Significant growth in the automatic pool cover market means that
you’ll likely encounter them more often on the route.
Because covers keep dirt and debris out of the pool and allow
chlorine residuals to last longer — thereby making your job
easier — you’ll want to do all you can to keep these
service allies in tip-top condition.
Here are some repair tips from experts to help you keep your
customers’ automatic covers in peak operating condition, and
help grow your bottom line as well.
1. Cover won’t open/close.
The most common problem with
automatic covers is that they won’t open or close. When this
happens, cover experts say the first thing to check is the motor
and all its connections.
Often these issues can be settled over the phone by asking clients
a few questions and having them perform a few simple tasks. A
common culprit could be a tripped GFCI or breaker. Some of the
motors have reset buttons on them that need to be checked as
Having customers inspect these while you’re on the phone with
them could save you a house call and save the client some money.
Many times, it’s simply a matter of pushing a button.
If the breakers or reset button don’t start the motor, techs
should make a house call and look over the motor’s internal
The first thing to do is disconnect the key switch and then touch
its wires together to jump-start it, experts say. If it turns on,
then it’s getting power. Next, follow the line up to see if
there is a bad wire.
If the key switch doesn’t turn on, then it’s time to
check the amperage with a multimeter to see if power is even
getting to the motor. If not, the problem may be with the power
lines, and the electric company may need to be notified. However,
if power is getting through and the motor still won’t
operate, it’s time to replace the motor.
One test that techs can attempt is to try to turn the motor shaft
by hand. If you can’t turn it by hand, electricity
won’t be able to turn it either. It may be seized up from
water damage, which is typically caused by drain-pit flooding.
Flooding occurs when the owner fails to clean off the cover before
opening it, dumping all the debris in the pit and clogging the
More recently, manufacturers have been making submersible motors
that won’t break down if they get wet. But even that
can’t save every motor from water damage.
Experts recommend letting the motor dry out before attempting to
work it again. If it has been dried and still doesn’t work,
it probably needs to be replaced.
Another possibility for a stubborn automatic cover may be a broken
shear pin or, for newer covers, a slipped clutch. Both are used to
prevent a cover from putting pressure on the system if it
malfunctions. A shear pin is designed to break if the gearing
system, which engages the rope reels, has too much pressure as it
works back and forth.
It’s important to find out what caused the shear pin to
break, or it’s likely to happen again and again. Sometimes
the pin breaks just from normal wear and tear. But a broken pin
also is a sign that something else could be problematic. Excess
water on the cover, dirt in the tracks and pulleys, or the cover
being forced in some way will make a pin snap.
Another cause could be the cover itself. It could just be old and
there may not be enough slack to operate it anymore due to
A slipped clutch performs a function similar to that of a shear
pin. But rather than breaking, it slips and prevents the cover from
operating farther. A broken pin or a slipped clutch also can cause
a motor to make loud grinding noises.
Sometimes a cover opens in a jerky manner. This may eventually lead
to it not working at all. The culprit behind the unsteady movement
is dirty tracks. To clear them, take a hose with a high-pressure
nozzle and flush the debris from the tracks.
Another reason an automatic cover won’t move could be a
problem with its pulley and/or ropes. If you discover one of the
ropes has broken, repairing it isn’t that difficult,
especially if you have some basic sewing skills.
To repair a broken rope, remove the cover from the pool. Then, 1
foot from the front edge of the cover, pull out the stitches that
hold in the rope. Seam rippers and box cutters work well for this
job. Cut off the rope at that point. Insert the new rope and resew
the stitches back together.
When the rope isn’t the troublemaker, it’s often the
pulley. The bearings frequently wear out — and bad pulleys
can result in broken ropes.
2. Out of
If the motor, ropes and pulleys seem to be in good working order,
alignment may be to blame. Ropes can expand over time. Or they can
get tweaked slightly and fall out of alignment.
To fix the problem, techs suggest loosening or applying more brake
on the rope wheels depending on the situation, or tying or freeing
up a tension spring. This helps adjust the ropes to the wheels, so
they pull on both at the same time.
Another reason for a cover “running out of square” is a
buildup of dirt and grime in the cover’s tracks. To solve
this problem, flush the debris from the tracks. Techs
recommend that this should be done at least twice a year,
especially in areas with high winds or where the landscape is not
If the cover is in good shape and its tracks are clear, the problem
may be something more ominous: a bad installation. A slightly
misshapen rectangular pool, for example, will cause the cover to
Techs should recheck all the track measurements; it must be a
perfect rectangle. If you don’t have one, you can never make
the cover run completely straight. In an underdeck system in which
the tracks are mounted on a large rectangle, the pool walls need to
be similar in size as well.
How can that problem be fixed? The pool itself needs to be
corrected. Otherwise, you’re trying to make it work in a
situation that it’s not designed for.
3. Tears and
Ripping and tearing are some of the most common cover problems.
This is usually due to unnecessary stress from water weight, or
people walking across the surface.
Holes also can be caused by chemical damage. A lower pH level not
only bleaches the underside of the cover, but it also can take the
elasticity out of the fabric and shorten its life.
If you’re going to work on automatic covers — any kind
of cover, for that matter — it’s important to keep a
patch kit on your truck. While big tears likely mean having to
replace the cover, small and modest-sized holes are easily fixed.
Smaller rips can be repaired by applying a glue patch. You just
clean the surface, put the glue on the cover, some glue on the
patch, and push it down.
A couple of other options: Sew the patch on or do a vinyl weld. If
the cover fabric is appropriate for a welding repair, it will
require a heat gun, handled by a trained technician. The fabric
around the tear is heated until it turns to a gel-like substance. A
liquid vinyl is applied to the area until the hole is gone. It can
then be air-brushed with an opaque pigment to blend in with the
original fabric color. Vinyl welds usually are requested by
high-end clients or owners of relatively new covers.
4. Lack of
Educating pool owners about the proper ways to maintain and operate
automatic covers is the key to avoiding many problems. Experts
advise instructing customers about the do’s and don’ts
of automatic cover operation after installation. Here’s a
- Maintain pool water at a proper level. Low levels may prevent
the cover from operating.
- Pump excess water off the cover before opening it. Extra weight
may cause a strain or rips in the ropes.
- Clear debris off the pump and out of the drains. Do not flood
the drain or motor damage may occur.
- Do not force an automatic cover to open if it won’t.
- A cover is not designed to be a walkway from one side of the
pool to another. The product is strong enough to withstand the
weight in an emergency situation, but extra pressure may cause
Service techs should check on automatic covers about twice a year.
They need to make sure that the systems are running smoothly and
properly, the ropes aren’t frayed and the pulleys are
turning. A drain should be monitored regularly as well.
Installations also should be serviced for strength and durability
as they age.