electrical box between the switch and the pump motor)? It looks like some kind of capacitor or something. Could it be some sort of fuse that has gone bad?
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Aaron Eel (Ehrin) wrote:

That's because it is "some kind of capacitor" -- specifically, the start cap. Generally submersibles will have both a start and run external cap so think that it's likely there is more than one.
Possible is weak cap; have you ever had issues of lack of water supply in the well itself? Has it been unusually dry this summer or have you used more than normal amounts of water recently?
A relatively new pump _shouldn't_ have developed a bearing or motor problem, but certainly stranger things have happened. Is this a 240V pump I presume? Is it 2- or 3-wire to the hole? Need to check motor currents against nameplate while it is running to determine condition there.
Sounds like the well service people are in your future.
--
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Not that I know of. It's been raining here for weeks now. We never had a dry season here this year either. The local water table is way up there.

Yes. 220 thre wire (including ground)

How do I check the capacitor? I don't see how you can get a tester on it. It's inside that little steel box and inaccessible unless I open it (thereby disconnecting it). Logic would dictate that I check to see if 200 volts is exiting that box but the lines disappear down into the well. I could just buy a new capacitor but theyre 40 bucks.
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Aaron Eel (Ehrin) wrote:

If it runs on occasion, it's getting power; I doubt that is the intermittent.
Can't envision the setup where the enclosure door would disable anything other than the manual start/stop/reset buttons.
Again, I'd start w/ checking the motor currents on each leg while running; to do it you need a clampon meter. If you don't have I still think the well service folks are in your future...
--
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When the water is on in the house, it turns on and off in 28 second cycles. It never brings the pressure up to the old cut-off point (60psi). It always cuts off at about 45. So the water eventually stops before it kicks back on again. You have to wait and then it comes on. The whole time though, the points are closed, so I only use it for brief moments when I really need it and then turn it off. The points still look fine, BTW.

What is an enclosure door?

A new wrinkle... The 220 leaving the house runs underground in a steel pipe to the pump (about 30 feet away in my yard). The ground around the pump area has dropped over the years to form a bowl around the pump area. A pretty good size area. When it rains (like it has been), the bowl sometimes fills with ankle-deep water. It may stand for a day or two at times before it evaporates. I just went poking around where that pipe comes up to a small on-off switch box (which I have never used). The pipe is rusted thru at ground level. I dug around it and pulled on it to see where it went and more rusted pipe came up. In other words, that standing water has had a chance for who knows how many years now to fill that pipe. The wire still looks good visually. The part at the ground-level break that I can see. But could the water have played a number on that wire inside and up the line? There have been no bends in the pipe, so the wire sticks up straight coming out of the ground pretty good. It's just that the water has had a chance to enter (and I'm quite sure that it has). Maybe when the water table is up, it causes the current to arc from one insulated wire to the other? I call the pump people tomorrow if I can't get to the bottom of this today. I just don't have the time now to dig that mess up myself. I only hope my new pump is okay. Like I say, it still runs with really good pressure and the lines all show hot.
Thanks for everyone's input, BTW. Especially yours.
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wrote:

Also, anywhere I dig around that entire area I hit water after about a foot. I dug around where the wire comes up next to the holding tank and there's nothing but water. The ground here is almost saturated. I really don't see how that wire could be compromised just by being in the water. It's single stranded wire, 3 seperate lines, wrapped in a sort of plastic-type paer or something. Likely it's rusted for quite a ways, being that it's been down therer since 1987.
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wrote:

Typical well control box has the hardware mounted onto the backside of the cover. When you remove the cover, everything but the wiring and terminals comes with it.

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Yeah... I guess we're beginning to lose each other in the chatter. These types of forums are only good for one round. Possibly two.
The wires coming from the breaker box and into the pressure switch are (1) red (1) black) (1) copper. They are single stranded. The control box has one capacitor attached to the removable face and a small blue 'chip' mounted next to it. But only one capacitor. Not two. There are (6) prongs on the removable face going in to (6) receptacles on the actual mounted 'box' part.
Update: I just replaced the control box. $57.00. The pump and points work fine now. But what made it go to begin with? If you read my previous post, you know that the 3/4" steel pipe containing the hot- wires from the breaker has been compromised by rust. It is right now totally engulfed and submerged in water (just like it has been for years, I'd reckon). I now need to rent a ditch witch and lay a new pipe. That or use direct burial wire. Does anyone know what depth I must lay down the new wire? And another question would be, can a Ditch Witch pop thru one inch tree roots? It was probably just sand when the wires were put down the first time, but now the yard is honey-combed with soft roots.
Thanks!!
Aaron
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wrote:

