How to Diagnose Water Tank Problems
How a Bad Water Tank Causes Loss of Water Pressure or No Water

  • WATER TANK DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR - CONTENTS: How to diagnose problems with the water pressure tank or water storage tank. How does the water tank affect building water pressure & how does the water tank affect building water quantity? How does the water tank affect well pump life & how to decide if water pressure tank replacement is necessary & Typical cost of various well, pump, and water tank repairs.How a Bad Water Pressure Tank Can Cause Water Pressure Loss or Complete Water Supply Loss. Shaking the Water Pressure Tank to Diagnose its Condition
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about troubleshooting well water storage tanks or water pressure tanks.

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Water pressure tank or water storage tank troubleshooting guide:

This article describes how and why to diagnose problems right at the water tank in order to help distinguish among intermittent water pressure loss, total water pressure loss, and poor water pressure or flow in a building.

The process of water tank troubleshooting starting with simple visual clues is explained.

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How do we diagnose poor water pressure or loss of water pressure in a building, and what are the common causes and repairs for this problem?

Leaky steel water tank means air and water loss and water pump cycling problem (C) Daniel FriedmanEasy Steps to Troubleshoot Water Pressure & Water Pressure Tank Problems for Homes on a Private Well

This article explains how a bad Water Pressure Tank\s Can Cause Loss of building Water Pressure or No Water at All.

[Click to enlarge any image]

The process of diagnosis and the costs of the repair are explained.

Consumer advice on saving money on well repair costs includes a review of the parts and labor costs of a typical well pump and pressure tank replacement case.




How a Bad Water Pressure Tank Can Cause Water Pressure Loss or Complete Water Supply Loss

If the building water supply stops and takes minutes to hours to recover, you may have problem with the well flow rate. But the problem of lost water supply and pressure could be more mechanical: a bad well pump.

Water pressure tank, submersible pump (C) InspectApediaThe well pump, in turn, could have been damaged or hastened to the end of its life by a bad water pressure tank which has caused well pump short-cycling. Short cycling of the pump motor can burn up the pump relay control.

  1. Water tank short cycling: A bad or defective water pressure tank which has lost its air charge or which cannot keep its air charge will cause well pump short cycling - rapid turning on and off of the water pump. This frequent pump switching on and off is hard on the pump (damages the pump) and also on the pump switches and controls (switch contacts can become burned).

    Short cycling is especially risky with an older water pump, and might push it over the edge of failure. When the water pump fails the building will simply lose water pressure (and water supply) completely (unless it by luck the building is served by an artesian well).

    Our photo (above left) illustrates a conventional internal bladder water pressure tank. As no water pump is in view we infer that this system may support a well using a submersible well pump.

  2. Old water pumps may stop when hot: A water pump might be at end of its life and about to burn up but still work after a cool-down cycle.

    In other words when the pump has been working hard and the motor is hot the pump may stop running. Since the water pump may have been overheated due to short cycling, the actual root cause of its stopping may be the water tank (loss of air or a bad pump control) not the pump itself.

    After the pump has been off for a while it may magically start working again: some water pumps have an internal thermal overload switch that shuts them off combined with an automatic thermal switch reset.

    This is most likely to be found on water pumps that are inaccessible such as a submersible water pump. In this case water pressure and supply will stop completely but will return after the pump cools down. But this failure is likely to be recurrent.

  3. More on short cycling, water tank air, and how to fix the problem:: To review loss of air charge, water pump short cycling, water pump pressure control settings, and other water tank repairs be sure to

  4. Water tank air bladder problems such as a burst bladder or one which has become collapsed and stuck to itself can also cause water pump short cycling and the loss of water pressure or flow shown above. Less common in our experience but possible is water tank inlet clogging due to a high level of sediment in the water supply, leading to similar symptoms.

    More often water sediment clogs the sensor of a water pressure regulator or it may clog a water filter, both of which lead to reduced water pressure and ultimately complete loss of water supply.

  • See WATER PRESSURE TANK DIAGNOSIS to continue in diagnosis of apparent problems with water tanks.

  • Our complete list of causes of loss of water pressure is discussed and water problems are diagnosed in detail at WATER PRESSURE LOSS DIAGNOSIS & REPAIR where we review the all of the things that can cause loss of water pressure or loss of water entirely in a building.

Shaking the Water Pressure Tank to Diagnose its Condition

Testing a home water tank: Some plumbers or homeowners check to see if their water tank contains any water by simply "shaking" the water pressure tank. Be careful: moving an empty water tank around can cause plumbing leaks or even a burst pipe. There may be a trick to this but shaking the water pressure tank alone is not going to reliably diagnoses a ruptured bladder in a captive air water tank). Shaking the tank can tell you that the water tank is empty but not why the water tank is empty.

Why is there no water in the tank?: The water tank could be empty simply because you ran all of its water out into the home and the water pump never came on to replenish the water supply. The possible causes of an empty water tank and no water in the home include causes we list in detail just below:

What are the Causes of Low or Poor Water Pressure or Loss of Water Pressure in a Building?

  • Loss of electrical power (pump does not run) to the pump or pump control - nothing is running the water pump. Is power turned on? Is there power at the pump control and is there power to the pump?

Photograph of a water pump pressure control switch

Bad water pressure control switch (pump does not run, pump does not respond to changes in water pressure, pump won't shut off) a failing pressure control switch on the water pump - perhaps the switch is not turning on the pump.

