Introduction: How to Replace a Submersible Well Pump

Ok! This is not an easy task, and I recommend that anyone thinking about doing it AT LEAST consider having the well pump identified as the failed component by a professional prior to undertaking it. In my case, the water in my house stopped working (on a Friday night, of course). I know my system pretty well and was able to determine that the fault in my system COULD NOT BE ANYTHING BUT my well pump motor before I took any action. Guess what? I called the plumber anyway. If nothing else, you'll pay $60 to have your diagnosis confirmed and maybe even get an estimate that will provide you with the motivation to do the job on your own. (My estimate to pull and replace the well was $2400... By following these steps I was able to do the job myself for less than $400!)

Step 1: Start With Understanding What Your Well Looks Like, and How It Works.

So this is what we start with. The drawing is not to scale, but essentially most wells look a bit like this. There are several different variations on what ends up being pretty much the same thing. In my case, the casing (which is the steel pipe that everything fits into and goes into the ground) has a 6" diameter. Some casings can be as narrow as 4". If you're doing something like this on your own, wider is better! A 6" well casing gives you plenty of room to work on your own. Narrower casings can make things... complicated.

The well used in this example is relatively shallow. It only runs about 100'-120' deep. Some wells can run to depths of hundreds (or thousands!) of feet. In the case of anything deeper than about 250' I would recommend that you have it pulled by a pro. Why? Because it's HEAVY! And there are special tools that contractors have to lift the pump from that kind of depth. Look at it this way: Even if you have someone else pull the well, you can do the repair/replace action on your own once it's out of the ground, and still save money. ;)

My well was dug about 25 years ago. One of the things that happens with older wells is that, over a period of several years, silt from the aquifer can seep into the bottom of the casing. That's a bad thing. Why? Because the silt builds up to a depth that's too close to the pump, and the pump ends up sucking up the silt and muck from the bottom of the well, and then pushes it into your house! (You'll see the result of this kind of thing in the following pictures.)

You basically have three "lines" running down into the well. There's...
(1) The water tube
(2) The electrical wiring that supplies voltage to the well pump motor, and
(3) The safety rope, which is tied directly to the well pump and keeps it from falling down into "the abyss" if anything goes wrong.

The weight of the whole pump assembly hangs on the water hose that the pump uses to push water into the house. Up near the top the water tube hits what's called a "pitless connector," where it makes a hard right turn toward the house.

See how the pump looks a bit like a bottle made of two pieces? The bottom part is the motor. The top part is the impeller that sucks the water out of the well and sends it to the house.

Here's how it works:

When one turns on the sink to wash one's hands or when we flush a toilet, we tend to think that we're pulling water directly from the well to do it. In actuality, we're not! In a properly outfitted house, you're pulling water from a pressurized tank that acts as sort of a "middle man." (Some artesian wells don't have this set up, but let's pretend they do!)

When you turn on the water to wash your hands or flush your toilet, the amount of water stored in the pressure tank is reduced. Reduced water in the tank means reduced pressure. The pressure switch on the tank is set up so that it knows what point to turn ON the pump (pulling water up from the well to replace what you've used), and what point to turn OFF the pump (to keep your system from exploding). Having a pressure tank does two things for you:

1) It provides a nice, steady amount of water pressure throughout your house... all the time.
2) It saves electricity and wear-and-tear on the pump, which is buried deep in the ground.

Ideally, your well pump should be able to push more water than above-average household use will require. (Most houses are recommended to have a pump that will support 5 gallons per minute.) That way, more water per minute is pushed up from the well than you can (normally) expect to be able to get out of a sink, or a shower. By having a pump that exceeds your practical use, the pressure tank is able to maintain steady flow. There will always be more water available to the tank than you can pull from the tap. With the right pump, you can have two showers, a sink and a toilet all flowing at the same time without any discernible drop in pressure.

Step 2: Pulling the Well Pump Up Out of the Well

Now that we know what all is down there and how all of it works together, it's time to take action!

In order to pull all of this stuff out of the well, you need a special tool called a "pitless adapter wrench." It's basically made of three pieces of threaded, metal pipe that you can get from any hardware store. A "T" connector holds them together.

The handles can be any length you like, but I wouldn't go any longer than 12".

Standard pitless connectors use a 1" threaded pipe. Mine... of course... was non-standard. It uses 3/4" threaded pipe. To make one of these wrenches you just go down to the local hardware store, buy the threaded pipes and put them together. The long pipe (the one that goes down into the hole) needs to be at least 5' long if you want it to reach.

Once you've made your wrench, you just stick it down into the well, thread it into the connector and get ready to PULL. While you do that, make sure someone is holding onto the safety rope! If anything goes wrong, and your partner happens to NOT be holding the rope, the well pump will fall into the abyss... lost forever.

*que ominous music*

Step 3: Take the Cap Off the Well and Look Inside With a Flashlight.


It should be labeled clearly. Most of them are wired for 220V.

Well caps are usually secured by three or four bolts. Loosen the bolts to the point where they *almost* come off the cap. You want to leave them threaded a bit, so you don't lose them. Then give the well cap a few "uppercut" swings with a medium-sized hammer. It should pop off without much trouble.

Once the cap is off, take a look down the well with a flashlight. You should see something that looks a little like this image (which I "borrowed" from a google search, because I forgot to take my own picture). You'll see utter and complete darkness at the bottom of the well... maybe some water, if it's shallow... and the pitless connector on the inside of the casing. You'll also see your safety rope, and the electrical wires that power the motor.

The idea is to take the pitless connector wrench, the one that you just made out of threaded pipe, and marry it up with the threaded cap at the top of the connector (the part that looks like a circle). (See notes on the picture.)

