How to Troubleshoot a Septic System Pump

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A slowly draining sink can be the first sign of a failing septic pump.

It all rolls downhill--that is, until the septic pump stops working. Then, it can start to overflow and even back up into your house. A pump is a key component of almost every modern septic system, and a failed pump can cost you thousands of dollars in damages that frequently aren't even be covered by a standard homeowner's insurance policy. Regular maintenance and swift troubleshooting of a failing septic system can prevent a bad situation from becoming much worse.


Step 1

Inspect your circuit breaker to see if it's been tripped. If it's been tripped, flip the breaker to its "On" position. Remove the lid from your septic tank to see whether the level begins to subside.

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Step 2

Check to see whether you have a septic alarm. Many modern septic systems include alarms that flash or beep if the contents of your septic tank rise above a certain level. If your alarm isn't going off, you may have an electrical problem between the tank and your circuit breaker.

Step 3

Ask someone to drain your septic tank for you. When the tank is drained, turn the breaker on and listen for a humming pump motor. If you can't hear anything, have someone visually inspect the pump. The pump may have frayed or broken wiring. It may also be burned out. A qualified septic maintenance expert can tell you if it needs replacing.


Step 4

Make sure the floats in the septic tank are in proper positions. Most septic tanks are designed with a series of floats that will turn the motor on and off as needed to pump sewage and fluids to a septic mound. If the connections between the floats are broken, the pump either won't turn on or will operate until it's burned out.


Never try to get into a septic tank without someone to watch you. Septic tanks can contain dangerous levels of methane and other toxic gases. Turn the septic system breaker off before attempting to check for loose wiring or other electrical problems.

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