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Hot Tub Troubleshooting Guide

May 25, 2024

Error codes may seem confusing, but they’re the hot tub’s method of communicating what’s wrong. Think of these codes as a conversation between you and your tub.

Some common ones include:

  • OH: Hot tub overheats
  • FL/FLO: flow problems
  • SN: sensor malfunctions
  • PNL: issues with electronic components
  • SNA: issues with electronic components
  • SNB: issues with electronic components

These codes indicate specific issues that you can troubleshoot or seek professional help for.

So, how can you decode these ‘hot tub’ messages? The key lies in your hot tub manual.

The manual contains a comprehensive list of error codes, offering a crucial reference for proper diagnosis and resolution of issues.

For certain specific issues or unfamiliar error codes, don’t hesitate to consult the manual or contact the manufacturer. And remember, when things get too complicated, professionals are always there to help.

Maintaining Optimal Water Chemistry

maintaining optimal water chemistryYou might be wondering, what’s chemistry got to do with my hot tub?

Well, maintaining balanced pH and alkalinity levels in your hot tub water is essential for preventing issues like corrosion, skin irritation, and ineffective sanitation. Keeping the pH level between 7.2 and 7.8, and total alkalinity between 80-120 ppm, is key to ensuring a healthy water chemistry in your hot tub.

However, there’s more. Maintaining appropriate sanitizer levels is also key to a clean and safe hot tub experience.

Chlorine levels between 3-5 ppm, bromine levels between 4-6 ppm for granules or 1-2 ppm for dual-cartridge systems, and SmartChlor® levels between 0.5 to 1 ppm are the recommended ranges.

If your sanitizer levels are off the charts, don’t worry — excessive levels can be lowered by removing the spa cover and running the jets or diluting with fresh water.

In case of under-sanitization, you can fix the issue by occasionally adding non-chlorine shock oxidizers, which won’t affect the overall sanitizer levels.

Dealing with Clogged Filters

Clogged filters are another common issue.

Ever noticed your jets pulsating or pausing? Or perhaps you’ve come across flow error codes such as FLO, FL1, or LF?

These could be signs that there is a lack of water flow through the heater element, often due to a clogged filter.

If you find that your filter clogs up again shortly after cleaning, it could be a sign of a coating issue, often caused by mineral scale or oily films. If not addressed, it can eventually lead to overheating.

Cleaning your hot tub filters isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Here are the steps to follow for a hot tub clean:

  1. Start by hosing them down and avoid using dishwashers or pressure washers, which can damage the filter’s pleats
  2. Then, soak the filters in ACTIVE Hot Tub & Spa Filter Cleaner before rinsing them again
  3. A weekly rinse with cool running water and gentle separation of pleats can help remove minor debris and check for damage

Troubleshooting Heater Issues

troubleshooting heater issuesIf your cold water is colder than the set temperature, codes such as COL, COOL, and LO could indicate a heater issue.

To verify heater function, check for voltage at the heater terminals, confirm water flow through the heater, and ensure sensors are not flagging over-temperature conditions.

Sometimes, the heating element itself could be the issue. Signs of damage or a lifespan of around 5 years could indicate that a replacement is in order. Other times, the issue could lie with the thermostat.

If your GFCI has tripped and stopped the heater, resetting it may restore the heater’s function. But remember, persistent tripping could indicate a heating element or electrical problem that needs further attention.

Addressing Jet Problems

Picture this: after a long day, you sink into your hot tub, but the jets are barely working.

An airlock, or air getting trapped in the plumbing lines, can impede water flow and cause the jets to malfunction.

To resolve an airlock, fully open all the jets, let them run on high for short intervals, and release air through bleed screws or by loosening the outlet connector on the pump. As you do this, you might hear a hissing sound, indicating that the trapped air is being released.

Jet maintenance is another essential aspect that you don’t want to neglect.

Remove the jets, soak them in white vinegar overnight, use a small bristle brush to clean the jet body, rinse, and then reinstall. If jets are weak or not functioning, check for dirty filters, low water levels, and blockages. Using descaling products can help address scale buildup in jet nozzles.

Tackling Pump Noises and Malfunctions

Pump noises can transform a tranquil hot tub session into a tense experience. Here are some common pump noises and what they may indicate:

  • Growling or high-pitched squealing noises may indicate bad bearings or a struggle for water
  • A grinding sound typically represents failing pump bearings
  • A vibrating noise suggests a loose connection
  • A buzzing sound can be a symptom of a seized pump or one receiving improper voltage

Electrical problems such as a faulty capacitor could be at the root of a pump that hums but doesn’t start or a pump that momentarily runs and then stops.

Maintenance such as lubricating or replacing bearings is advised, along with voltage checks. However, persistent noise or malfunction issues may require the rebuilding or replacement of the hot tub pump.

Handling Leaks and Seal Issues

hot tub leaksFor hot tub owners, leaks and seal issues can be extremely troublesome. To identify a hot tub leak, power down the system and inspect for moisture in the equipment compartment and along the pump, pipes, fittings, and pressure switches.

You can also add dark food coloring to help locate leaks near jets by observing the path of the coloring.

Leaks can commonly originate from hot tub components like:

  • jets
  • heaters
  • pumps
  • PVC pipes
  • valves

Each component requires a specific approach for repair, such as removing and replacing o-rings or silicone seals at jets, updating union connection gaskets, and renewing pump seals as needed.