Step 4: Here's a Closeup of What the Pitless Connector Looks Like

As you can see, the pitless connector is where the water makes "a hard right turn" out of the well and toward your house. It's a pressure fitting, and it's usually made of brass. On most wells they're about 4' down from the top of the well... which means they are usually BURIED... which is scary.

"Why are they buried?" You may be wondering. "It's awfully inconvenient for them to be down so far in the well." Yes! It is... but that's just the way it has to be. Pitless connectors have to be located BELOW the frost line for your area. If they aren't, all it will take is one really cold night to freeze up. As I mentioned above, the connectors are usually brass. Brass is a soft metal. It doesn't take much for it to split.

If anything happens to this connector, (like a crack or a split) you're usually going to have to replace the whole thing. I'm not sure when the last time you had to dig a 4' deep hole was, but I can assure you it's not a pleasant thing to have to do. So, it goes without saying, as you go through this process be very careful not to damage the pitless connector.

Step 5: This Should Give You an Idea of How Much Digging You'll Be Doing If You Damage the Pitless Connector.

*Image "borrowed" from the internet.

Step 6: Here's What It Looks Like to Try to Line the Threads Up on the Pitless Connector.

The environment inside of a well is inherently moist. This means that corrosion WILL occur, regardless of what kind of metal you're dealing with. That corrosion means the pitless connector can/will fill up with gunk that will prevent you from being able to thread the wrench into the adapter easily. The trick is to turn the wrench *extremely slowly.* You'll feel it bite. If, after it bites, it skips off the threads: You have corrosion.

I spent more than an hour *almost* getting it right. The corrosion and gunk just wouldn't let me get a good connection. That's when I decided to (go to next picture)...

Step 7: Tap Tap Tappy


Seriously. Very gentle taps with a hammer as you turn the wrench should do the trick. It will allow for you to thread the pipe fully. It worked beautifully for me.

As you're doing this, it's absolutely vital to make sure that you do not:
A) Cross Thread the connector. Work slowly and get it right!
B) Try to pull it up without being 100% confident that it's got a good connection. Nice and snug! If you don't have a snug connection, you take the chance of dropping everything down to the bottom of the well. If that happens, get yourself a shovel and a checkbook.

Step 8: Up She Goes!

Once we had the wrench threaded all the way it was time to start pulling. We had to give the adapter wrench a couple of upward whacks with the hammer, but it came loose. The first picture shows what the pitless connector looks like with the wrench threaded into it.

Start pulling up the assembly. Again! Make sure someone holds on to the safety rope.

Step 9: Keep Pulling...

It's very important that you NOT get any kinks in the water line (the black tube). So, pulling the pump is definitely a two person job. As one person pulls it up out of the well, the other person walks it (in a straight line or in a curve) away from the well.

Step 10: Take Time to Reflect on Your Life Choices...

Dogs are really helpful to have around when doing a job like this. Moral support is important. Especially when, after a couple of minutes pulling up the well pump, you realize that you've been making some very poor decisions about exercise and eating habits.

Alas... I used to be a strapping young man. *weeze* Those days are no more.

Keep in mind, the well pump (itself) usually weighs about 50 lbs. The water trapped in the tube also holds significant weight. The deeper the well, the more weight you're dealing with. Plus, there's that whole "physics and leverage" thing to deal with.

Bottom line: I'm guessing that I had to pull a 70lb weight, nearly 100 vertical feet. It's quite a job. Forearms, back, hips, biceps... all of them hurt the next day.

Step 11: Eventually, It Will All Come Up.

Make sure everything is laid out as straight as possible. Take a second to marvel at what you have accomplished.

Step 12: It's Out!

Do you remember me mentioning something about it sitting down in the mud? Yeah. I knew it was bad. I did not know it was THIS bad.

Furthermore, up until this point, I had no idea what kind of well pump was down there. They come in various configurations of power, voltage, number of wires, and number of gallons per minute. Normally, the Horsepower Rating is written (as a courtesy) on the underside of the well cap. No such luck here. I had to pull it up just to find out what it was. You may be in the same boat when it's time to do yours.

Step 13: Clean It Off and Figure Out What You Have.

Turns out that mine was a 3/4 HP Jacuzzi. They sold out to a company called Franklin Electric years ago. Since it was just the motor that fried, it might have been possible to order a replacement motor (which would generate significant savings), but that might have taken days or weeks to find/deliver. I didn't want to measure the amount of time I was without water in terms of "days or weeks." Plus, this pump was so clogged with gunk that it wasn't worth taking the chance on another failure. A whole new pump was definitely required.

Note: This is one of those moments where it's good to get along with your neighbors. Thanks to mine, we were able to hose off the motor to find out exactly what the specs were. (See, the source of my water was sitting on the ground... Hence I had no water with which to hose off the pump!) The worn out pump ran on about 8 amps, and pushed about 6.8 gallons per minute. It's a 220V, two-wire motor. That's exactly the sort of thing you need to know when you're buying a replacement. Make notes or take pictures of this information and take it with you to the store.

Step 14: Anatomy of the Well Pump

Let's take a look at the cleaned-off pump. You'll note the two pieces, (like in my drawing). The far left is the electric motor. The dirty clyinder in the middle-left is the impeller. The black stuff in the middle is a WHOLE LOT of electrical tape, covering the spliced electrical connections for the motor and the check valve that keeps water from flowing back into the well. The thing that looks like a bulb (toward the right) is called a "torque arrestor." Remember how I told you that my well casing is 6" wide? Well... the well pump is only 4" wide. The Torque Arrestor rubs up against the well casing and keeps the pump from spinning at the bottom of the well.

Did you notice the piece of safety rope tied directly to the pump?

Also, did you notice that everything is resting on a couple of saw horses? Yet another application in which such a simple tool can be incredibly useful. If you don't have a set I highly recommend picking a couple up for the purpose of doing this job. The ones I'm using are quite inexpensive, lightweight and strong.

