How to Prime a Swimming Pool Pump

School Summary:

There are several different ways to prime a pool pump, but the most common method is the “bucket method.”

Tips for getting your swimming pool pump primed

If you have ever stood over a pool pump, literally begging it to start pulling water, then you know the frustration that can occur when trying to prime a pool pump. There are several different ways to prime a pool pump, but the most common method is the “bucket method.”


  • This is by far the most common method of priming a pool pump and works 95% of the time.
  • If the bucket method does not work after a few tries, back up and make sure that there is not some fatal flaw keeping the pump from priming:
  • Is the pump lid on securely? Is it intact or does it have a crack in it?
  • Is the pump lid o-ring in place (or has it possibly fallen on the ground when you were not looking)?
  • There is another little trick that might help: If you have an elevated spa, you can open up the spa intake, close up the pool intakes, and use the spa water to prime the pump. As soon as the pump primes, you need to switch the intake valve back over to the pool intakes so you do not drain your spa.


If the bucket method does not work or if your pool equipment is significantly HIGHER in elevation than the pool, then you may need to use a “drain king” to force water up and into the pump.
If this method does not work for priming the pump, you probably need to call a qualified service technician to come out and evaluate the situation


There are some problems that might make it literally impossible to get your pump primed until the problem is corrected:

  • Missing or damaged o-ring on the pump pot.
  • Cracked pump lid
  • Loose fittings on the PVC on the intake to the pump (this is very common)
  • Defective intake valves (sometimes these can be rebuilt, sometimes not)
  • Air leak underground (requires leak detection)
  • Low water level in the pool.

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