Why Is Your Hot Tub Leaking?

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A hot tub provides year-round relaxation and health benefits, making it an ideal amenity for any patio. However, it isn’t so relaxing when you notice a gradual or sudden loss of water. Certified Leak Detection offers this guide to locating and repairing hot tub leaks. Depending upon your DIY skills, you may be able to perform the repairs yourself. If you have any doubt, call a pro. While we usually save this part for last, call us if the source of your hot tub leak remains elusive! You’ll prevent further damage and save money in the long run.

How to tell if your hot tub is leaking

First things first in locating a leak. Follow these steps, provided by SFGATE:

  • Switch off the power and open the equipment compartment of the hot tub. Check the hot tub’s pump with a flashlight for dampness or wet spots.
  • Check the fittings and pipes leaving the pump. Also, check the heater. Leaks can occur even in a new hot tub because the fittings can loosen during shipment.
  • Check every pipe leading to the jet for leaks.
  • Place a drop of dark food coloring in the water in front of a jet. Water seeks the path of least resistance, so watch to see where the food coloring goes. If it flows out a jet, you may have found your leak. Look for the colored water to leak out on the outside of the hot tub’s shell. Repeat for all the remaining jets. You can let the water level drop without running the hot tub. The place where it stops to fall is the place your leak should be.
  • On the inside of the hot tub, mark the water level with a pencil. Switch on the hot tub and let it run for 24 hours. Switch off the hot tub and mark the new water level. Add enough water to fill up the tub to the original mark. Keep the hot tub off for the next 24 hours. See how much the water level falls during that time, and mark the level. If the water drops equally with the spa running and not, there is a crack in the hot tub’s shell. Rapid loss with the pump running indicates a leak after the water leaves the pump. More loss with the pump off indicates that the leak is in the water line before the pump.

Most common places for leaks

There are many places where a hot tub can leak. Here are the most common:

Pump –To check your pump, switch the power off and look for wet areas, especially below the pump. As the good people at Hot Springs Pools point out, there are three places in a pump that could cause it to leak – the shaft seal, union fittings, or the volute.

  • Seal shaft: If the shaft seal has failed, you can order a new seal without replacing the entire pump.
  • Union fitting: A union fitting is a three-part connector located at the entrance and exit. It could simply need to be tightened (don’t use a wrench to do this), the O-ring might need to be adjusted, or you may need a new one.
  • Volute: If the volute is your issue, where the impeller is housed, you most likely need to replace it.

With all that said, it’s also possible your pump may just need to be replaced.

Heater – If the pump shows no signs of leaks, check the heater. This part contains the heater itself, the pressure switch and other components – any of which could be the cause. It’s possible that only an individual component needs replacement, but more than likely you will need to replace the entire heater, or call a professional to repair it.

Valves – Your hot tub has multiple valve styles, each of which requires its own type of repair. In some spas, valves are on one side of the pump, so you don’t have to shut off or drain water when you repair the pump. Other valves have compartments bolted together with a gasket between the compartments. This can fail and cause a leak. Be sure to inspect all valves located on your hot tub and replace any as necessary.

Connections – From pipes to jets and every other connection, you need to check all the connections for a possible leak. You may have to tighten or seal the connections in some cases, while others might need replacement. If the gasket is the culprit, you will have to replace it. But make sure you order the right gasket. If the cause is a crack in a PVC pipe, a multi-plastic repair product can seal it.

Spa shell – If you think fiberglass shells can’t leak, think again. In many cases, it’s not the shell that causes problems, but a jet or other component attached to the shell. If the spa shell does have a leak, a multi-plastic repair product can be used to seal holes or cracks.

Fixing the hot tub leak

If you’re planning to take the DIY approach, The Spa Shoppe offers the following step-by-step process.

Union fittings and shutoff valves – If there is a leak in a union fitting or shutoff valve, you might have to replace the O-ring in the union. To confirm this, drain the hot tub first. After draining, unscrew the unions and check the O-ring. Replace if it’s cracked or split. If it isn’t cracked but you notice some black residue on your fingers, it has likely started breaking down. You can either replace it or add a silicone lubricant to it to slow the process and temporarily stop the leak.

If the O-ring looks fine, check the union and surrounding plumbing for small cracks. If you can’t find a crack, try flexing the plumbing slightly in different directions to make poorly visible cracks more obvious. Any cracked fittings or plumbing will need to be removed and replaced.

Note: Do not use Vaseline to lubricate rubber O-rings, as it will break them down faster.

Pumps – The location of the leak in the pump determines how you need to repair it. If the leak is from the unions, then replace the O-ring in the union.

However, if the leak is from the center, then you might have to replace the shaft seal. The shaft seal is in the shaft of the motor, which spins the impeller. It prevents the water from entering the motor. The shaft seal degrades over time, and the water that starts entering the motor causes it to rust and eventually seize up. If you notice a leak in the center of your pump, have it repaired as quickly as possible to prevent an even more expensive repair bill.

Replacing the shaft seal of a hot tub pump is a complex process that requires taking the wet end of the pump completely apart. We strongly recommend hiring a professional.

Waterfall valves – Repairing a leaky waterfall valve depends on whether water is getting into the cabinet of the hot tub. If the valve is visibly leaking under the handle but the foam insulation underneath is dry, the repair is very minor. Start by removing the handle and tightening the cap underneath.

If the cap is already tight, or if tightening it doesn’t solve the problem, you will need to replace the stem assembly of the waterfall. To do this, turn off the hot tub and unscrew the cap. Once this is done, pull out the stem of the waterfall valve and take it to your local hot tub retailer for replacement.

If water is getting into the cabinet from the waterfall valve, the issue is likely either that the gasket that seals the body of the valve to the shell of the hot tub has deteriorated, or that the body of the valve itself has cracked. Either way, you will need to drain the hot tub, cut out and remove all of the wet foam insulation, then replace the entire waterfall valve.

Jets – If water enters the hot tub cabinet from the back of a jet, you will need to replace the entire jet assembly.

The take-home message

We hope you find our troubleshooting and repair guide useful in keeping your hot tub in top condition. Our team of experts want you to get the most out of your slice of Florida paradise! Certified Leak Detection is experienced in leak detection and repair for fountains, swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs, as well as slabs and foundations. Serving areas throughout Central Florida – including Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs – we are ready to help. Contact us for quick, reliable service.

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