Automatic Pool Cleaner Troubleshooting Guide

Pool Cleaner Types, Suction, Pressure, RoboticAutomatic pool cleaners are an integral part of pool maintenance; disaster strikes and time comes to a standstill if your pool cleaner stops working. Symptoms include jitters, sweaty palms, and trembling hands – accompanied by a feeling of injustice and loss. But really, help is out there and by following just a few simple steps, you can actually troubleshoot your automatic pool cleaner and get it running again.

Though pool cleaners are available in a wide variety of various types, there are some basic guidelines you can follow to troubleshoot your pool cleaner if it decides to call it quits or becomes sluggish. First of all, let’s walk you through some of the most common reasons why a pool cleaner may quit working and then discuss how to fix those problems yourself- absolutely without the need to call the National Guard.

There are 3 main types of pool cleaners: suction , pressure and robotic . Suction cleaners connect into a suction line like the wall skimmer, or a dedicated cleaner line that is sucking water into the filter pump. Pressure cleaners, operate on the pressure side of the filter pump – that is, they are powered by water being pushed to the cleaner usually by a separate booster pump. Robotic cleaners are independent of the filter pump, they operate under their own power and don’t rely on the suction or pressure of your filter pump.

For this blog post, I’ll cover all 3 automatic pool cleaner types.

suction pool cleaners

Suction Pool Cleaner Does Not Move

Suction pool cleaners are powered by your pump water flow when the pump is operating; they cover the whole pool in a random pattern – only while the pool circulation system is on.

For a suction pool cleaner that is not working at all, the first step is to check the cleaner hose to make sure that it is firmly attached to the suction line in the skimmer or to the dedicated cleaner line if your pool is equipped with one.

Second step is to check the hose sections to make sure that there are no air leaks, either where the hose sections join together or from splits or holes in the hose.

You may need to close down or restrict other suction lines, such as the main drain or another skimmer, to increase the suction on the line that the cleaner is connected into.

Suction Pool Cleaner is Slow

Usually the main reason for this kind of dysfunction is a congested pool filter or a clog at the intake hole at the bottom of your pool cleaner. To clean the intake hole, just flip the cleaner over underwater and look down into the intake hole.

You will also want to make sure that there are no obstructions in the hose and that all hose connections are tight and secure.

Next step is to clean your skimmer basket, pump basket, and pool filter. If there are leaves or rocks trapped in there, it will reduce your pump’s water flow which in turn will slow down a suction pool cleaner.

Suction Cleaner is Too Fast

As mentioned above, suction pool cleaners work based on your pool pump water flow. If you have an especially powerful pool pump or your water flow is exceptionally fast, your pool cleaners may move faster than usual. This can cause your cleaner to skip over some debris as it “flies” around the pool.

Most suction cleaners have a device in the skimmer that will allow you to control the flow or if you have other incoming suction lines such as a main drain or secondary skimmer. Opening these lines more fully will reduce the flow from the line that the cleaner is connected to.

Suction Cleaner Does Not Cover Entire Pool

Seems like a big issue but the solution may be as simple as checking the hose length. In order for the pool cleaner to be able to reach all areas of your pool, the hose should be long enough to reach from the skimmer or dedicated suction line to the furthest point in the pool with 3 feet to spare. If the suction hose is not long enough, consider adding extra lengths of hose.

Adjustments to the direction of the return jets in your pool can affect cleaner coverage. Your returning water may be pushing your cleaner away from certain areas.

If the hose length or return flow is not the problem, consult your owner’s manual for slight adjustments to the hose or cleaner which will create a different cleaning pattern.

Air Bubbles Enter Pool at Return Line

This may be caused by air leaks in the hose or the connections. If the vacuum connections are not fitted together tightly or the hose is punctured, air will leak into the system, causing bubbles to appear at the return wall fitting.

Check the hose and vacuum connections for any air leaks; the vacuum connections can be tightened and secured with o-rings and hose leaks can be easily fixed with silicone or rubber cement (which looks better than duct tape!).

Suction Cleaner Gets Stuck on Steps/Ladders

Most suction cleaners have a device that snaps onto the throat of the cleaner, to keep it from getting stuck on steps. This is an aftermarket item for some cleaners.

If your cleaner is getting stuck on or under your pool ladder, you may consider installing a Ladder Guard Kit and if it sticks on a raised main drain cover, look at the UniCover, which creates a smooth transition from floor to drain.