This can be checked by manually closing the pump relay - DON'T TRY THIS YOURSELF - SHOCK HAZARD - unless you are qualified and trained. Pressure Control Switch problems are discussed further

Also be sure to
review WELL PUMP PRESSURE CONTROL ADJUSTMENT for instructions on how to adjust the water pump pressure control switch. Our photo shows a new switch we installed on a one line jet pump in 2005.

Photograph of a water pressure regulator on municipal water supply

Bad water pressure regulator: (poor municipal water pressure) if the building is connected to a municipal water supply there may be a water pressure regulator installed, usually close to the water meter or where the water supply pipe enters the building.

A detailed guide to water pressure regulators and diagnosis and adjustment advice for these devices are

  • Clogged water filter (pump cycles on and off very rapidly, reduced water pressure in the building) a clogged water filter can cause rapid pump cycling on and off - discussed further
  • Clogged water supply piping (reduced water flow) can cause poor water flow in a building. This can occur suddenly from debris clogging a delivery pipe, often at a turn or "elbow" in the piping, but that's not common. If the building water supply piping is blocked usually this is a long-standing problem. We discuss how to diagnose clogged water supply piping or blocked pipes as a cause of reduced or poor water pressure in our article

Photograph of the prime opening on a jet pump Bad water tank: (pump cycling on and off or "short cycling water pump") where buildings use a private pump and well and on some buildings with poor municipal water supply quantity or pressure, a water pressure tank is installed.

  • Gently moving or "shaking" the water tank can tell you if the tank contains any water at all. The water tank could be empty simply because the well ran out of water (water was pulled out of the well faster than it could recover), or perhaps because the water pump never came on to replenish the water supply.
  • Some of the possible causes of an empty water tank and no water in the home include other symptoms discussed in this list of loss of water pressure. Water tanks that use an internal bladder can have a ruptured bladder.
  • Steel water tanks may not be as badly rusted as the rusty water tank in this photo, but they may have pinhole leaks that result in lost air charge in the water tank.
    See WHAT IS SHORT CYCLING or a bladder that's stuck to itself (pump always comes on immediately).
  • Well water supply pipe failure (pump runs, reduced or no water flow into the building) A well water supply pipe failure in the well or between the well and the building, so water is not being delivered to the home. (Or in cold climates, the line may have frozen)

    Examples of this problem include frozen pipes, pipe leaks causing loss of water (inside the well or underground between well and building), or air leaks into the well piping, causing loss of prime (with jet pump systems). Even when a submersible pump is located in the well (and there is no loss of prime problem), if the water piping is leaking between the pump and the building water pressure may be reduced or lost.

Photograph of the prime opening on a jet pump Loss of water pump or well pump prime (pump runs but no water is delivered) in an in-building pump, or an internal pump failure such as broken vanes - the pump motor runs but no water is delivered. An in-building pump could also run and no water be delivered if the well has run dry.

  • A shallow well jet pump well line could have a bad foot valve (in the well) and so be losing prime. A leak in the well line can also lead to loss of prime as it lets water out or air into the well piping.

    Some water pumps, particularly jet pumps, include a removable plug atop the pump assembly, giving access to the water pumping chamber in order to add water to "prime the pump" in the event that the water pump has become air bound. This photograph shows such a plug on top of our one line jet pump.
  • Water Pump Internal Parts Failure: (pump runs but no water is delivered) a pump failure such as broken vanes in the pump assembly, worn out and leaky internal pump bearings or parts, or clogging with sediment or minerals can result in a pump whose motor runs but whose water output is reduced.
  • Water Pump Motor Failure: (pump motor stops or does not start at all): A failed or failing in-well submersible water pump stops delivering water at all, or periodically overheats and temporarily stops working. Such a pump is probably at end of life, unless the problem is traced to a voltage, switch, or wiring problem.
  • Water Table Level Fluctuations: (seasonal reduction in water flow or water quantity): in some areas, fluctuations in the level of ground water such as a drop in the level of groundwater during the dry season or during droughts, can result in a reduced well recovery rate or complete loss of well water.
  • Water Pressure Intermittent Bad or Lost: When you lose water pressure or lose all water supply for some time period but later it returns, check the possible explanations outlined
    at How to Diagnose Loss of Water Pressure which later Returns or Recovers "on its own".
  • Water Pressure Totally Lost: If you lose and do not recover water pressure in the building
    see Diagnosis of Loss of Water Pressure which Does Not Recover on its Own.
  • Well is Failing: (reduced or no water flow, increasingly slow well recovery rate) the well itself may be deteriorating, with less water flowing into the well or water flowing into the more slowly than in the past.

    Reductions in well flow rate occur over time when minerals clog the rock fissures that lead water into the well, or sudden reductions in well flow rate (and total water quantity) can occur if the well casing is cracked (perhaps by nearby blasting or equipment movement) or if someone drills another well nearby and happens to tap into the same water aquifer.

Here are The Key Water Tank Diagnostic Articles

If you have no water pressure at all, see NO WATER PRESSURE

If your water pressure is intermittent, starts and stops, or varies in pressure, see WATER PRESSURE INTERMITTENT LOSS

Is there some water pressure but the pressure and/or flow are poor?

  1. Water supply piping problem?
    See Bad water pressure Clogged Pipes

    The following articles pertain if you have a private well, pump, and tank system for your building
  2. Water Tank Problems?
  3. Water pump problems?
  4. Bad water pressure regulator?
    See WATER PRESSURE REDUCER / REGULATOR (not usually installed on private well and pump systems, often present on municipal water supply systems that use an in-building local water pump and pressure tank to boost pressure)


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