Pet water fountains are a great way to keep your furry friends hydrated with clean, filtered water. Unfortunately, as with most things, you might run into some problems after using it for some time. Before you go back to the boring water bowl, there are some easy steps you can take to figure out why your Drinkwell cat water fountain pump is not working. This troubleshooting guide covers just about everything that might have gone wrong with your fountain and is applicable to all Drinkwell models.

If your fountain is still not working after trying all the steps below, check out my guide The Best Cat Water Fountains of 2020 to help you find a replacement. If you’d like to try to replace just the pump first, you can buy a new one here. Now, let’s see if we can’t get your fountain fixed!

Drinkwell Pump Not Working: Troubleshooting Guide

If your Drinkwell fountain stopped working

There are several possible causes for a fountain to stop working. Sometimes it takes a few minutes for the motor to start pumping water once it’s refilled or plugged in. If water doesn’t flow after 5 minutes, try these troubleshooting tips:

  • Unplug and re-plug the fountain into the same outlet.
  • Check the cord. If it has any frayed or exposed wires, your pet may have been chewing on the cord. To prevent this, you can purchase a cord cover from most hardware stores. You could also try securing the cord to the floor with duct tape .
  • Lack of regular cleaning may result in the pump becoming clogged with pet hair and food debris. The pump must be cleaned every 2-4 weeks to ensure proper function. Please refer to the owner’s manual for detailed instructions on how to properly clean your motor.

How to clean the motor:

  • Remove the motor from the fountain.
  • Lift the impeller (looks like a small white propeller) out of the motor. There may be a faceplate cover over the impeller than can be pulled up with a coin or fingernail. Wash the impeller in soapy water, removing hair and other gunk that has collected around it.
  • Pour soapy water inside the motor cavity and clean with a small round brush like the one found in the Fountain Cleaning Kit. A small toothbrush might work too, or anything that can reach all the way inside of the cavity.
  • Rinse all parts well before returning to the fountain.

If your Drinkwell fountain is still not working:

  • Water quality can also affect the pump and how effectively it runs. Hard water will cause calcium deposits to build up in the pump’s cavity, blocking the impeller from spinning. If there is evidence of hard water build-up inside the pump, try adding plain white vinegar inside the pump’s cavity (without the impeller) and allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes. Allow the impeller to soak in a separate bowl of vinegar for the same duration of time. Clean all fountain parts in soap and water before reassembling the fountain.
  • Make sure the cord does not have any frayed or exposed wires due to pets possibly chewing the cord. If your pet is prone to chewing, visit your local hardware store and purchase a conduit cover to protect the cord.
  • Pumps last for several years with proper cleaning. If the pump has been in regular use for this period of time, it may be old and need to be replaced.
  • The fountain is to be used indoors only, with the exception of the Outdoor Dog Fountain. Outdoor usage for all other fountains can cause damage to the pump, at which point the pump would need to be replaced. The fountain parts and pump are not UL approved for outdoor use. o If the pump was exposed to low water levels for a prolonged period of time, the pump’s motor may have burned out and the pump may need to be replaced.

If your Drinkwell motor stopped working

  • Unplug the fountain then plug it back in.
  • If the motor is humming, try cleaning the motor, making sure nothing is stuck around the impeller. You can also change the foam filter.
  • If the motor is not humming, try replacing the pump.
  • Never let the water in the bowl get below the minimum fill level. This can cause the pump to overheat and stop functioning. When refilling the bowl, make sure to add water before turning the fountain on.

If water’s not flowing as much as it used to

  • Disassemble and clean the pump.
  • Clean the fountain, especially around the motor. o Fill the fountain with water up to the max fill line.
  • With a 360 Plastic or Stainless Steel fountain, the more spouts on the top, the weaker the water flow for each spout. Try switching to a top with one fewer spout opening.

If your Drinkwell adapter is warm to the touch

  • Unplug the fountain and plug it into a surge protector.

If there’s black dirt in the bowl

This black stuff is loose activated carbon from the filter and is completely harmless for your pet to drink. The carbon filter is made of organic coconut shells. Rinse the filter in cold water before placing it in the fountain to prevent this. Some filters may shed more carbon than others due to differing consistency of carbonl in each batch of filters, so don’t be surprised if some filters leave behind more carbon dust than others.

If your Drinkwell fountain feels slimy

  • If you have multiple pets or dogs use the fountain, the slimy feeling may be caused by your pet’s saliva. Change the water and clean your fountain more frequently to prevent this.
  • Make sure the fountain parts are rinsed thoroughly after cleaning the fountain. Soap residue may cause the sliminess.
  • To reduce mold and mildew, soak the fountain in a 90% water, 10% bleach solution for 15 minutes. Be sure to rinse every part thoroughly before reassembling the fountain.
  • If there is a white chalky substance in the fountain, your fountain may have a mineral deposit build-up from hard water. To remove these deposits, clean the fountain parts with a 90% water, 10% vinegar solution. Rinse all parts thoroughly afterwards. Use filtered or purified water instead of hard tap water to prevent this.

If your Drinkwell fountain is leaking

  • Sometimes water around the fountain is caused by pets drinking. Some pets are prone to spilling. Watch your pet when he drinks to see if this is the cause. If it is, you can purchase a fountain mat or other water-resistant mat to place under the fountain.
  • First, you need to figure out where the leak is. Look for visible cracks in the bowl.
  • If there are no visible cracks in the bowl, place the fountain on a towel to see where the leak is.
  • If you find a leak, you can attempt to patch it or call Customer Care about replacing the fountain.
  • If the cord is wet above the water line, loosen the cord and allow some slack so water won’t travel up the cord.
  • If you have the Original fountain, you may need to remove the pump to properly clean around it. Call our Customer Care for a tool to help remove your pump.

If your Drinkwell fountain is too loud

A low humming noise is normal, but it should not be loud. Some fountains hum a little louder than others.

  • If the water is making too much noise, add water to the fill line and reduce the flow using the flow control knob.
  • If the motor is humming loudly, make sure the water level is above the minimum line.
  • When turning on the fountain or replacing the filter, the motor may make more noise than usual. It should return to normal levels within a few minutes.
  • Unplug the fountain for 15 seconds. If the noise stops when plugged back in, it’s possible that some debris is caught on the impeller. Remove the pump and clean the impeller. Try rubbing a small amount of vegetable oil onto the magnetic pin with a Q-tip to lubricate the impeller.
  • Clean your fountain completely. See below for full cleaning steps.
  • Hard water buildup can sometimes cause more noise. Try adding plain white vinegar inside the pump’s cavity (without the impeller) and allow it to soak for 10-15 minutes. Allow the impeller to soak in a separate bowl of vinegar for the same duration of time. Clean all fountain parts in soap and water before reassembling the fountain.
  • The Big Dog and Original fountains may be noisier due to a loose impeller pin. Gently but firmly press down on this pin to re-seat it into its proper place in the motor. If the pin has completely dislodged itself from the motor, it cannot be placed back into the motor cavity properly and the motor will have to be replaced.

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