Visit our pool cleaner parts department for any spares you need.

Pressure Pool Cleaner Does Not Move

Pressure pool cleaners need to have about 30 psi to operate (17 psi for low-pressure cleaners like the Polaris 360 or Letro Legend II). Check that the booster pump is operating, and – the filter pump should also be running at the same time.

Pressure cleaners have an inline strainer (some have two) that needs to be cleaned periodically. This may be located in the wall fitting connection, or in the feed hose.

Rocks or sand can become lodged in the wheels or a pressure cleaner, preventing movement. Likewise, tiny grains of sand or plaster can make their way around inline strainers (especially if you’ve lost yours!) and can clog up small orifices inside the cleaner.

Pressure cleaners may be shaft driven, belt driven or chain driven. Either one of these power trains can have problems. Generally speaking, these are working well if you turn one wheel and the other wheels turn at the same time and speed.

Pressure Pool Cleaner is Slow

Check the inline strainer(s) for debris that is slowing down the water flow to the cleaner. Also check the hose, to make sure that pressure is not being lost somewhere along the line. Slight water loss around the hose swivels is normal.

Loose wheels or loose drive belts can cause your cleaner to behave sluggishly. Worn tires will reduce speed and wall climbing ability. Check your owner’s manual for specific adjustments for your particular pressure pool cleaner.

Pressure Cleaner Does Not Cover Entire Pool

For this problem, all you need to do is adjust the thrust jet, located on the back center, where the water sprays out. 11 o’clock is the default setting, but placing it at 1 o’clock will give the cleaner an opposite cleaning pattern.

The feed hose of course must be long enough to reach the furthest point from the wall connection, plus 3 feet. And, make sure that the feed hose is floating – old style hose floats can become water logged and not keep the hose up on the surface.

Pressure Cleaner Gets Stuck on Steps/Ladders

If your pressure cleaner gets stuck on the stairs – try to adjust the thrust jet to create a new cleaning pattern. If you cleaner gets wrapped around a handrail or stuck behind a ladder, install ladder guards to block the path around these rails.

Pressure Cleaner Feed Hose Becomes Tangled

Measure the hose to ensure that it is adjusted to the proper length for the pool size – too much hose will cause tangling. You also need to make sure that the feed hose is floating. Waterlogged hose floats should be replaced. The hose swivels should rotate freely. One other possibility is that not all wheels are being powered. Rotate one of the wheels when the cleaner is in OFF mode and make sure that all wheels turn together.

Too much power to a pressure cleaner can cause it to fly around the pool and tangle itself. Bleed off excess pressure at the wall fitting. Finally, if the thrust jet is in a 9 or 3 o’clock position, this will create a circular pattern, which may cause tangling. Visit our pool cleaner parts department for all of these parts mentioned.

Robotic Pool Cleaner Does Not Move

Robotic pool cleaners are electric, and don’t rely on your pump’s suction or pressure to move around the pool. The floating power cord for your robotic pool cleaner should be firmly plugged into the power supply transformer, which is plugged into an outlet. The power supply should have an indicator light – indicating that power is being received.

If power is being received to the power supply, but the cleaner is not moving, we need to trace the problem towards the cleaner. The problem lies, where the power dies. Many times, the power cord itself can have a short, where the wires have broken, inside the rubber casing. This usually occurs at a point near the cleaner, where the stress on the cord is the greatest. If you have a dog that goes after the robot, look for bite marks in the cord!

If the cord is intact, you can test the resistance of the wire with a test meter (set on Ohms) to ensure that the cord wires are not an issue. At this point, you will want to check the drive motor itself, to make sure connections are tight, and using your test meter, check that the power is reaching the motor. If it is, and the motor is not responding to the power, this may be signaling the need for a new drive motor.

Robotic Pool Cleaner is Slow

This is usually a problem of loose drive tracks, loose drive belts or missing small parts that keep tension on the belts and tracks. You may notice that it moves, but doesn’t climb the walls any more. This could indicate worn drive tracks or wheel tube brushes.

Robotic Cleaner Gets Stuck

If your floor surface is not so smooth, you may find the cleaner getting stuck on high spots. Some newer models have adjustments that will raise the cleaner slightly, but this may compromise it’s vacuuming ability. Robot cleaners can also get stuck behind ladders and handrails, and like our other pool cleaners above, you can solve this problem with a product called a Ladder Guard.

