Aquatics Unlimited: Articles: Troubleshooting Hang-On Power Filters
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Troubleshooting Hang-On Power Filters

for the week of 7/23/98

Power FilterIf your hang-on power filter (such as the popular Penguintm, Whispertm, Aquamastertm, or Aquacleartm models) won't start, here's what to look for:

  1. Is it primed? Most modern filters will not start drawing water unless the impeller is completely covered with water.
  2. Is there carbon or gravel in the impeller chamber? Even tiny bits of grit can prevent the impeller from spinning or will cause it to make a grinding noise.
  3. Is the impeller clean? Sometimes the normal slimy gunk that forms on the impeller and chamber congeals and prevent it from turning. This is especially common after the filter has been unplugged or without power for a time.
  4. Is the impeller damaged? Hold the magnet part of the impeller and turn the blades. They should rotate about 359 degrees, but no further. If the blades keep rotating, the impeller is broken; you can attempt to glue it with epoxy, or replace it. Obviously, if blades are broken or missing, you need a new impeller also.
  5. Is the intake tube adjusted properly? Some models have adjustment knobs on the intake; these should be fully open at startup and can be adjusted to a slower flow immediately after.
  6. Is the intake tube leaking? Even a pinhole leak or a loose o-ring will allow enough air in the intake tube to prevent priming.
  7. Is it plugged in? I know, I know; just humor me and check it.
  8. Is the intake strainer plugged? Power filters need as little obstruction as possible when starting up. Check for leaves or other debris restricting the intake.
  9. Is the filter cartridge plugged? Try removing it; if the filter starts up and flows readily, replace the cartridge.
  10. Is the tank's water level high enough? It's harder to start a filter that has to lift water 6" instead of 2". Worse yet, if a connection on the intake tube is above the water level, the filter may suck air and refuse to prime.
  11. Is the "motor" dead? It's not really a complete motor, just an electromagnetic coil. If the impeller is in place, but the unit doesn't vibrate or hum at all, the coil or the power cord may be damaged.

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