Step 15: Start Taking the Failed Pump Apart!

In most cases there are going to be salvageable components. For mine, the torque arrestor was in pretty good shape, as were the hose clamps that held them onto the water line. Once you get them all off, set them in a safe place for later.

Then get to work on removing all of that tape!

Step 16: Exposing the Wires and the Safety Rope

Once all the tape was removed, we could see the electrical wiring and the safety rope (see it piled up in the corner of the first picture). Salvage the remaining hose clamps and get ready to cut the water tube.

Step 17: Cutting the Water Tube

Since I knew that the well pump had been sitting in muck for who knows how long, it seemed like a good idea to shorten the length of the water tube. As you can see, I walked off about 10' of tube length from the well pump and prepared to make my cut. (By the way, I used a set of ratcheting pipe cutters. If you don't have a set of these, they go for about $11 at home depot and they make life SO much easier when you're doing plumbing.) Making the tube shorter would result in a shallower suspension and (hopefully) preserve the life of the new pump.

I was not prepared for what I would find when I made the cut.

YUCK! That's a 1" tube so full of compacted muck that it really restricted the flow of water to my house. NO WONDER THE PUMP FAILED! Keep in mind, we've done testing for harmful bacteria and a slew of other things on our well and it's always come up clean... but still. Ew!

What you're seeing in this picture isn't just silt. It's residue from iron bacteria. These microorganisms live and multiply by oxidizing dissolved ferrous iron. They're harmless to ingest, but they can tinge the flavor/color of water, and they impede the yield of the well if left unchecked. Toward the end of this instructible we'll talk about the sanitation process, which can really help keep these little buggers in check.

Bottom line: There was no way to clean this out, so a new water line went on the shopping list for the hardware store.

Step 18: Cut the Wires

Cut the wires and get ready to head to the store.

Step 19: OH! One More Thing! Inspect the Pitless Connector.

Before we head to the store to buy the replacement pump, we needed to make sure that the shopping list included EVERYTHING. We already knew we needed the well pump and the water line, but what kind of shape was the pitless adapter in? I know it looks rough, but it's actually not that bad. I gave it a quick scrub under the garden hose, and inspected the O-Ring.

It's not great, but it's fine.

Step 20: Selecting a Replacement Pump at the Hardware Store

I genuinely recommend that you do a little searching around on the web for a replacement pump before jumping in your car and assuming that Home Depot or Lowes will have the one you need, in stock. I got extremely lucky. I didn't search before I got in the car. The nearest store happened to have the pump I needed. I later learned it was the only one in stock within 30 miles of me! As luck would have it, it also turns out that this one produces TEN gallons per minute at a lower rated amperage than the original. (Hooray for improvements in technology!)

This Flotec pump had a sticker price of under $340. Since it was Memorial day, they gave me the 10% Veteran's discount at Home Depot, (shameless plug for businesses that respect military service). In the end, it wound up costing me a little over $300. GOOD DEAL!

Note: This model did not come with the check valve, or the reducer needed to get down to the 1" spur I would need for the water line. Sadly, home depot didn't carry the right check valve, or spur, for this pump. I had to go somewhere else for that.... a place that did NOT offer the Veteran's discount and hence shall not be named in this instructable.

Step 21: Get the Stuff Home and Start Putting It Together.

I got everything home and started throwing it together. Note that I DID NOT use pipe dope. I used Teflon tape. Pipe dope isn't always safe for potable water, so it's recommended that you just stick with Teflon.

Looking at the close-up picture of the assembly, there's a 1 1/4" stainless nipple threaded into the top of the well pump, a 1 1/4" check valve (brass) and a stainless steel reducer (aka "spur") that goes into the hose line. I used my salvaged hose clamps to secure the new water line to the reducer.

Some people may read this and wonder, "What is a check valve?" It's basically a valve that only allows fluids to move in one direction. Water can flow into your house when the pump pushes it, but it can't drain back into the well when the pump stops. This is a vital component, because when your system gets pressurized the check valve keeps all the water in your house from dumping back down into the well. Kind of a big deal.

Note: If you have to do something like this DON'T use plastic components. Also,make sure you ASK a professional about galvanic corrosion. Putting the wrong metal in contact with other metals can lead to bad things happening. Putting incompatible metal in a moist environment only tends to accelerate those bad things.

Step 22: Securing the Electrical Connections

While you're at the hardware store make sure to pick up a set of crimp connectors for the electrical connections. It should come with two connectors and some heat-shrink material. Strip a clean bit off of the wires coming from the house and crimp the connectors with a good pair of pliers. Slide the heat-shrink material over the connection and then heat it with a heat-gun, or a butane torch. (A lighter doesn't get hot enough to do a good job.)

Then start wrapping the whole thing up in electrical tape, just like you found it.

Step 23: Secure the Safety Rope

Secure the safety rope to the pump, itself. They have a handy little loop built into them just for this.

Step 24: Put on the Torque Arrestor, Test the Pump, and Put It Back Down the Well.

Put the torque arrestor back on. It's not pictured, but I also secured the electrical wiring and the safety rope to the water line by wrapping it with electrical tape at 12-18" intervals.

Once you get to this point, you're ready to make sure the well pump is working. I forgot to take a picture of that part, but it goes like this: Get a BIG bucket (like a 10-20 gallon plastic tub) and use your awesome neighbor's hose to fill it up with water. Then submerge the assembled well pump into the water, making sure water covers the impeller intakes.

Then put your cell phones to good use. Have your assistant go down into the basement and flip the breaker that will turn on the pump. You should immediately see it sucking water out of the tub at a rapid rate. If it does, the pump is ready to go back down in the hole!


