There’s nothing like a warm, relaxing whirlpool or spa bath at the end of a difficult day. This Fix-It Guide on whirlpool bath repair tells how a whirlpool bath or spa works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a whirlpool bath problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to clear a blocked whirlpool bath water intake, how to replace a jet, how to test and replace a spa or hot tub heating element, and how to replace a pump union gasket. This guide also refers to swimming pool repair, and heating element repair for specific problems. A whirlpool bath is also called a Jacuzzi®.
How Does a Whirlpool Bath Work?
What’s the difference between a whirlpool, a spa, and a hot tub? A whirlpool is a therapeutic bath tub, drained after every use, that uses water jets to soothe the body. A spa is a large soaking tub with water jets and a built-in heater; water stays in the tub between uses. A hot tub is like a spa except that it typically doesn’t have water jets. Other than that, whirlpools are usually installed in an indoor bathroom while spas and hot tubs are either outside or in a special room because they are too large for most bathrooms.
Whirlpools and spas have adjustable water jets that massage the bather with streams of aerated water. A pump and a motor force water through the jet openings.
Because spas and hot tubs retain water between uses, the water is treated with chemicals to sanitize the water and maintain a comfortable pH level. Water treatment can be manual or automatic.
Don’t forget to clean and periodically replace a spa’s inline filter. Check the owner’s manual and/or your local spa shop for recommendations and replacement filters.
What Can Go Wrong with a Whirlpool Bath?
Whirlpools and spas may not start, jets may not work properly, and water may drain slowly. Spas and hot tubs may have faulty water chemistry. Any unit may leak.
How Can I Identify a Whirlpool Bath Problem?
- If the unit won’t start, make sure power is on at the electrical receptacle or the electrical service panel. Then test the pump (see the Swimming Pool Fix-It Guide) and the motor. Check for and repair broken wires or loose or corroded terminals. If necessary, have the pump switch control tested and serviced professionally.
- If the jets do not work, clear a blocked water intake of hair and other particles (see below) or replace a broken jet (see below).
- If the water in your spa or hot tub is too hot or too cold, check to see if the high-limit reset switch has been tripped and, if needed, reset it. Adjust the thermostat setting and have the thermostat serviced if the problem persists. If necessary, test and replace a faulty heating element(see below).
- If the water level drops quickly or leakage appears under the unit, examine the pump and replace a leaking union gasket (see below) or seal (see the Swimming Pool Fix-It Guide).
- If the jets surge or emit water unevenly, check and replace a leaking pump union gasket.
- If water drains slowly from the unit, check the drain for clogs and remove as needed.
- If the water is cloudy or smells bad, or if there is green coloration on the spa, test and adjust the water chemistry (see the Swimming Pool Fix-It Guide).
- If a wooden hot tub leaks between the staves, tighten the bands around the tub. If the tub still leaks, plug the leak with silicone caulk.
What Do I Need for Whirlpool Bath Repair?
Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers. Also check with local pool, spa, and tub suppliers. The tools you will need to fix a whirlpool, spa, or hot tub include these:
- Garden hose
- Laundry detergent
What Are the Steps to Whirlpool Bath Repair?
Clear a blocked whirlpool bath water intake:
- Twist-off or unscrew the intake cover.
- Clean the intake cover with an old toothbrush and powdered laundry detergent. Rinse any soap residue from the cover before reinstalling.
- Replace the cover.
Replace a whirlpool bath jet:
- Identify the damaged or inoperative jet and make sure it requires replacement.
- Follow the owner’s manual instructions for removing the old jet. Some twist out by hand while others require a special wrench.
- Find an exact replacement jet (through a pool or spa supplier) and install the new jet.
Test and replace a spa or hot tub heating element:
- Unplug from the unit from the electrical receptacle or shut it off at the electrical service panel.
- Remove the screws holding the heater housing cover in place.
- Mark and disconnect the element leads.
- Set a multimeter to RX1 (resistance times 1) and clip the probes to the terminals. If the meter doesn’t read low ohms (low, not infinite resistance), replace the element using the following instructions.
- Drain all water from the unit and dry it out as well as possible. You may need a garden hose to drain water to the home’s exterior.
- Disconnect wires to the heating element and related sensors and switches as needed to remove the element.
- Pull out the old element, the mounting plate, and mounting gaskets.
- Attach the replacement element to the mounting plate.
- Install the new element and remount all other parts.
Replace a whirlpool bath pump union gasket:
- Refer to the owner’s manual for the location, size, and replacement part number for the pump union gasket. (Some units require that all water first be drained.)
- Unscrew the fitting and remove the gasket.
- Purchase and install the union gasket following the manufacturer’s instructions.
It’s relatively easy to sanitize a whirlpool, a job that should be done monthly. Fill the unit and add a solution of 1 cup of bleach and 1/8 cup of liquid dishwashing soap to the water. Let the jets run for 5 to 10 minutes to circulate the solution and clean the jets and tub surface. Drain and rinse.