PVC pipe leaks, for instance, are remedied by cutting the defective section and replacing it with new flexible PVC tubing and connectors.

Preventing Line Leaks and Weak Jets

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is especially true when it comes to preventing line leaks and weak jets in your hot tub.

Here are some tips to help you prevent these issues:

  • Use stain and scale control products weekly, particularly in areas with hard water, to prevent scale buildup
  • Monitor and adjust the pH levels of your hot tub water to prevent algae formation, which can lead to weak jets and other issues
  • Ensure proper water sanitation to avoid blockages in the jets

By following these preventive measures, you can make hot tub care easy and keep your hot tubs in optimal condition, avoiding costly repairs and ensuring proper hot tub maintenance.

If algae persist despite proper pH levels, shocking the water with a sanitizer can effectively eliminate the issue.

Leak sealant products require several hours of continuous recirculation, typically between 4-6 hours per day, and may need to be stirred regularly to avoid settling.

After applying leak sealant, allow proper cure time, usually 24-48 hours, before resuming normal filtration to ensure optimal results.

Resolving Circuit Board Problems

hot tub circuit boardWhile circuit board problems might appear daunting, they can be managed with the right approach. Some common circuit board issues include:

  • Breaker trips
  • Electrical shorts
  • Burnt smells
  • Visible dark spots on circuit board wiring

These issues can be caused by loose or damaged wiring, as well as fried components that may need replacing.

Misfired signals or unexpected activation of different hot tub functions suggest a broken circuit board. Loose connections, particularly around terminal blocks, may lead to burned or melted areas that require secure reconnections.

If your control panel is unresponsive, it may indicate a malfunctioning circuit board with no error messages or notifications displayed.

Keeping Your Hot Tub Cool in Summer

Maintaining a proper hot tub temperature is just as important as regular maintenance. This is especially true during the summer months.

Here are some tips:

  • Set your hot tub’s thermostat consistently to maintain a cooler water temperature.
  • Adjust the filter cycle duration to fewer hours.
  • Utilize the ‘economy’ setting on spa pumps when not in use.
  • Opening air controls can introduce cooler air inside the cabinet, assisting with lowering the water temperature in your hot tub.

hot tub coverTo prevent your spa from overheating on a hot summer day, you can:

  • Ensure your hot tub cover is well-insulated and tight-fitting to prevent heat from escaping
  • Use shade structures like umbrellas to protect the spa from direct sunlight and keep the water cool
  • If the issue persists, contact a service professional to diagnose and resolve the issue

Effortless Hot Tub Troubleshooting: Quick Fixes for Common Problems

There are several things to keep in mind when it comes to troubleshooting hot tubs – from understanding error messages to preventing line leaks, and even keeping your hot tub cool in summer.

Remember, troubleshooting your hot tub doesn’t need to be a daunting task. With the right knowledge and approach, you can ensure your hot tub is always ready for a relaxing soak.

Key Takeaways

  • Hot tub error codes like ‘OH’ for overheating, ‘FL/FLO’ for flow problems, and ‘SN/SNA/SNB/PNL’ for sensor or electronic issues can be diagnosed with the manual or professional help for troubleshooting.
  • Maintaining balanced water chemistry is crucial, with recommended levels for pH (7.2-7.8), alkalinity (80-120 ppm), and sanitizers (chlorine 3-5 ppm, bromine 4-6 ppm or 1-2 ppm, SmartChlor® 0.5-1 ppm) to prevent damage and ensure sanitation.
  • Clogged filters can be resolved by regular hosing, soaking in cleaner, and deep cleaning, while persistent pump noises or leaks may need professional repairs or part replacements.

Common Hot Tub Problems – Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common problem with hot tubs?

hot tub error codesThe most common problem with hot tubs is heater failure, which is often caused by low pH leading to corrosion.

Once the heater is corroded, it needs to be replaced. If you’re experiencing an FLO error or circulation fault, you can check out our guide for assistance.

How do you diagnose a hot tub problem?

To diagnose a hot tub problem, start by testing the water quality and then check the filters, control panel, and overall system for any issues. Checking these aspects will help you narrow down the cause of the problem.

How do I troubleshoot my hot tub control panel?

To troubleshoot your hot tub control panel, check for moisture or damage in the connections, clean the plug-in cable connections, and inspect the circuit board for any damage or power output issues. This can help identify and fix any issues with your control panel.

What should I do if I see an error code on my hot tub?

If you see an error code on your hot tub, refer to the manual for a list of error codes and their meanings, and contact the manufacturer for unfamiliar codes or specific issues.

How do I maintain optimal water chemistry in my hot tub?

To maintain optimal water chemistry in your hot tub, keep the pH level between 7.2 and 7.8, and total alkalinity between 80-120 ppm, while also ensuring proper sanitizer levels. This will provide a clear and safe hot tub experience.

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Picture of John Harrington

John Harrington

John Harrington, with over 20 years of experience in pool and spa maintenance, generously shares his expertise on the ACTIVE blog. His in-depth knowledge and practical advice provide invaluable guidance for maintaining pristine pools and hot tubs. John's insights help enthusiasts and homeowners ensure their aquatic havens are always in top condition.

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