Mayday Mayday Mayday

If everything has failed and your pool cleaner is being stubborn and is refusing to cooperate, it may be time to call one of our pool specialists/advisers who can assist with you further with troubleshooting or repair. Of course, our specialists can also help you select a new pool cleaner if you’d rather just start over.

But that’s usually not the case – most of the time, your pool cleaner just needs a few tweaks here or there, or some pool cleaner parts, and it’s off and running again – without the need for a visit from the National Guard!

Happy Trouble-Shooting!


Ayesha Aslam
InTheSwim Staff Blogger



Automatic Pool Cleaner Troubleshooting Guide — 36 Comments

  1. We have The Pool Cleaner sweeper. It keeps running into the hose which is on the bottom of the pool and getting stuck. The hose is not floating like it should be? Would this be a leak in the hose and how would I check that?

    • Hi Mary, the hose floats can fail over time. You may need to just replace a few hose floats, to keep it up. Part number 896584000-280 is the number for the float. Two hose floats are used (2), on the Leader Hose, or the hose connected to the cleaner, placed at 20-25″ from the gray cuff end that connects to the cleaner. Additional hose floats can be placed on the 2nd and 3rd hose section if needed. Probably not a leak in the hose, but that’s easily checked by pulling the hose slowly out of the water, from end to end, with it connected, to see if you hear any hissing or sucking sounds. Also make sure that your hose is not too long, remove a section if there is excess hose. here’s the owner’s manual:

  2. I have a Kreepy Krauly that is kreeping slowly. There’s a lot of suction when I place my hand on the pipe flowing into the filter however as soon as I connect the kreepy it slows down & looses pressure then after a while gains pressure but has lots of Air bubbles coming out of outlet back into the pool.

    • Hi maria, sounds like a puncture or split in the hose, or a loose hose connection sucking air. Or perhaps the hose is not completely full of water before you connect it into the skimmer. To fill the hose, push it straight into the water, hand over hand, or hold it over the pool return line.

  3. I have a kreepy krauly and I am closing my pool. I cannot get the aorimatic regulator valve connector in the skimmer unscrewed, any suggestions?

    • Hi, if the skimmer is empty, pour a little dish soap (just a few drops), to act like a lubricant. Even so, you may need to use tools, like straight pliers or needlenose pliers. Put the pliers thru the opening of the connector, then open the pliers, then turn (CCW) with the pliers. You may find other tools in your shed that are sized just right, to fit inside of the part, grabbing it so you can turn it, perhaps pruning shears or something else of the right size and shape… If that doesn’t work, you may have to end up destroying the part, to remove it. In such a case, pierce it with a long screwdriver, or cut it with a hacksaw blade, to remove it in pieces.

    • Hi, it is likely a broken UWF (universal wall fitting), a threaded 1.5″ fitting with two tabs inside, item 6-500-00. It could also be a damaged wall fitting connector, item D-29, but usually itts the UWF. Pool Lube on the o-ring can also be helpful, sometimes necessary, to get the fitting turned in all the way.

      • My sweeper hose keeps coming off my wall mount can my booster pump have to much pressure that it keeps blowing off my hoes.

        • Hi Fred, is the o-ring missing or damaged? Older styles also had ball bearings that went missing, or the internal spring may be faulty. Probably not your pumps fault, but something wrong at the wall connection. new o-ring or new wall fitting (esp. Polaris style), or hose connection, something new needed! Some wall connections with o-rings may need lube, to make them lock into place easily

  4. I have a “The Pool Cleaner” (now owned by Hayward), when it is on the floor of the pool it moves extremely slowly often getting stuck in place and lacks the power to go up walls. But when I hold it slightly above the floor the wheels turn the amount of revolutions I would expect. Filter is completely cleaned, (basket, cartridge filter, it’s all cleaned and not clogged). Pressure coming out of the filter back into the pool is solid and is the same whether the cleaner is running or not. There’s no clogs in the cleaner itself it’s been taken apart multiple times and runs fine when it is not touching the floor of the pool. I was at a pool store and multiple people there could not figure it out, as it looks like it should work fine to them. Any ideas?

    • Hi Mike, the pump has to work harder to pull from the bottom of the pool, but if the pump flow and filter pressure is the same, it sounds like a suction loss, perhaps a hole in the hose or loose hose connections? Other skimmers and main drain lines closed?

