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Pool School Repair Archive

Pop-Up Cleaner Leak Repair

pool pop-up carousel repairThere are two final contestants in the pop-up floor cleaner system dance, Pool Valet and CareTaker. As much as they try to present their model as the more desirable, when the daily grind sets in, they're pretty much the same. The real sexy of pop-up pool cleaners is that they're eager to leap into action whenever the pool pump snaps on. The despair is that most of the PVC piping is installed beneath the pool shell and, in time, will break.

When a leak occurs in the pop-up cleaner line it's a real attention- getter. Because it's a pressure return line, you'll lose 1" to 4" of pool water an hour. If you're a leak repair person, this is the time to talk price.

A pop-up system is divided into 4 to 8 separate zones or 'legs'. It's an easy leak to isolate. With the pump 'off', put a little dye by each floor fitting. You'll quickly find two or three floor fittings that noticeably pull dye.

You have three options to fix this leak;

  • Find the break under the pool and go through the pool floor to repair it.
  • Eliminate the pop-up system entirely and replace it with a traditional wall mounted return line.
  • Stabilize the remaining good legs of the system and simply eliminate the broken zone.

Pool carousel RepairAll three repairs are discussed on the Pool School PRO CD but the most economical procedure is 'C '; eliminate the broken zone and reboot the rest of the system.

Follow the pool through an entire pop-up cycle and it's a simple matter to map out the zones. Note the heads that become active together. When your leaking zone becomes active, these are the heads you must seal off.

Pull the cap from the pop-up carousel and lift the gear plate. The center pipe delivers water from the pump. All surrounding legs go out to various zones, each activating from 2 to 4 cleaner pop-up heads.

Feed a hose into each zone pipe. When the leaking zone reacts, you've found the leg to eliminate. In this instance, the broken leg is at the 9 o'clock position.

The idea is to seal off the pipe under all the pop-up heads in a bad zone. The heads will appear normal to a casual observer, they just won't pop-up.

Most heads require a proprietary tool or a little creativity for removal. If you drain the pool, you can use concrete or tile grout to plug these legs; foam and duct seal will work underwater. Reset the heads before the sealer sets and the repair will be invisible.

pool cleaner repairBut if you simply cap the bad leg at the carousel end, you'll 'dead-head' the pump; water will be have no where to go and unhealthy pressure will build in the system.

You solve this problem by plumbing this line into any one of the other legs.

(above) A wire saw makes cutting a single pipe in a bundle easy. In a pinch, you can also use mason's string.

A plumbing inspector might object to the use of a DVW plumbing ' T ' but this part of the return line is open to the pool and can't develop more than about 5 lbs pressure.

Reset the gear plate, secure the carousel cover, cap the abandoned leg and you're done.

As to price? If you're a homeowner and did the repair yourself, you just saved about $650. And if you're a contractor and it took you more than a day, you'll get it right the next time.

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