Feed the pump back into the casing slowly, using the safety rope. Line up the pitless connector, using a flashlight. Slide it into place and then seat it fully by giving it a couple of downward whacks with a hammer until you feel it seated properly.

Step 25: Prepare the Pressure Tank.

You're just about ready to turn it back on, but first you have to make sure the air pressure in the pressure tank is set correctly. Unthread the cap on the top of the tank. You'll see a little nubbin, like on a bike tire.

For the pressure tank to work correctly, the ambient pressure (while completely drained) has to be -2lbs from the pressure at which you want the well pump switch to kick on. I like my water pressure to be between 55 and 75 psi. That means, the ideal air pressure for the bladder in the tank was about 53 psi. I hooked up an air compressor and filled it until it reached that point.

Not performing this step will cause a variety of problems, not the least of which is "short cycling." If you have too little (or too much) air in the tank it can throw off the actual volume of water the tank will hold. That can lead to the pump constantly switching on/off... which eventually burns out the pump, or the pump switch. Not good.

Step 26: Adjusting the Pump Switch

What you're looking at here is a well pump switch. They come pre-set for 30/50 and 40/60. The first number is the psi at which the switch will sense the pressure in the system is too low, and it will turn the pump on. The second number is the number at which the pressure in the system makes the switch say "Okay... that's enough."

This well switch is brand new. I bought it the night before I replaced the well pump, hoping that it would fix my well problem. Obviously, it didn't.

Anyway, I don't like it when my water pressure is set for 40/60. I like it to be at about 55/75. This particular model of well switch is adjustable. With a few turns of this nut, I can raise the ratio to the place where I want it.

Warning: I did this with power applied.

You have to be VERY careful when you do this, and I don't recommend that anyone try it. The reason I do it, is that it lets me make my adjustments without constantly having to reset the breaker. I tweak it, and let the pressure tank fill up. I then use the valve underneath to release water pressure. As I release the pressure, I watch the gauge to see what point the switch kicked on. Once I adjusted it to the point where the pump flipped on at 55 psi, I was good to go.

Once you're done, put the cap back on the switch and go upstairs.

Step 27: Victory Dance!

Go outside and show off your "power stance" as you spray glorious hose water all over yourself.

Yes. That's right. I'm THAT neighbor.

Step 28: Sanitize the Well

Whenever you open the well cap, or replace the piping, there's a requirement to pour some bleach down there to kill off any harmful bacteria that may want to live in the water after being touched by your filthy human digits.

First, you have to calculate the volume of water that's in the well. In my case, I'm going to guess that it's about 70' of total water space in a 6" tube. Using the formula πr²h (3.14159x9x840) you get a total volume of about 23,750 cubic inches. That's about 102 gallons of water occupying the well at its fullest point.

Proper chlorination requires 3 pints of 5% chlorine bleach per 100 gallons of water in the well, PLUS 3 pints of the same to sanitize the plumbing inside the house. That's a total of 6 pints of 5% chlorine bleach. A gallon is 8 pints, so a single gallon will be enough to do the job AND sanitize the well cap before I put it back on.

Here's what you do: Dump about 3/4 of the gallon of bleach in the well (with the water pump still on, so you can still use your hose). Then run your hose down the well to circulate the bleach. This process WILL pull bleach water into your house, so don't plan on using the water during this process. Run the hose for about an hour to get the water from the bottom all the way back up to the top, ensuring that the chlorine mixes with ALL the water in the well. Then use the remaining 1/4 of the bottle to sanitize the well cap. Put the cap back on and go inside.

TURN ON EVERY TAP IN THE HOUSE, SEQUENTIALLY. Run COLD water until you smell bleach at every tap. Give the toilets a few flushes to pull water into them, also. Once you smell the bleach, turn it off. The chlorine will sit in your pipes and kill off anything living in them.

Repeat the process using the HOT water. It's going to take a little longer for the bleach smell to show up, because the water from the well is going to have to make it through your water heater, and then up through the hot water pipes.

Go to sleep. It has to sit for at least 12 hours, undisturbed. No sinks. No flushies. No washies. The next day, hook up your hoses and start purging. DON'T SUCK THE WELL DRY WHILE YOU DO IT. Also, DON'T DRAIN THE BLEACH WATER INTO THE LEECH FIELD FOR YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEM. Remember, there were about 100 gallons in the well, so figure out how many gallons per minute you push through the hoses and stop when you hit about 150 gallons through the system. In my case, that was about an hour and a half.


Don't forget that the cold water lines and the hot water lines are completely separate. You'll have to drain them both.

Make sure you dump the water someplace safe. Run each tap for a couple of minutes. Give the toilets a flush or two. Then test the water for chlorine content to make sure it's safe to drink with a kit you can get from the hardware or pool supplies store. Keep running the water until the test comes back at safe levels to drink.

Thanks for reading! I really hope that this instructible is helpful for those of you that find yourself in a spot of trouble, and for anyone that's just curious about how this process works. It was my first time going through it, and the main reason I put this together was that I couldn't find a really good resource that guided me through the whole thing, step-by-step. This is my way of paying the world back for all of the little kindnesses I've experienced in life. If you ever find yourself in a similar position, regardless of the topic, I would ask that you consider doing the same. You never know who you might be helping!

I do my best to respond to any comments that pop up. I appreciate you taking the time to read. Good luck!


cammers (author)2015-06-07

Very nice Instructable. WELL done. ? And thanks for sharing.

Just a couple of comments that might be of help...

Just looking at the pictures of the slimy red gunk in your pipe and around your pump makes me think you should do some googling on "Iron Bacteria". I can't be certain but it could be a possible cause of your issues.

Adjusting a pressure switch can be very fiddly and frustrating - and as you say very very very dangerous if the switch is live. Most household applications work perfectly with either 20/40 or 30/50 psi, that's why they are normally sold set up that way.