  5. My Kreepy Krauly only goes to the left so in just goes in a circle I have just put all new parts in side and new feet and wings. I dont know why it wont go all over the pool

    • Hi Jody, first make sure that the kreepy is receiving enough water suction (power), see if you can increase suction (by cleaning filter or pump basket or possibly impeller, or closing other suction lines). Also check that the hoses are firmly connected to each other, and that the swivel is swiveling, where the hose connects to kreepy. Check your return line eyeball fittings, aiming them down towards the floor is usually best. Strong return line flows can push the hose and keep kreepy in only certain areas of the pool. Third, check that the hose is ‘balanced’, and the kreepy is sitting at a 45 degree angle to the floor. Adjusting the hose weights can affect the balance If the pool depth is More than 4 feet, but less than 7 feet use 2 weights: one 4 to 12 inches and one 6 feet from the swivel head. if depth is More than 7 feet, but less than 12 feet, use 3 weights: one 4 to 12 inches, one 6 feet and one 10 feet from the swivel head.

  6. I recently purchased a Kreepy Krauly for my new pool, but upon installation using the dedicated vacuum port, I realized that the bottom of my skimmer does not have a spot to install the automatic regulator valve. after removing the basket from the skimmer, there is a horizontal pipe on the pool side and a horizontal pipe on the deck side, but nothing on the bottom. is the regulator valve essential to operating the kreepy krauly?

    • Hi there – ah you have an old Baker Hydro skimmer, it sounds like. You could make a DIY 90 deg elbow attachment to the skimmer, which will allow you to use the regulator. But you may not even need to use the regulator. They are mainly used if the pump is just way too powerful, and opening other valves (main drain or other skimmers) is still not enough, to keep kreepy from sticking to the pool floor. It has a second purpose of continuing to create some skimmer suction, but without a basket, what’s the point. So, just plug it into the back hole (deck side), and adjust the other valves until it cleans properly. Another option is to use a skim vac plate (made to fit your skimmer) with a 90 elbow on top, so that your skimmer basket catches the debris, not the pump basket. Also makes it easier to connect Kreepy, without having to reach way down there into the skimmer.

  7. My kreepy requires me to almost shut off the valve for the skimmer and the drain to get enough suction for it to work. So it’s sucking up dirt. But the drain and skimmer don’t get to do their job. Do you think I need a stronger pump? Or close some jets? Or a new pool cleaning machine?

    • Hi George, what you describe is not uncommon, most people have to do the same. the idea though, is that you only run the cleaner for 3 or 4 hours, and then you disconnect it, and the circulation is returned to normal. If you had a stronger pump that would help, however you can’t just upsize the pump without also upsizing the filter, (unless your filter is already over-sized). Check the design flow rate of the filter, and then check the flow charts of the current pump and other pumps, and you may be able to increase flow by a small amount, without upsetting the filtering processes. It may not need to be a larger pump (in horsepower), because Closing the jets won’t have any effect on the suction, other than maybe make it worse.

    • Hi, that could be low suction from a not very powerful pump, or other pipes also open like other skimmers or main drain, or loss of suction at hose connections between cleaner and skimmer. It could also be related to the placement of the hose weights and/or hose floats, a weight placed closer to the head may be needed. Check your owners manual for other tips if needed

  8. Hi,
    I’ve been having an issue with my vacuum tangling around the bottom of the a-frame stairs in my above ground pool. I’ve seen pool guards for in ground pools that attach to the sides of the stairs. Is there an option like this for the bottom of my stairs?

    • Hi Molly, if there was one available for your particular make/model, you would be able to find it on the manufacturers website, or on our website probably too, for the particular step that you own. Another possible option is if your particular pool cleaner has a ladder guard or deflector that can be installed (on the cleaner), to keep it from passing under the step. There isn’t anything universal, but could be available (for your particular product). It could also be possible to fabricate something yourself, using plastic, wood or rope, to block the cleaner, or make it think that it has hit a wall…

    • Hi, the Merlin is essentially a version of an Aquabot, it has a pump motor and a drive motor. the pump motor provides vacuum and suction, the drive motor turns the pulley that pulls the belts and drive tracks around the tubes, and creates the movement. So, either your driver motor is not turning on, or it is turning on but is not engaging something, starting from the small T pin on the motor spindle, to the tightness of the belts, or small missing clips or parts that prevent movement. Start at the motor, holding the unit upside down and look for the T pin on the motor and see if it is moving or turning. If not, there is a problem with the motor or wire connection to motor. If it is turning, there is a problem with engagement between pulleys and belts, not the right amount of tension.

