Hot Tub Troubleshooting: 6 Common Problems And Fixes



We all expect expensive things like hot tubs to run problem-free.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the reality for almost all mechanical devices, and a hot tub isn’t any different.

In this article, we’ll talk about the main issues to look for when hot tub troubleshooting, how to fix them yourself, and when to consider hiring a professional.

DIY vs Hiring A Pro

When issues do arise with the tub (and they will), the question of going DIY vs. hiring a pro boils down to how comfortable you feel doing the work and how much extra time you have on your hands.

The mixture of water and electricity is enough to scare most people off, and rightly so. But with the right knowledge and a DIY attitude, you can probably fix most hot tub problems yourself. 

However, these issues aren’t worth risking your life over. If you have any apprehension working around water and electricity, hire a professional. It may cost more, but your body will thank you.

Of course, if you’re on a busy schedule, paying someone with specialized knowledge will get the problem fixed and off your plate so you can concentrate on more important things in your life.

How To Troubleshoot A Hot Tub (6 Problems)

The range of hot tub issues is varied. Let’s discuss the most common ones you may encounter.

If The Jets Aren’t Working Properly

The best part of a hot tub are the jets, so having them working is imperative.

If little to nothing is coming out of the jets, you might have a clog somewhere in the filtration system that needs removing. Clogs can start at the drain or skimmer, and can also occur at the filter, pump, or even the jets themselves.

It could also be a filter that needs cleaning or replacing. Debris can get stuck in it and slow the water flow, and if the filter is torn or broken, the debris will enter the filtration system and block up the pipes and equipment.

Another reason could be a build up of residue such as calcium, which leaves deposits throughout the spa plumbing and impedes water flow. This can be fixed using a calcium remover product to flush out the lines, but maintaining the correct calcium levels is a good preventative measure.

If the jets aren’t working immediately after you’ve filled up the tub with water, you likely have an air lock issue. The water reverse-enters the system through the jets, sometimes forcing air through the lines with it, ultimately creating a blockage.

Relieving pressure at the pump is one way to fix this, as is incrementally switching the jet speeds from low to high, slowly pushing the air out of the lines. Air lock can be prevented by placing your hose in the skimmer when filling up.

If The Water Doesn’t Heat Up

Hot tub water that doesn’t heat up points to a problem with low water flow or circulation, the heating element, or the tub’s controller.

When the tub’s flow rate is low, it doesn’t circulate water fast enough and the heater automatically shuts off as a safety precaution. A lack of circulation could be the result of a dirty filter, a low level of water in the tub, or air lock in the lines.

If it’s a problem with the heating element, a technician will have to inspect it to determine if the heater can be salvaged. If not, you’ll have to purchase a new one.

If the hot tub’s control panel, it could be faulty and no longer triggers the heater to turn on. The control panel may even display an error code to tell you what is happening, which can be very helpful in diagnosing issue.

Unfortunately, the controller is one of the more expensive replacements if you do need a new one for your spa, but that’s just part of the annual running costs of owning a hot tub.

If The Water Is Cloudy Or Dirty

Cloudy or dirty water means you’re not properly cleaning the tub and balancing the water chemistry, or there’s an issue with your filter.

Most tub owners clean their tub a minimum of once per week. If the tub is seeing heavy use or an increase in the number of bathers, more frequent testing will be required.

This is because hot tubs are easily polluted by bathers, where things like body oil, skin cells, hair, and personal care products on your body can all upset the water chemistry, so the proper amount of sanitizer needs to be present at all times.

If you’re staying on top of the water and the tub still looks like a biohazard, you should check your filter. (The cartridge filter is easily accessible as it’s kept in the tub’s skimmer.)

While it does an effective job removing the pollutants that chlorine or bromine kill off, it requires cleaning on a regular basis. If not kept clean, these pollutants will add up quickly and render it less effective as time goes on.

Aim to hose down the filter every 2 to 3 weeks, and do a deep soak of the cartridge every 3 months, or when you do your 90 day hot tub water swap. Cartridge filters should give you anywhere from 12 to 24 months of life before needing replacement if taken care of.

If The Pump Makes A Loud Noise

A noisy pump is a bad sign, and likely means that something is either clogged in the pump’s impeller, or there’s an air lock issue in the lines.

You’ll need to cut power to the spa before you inspect the pump.

If the impeller is clogged with debris, pebbles, or residue, remove it as best you can and see if that fixes the issue. In some cases, the impeller could be too far damaged and a replacement pump will be needed.

If the issue is air lock, the pump is making noise because it’s trying to move water but can’t. With air lock situations, running your pump too long can damage it, so be careful when trying to move water out of the lines by slowly ramping up the jets (as mentioned above).

If The Breaker Keeps Tripping

The majority of hot tubs are run on a dedicated GFCI breaker to deal with the large amounts of electricity needed to run them. 

If the breaker is repeatedly tripping (meaning it sporadically shuts off on its own), it’s a sign there is a fault in the circuit’s electrical flow. It turns off automatically as a precaution, potentially saving you from electrocution.

A tripping breaker can be caused by poor wiring, problems with the heater, moisture in the control box, flooding of the spa’s equipment, or simply a faulty breaker. 

These can all be fixed, but if you’re not skilled in electrical troubleshooting, or you don’t feel comfortable working with electricity and water, we’d highly recommend hiring a professional to fix the issue.

How To Maintain Your Hot Tub

Keeping your tub clean isn’t difficult, and by regularly maintaining it you can keep most of these issues from becoming a reality. Here are a few tips you should follow for a clean tub.

  1. Test and balance your water at least once a week, and even more frequently if the tub sees heavy use. pH should be between 7.4 and 7.6, total alkalinity between 80 and 120 ppm, calcium hardness between 175 and 250 ppm, and chlorine between 1 and 3 ppm (or bromine between 3 and 5 ppm). 
  2. Clean out your cartridge filter every 2 to 3 weeks by hosing it down to remove any debris that may have built up between its pleats. Every 3 months, soak it in a deep cleaning solution for 24 hours to remove any built up residue. Replace the filter if it’s damaged or has become less efficient.
  3. Every 90 days you should drain your tub and start from scratch. Refill it with water using a garden hose and a pre filter attachment, so you’re starting out with the cleanest possible water.
  4. In between draining and refilling, wash down the hot tub shell with a spa cleaning product and a non-abrasive sponge. Rinse the tub thoroughly so no left over soap contaminates the water.
  5. Keep your hot tub covered when not using it. This will help to keep heat locked into the water and lessen evaporation, saving you money on your heating and water bills.

99 Problems And A Tub Ain’t One

At some point, you’re going to have some kind of issue with your hot tub that will need fixing.

Using this article you can refer to it for all your hot tub troubleshooting needs, quickly fixing the problem so you can get back to enjoying your tub.

Categories: Hot Tub Care, Hot Tub Problems