Yeah... I guess we're beginning to lose each other in the chatter. These types of forums are only good for one round. Possibly two.
The wires coming from the breaker box and into the pressure switch are (1) red (1) black) (1) copper. They are single stranded. The control box has one capacitor attached to the removable face and a small blue 'chip' mounted next to it. But only one capacitor. Not two. There are (6) prongs on the removable face going in to (6) receptacles on the actual mounted 'box' part.
Update: I just replaced the control box. $57.00. The pump and points work fine now. But what made it go to begin with? If you read my previous post, you know that the 3/4" steel pipe containing the hot- wires from the breaker has been compromised by rust. It is right now totally engulfed and submerged in water (just like it has been for years, I'd reckon). I now need to rent a ditch witch and lay a new pipe. That or use direct burial wire. Does anyone know what depth I must lay down the new wire? And another question would be, can a Ditch Witch pop thru one inch tree roots? It was probably just sand when the wires were put down the first time, but now the yard is honey-combed with soft roots.
Thanks!!
Aaron
The black-Red- and ground are the feed. They go to the pressure switch, then, typically two wires plus ground go from the pressure switch to the well control box, and attach to line 1 and line 2 . Then you will have three other wires, and possibly ground that go from the control box to the well pump
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Aaron Eel (Ehrin) wrote:

A ditch witch will easily go through 1" roots. What made the control box go bad? Could be something in it went bad. Or it could be the wires going down to the pump with an intermittent short, or your pump is going bad, or a lightning strike 6 months ago, or............. Outdoor underground conduit almost always tends to gather water, even if it's just condensation added up over the years. The wire should be fine in the water. If code allows, I would use direct burial wire inside conduit, but I don't know code.
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Yes. This is what has got me worried. If I call in the pros, they're gonna want to pull a building permit and hit me up for a grand. When all I have to do is to dig a new line, disconnect the old line, throw down some direct burial, hook it up and fill it in. But in the time it takes me to do it, the new control box as well as ther pump itself could be ruined if I use the water.

Thanks for your valued input, Tony. As I mentioned earlier, the 3/4" steel pipe with the hot wires in it has had a history of being submerged where it disappears into the ground. When it rains here, the area around the pump is a natural low spot, and it becomes a small lake for a day or two. If you look at where that pipe rusted through, it's about 6 inches above the ground. Right at the high water line. I pulled on it gently today and a lot more rusted disintegrated pipe started to pull lose. So I just let it be. I am 100% positive that the wire has not been subjected to crimping though, as it is right in the middle of other plumbing pipes and that whole area is a few feet from my neighbor's chain link fence. We don't even mow back there it's so tight. This is nothing new, either. That area has been a problem for at least 15 years now. Ever since my neighboor filled in the right of way out by the street. All that water now comes to me. So it's just now deciding to do something goofy? I don't know, since that wire is never ever disturbed. And by the looks of it, that pipe has been compromised for at least a year now if not more.

So why did they bury it in a pipe? If it doesnt matter, then that cannot be a source of the control box fry-out. Right now that area is under water. I just went out there. Is there a reason why wire is wrapped in the plastic jacket when it's sold as direct burial? Isn't that to keep away direct contact with water? My thought is that the electricity must arc between the wires inside that waterlogged pipe. I'm no electrician but it sure sounds funny to me why it was even sealed up in the pipe in the first place if not to keep it from things like water.
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wrote:

Maybe the roots that have grown in after all these years have somehow crimped the steel pipe at some point along its length thereby crimping the wires. I've seen roots go right through tile and concrete so I know it is possible. That is certainly a thought. Yikes! I'll bet it could still kill you if you were standing over it. Even buried 2 or 3 feet down.
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On Sun, 22 Aug 2010 09:33:03 -0700 (PDT), "Aaron Eel (Ehrin)"

I have no well, no pump, and can barely picture, problably inaccurately, what the whole picture looks like. But I know parts and circuitry in general.

How do you know you have one if it's inside a steel box that you haven't opened?
Do you mean the rounded steel box (rounded on four corners, flat at each end) that is the outside of the capacitor? If you open that, you won't just disconnect it, you'll destroy it.

