How to Tell If Your Pressure Tank Is Bad

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A water-well pressure tank is a simple but vital component of your water-well system. When properly functioning, it helps to maintain a constant flow of water to your taps and appliances. More importantly, it extends the life of your pump by reducing the need for your pump to cycle on and off while maintaining pressure. In most situations, only three things can go wrong with a tank. Diagnosis of these problems is simple and will take less than an hour.

Things You'll Need

  • Dry towel
  • Clean bucket or can
  • Tire-pressure gauge
  • Bicycle pump or air compressor

Visually inspect the tank for leaks. Wipe off the outside of the tank with a dry towel. During periods of high humidity, condensation may form on the outside of the tank making it difficult to spot a leak. Look for rust spots and signs of corrosion along the tank seams. Inspect the floor around the base of the tank. Pools of water or rust stains can indicate small leaks in the tank.

Open the drain valve located near the bottom of the pressure tank, and allow the water to run for a few minutes. Listen for the sound of the pump cycling on and off. Rapid cycling, only a few seconds between on and off cycles, indicates a waterlogged tank.

Catch at least one gallon of water from the tank’s drain valve in a clean bucket or can. Allow the water to sit for a few minutes. Inspect the bottom of the bucket for sand or rust. A layer of sand indicates the presence of sand in the pressure tank. A buildup of sand will reduce the water reserve capacity in the tank. The presence of a significant amount of rust indicates corrosion in the tank or the tank’s plumbing.

Turn off the power to the well pump. Open the drain valve and allow the pressure tank to drain completely. Remove the cover from the pressure valve located on top of the tank and check the tank’s bladder pressure with a tire pressure gauge. The air pressure on an empty tank should be 2 psi below the pump’s cut-in pressure. In most cases, this is 28 psi. The absence of air pressure indicates a ruptured or leaking bladder. When the pressure is less than nominal, use a bicycle pump or air compressor to inflate the bladder to the correct pressure for the pump setting.

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