When a pool motor begins its metal-on-metal, freight train-like grind, a bearing job is a cost-effective solution. A few tools and a little finesse combined with the well-aimed strike of a hammer and you can typically have the motor performing in whisper-like fashion once again in about an hour.
Granted, you could make more profit replacing the motor, but you have to consider not every customer along your route has the money for that. With the cost of parts at roughly $30 (including the shaft seal), a bearing job can be an inexpensive fix.
A caveat: It’s not uncommon for a bearing replacement to last less than a year. Also, the more times a bearing is replaced, the less likely it would seat in the end bell properly.
Be sure to explain to your customer that this is a temporary solution.
How it’s done. First we’ll need to gather some tools: hammer, nut driver, flathead screwdriver, Sharpie marker, bearing puller, WD-40 and a 1½-inch pipe section (metal). We also should have available a small propane torch, a spray bottle with water and a pair of vise grips. Depending on the motor type, we also may need a pair of C-clip removal pliers. Ensure that we have the correct bearings on hand (203, 204 and 304 are the most common).
Disconnect the motor from the pump housing as you would in a new motor replacement. Ensure that there is no electricity to the pump. Disconnect the motor from the pump housing; disconnect the electrical conduit and bonding wire; remove the diffuser, impeller, seal plate and pump bracket.
Remove front end bell cover (oddly enough the front end bell is the one in the back). Draw a small line extending half an inch from the rear end bell to the body of the motor; repeat this step from the front end bell to the body of the motor. You may need to unscrew both the capacitor and switch plate to allow room to work. You do not need to remove the wiring from the switch plate. Carefully remove the spring switch if present.
If “weep” holes are present for through bolts, replace the front end bell cover onto the back of the motor and sit it upright on its end. Spray a small amount of WD-40 into the weep holes and allow it to soak. This will lessen the chance of breaking a through bolt during disassembly. Using a ¼-inch nut driver, carefully begin to remove your through bolts. You should feel some resistance and hear the bolts squeak slightly with each turn — if you do not, let it soak for an additional amount of time. A quiet through bolt will often lead to a broken through bolt.
Once through bolts are removed, gently tap your rear end bell (the one in the front) with your hammer and a chisel or screw driver until you can pull the entire shaft through the stator. Check to see if bearing retaining brackets are present. If so, remove the two securing screws in the face of the rear end bell. Holding the shaft upright, begin to gently tap the sides of the rear end bell in a circular pattern with your hammer. The shaft end should be on a thick rubber or cardboard surface during this step so as to not damage the threaded portion of the shaft itself. Be extremely careful not to hit the plastic cooling fan with the hammer during this process. Now that the bearings are removed from each end bell, we need to test the race to ensure the new bearings will have a snug fit.
Place the new bearing over the race. Press downward using only your thumbs, if the bearing can be pushed in easily, the bearing job is not going to work. The bearings in a pool motor sit within a race (similar to wheel bearings on a car). The race can, and will, wear over time, allowing the bearing to seat sloppily. A sloppily seated bearing will be loud and have an extremely short life. The race is part of the end bell and cannot be replaced, so if we find that the bearings “flop” easily into the race, we are done. At this point you will need to take your findings back to the homeowner and offer the new motor/pump replacement as the only option.
If the bearing seems as if it will not fit, we are good to continue. Using your bearing puller, carefully remove the bearings from the shaft. The goal is to not damage the shaft threads. Using your 1½-inch metal pipe, gently tap the new bearings into place. Reassemble the motor and tap gently with your hammer on the end bells as needed. Utilize the lines previously drawn on both end bells and the motor body to easily realign through bolts.
If you should break a through bolt during disassembly, don’t panic. Firmly attach vise grips to the remaining portion of the bolt. Thoroughly heat the end bell with your torch around the through bolt. Spray the bolt with water to cool, being careful not to spray water onto the end bell (we want this to remain hot). The goal here is to cause the threaded opening in the end bell to expand and the through bolt to contract, aiding in the ease of removal. Slowly test and turn vise grips in a counterclockwise motion. You may need to repeat this several times before the broken piece of through bolt can be cleanly removed. Once the broken piece is out, replace with a new through bolt.