Problem with Goulds J Plus jet pump, motor stuck

Discussion in 'Pumps and Tanks Well Forum & Blog. Water is life.' started by mengel, Jul 23, 2008.

  1. mengel

    mengel New Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Hopefully somebody can help me, or let me know if my supposition is correct. This is a long story, but I'm sure the info will help. By the way, I'm an electronic technician, so I do know something about wiring and voltages, and how to use a meter.

    We bought a cabin up north in 2005 almost exactly to date. The previous owners had just replaced the complete pump and air tank just the year before, so it was practically brand new when we started using it on weekends and such. The water is quite hard, and there is some orange staining of fixtures in the cabin.

    The water supply consists of a 4 year old Goulds "J Plus" jet pump with the J5 motor, wired for 120 volt, 30-50 psi pressure switch with a small air tank on a 2 inch double-drop pipe well head, set up to pull the water up from around 100ft or so. This is set in the bottom of a small septic tank. So, they buried the septic tank, and drilled the well right through the bottom of it. They then installed the casing, etc, and cemented the drilled hole around the casing, which sticks out of the cement about 1 foot. Then, they installed a small platform, on which the said pump and such sits. VERY humid/damp inside there, with a lot of sweating of all the exposed parts down in the tank. So the motor and pump, and all parts are dripping wet from sweating at all times.

    Everything worked fine at first that first year, until the last time I went up there before winter, and the pump motor was stuck, and wouldn't start. At that time, I didn't know you could remove the motor end cap, and try turning the rotor with a screwdriver to see if it was seized. So, we used it maybe 4 months of weekends, plus a week or two of vacation. With no problems. I pulled the motor out the back, and took it home with me for the winter. I put it on my workbench, and left it there for the moment. A couple weeks later, I hooked it up to power, and it worked ok, and was no longer seized up. I didn't know what to think at that point. Come spring, I just took it back to the cabin, reinstalled it, and everything worked again. For a while that is. By the way, when we leave the cabin, we shut off the power to the pump with the breaker in the cabin. Every time we came back up there (to this date!), maybe a week or two apart, sometimes longer, I had to go down into the septic tank, (power turned off at the breaker) remove the end cap of the motor, and give the rotor a spin with a screwdriver before it would start. The rotor is slightly hard to turn, just enough that the electric couldn't start it, and you could feel it 'grinding' slightly. Once you spun it a few times, it loosened right up, and could start properly. That winter, I pulled the pump again, and took it to the Goulds service place, and had them replace the motor bearings, so it has new bearings at that point, which was last year.

    Here's what might be going on, and I only recently realized it might be some power differential causing the motor to seize up within a week or two of sitting between visits. Ok, when they wired in the new pump, they extended the 120volt romex, by simply adding in an extra couple of feet of cable. They used wirenuts to twist the wires together, and then used electrical tape to tape it up into a ball. Anyway, when I first noticed that about 2 months (<<< important point), after we first owned the cabin, I didn't think that was very smart or safe. So, I shut off the power, went down into the tank with a box, and installed the wire properly into an electrical box, used wirenuts, and electrical tape. Same as they did, only the connection is inside a sealed box, inside of floating in the air, being held up by it's own tension. It's bad enough you have to climb inside of a tight damp cement septic tank to work on this, but would be worse if a exposed wire got touched, and that turned into my coffin!

    Ok, I did white wire to white wire, black to black, ground to ground, as it should be. It's had this sticking problem, with me having to turn the rotor by hand before it would start, ever since about that time 2 years ago. The first time it started this sticking bit, was probably only a month or less after I rewired the extension into the electrical box. I never connected it to the rewire job. I've been putting up with this rotor sticking ever since, not wanting to just replace the whole thing, as at this point it's only around 4 years old, and barely used. So, about 1 month ago, I did some talking with a guy who deals with things like this in the hardware store, and he asked me if it was all properly gounded and wired. Ok, that brought to mind my rewiring it back in 2005. So, I decided to check out everything. We just went up there this last weekend, and I took my digital meter with me, and a device to check for reverse polarity. Turns out that right from the breaker box in the cabin, they REVERSE wired it, and the hot and neutral wires were swapped from normal convention! Yeah, the WHITE wire in the septic tank, is actually the HOT wire!

    I didn't know this when I changed the wire over to an internal connection inside the electical box, so when I hooked black to black, white to white, and such, everything ended up with hot and neutral swapped. They must have originally had (the HOT) white wire going to the black extension which went to the motor, but I didn't notice this when I pulled it apart to box it, as I never imagined it would be wired backwards. So, I just corrected this wiring issue on Sunday 3 days ago, before we left the cabin this weekend. I'm hoping this will fix the problem of the motor jamming within a week or two of being used again.

