How to Fix a Hot Tub Air Lock? (2 Methods)

A hot tub airlock is one of the most common issues you can encounter with your hot tub. An airlock happens when there is air trapped inside the pipes of the hot tub. This reduces the level of water that is circulated inside the hot tub, and it also stops water from flowing to the pump and through the jets.

When this happens, the hot tub won’t function properly, and you will just have a large pool of water in your yard rather than a functional spa. This can be very frustrating, especially if you need that soak.

So, how to fix a hot tub air lock? Since trapped air inside the pipes is what caused the problem, releasing the air is the best way to fix the air lock. But that’s just the easy answer. The more detailed answer is below, so keep reading to find out more.

What Is a Hot Tub Air Lock?

Before we go ahead to figure out how to fix a hot tub air lock, it’s important to know what an air lock is. This will help you understand the best way to deal with it. A hot tub air lock is a problem that affects the overall functioning of the hot tub.

For the hot tub to function well, there has to be water in the pump, and the water needs to flow through the jets. When you turn on the pump and water doesn’t flow as it should, then there might be pockets of air trapped inside the pipes. This means when you turn on the pump, there is no water for the jets to push into the hot tub since the jet lines have been blocked by air.

Hot tub air lock often occurs after you have drained and refilled your hot tub. When you drain the tub, you empty not just the water in the tub but in the pump and plumbing lines too. Since there isn’t any water in there, air can get in, and when you refill the hot tub, the air gets trapped and stops water from flowing.

This can escalate to cause the pump and motor to burn up since there isn’t any water to be circulated. A burnt-up pump would cost you a lot to fix, but you can easily fix the air lock issue at home, so that doesn’t happen.

Hot Tub Air Lock Symptoms

The most obvious sign that your hot tub might have an air lock is the jets not working properly. If you just turned on your hot tub, and nothing is coming out of the jets then you probably have a hot tub air lock.

Another symptom of air lock is if you hear humming sounds coming from hot tub jets. Sometimes, the jets do release some water, but if the water level that is circulating is lower than usual then that could be because of air lock.

(You have to double-check if your jets are actually open, as closed jets can also cause the same problems)

If you notice that your hot tub is displaying the ‘dr code’, then you are most likely dealing with an airlock. The ‘dr code’ is displayed when the water flow is too low. This is usually caused by an airlock.

How to Fix a Hot Tub Air lock Automatically?

There are two ways to fix a hot tub air lock. Both methods are easy and can be done within a few minutes, so this is a task you can take on yourself. Let’s check out the first method.

Prime the Pump

The first thing you need to do is to prime the pump. This is usually a quick fix to get rid of the air bubbles in the plumbing lines of your hot tub. Most hot tubs have a prime button on the control panel. By pushing the button, you will directly switch the hot tub to prime mode, and this will prime the pump to expel any air in the lines so water can flow freely.

If your hot tub has the prime button on the control panel, push this button to set the hot tub to prime mode. You will see a ‘pr code’ displayed on the screen indicating that the hot tub is priming itself. If the hot tub doesn’t have this button, you can still prime the pump only that you will need to do it differently. You will need to turn on the jets while alternating between the low and high settings.

Start by turning on the jets on the low setting for about 20 seconds, then switch to the high setting for about 20 seconds too. Do this up to 3 times.

Usually, the water should circulate well after this. If the water isn’t circulating well, you should turn off the jets. The bad news is that this method didn’t work. The good news is there is another method to try out and that usually works. So let’s check out the second method.

How To Fix Hot Tub Air Lock Manually?

Since priming the pump didn’t work, you need to get rid of the trapped air by yourself, but don’t fret. This is one of those tasks that sounds difficult but is very easy.

For this method, you will need:

  1. A screwdriver
  2. A pair of pliers
  3. Clean rags

If you have all of these available, then you are ready to fix the hot tub air lock.

