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The Mystery of the Tripping Breaker

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Hot tub repairs. I know nothing about them. Scratch that. I knew nothing about them, but in the past week I have been initiated in a trial by fire kind of way. I've figured out most things, but what follows has me stymied.

I recently put in a new pump and motor (along with a whole whack of other things too long to list). Satisfied that all as ready, I filled the spa and turned on the main breaker. It ran for about 5 seconds and then tripped the breaker. Puzzled, I went to the breaker and turned it back on only to have it trip within a second or so.

After speaking with some technicians, I replaced the heating element as they said that, 90% of the time, this is the cause of a tripping breaker. With the feeling of victory on my side, I turned the breaker on once again. TRIP! And again. . . TRIP!

I began to disconnect things one by one and the problem stopped with the motor being disconnected. A ha! It's in the motor. But it's a new motor! Furthermore, it did turn for the brief moment that the power was on before the breaker tripped.

I placed another call to the local spa shoppe and got a technician on the phone. He said that it sounded like the wires were connected to the motor incorrectly. So, I opened the wiring panel on the motor and got on YouTube to watch The Spa Guy tell me how to wire a pump motor correctly. He makes mention at 0:45 of the "J&J"-type of connector and I recognized that as mine. Comparing my wires to the diagram on my motor and to what he said in the video, everything looked like it was connected properly. In fact, at 6:52, this is the exact diagram I have on my motor. (Mine does not have a toggle switch, so only the diagram on the left is applicable.)  Then at 7:07 they showed a picture of how this is wired. Bingo! My motor is wired backward to this picture, but the picture they show is not in accord with the diagram just shown on the motor. Then he explains at 7:15 that the colors are wired backward because "this is an old J&J system." So then the light went off! My system has that J&J connector so I must have an "old J&J system." So I immediately switch the high- and low-speed wires and slap the motor back together and hook it all up. With that same feeling of victory that I had earlier, I turned on the breaker. . . One second, 2. . . TRIP! Again. . . TRIP. The motor still spins for a second, but then trips the breaker.

At this point, I am completely confused. I disconnected the motor again and the breaker does not trip and the panel shows a "FLO" error.


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With the pump disconnected, turn on your breaker, which should turn the tub on.  Now, press the TEST button on the breaker.  We just want to see if the GFCI is working properly.  If the test button isn't working, then your GFCI is the problem.  GFCI's work off the neutral line, so the neutral on the pump is the trigger.

Next, try disconnecting the ozonator.  If it has a short in it (which is common in older tubs), it could be turning on when the pump turns on and causing the problem.

If that's not it, connect your new pump to a different pump connector on the pack.  Since the J&J connectors are keyed to the plugs, you may have to swap wires instead of plugs.  Will the new pump work connected to a different pump circuit?  Does your other pump work when connected to the circuit that's giving you problems?

If the problem is following the pump, and disconnecting the pump cures the problem, most likely the pump is bad.  I've seen one or two DOA pumps in my day, but that is a rarity.



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