When selecting the replacement pump don't just assume that the last guy chose the perfect pump for the job. After all there could be a reason the original pump failed. I would recommend going back to basics and select a pump based on:
the bore depth,
the standing water level,
the required flow,
the maximum flow the bore can supply if you know it, and
the total dynamic head (total pressure including friction from pipe work, elevation, and require operating pressure).

Pump ends are made up of a stack of impellers. Each impeller increases the pressure developed by the impellers below it (without increasing flow). So a shallow well might need a six impeller pump, while a deep one will need more. Perhaps twenty or more. The upshot of this is that there are hundreds of motor/pump end combinations to choose from, and while it's not a particularly exact science it's important to choose one that will operate happily in your application. You should be able to find pressure/flow charts on pump company websites and catalogues.

Here's a handy calculator to work out Total Dynamic Head:

Sorry, got a bit carried away there. My brother and I used to own a pump company (Pumpmaster Australia) so pumps have played an important role in my life.

cammers (author)cammers2015-06-07

I just realized there was an accidental "?" after "WELL done". It wasn't meant to be there. There is no doubt - the Instructable is definitely a good one.

jamesburkefan (author)cammers2015-06-07

I'll just reply to both your comments here, since it's easier than doing it twice!

Iron bacteria! Thank you for the tip. We're in a situation here where the house had two owners before we bought it in 2011. The first owners were amazing. The second owners were really nice folks, but the word around the neighborhood (and the evidence we've seen around the house) is that they were not "maintenance people." We've gradually been replacing the big-ticket items as they fail from the years of neglect. I've already replaced most of the plumbing between the well pump switch and the house, including the water softener and neutralizer. They were both so clogged up with gunk that the valve systems failed. (Nothing like a mouth full of salt water after a regeneration!)

We've had the well checked for harmful bacteria a couple of times. It always comes up clean. I don't know for sure if they test for stuff that isn't particularly harmful. Now that you've mentioned it, it's definitely on my radar. I had never considered that bacteria might be the cause of the sediment sticking to the plumbing.

Any tips on cleaning out the underground pipe that runs from the pressure tank to the well, without having to dig it up?

cammers (author)jamesburkefan2015-06-14

Hi. I don't have a solution for cleaning out your pipe, but I'm not a plumber. I'm sure there must be a way. Maybe you could put the question to the Instructables community via a forum topic.

I guess you live in a place with cold winters. I've never seen a pipe buried so deep. That must really complicate things. Bores in Australia just have the pipe coming straight out the top of the well. No need for that pitless connector.

Good luck with it all.

printrbot932 (author)2015-06-05

I don't need to fix a well nor do i own a house or a well but this was so well written and interesting I had to read the whole thing it's interesting how these things work look forward to more instructabels from u in the future thanks for the great ible
and thank u sir for you're service!!


So, I've been thinking since yesterday about how to respond to your comment. When I read it, it made my day. "Thank you" is not a sufficient response without providing an appropriate qualification.

1) Interesting is exactly what I was going for, even though this was a filthy job.
2) This was my first "ible." It has been so well received that I think I am now hooked. You will definitely be seeing more from me, and I hope they are as entertaining and informative as it appears this one has been.
3) Service is as service does. I'm just glad to be useful. Whether it was in uniform, or in my own back yard, it's all the same: A little bit of effort can make the world better, often in ways we did not anticipate.

Learn. Do. Teach. Enjoy. Thanks for reading!

TinaA66 (author)2017-06-03

Thank you! !! We just received a quote for 6500 and I almost threw up. Instead I poured a big glass of vino and began researching how the heck to replace the darn thing ourselves. This write up is awesome. Hubby and I will attempt this after the coffee kicks in. I'll keep you posted!

jamesburkefan (author)TinaA662017-06-26

I have to ask... How did it go? Were you able to change out your pump on your own? If so, were there any improvements you could recommend to the ible?


TinaA66 (author)jamesburkefan2017-06-26

It went great! We added one step. We created an A frame out of 6x6 posts and hooked up a winch to it ( rated 3500lbs) it worked like a charm. (Can't seem to find a way to post a pic from n comments)
Our water line was galvanized so it was a bear cat. It was 206 ft down and we were able to unscrew it every 20 ft.

We ran to Home Depot and got a chlorine test for the next day.

All said and done we saved $5400! Our pump was a 3hp ordered it and a new control box via amazon and had it in 2 days.
Now to replace the pressure tanks :)

jamesburkefan (author)TinaA662017-06-27

Words cannot describe how pleased I am to hear about this! You just made my day.

michel7760 (author)2017-05-02

Very nice instructable, I would like to find it a few years ago. I have a Dayton 1HP 220V, I replaced the motor 5 years ago and kept the old impeller, maybe my error. Since a fews month I have less to less pressure from the pump and pressure switch needs a very long time to shut off (new pressure tank) so I imagine less GPM. I plan to replace the whole pump/motor but I am confuse with the type and cost of a new one. If I buy the same Dayton it cost me Between $700 and $900, but I can see some Flotec at Home depot for less than 400 and even complet pump with electrical box for 160 online, at Ebay or what is the difference between a Dayton or Gould pump for 800 and a Flotec or (maybe China manufactured) unbranded for 400 to 160 ?.......

jamesburkefan (author)michel77602017-05-02

I wish I knew the answer to your question. Unfortunately, I don't. I'm just a guy that figured out how to replace his own well pump. I am, by no means, a professional.


Baker8 (author)2017-03-25


Thank you, Sir, for a well written and documented instructable! Fantastic step by step, and good photos.

My Bride and I and our 2yr old are living our dream on our newly acquired homestead in western South Dakota. We've no record of any kind as to how old, deep, etc our well is and we're having some problems that require further diagnosis. My first step is to pull the pump and figure out depth etc, and likely get a pro in to help determine if the casing is cracked. However, before viewing your write-up, I had no idea where to start as I've never dealt with a rural well before.

