How to Prime A Pool Pump

By Shiloh McGinley

January 30, 2024

How to Prime a pool pump

How to prime the pool pump?

In any pool, the filtration system is vital. When the pool’s pump is running smoothing, the dirt and debris floating in your pool are filtered out effectively and the chemicals can do their job efficiently. If the filter breaks down then everything else follows soon after that. 

In fact, the pool’s pump is one of your first lines of defense. Without it, you’re highly likely to be left with a murky, green, bug-infested pool that no one wants to swim in. 

In this article, we’ll tackle what function the pool pump serves and how to prime it properly to keep your pool clean and crystal clear for years to come.

The Function of your Pool Pump?

Pool Pump Breaker

In the simplest of terms, the pool pump is a motor that circulates the water of your pool. When the pool is circulating, the water moves the dirt and debris it collects through the filter basket or cartridge where they’re trapped and removed from the main pool.

It also ensures your water is not stagnant. Stagnant water is a breeding ground for germs and microbes, making the pool unsafe for swimming. 

So, in effect, the pool pump is what makes sure the filtration system is working and the chemicals in your pool are doing their job properly. Without it, your pool is a hot, dirty mess that no one should go near.

What does it mean to prime your pool pump?

Whenever the pump is not in use, such as when you go away from a long trip or would like to conserve energy, there’s a possibility that pockets of air might get into the pumps. This can cause a lot of technical difficulties and possibly damage the surrounding features of the pump, essentially harming a very expensive piece of equipment.

Before operating the pump, you need to get all the air pockets out and ensure the entire thing is filled with water. Ensuring the pump is filled with water helps it run at 100% capacity. This process is called priming the pump.

What happens when you run a dry pump?

Running a dry pump means using a pump with a lot of air pockets in it. This is dangerous for several reasons.

When your pump is running dry, it tends to create a lot of friction. This friction will generate hits that will begin to melt the sealant within the pump, damaging its structural integrity.

If you let the pump run this way for long enough, the heat could melt the PVC piping as well as the other pieces of plumbing connected to it. Over time, your entire filtration system will break down and hundreds of dollars worth of equipment will be rendered useless.

By priming your pump, that is making sure there are no air pockets and the whole thing is filled with water, you minimize the likelihood of heat being generated. The machine runs smoothly and you get your money’s worth.

How to prime the pool pump?

Now that we know why your pool pump is important and how it would break down without proper priming, let’s talk about how exactly you can prime your pump before use. 

1. Make sure the pump is off.

Of course, your pump is going to be off before you start priming it. Although this might be intuitive, it is always important to double check especially when you’re dealing with water and electricity. 

Make sure that your pump is off before priming to be extra safe. The power button must be on the off position and the entire unit should be disconnected from the power source. Once you have this step done, you can then proceed to recirculate the water. 

2. Recirculate the water.

Now that you have made sure that everything is safe for you to begin working, you now need to get water to fill up that pump. You can do this by switching to the multiport valve. There should be a sign on it that says recirculate the water. This means the water will bypass the filters and flow directly into the pump and out again.

This function allows you to ensure that there is, indeed, water in the pump. It is also a good idea to remove any plugs on the skimmers you might have connected. This will allow as much of the water passway as open and clear as possible.

3. Relieve air pressure.

With the water flowing freely into the pump, you now want to remove as many of the air bubbles as possible. You can do this by releasing the air pressure valve that should be located on the top of the filter. 

The air should escape freely, ensuring the pump is filled as much as possible with water and only water. After that, you’ll need to check for any dirt and debris trapped in the basket.

4. Clean the basket.

Pool Pump Lid

Sometimes, air bubbles form because they are brought in by the dirt and debris that get trapped in the pump. Removing those elements can ensure the pump is running smoothly with known obstacles.

Open the lid and take out the pump basket. With a hose or some cleaning products, wash it down and remove any debris that might be lodged in it. This is also a great opportunity to check for any damages or wear and tear. 

Inspect the parts like the O-rings and replace them if needed. It is much easier and cheaper to replace the cheap individual parts of the system rather than replacing the pump as a whole. Doing this will help you ensure you have a system that’s running as smoothly as possible.

When you’re done, put the pump basket back in its place.

5. Fill the pump basket with water.

Once you return the pump basket, take a water hose and fill it up to the brim with water. You want to make sure it is filled to capacity with water without any large pockets of air. Remember, air pockets are the enemy of pool pumps and can lead to serious damage over time. 

Once the basket is filled with water, cover it with the lid and ensure a nice, tight seal.

6. Check the water circulation. Ensure everything is working properly.

Primed Pool Pump

Now, ensure the air release valve is open and turn the pump on. Watch the system closely for the next 30 seconds. What you want to see is a continuous flow of water for at least a minute. If you see that the water is not flowing smoothly, turn the pump off and repeat the steps.

Recheck all the hardware for any wear and tear and ensure the unit is filled with as much water as possible. Also, make sure that you prefill the pump housing with as much water as possible to create a nice suction. 

You can also add water to the skimmers. It might be that the pump is not running smoothly because there are air pockets in the skimmers too. Take your hose and add water here too to ensure water is filling all directions of the pump system. 

If after several tries the water is not running smoothly, it is highly likely that there is a leak. Inspect the unit thoroughly for cracks or holes. If you find any, it might be prudent to just get a new pump together. 

If you’re entirely unsure about what you’re doing, then it might also be necessary that you call in a professional. A person whose job it is to make pools work is often a smart and safe way to ensure your pool pump is primed properly. It can also help you avoid causing damage mindlessly to a very expensive unit.

7. Close the air pressure release valve. 

If you see that the pump is working fine, close the air release valve tightly. It is also possible that the only reason you’re priming your pool pump is that you’ve been away for some time. In this case, you should let the pool’s pump run and test the water’s chemistry with a pool testing kit. 

See if the chemicals like pH, alkalinity, and chlorine are at optimal levels. If they are not, then make the necessary adjustments. Also, skim the surface of the pool of any debris and vacuum thoroughly

When all this is done, then your pool should be good to go for some splashing fun!


Even though there are a lot of steps involved, priming your pool pump should not be a difficult thing to do. Once you have done it multiple times, you can do it without even looking at the steps. A properly primed pool helps you ensure that the pool’s filtration system is running as effectively as possible. It also allows you to get the most out of the money you spent on the system.

If you do these steps correctly, you’ll have a nice clean pool with a pump that you can use for many years to come.

Video Walkthrough

If you're still stuck or confused, check out this helpful video walkthrough!

The steps are similar but different from mine, but as you know there's more than one way to skin a cat! 😹

Shiloh McGinley

About the author

Shiloh McGinley has been in and around swimming pools her whole life. She's seen a lot of products come and go, and she wants to share with you the best products that really work!

Shiloh is passionate about helping people stay safe in the water, and she loves educating others on how to choose the right pool products.

When she's not working, Shiloh enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and swimming - of course!

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