1. Turn Off the Hot Tub’s Circuit Breaker

The first thing to do for this method is to turn off the hot tub’s circuit breaker or GFCI breaker. This prevents you from getting electrocuted while fixing the air lock. Turning off the circuit breaker will cut off all power supply (electricity) from the hot tub.

2. Open the Cabinet Panel

After turning off the circuit breaker, you should open the cabinet panel or access panel of the hot tub’s cabinet. Most hot tubs have the panel screwed down, so this is where the screwdriver comes in handy. Be sure to note where you removed each screw so you don’t mix them up.

You might need to consult your hot tub’s manual if you aren’t sure where the cabinet panel is located. It is usually attached to the control pack.

4. Find the Hot Tub’s Pump

The hot tub pump is usually located inside the cabinet panel. Again, if you aren’t sure what the pump looks like or where it is, the hot tub manual will provide a good description. When you locate the pump, you need to close the gate valve on the discharge side.

5. Loosen the Bleeder Valve

There are usually two pipes that are connected to the pump of the hot tub. Both pipes are held by nuts or valves. The highest of the two nuts or valves needs to be slightly loosened to allow the trapped air to escape.

This valve is called the bleeder valve, and it might even be labeled.

You will need a plier to turn the valve. Be gentle while doing this because the bleeder valve is usually made from plastic. Remember, you are not loosening the valve entirely. Doing this will cause water to leak and flood the cabinet panel, and that will just lead to a whole new problem for you to deal with.

You just need to loosen the bleeder valve a bit with the plier. When you loosen the bleeder valve, you will hear a hissing sound indicating that air is being expelled from the pump. You should wait till you can no longer hear the sound. When that happens, it means there is no air inside the pump anymore.

6. Tighten the Bleeder Valve

After you loosen the bleeder valve and the air is expelled, you need to tighten it quickly. The reason for this is when the air escapes, the water will flow into the pump as it should have initially.

If you don’t tighten the bleeder valve in time, you will start to notice water dripping into the cabinet panel. This is why you shouldn’t loosen the bleeder valve all the way in the first place. Doing that will directly flood the cabinet panel, and that can cause damages and even electrocution when you turn on the circuit breaker.

If you notice a few drops of water dripping from the bleeder valve, don’t fret. It just means the water is now flowing freely, and there isn’t any air trapped inside. That means you have successfully fixed the airlock.

7. Dab the Cabinet Panel

After expelling the air from the pump, there is usually a slight chance that a few drops of water would have gotten through before you tightened the bleeder valve. If this happens, use a clean rag to gently dab and wipe the water. Do this with the slightest force, so you don’t alter the settings in the cabinet panel.

You can also leave the cabinet panel open for a few minutes so the water in there can be evaporated. After that, you should close the cabinet panel and screw it. Be sure to replace the screws the way they were initially.

8. Turn on the Circuit Breaker

After you have screwed the cabinet panel back in place, you can turn on the circuit breaker or GFCI breaker to test if the hot tub is working fine. When you turn on the jets, you should see water circulating freely in the tub. This shows you have gotten rid of the air lock problem.

The ‘dr code’ displayed earlier indicating a low flow of water should have also disappeared. If you can still notice the ‘dr code’ after the water is flowing through the jets, you can press the reset button or just switch the hot tub off and on again. This should take care of that problem.

Usually, either or both of the methods above will fix airlock problems with the hot tub. However, if you have tried both methods and the water is still not being circulated, then it might not be an air lock that is the problem. There are a few issues that might be restricting the flow of water.

How To Prevent Air Lock In Future?

While preventing air lock is hard, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chances of getting hot tub air lock.

As we mentioned before, hot tub lock usually happens during the re-filling process. So, to prevent hot tub air lock you have to place the hose into the filter well instead of placing the hose directly into the hot tub. Make sure to have your jets open during this process.

This method allows you to fill the plumbing lines first and eliminating any air that’s trapped inside.

Conclusion

A hot tub air lock is bound to happen with time. There usually isn’t any way around it, especially when you drain and refill the hot tub. However, the bright side to this is that you now know how to fix the problem whenever it occurs.

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