Now I understand a lot more of the make-up of the well and have an idea what I'm in for. Thank you again for your service to our Country, and to those of us who learn how to do/fix stuff ourselves! Hat's off to ya!

ValerieC47 (author)2016-10-04

I'm doing this right now. Plumber said it was either a bad yellow wire or the pump. We yanked the pump up last night, and lo and behold, there was a nice little bite out of the yellow wire. We are REALLY hoping that's all there is to it. However, I thought since I had a few months left on my warranty with Lowe's, I'd take this one back and get a new one, that way I've covered both my bases. But I'm having a hard time getting the pump off the drop pipe. It looks to be screwed on, but no matter how much he tries, my guy couldn't budge it. The very rusty part on the left (which I''m glad to read about that iron bacteria thing, because I clearly need it as well) is where it should separate. Did you have any issues?

ValerieC47 (author)ValerieC472016-10-04

I solved my own problem. I cut the drop pipe! ;-)

jamesburkefan (author)ValerieC472016-10-07

I was gonna say... "cut the drop pipe"... but you already did!


ValerieC47 (author)jamesburkefan2016-10-07

My girlfriend and I switched out my pump. (Girl Power!) I'm so glad I saved $1900 but my back is paying for it.

jamesburkefan (author)ValerieC472016-10-07

So... for purposes of curiosity and (a little) vanity, I have to ask the following:

1) Was this your first time doing a well pump?
2) Did you really use my ible to guide you?
3) If you did, was there anything I could have addressed in a better way, or written more clearly?
4) Were there any other resources you consulted?

If you DID use the ible I will be SUPER psyched; especially if it got your water working again AND saved you money. You would be the first to tell me about it, (after more than a year) and Ive been quietly hoping that all the effort was worth it!

RoboRunner68 (author)2016-07-20

Nice work, useful guide! I used this video on YouTube that may also help some! :)

KatieM109 (author)2016-06-07

We need to replace our old jet pump and are putting in a submersible. I was researching how to do this for my husband and after reading this very informative (and actually interesting) instructional I feel I could do it myself! Unfortunately, I have to go shopping today so in the end I guess I will leave it up to him, but otherwise I'd have been so ready. Thank you, I'm sure he will find this helpful.

Instructor477 (author)2016-04-27

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This piece was very
instructive as far as the particular situation it covered, but the
questions have gone beyond that, so let me add some additional
information from my own experience.

Our author seems to
be trying to keep the terminology very generic, but by the time you
have to get into “pitless adapters”and “check valves”, you
might as well learn a little well-speak. The generic terms “water
tube” and “tubing” translate to the specialist's term “pipe”
;o). In a well what you have is called the “drop pipe”, and in
this instructable it happened to consist of flexible black “poly
pipe”. One tip that our author could have used is that if you lay
a 55 gal. barrel on its side and pull your poly pipe over it at a
right angle, the curved side will keep the pipe from kinking, and you
might be able to do without the extra hand for that stage.

Some pumps hang from
multiple lengths of jointed (screwed-together) rigid pipe, such as
galvanized steel or threaded PVC. In those cases you need more tools
and equipment; a couple of pipe wrenches, something (a pipe vise?)
to clamp onto the pipe and keep it from dropping back in, and some
kind of support like a tripod or derrick to hold the currently
exposed section of raised pipe up vertically until the next joint is
raised to the point where you can unscrew it. This is a more
complicated pull than with flexible pipe, but it is still within the
do-able range for many motivated homeowners.

In milder climates
(West coast, the South) pitless adapters and underground connections
are not needed. In these light- or no-frost areas the normal
practice is to use a “well seal” instead of a cap. This flat,
round device has holes in it for the drop pipe and the wires to come
right out of the top of the casing, and the right angle in the
exiting pipe is made with a simple elbow fitting where it exits the
seal. The fitting that connects to the poly pipe (what he calls a
“spur” and we call a “barb”) is matched by another one at the
top of the pipe, which would be coupled to a short pipe (“nipple”)
going up through the well seal into the bottom of the elbow. All of
this, including the pressure tank and pressure switch, is typically
located next to the well head in a small outbuilding, the pump house.

Speaking about
switches, electrical issues weren't covered much in this
instructable. I would recommend having a cutoff switch installed
near the pressure switch to avoid the convenience-versus-risk
tradeoff as described. Also there is the matter of a
controller/starter box, which most pumps require. Our author
doesn't address this issue at all. New pumps often come packaged with
a new contoller, so the electrical aspect of pump replacement really
needs to be addressed as well.


"Instructor" huh? You're living up to your handle. I'm having a hard time figuring out if your comment is intended to be condescending, or if you're just trying to put information out there for the benefit of others. (Not for nothin', but referring to me as "our author" and then pointing out all of the areas in which you perceive the ible to be weak is a tough read.) I'm going to assume it's the latter.

I'm not, in any way, a professional. I'm just a guy that wanted to try to do a replacement on my own, and managed to save myself a whole lot of money in the process. If people want ALL of the details on how to perform a replacement, under ALL possible circumstances (galvanized pipe, pvc, deep wells, etc.) they should do what is recommended in the very beginning of the ible and *consult a professional.* This is not a job for a person that wants to "dabble."

I'm a telecommunications specialist, by trade. I know enough about electrical work to know that I'm the last person to be giving advice about installing a cutoff switch. If that's an area in which you're strong, maybe write it up so that others can benefit from your expertise? I know I would read it!

Thanks for your comment!


