Maintaining a Water Pump


Water pressure for water-well installations is maintained by a pressure tank installed in the line between the well pump and the residence.

Pressure to the tank is regulated by an electric switch that turns the pump on when pressure is low and off when the proper tank pressure is reached. The pressure switch may require periodic maintenance.

Before performing any maintenance steps on a pressure switch, turn off the power to the switch. The current required to run a well pump is potentially deadly. Open your breaker box and look for the breaker marked "well" or "pump." It may be a single large amperage (30 amp or more) breaker or two lower amperage breakers in tandem. If you're not sure which breaker is the right one, turn off the main breaker to the house. (Do not leave the main power to the house off for periods long enough to defrost frozen foods or reduce the heat long enough to freeze pipes.)

If maintenance steps do not return the pump to service, replace the switch.


An hour or so to perform routine maintenance and reset pump pressure switch

Screwdrivers, emery cloth, pliers, small open-end wrenches

Cleaning electrical contacts

Shut off power to the pump.

Step 1

Turn off the power to the well and locate the pressure switch. It is likely to have some kind of plastic or metal cover secured with screws. Unscrew them and lift off the cover. Set it aside so it won't get damaged. (The easiest thing to do in a cramped well house is to step on a switch cover.)

Step 2

If the pump was not operating, pry back the switch relay contacts and inspect them for pitting or burning. Clean the contacts and perform any necessary pressure adjustments.

Cleaning the Contacts

To clean the pressure switch contacts, slide a length of emery cloth between them and pull the cloth across them several times. Reverse the cloth and repeat the process on the other side until all the contacts (usually eight or more) are shiny. Use pliers to unscrew an aerator from the end of a faucet spout and clean all the little parts. Replace the aerator if it is damaged.

Adjusting the Switch

Pressure switches are installed in conjunction with pressure gauges, and the switches are set to turn on at low pressure and off at a higher pressure (typically 20 and 40 psi, respectively). Adjustment instructions usually can be found on the inside of the switch cover. Use wrenches to turn the adjustment screws, following the manufacturer's instructions.

Comments (11)
bomberryivanya wrote:

My water pump cycles on and off really fast and then shuts off after about 5 minutes. Can you suggest what to check? I maintain air pressure in the water tank at 22lb.

8/17/2016 12:21:14 AM Report Abuse
wadejoel1234gm wrote:

My family likes our water pressure very high because it helps us a lot. I did no know that the water pump was responsible for the water pressure in our home. If anything did happen to our pressure switch I will take your advice and make sure to shut off the power to the switch to keep it from breaking.

6/17/2016 01:31:58 PM Report Abuse
jessie4harrison wrote:

It's surprising that something that is completely foreign to, you can be learned pretty fast. I for one have no clue how to clean, or repair a water pump. However, from just looking at your list it looks like it's fairly easy.

3/23/2016 04:48:48 PM Report Abuse
sandytull42 wrote:

Just wanted to mention that when cleaning contacts it can be very difficult to get everything off (especially if there's corrosion). One of the best ways I get rid of corrosion is using Coca-cola! I know it's not conventional, but Coke is so bad for you that it'll polish off metal! Crazy, right?

10/27/2015 05:09:23 PM Report Abuse
stephiesmith92 wrote:

Thanks for sharing this. Our water pump's efficiency has been declining, so we've been looking into doing it ourselves to try to save some money. I've been intimidated to try it since I don't have much experience, but this is a great step by step approach. I'll show this to my husband when I get home.

6/5/2015 11:49:31 AM Report Abuse
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