How to fix a sewage ejection pump: a quick guide

When sewage ejection pumps fail, you can quickly have an ugly mess on the basement floor. But before you call the plumber, consider this quick guide to fixing a sewage ejection pump.

How to fix a sewage ejection pump: a quick guide

Before you start

  • Before you panic and call the plumber (minimum charge $250), make sure the "float" switch works.
  • Most sewage ejector pumps and some sump pumps have a floating ball that's attached to the pump with a separate electrical cord.
  • If you see two cords coming out of the basin, you have a float switch.
  • This switch activates the pump when the water reaches a certain height.
  • The switch is plugged in with a "piggyback" plug, and the pump is plugged into the back of it so it doesn't turn on until the switch does.
  • Unfortunately, according to manufacturers, these switches may only last half as long as the pump.
  • Thankfully, universal replacement switches are available at home centres and plumbing suppliers for $20, and replacing the switch is simple.

Sewage ejection pump facts

  • When the water level rises, the floating switch turns on the pump, which grinds waste and ejects it up the waste line.
  • The check valve stops wastewater from flowing back into the basin.
  • The shutoff stops back-flow when the pump is serviced.
  • If you have any issues, head down to your local hardware store or check online for more tips.

Testing your switch and pump

  • Before you replace the switch, check the circuit breaker and GFCI outlet.
  • If they're okay, unplug the pump from the back of the piggyback plug and plug it in directly.
  • If the pump starts up, the switch is bad.
  • If it doesn't turn on, the pump is bad, but replacing it ($300, including the switch) is just as easy as replacing the switch.

Installing the new pump

  • Lift out the old pump and put a new one in.
  • If the pump works, run water for a minute to flush out the dirty water — but don't let the water level go below the pump or you'll burn out the pump.
  • Then remove the basin top.
  • Pull the vent pipe from the top and loosen the coupling or union that joins the waste line together (wrap a towel around the pipe to catch any water).
  • Lift out the new pump and mark the point where the cord that holds the switch is attached to the pump.
  • Attach the new switch at the same point so it will turn on and off at the same water level.
  • Also check to be sure there's an air bleed hole near the bottom of the waste pipe.
  • Not having an air bleed hole is another potential cause of pump failure.
  • If you don't see one, drill a 1/6 centimetre (1/16 inch) diameter hole into the waste pipe about 5 centimetres (2 inches) from where it enters the pump.
  • Put the pump back in the basin and reassemble the plumbing.
  • Make sure the float switch moves freely and doesn't get wedged against the sides.
  • Seal around the edge of the basin with silicone caulk if the original gasket or seal is deteriorated.

Keep this quick guide in mind to make fixing a sewage ejection pump that much easier.

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