    Is it possible, that the reverse wiring somehow caused a voltage potential on the pump and motor casing? That this would allow the rotor to build up a powderly white corrosion fairly quickly, causing it to jam enough that it couldn't start by itself? I guess I will know for sure the next time I go up there in a couple weeks. If this supposition is correct, my motor shouldn't be jammed now, since I corrected the wiring. Anybody ever heard of something like this? Does this sound like it could be it, or am I just whistling in the dark here, and there's something else going on?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. valveman

    valveman Cary Austin Staff Member

    Mar 15, 2006
    Pump Controls Technician
    Lubbock, Texas
    I don’t think the wiring is your problem. You can’t have a air cooled motor in such a humid environment, any more than you could have a computer in that environment. Submersible pump, or a vent and fan for the vault?
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  4. mengel

    mengel New Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Well, you may be right. I would have thought Gould pumps were able to handle this sort of environment. Also, I know the previous pump was in there from 1973 until 2004, and worked until then without corroding, or sticking. That's 30+ years. The first owner, lived in the cabin all year around. We are only the 3rd owners, and the previous owners owned this cabin since 1984. They only used it for summers and such, like we are. We also have all the original paperwork, and well records from the beginning. Were older pumps that much better, so that they'd last 30 years, and the new ones junk, so only last a year or so before acting up?

    Are there 2 inch submersible pumps that could be installed down a metal casing?
  5. speedbump

    speedbump New Member

    Jul 15, 2005
    Water well and pump tech.
    Riverview, Fl.
    No, there are no 2" subs.

    Goulds has always used AO Smith Capacitor Start Motors. I wonder if they have gone with Split Capacitor Motors? If so, that could be the problem. I have seen a few Pumps that sit for long periods of time that do what yours is doing. The mineral content in the water is enough to try to glue the Impeller to the Casting. This is the crunching sound you hear when you turn it manually.

  6. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Nov 8, 2005
    Hansville, Washington
    I suspect that a regularly used pump would last longer, since the moisture in the air would be less likely to condense and accumlate on a warm pump, but that's an uneducated guess.
  7. mengel

    mengel New Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Thanks for all your responses so far. I'm hoping it's partly the electrical wiring issue that I corrected, somehow causing a state that makes the motor collect those salts faster than normal. Perhaps even the motor just happens to be flaky, and not working up to snuff. However, I do agree that the dampness and sweating isn't good.

    Either way, here's what I've decided to do for now:

    I'm going to clean the concrete inside the tank/vault, and paint it with white Dri-lock paint to seal it. That'll help with any possibility of water somehow seeping through the walls, IF that's also happening a little. It'll also make it nicer to be inside a mini-coffin such as this is, when I have to do maintenance. I'm also going to put a small pan under the pump, to collect the sweated water. Perhaps if also needed, I'll add a very small bilge pump to the pan, to get the collected water out of the tank. I also discovered a product called "Damp-Rid", that comes in a bucket, and can be placed inside of the tank. It's basically Calcium Chloride, and sucks the moisture right out of the air. After it's been used for a time, you just change it out for another one.

    Maybe this will be enough, but I won't know until I try something new. It sure gets old going in that tank everytime we go up there, crawling behind the motor, removing that cap, removing the cent. switch, spinning the motor shaft, putting the switch back on, yelling to my wife: "Turn it on!". Then when it works, putting it back together, then crawling back out, and having to clean myself off, yuck!

    Any other suggestions, I'd be greatful for any other brainstorms people could think of to help.
  8. PEW

    PEW DIY Senior Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    We have a Goulds J pump in a cinder block pit in the back yard. Always damp, water drips in when it rains. Have found the pumps last about 10 or so years. But, the pump gets run many times daily year round.
  9. Wet_Boots

    Wet_Boots Sprinkler Guy

    Mar 23, 2007
    Metro NYC
    You can also buy an electric valve and a controller, to make sure that water is running on a daily basis, because the idle time is what helps the pump lock up. I use Goulds J+ shallow well jet pumps for sprinkler systems, and some of them need an assist to get turning in the spring.
  10. mengel

    mengel New Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Hey, I didn't think of that! It has possibilities, thanks. I just spent the weekend up at the cabin, and completely cleaned, and sealed the inside of the tank, like I said in my post above. I also put an aluminum pan under the pump, and sealed all the piping with that foam split insulation. I also wrapped the water tank with insulation. Then, I put a 4 lb cannister of Damp Rid down there. Even if it still condenses some water down there, it should be MUCH less than it has in the past. Perhaps this'll be enough. I'll know within a few weeks.
  11. mengel

    mengel New Member

    Jul 23, 2008
    Well, I went back to the cabin 6 weeks after last being there. Everything was shut off when we left. I started the pump, and it started up perfectly with no help! That's the first time it's gone that long in years without being frozen up. So, I think all the things I did to keep it dryer down there worked. Or, it was the electrical issue, and switching the wires made the difference. I'm not going to switch them back to find out for sure, as I'm happy with it the way it is.
  12. Schrammdriller

    Schrammdriller Pumps and well contractor for 25 years

    Mar 21, 2008
    licensed water well installer
    Angels camp, California
    I would keep a can of silicone spray or wd 40 down there and hit the motor internals on each septic tank visit. That motor does not care about neutral from hot on 120 volt set up.
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