If you're going to install a new cap, you first have to remove the old one. So it will be disconnected and easy to measure**. What I do to check a cap is use an analog meter, with a needle, not a numeric display, and first I set it on voltage to see what its voltage is. If it is more than tiny, that alone indicates it is holding a charge, but is it as much as it should be? You should discharge the cap through a resistor, so it doesn't all go out suddenly, but if it is too large a resistor, it will take forever to discharge.
I I guess I've never had a cap that was still charged when I had cut the wire on one end. But I haven't done this with 240 volt caps, 110 at the most and usually almost entirely discharged from sitting in the tv for a while before I get around to testing it. So I set the meter on ohms, and watch the needle. If the cap is good, it will go far to the right at first (the very right is zero ohms) and then gradually move to the left as the cap fills up and the voltage in it is opposite to the voltage of the ohmmeter, and getting higher. When the needle stops moving, there can't be more than 9 volts in the cap because that's the value of the battery that powers my ohmmeter. So I reverse the leads and again the needle moves all the way to the right, even farther and faster that the first time if the the cap was not charged the first time, and again moves slowly to the left as the charging rate (from the ohmmeter) decreases.
I've never actually identified a bad cap this way, but that's not surprising since I was testing caps that probably weren't bad -- I was only testing to be sure -- and I don't claim the test will always identify a bad cap, but if there is an open, the needle will always show infinite or very high resistance. If it's shorted, it will always show low or maybe zero resistance. These are the two most likely problems.
You could also perhaps test any new capacitor in the store before you leave the counter, and if they see you're only using a meter with 9 volt battery, they'll know you can't damage the cap.
AT THE VERY LEAST, I would test the cap this way before installing it, so that you'll know what the readings are when brand new. So you can see if shows anything different from the cap you are taking out. If it's basicially the same, far to the right then slowly back to the left, I'd figure the new cap is no better than the old cap.
Maybe you should write all the readings down so that if you ever have to remove the NEW cap, you can measure it again and see if it is any different.
**There are meters that are supposed to measure capacity when the cap is in the circuit, but they're either expensive or you'll never use them again. I don't think well repairmen have them.
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wrote:

Not that I know of. It's been raining here for weeks now. We never had a dry season here this year either. The local water table is way up there.

Yes. 220 thre wire (including ground)

How do I check the capacitor? I don't see how you can get a tester on it. It's inside that little steel box and inaccessible unless I open it (thereby disconnecting it). Logic would dictate that I check to see if 200 volts is exiting that box but the lines disappear down into the well. I could just buy a new capacitor but theyre 40 bucks.
You probably need to get the well folks out to look at it, before any real damage happens to the thing. You say it has three wires (including ground), and you have a pump control box with a cap. It can't be both. It's either two wire plus ground, and the cap is part of the submersible, or it's three wire, and you have a cap and other stuff in a well control box.
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The reading with the power on, points closed and pump off was 45psi. The kick-on psi is 40. The hose was turned on and the holding tank was emptied. 0 psi. nothing for a minute or so. Points still hot (electrically) but closed. Then the pump motor kicks on until about 45psi is again realized. Then it shuts off. Points STILL closed. I guess it would repeat this over and over but I didnt want to mess up my new points

Question: What is the cylindrical 'thing' in the control box (the electrical box between the switch and the pump motor)? It looks like some kind of capacitor or something. Could it be some sort of fuse that has gone bad?
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wrote:

The reading with the power on, points closed and pump off was 45psi. The kick-on psi is 40. The hose was turned on and the holding tank was emptied. 0 psi. nothing for a minute or so. Points still hot (electrically) but closed. Then the pump motor kicks on until about 45psi is again realized. Then it shuts off. Points STILL closed. I guess it would repeat this over and over but I didnt want to mess up my new points

Question: What is the cylindrical 'thing' in the control box (the electrical box between the switch and the pump motor)? It looks like some kind of capacitor or something. Could it be some sort of fuse that has gone bad?
When fuses go bad, they tend to stay bad. That is a capacitor. When the pressure switch is closed, it's sending power to the control box, which contains motor parts that are usually enclosed on the motor, but in the case of well pumps, they keep these parts separate and accessible, so they're easily replaced if the burn out. You need to identify the parts in the motor control box, and test them first. If all is OK there, pull the pump and check for broken wires as gfretwell describes. If a wire is broken, it probably won't be visible, as copper breaks inside of the insulation, often without being obvious.
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On Sat, 21 Aug 2010 22:14:56 -0700 (PDT), "Aaron Eel (Ehrin)"

Dry Well
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