Dear Mr. JamesBurkeFan,
I'm kind of old-school (just plain old, not to put too fine a point on it), and I'm not real comfortable seriously addressing or referring to persons by long, often bizarre user names, although that may be the etiquette here. Hence the "our author". BTW, I just had to make up a user name too in order to comment on yours, and maybe mine was misleading. I've never taught anything professionally, although I'm broadly knowledgeable in a number of fields and I've often been called on to be an explainer.
I may have been a little condescending on the terminology issue (for which I apologize), but I'm kind of a stickler for words, and I did get thrown momentarily by you referring to the pipe as "water tubing." In my experience "tubing" almost always refers to small stuff, usually copper or clear/white plastic, so I had to look again at the pictures to make sure I wasn't missing something.
I do understand, whether you are a professional or not, that you were documenting a particular case that circumstances presented to you, and you clearly succeed in achieving that goal. As far as your "ible" is concerned the only thing I really had to add was the tip about using a 55 gal. drum as a kind of no-kink pulley/block for the poly pipe.
I was inspired to throw in the additional related information after scanning the comments of others and seeing that there seems to be a need for more information about water wells in general. That's how I ran across yours; I did a general web search and it was one of the few things to turn up. As far as being forced to consult a professional (advice is one thing you may need, but when they tell you you can't...) because someone's setup is different from yours, I say, REALLY? That's not what maker/DIY culture is all about, is it? Isn't what we really need a wider variety of cases documented. I myself worked with a galvanized, screwed-together drop pipe many years ago. Of course there are cases where only a professional will do, but there are many others a homeowner can handle if he or she has the right information.
As far as my own recent experience is concerned, I needed to replace the equipment at my well head after a fire (seal, pressure tank, pipes, and the electrical stuff; the pressure switch, pump starter/controller, the pumphouse breaker panel as well as splice the last few feet of the pump cable.) It's too late to take pictures of some of it since a sort of back-woods professional already opened it up and pointed out what needs to be done. I suppose I could do a brief instructable about that, but it's kind of an unusual, not very commonly-encountered situation. I suppose it might be of some value to others in that it would show a warm-climate well seal setup with the pipe coming right up and out as an alternative to a frost-resistant underground connection with a well cap on top. Maybe I'll do one when I do my solar conversion on the well.

brandonros (author)2015-10-19

James, thanks for the best instructable ever. I'm looking into drilling and installing my own well here in TX with a homemade version of a Deep Rock portable rig. I should only need to go about 150 ft deep with about a 60 foot water level around me. Hopefully it all works out. But I wanted to ask, do you think a pitless adapter is necessary? I'm thinking I could just come straight out of the top of my casing with the water line. I'm not sure what all the pitless adapter is for but it definitely doesn't freeze here often so I'm not too worried about that. What do you think? Thanks again

Markomyt1 (author)brandonros2016-04-18

Brandon, Having lived in Texas... I think you could get away without the pitless connector if you keep the wellhead protected during a freeze. A lot of rural homes there have a little building/box over the wellhead and either have a light bulb for heat or heat tape during the 2 weeks it freezes down there.

Check this one out from the internet. The second one is for sale at:

jamesburkefan (author)brandonros2015-10-20

Is it "necessary?" (I'm reminded of a line of dialog from the movie "Dodgeball.") No. However, I would never consider digging a well without one. This is for a couple of reasons:

1) Your water line HAS to be buried below the frost line, no matter what. It's not a question of "how often" it freezes in your area. It only takes one freeze for significant damage to occur. I don't know how deep the frost line is in your part of Texas, but if anything ever goes wrong with your water line it's going to be a pain in the backside to do anything about it. Not having a pitless connector adds to that headache. If you have *any* issue with the water line, you'll have to replace the whole thing, even the stuff that's down in the well, because it's all one piece.

2) Tubing doesn't like to make 90 degree turns. It kinks. You have to have something to handle that bend, and that bend HAS to be below the frost line. When it comes to stuff like that, PVC just isn't a reliable option. You *could* come "straight out of the top," but then you have to worry about the water line rubbing on the edge of the casing. You'd also have to worry about freezing. A pitless connector buried below the frost line is the right way to go. It solves two problems at once.

3) It's not cost-prohibitive. Brass connectors go for anywhere from $50-$100.

As with all things, the risk is yours. You could "get away with" not digging your water line. It might work for years without any issues. On the other hand... it might not.

AshtonA4 (author)2016-03-19

ran across this very interesting article while trying to diagnose my exploding pipe issue...randomly the pipe coming directly out of my pump came out...I say "came out" because I was not there till way after the fact. I cut the pvc down the line a bit and inspected the threads and they were smushed in the hell does this even happen?? Any help is greatly appreciated. You can shoot me an email at

thanks again

Big Dog 10 (author)2016-03-09

Excellent tutorial! And funny too. Thanks very much. My well is supposed to be about 700' deep, and draws about 25 amps, so I think I will call the well company. For a shallow well, with what you taught, I might have given it a try.

Holyman1953 (author)2015-12-10

Thanks for this very informative, insightful, may I say, very literate, near erudite, documentation. Having lived and learned this the hard way, I would encourage parties who see this process in their future, to thank you ahead of time and to take heed of your expertise; I only wish that I had your advice twenty years ago. I have an eight hundred foot well, so pulling the pump myself was out of the question imagine the weight of forty sections of twenty feet long steel pipe!?
Your instruction considering the bleaching process alone is worth it's weight in gold.
Well done (pun implied)!
Thanks and God bless!


Wow... You broke out one o' them $2 words: "erudite." First time I've seen it in a while, and frankly I'm flattered! (I'm also kind of impressed with myself that I remembered what it meant.)

I'm far from an expert when it comes to this kind of stuff, and like you I'm no stranger to a hard lesson. I'm also not exactly "Mother Theresa," but if there's some small way in which I can help the world, I'm glad to do it. Since we're doing the pun thing, allow me to say:

"I hope this information serves people... well?" (a-thankyou)

An 800' well is no joke! I'm glad you got it taken care of. 20 years ago it probably wouldn't have been this simple.