  9. My hose keeps coming out of the dedicated suction line. Not sure how or when, but every day when I go out there it is out of the plug in.

  10. I have an aqua jet electric that worked great for 5 years. Now when I put it in, it starts fine. Then after about 5 or 10 minutes it just stops. The poet supply is still lit and clicking to change directions, but the aqua jet won’t move. This starting the r d of last season and behaved the same first time in the water this year. I love my swisher but none around d here works on them. Help!

    • Hi Tammy, from the Aquabot AquaJet Owner’s Manual: “Take a garden hose with high pressure, spray into the Valve Housing at each Valve Port opening. This should free the Jet Valve System of any debris. If this does not solve the problem, there is most likely debris wrapped around the Propeller beneath the Jet Valve or between the Valve Flap and the Valve Housing wall.”

      Now since it works and then stops working, i don’t think anything is clogged or restricted. Inspect the power cord very carefully, moving it through your hands to see if you moving the cord starts the cleaner again. The floating cords can break inside the casing, without any external damage, especially near the cleaner, where it enters the cleaner. Cords can be shortened and reattached, or you can buy a replacement cord if that is the issue. Power can also be tested at the motor, with the cover off, after it stops moving, to determine if it’s the power cord or the motor that is failing.

    • The reason that a pressure cleaner like a Polaris or Kreepy (Letro) Legend might float is usually that air is trapped inside of the unit. Holding it underwater, flip it over and shake a bit to let the air escape. They also may kind of ‘float’ around the floor, not contacting all surfaces, when the booster pump water pressure is low, usually from a clogged inline strainer, or sometimes something jammed in between the wheels, or an internal blockage that keeps the wheels from moving.

    • Hi Rosemary, I read thru the manual – and it did not address air suction between hose sections, but I would first make sure all connections are tight (I assume they are threaded, but maybe they are twist lock). If threaded, you could use Teflon tape or other thread sealant on the male threads, to help seal it up. If they are gasketed, with an o-ring, Teflon lubricant can be used (or Silicone, actually better) to help seal up the oring or gasket.

      Now, i should say that if you are using a pump and filter system that is too large for the cleaner (it is meant to work with the 1500gph to 3500 gph Intex filter systems, then that could be the problem. In such a case, you could modify the wall fitting, by drilling holes in it, to relieve some of the vacuum suction on the hose sections. To clarify, the first hose section that connects to the wall fitting – If your pump is too large, you could drill small holes in the solid part of the fitting, to pull water in at that point, to create a bypass or alternate suction intake, however be careful that this does not create a suction entrapment hazard, drilling many small holes all around the fitting, is probably safer than one large hole in the side.

  11. the push rod that goes to the turning cog keeps breaking on one side when it turns after hitting the actuater bumper turn bar.

    • Hi TIm, are you talking about an Aquavac robotic cleaner? The sensor bar slide that connects to the push bar and the adjusting arm? Adjustments to the adjustment arm (the one with the spring on it) can provide a bit more room or play between the parts. Changing cleaner direction may also help, as it could be one particular spot on the pool that is at the wrong angle, causing the damage.

  12. Hello Ayesha,

    I’m a pool cleaner. I have an account where the Shark suction cleaner used to work great, now it’s slow and less efficient. It’s vinyl pool. Backwashing helps, but never as good as it used to go all the time. We bought a new shark. I replaced the pump motor and the impeller, which was severely clogged with grass. I also replaced the pump basket which was cracked. Pool gets lots of grass, but it should be working great with all these adjustments. Played with the skimmer valve, that’s not it. Sand looks normal in the filter. Anything I’m missing?
    Thank you,
    Richard Schnittger
    Pisces Pool Service Oahu

    • Hi Richard, any chance that a line (pipe) could be clogged or restricted (partially collapsed if flex pipe) or something reducing the flow volume from the skimmer? Is there a separate main drain valve or second skimmer that can be throttled? When a cleaner is connected, this created some vacuum pressure, which makes it easier for air leaks to occur around the pump, and the pump would prefer to draw from other lines that are less work to draw from. Another slim possibility is a solar return valve that is open, which is a line connecting the return line to the main drain line, on some pools back in the day.

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