Take care!

anniesprinkles (author)2015-10-19

Thanks for answering my post, I didn't really think you were going to have that great miracle answer I've been praying for. I just wanted to add, thanks for making this stuff finally understandable. Like you mentioned, searching around the internet just started getting me more confused and upset. Reading your post put it altogether in my head. I know your pump was a lot of work and so was this post. So hey, THANK YOU:-)


No worries! I'm glad to have been able to put it together. I hope you find the solution to your problems, soon!

anniesprinkles (author)2015-09-29

I live in Fresno, CA and our well went dry. For replacing the pump (says it no good anymore) & digging deeper it will cost over $7,000. I am living without water (7 months) now. Do you have any good suggestions, anything? :-(


Wow... That's terrible! I'very got family in central California, and yours is not the first such story I'very heard. From what I've been told, some of the wells in that area can be several thousand feet deep. It's not a cheap, or simple thing to have to handle.

I'm just a guy that figured out how to replace a well at his house. I'm no professional. So, unfortunately I don't have any suggestions for you, aside from the obvious stuff that you've probably though of already.

Have you called around for multiple estimates? Have you tried to work out financing with the bank that owns the mortgage on your house? That's the kind of thing that can lead to foreclosure if you're not careful.

I wish you the best of luck.

MichaelL115 (author)2015-09-21

Hey, thank you so much for putting this information out there! My well pump sometimes makes weird noises and it is rare but, produces dirty water. Do you think mine needs replacing? Also, If I ever were t replace, do you know of any good pump installation provider sin the Brandon Florida area?


No worries! I hope it's helpful.

Regarding whether your pump needs to be replaced: I'm not really sure. "Weird noises" could be caused by a variety of issues. If you're in Florida, are you certain that you have a submersible well pump? I'm under the impression that it's more common to have them above ground down there... which (if it *is* an above ground pump) would also explain why you hear it making loud noises. The reason I mention this is that you can't really hear a submersible pump making noises, unless you're outside near the well. With a submersible pump you might hear a hammer in your pipes, or hear some other water flow issues... but not the pump, itself... because it's buried down in a hole.

Sadly, I don't live in Florida. So I can't really make a recommendation. I would talk to your neighbors to find out who they've used in the past. Or, you could use an online service like Angie's List to find a well-reviewed provider in your area. If your water is coming up dirty I would recommend doing something about it as soon as possible. It may be something simple... on the other hand, you may need a whole new well. No way to tell without someone qualified taking a look.

nkz75 (author)2015-06-08

UAU!!! Great instructable!

Very complete, great photos!!!!

I would only comment on one thing. You have a brass retaining valve with a Stainless Steel (SS) reduction... The pump probably is also in SS. So, brass will get corroded any way. Here we have the same parts in brass bronze and SS... And PVC.

And in my well I've chosen PVC so it "breaks" the contact between the pump and the rest of the instalation. (of course water will still maintain the conection but much less)..

Anyway, the very best instructable I've seen for this job!!!

Thank you for sharing!!

allan.degroot.96 (author)2015-06-07

I've had to replace my well pump twice, the first time about twelve years ago, most recently over thanksgiving and because one neighbor watched me do it the first time, he asked me to help him when his pump died about five years ago

twelve years ago it failed in February, making what is usually a wet and miserable job especially miserable.

THE thing to emphasize is that is that while a well pump isn't especially heavy that that the length of pipe, even plastic pipe will still be full of water and all that water is heavy.

added to this is that the day I pulled it, it was 12degF.

My well pump is 245 feet down, so there is 245feet worth of pipe filled with water...with a 40# pump at the end of it that has to be dragged up my 6" well casing.

All that water became frozen complicating the job greatly.


Wow.... twice? Having to do it in February didn't make that an enjoyable experience, I'm sure. I'm glad you got it done, though.

Metal_maestro (author)2015-06-05

This brings back some memories. The house I lived in growing up had the well pump go out a couple of times. And being frugal people we pulled it ourselves the second time. That well had iron pipe, which had to be replaced the first time it was pulled, rather than plastic.

Thanks for taking the time to make this Instructable. And an even bigger thank you for your service.


High five! You're very kind. I'm just glad to have had the opportunity to serve.

snowdrop1101 (author)2015-06-05

we have an artiesan well that is 75' deep. when the electricity goes out, water makes its way to the surface. from what i hear, the water shot up 150 feet when the well was drilled. our poor neighbors lawn was covered in sand!

drobinson45 (author)2015-06-05

I wanna say what it looks like but I wont


I won't be mad at you if you do.

bravoechonovember1 (author)2015-06-05

Is this for artisian wells too?


Artesian wells? I'm not sure. I've always been under the impression that artesian wells "pump themselves." What makes them different is that the aquifer way below the surface is trapped between layers of rock. The rock puts pressure on the body of water, which forces it to bubble up through any available fissures.

When you dig an artesian well, my understanding is that you puncture the aquifer with a tube as a way of creating your own (conveniently located) fissure. Once it gets to the top of the well casing, a surface pump can direct it to wherever you want it to go. Could be wrong about that, but I'm pretty sure.


I have an artisan well and it has a pump but I guess it is to pump the water it to the house

43totheN (author)2015-06-05

Very informative. I'd always wondered what was involved in fixing a well. Thanks for sharing.

jamesburkefan (author)43totheN2015-06-05

I always wondered, myself! This was one of those things where I searched around in various forums trying to figure out how it worked, and quickly came to the conclusion that *someone* (why not me?) needed to put something out there that tied it all together. Thanks for the feedback!

livichris (author)2015-06-05

wow, what a job. hats off to you, doubt many of us would have braved it.