When it comes to relaxing, a hot tub is pretty hard to beat. The jets and cozy temperature soothe aching bodies and create a comforting atmosphere. But, if that hot tub starts leaking, it can be the beginning of a major headache—though not if you know how to fix it.
Once you know what to look for, you can locate your leak, seal it, and get back to kicking back. It’s not always an easy job, but it can save your hot tub from a slow, leaky death.
On the outside, a hot tub doesn’t seem all that complicated. But peel back that skirting (which you’ll probably have to do to fix it), and you’ll notice a network of piping and mechanical components. Don’t let them intimidate you; to fix your hot tub leak, just follow these steps.
How to Fix Small Hot Tub Leaks
There’s a chance your leak is small and easy to fix, so don’t start ripping things out from under your hot tub without taking a moment to investigate. Pinholes and small cracks caused by age, cold temperatures, or manufacturing flaws are sometimes conquerable with a fix in a bottle. For that reason, it’s worth trying this step first.
With a bottle of leak-sealing product on hand, remove your hot tub filters. With the pump running, follow the leak-sealer manufacturer’s instructions and pour ¼ to 1/3 of the bottle (this will depend on bottle size) directly into the filter area, which is also where your suction intake is located.
Take note of the water level and allow the hot tub to run for 24 hours. If the water level doesn’t drop, you’ve fixed the leak, so put your filters back in. If the water loss slowed, repeat the process with more leak sealer.
How to Fix a Leaking Hot Tub Pump or Heater
A common area for leaks is on either side of the pump or heater, and to access this area, you’ll have to remove the hot tub’s side panels. Typically, this just takes loosening a few hand-turned fasteners and some shuffling. With the panel removed, take a look at the pump and heater. If water is dripping, spraying, or puddling around the pump or heater, you’ve found your leak. Usually, cracked fittings or worn-out O-rings are to blame. Follow these steps to correct the issue:
- Start by powering off the unit and closing the gate valves on either side of the pump.
- Using the screwdriver and pump pliers, remove the leaky fittings and take them to your local pool supply shop to find a replacement.
- Finally, reinstall the new part in the reverse order, then open the gate valves, turn the pump on, and check for leaks.
How to Fix Leaks Around the Light
Another common area for leaks is the spa light. If the water level drops to around the height of the light, it could be to blame. The leak can come from a crack in the light fixture itself or the gasket behind it. You’ll probably have to remove the side panels to gain access to the light. Follow these steps to correct leaks around a hot tube light:
- Start by shutting off the power to the hot tub and removing the side panels one at time.
- From under the hot tub, check each light for water to locate the suspected leaking light. If the leak isn’t evident, remove the next panel and continue checking lights for moisture.
- With the leaking light located, remove the bulb by carefully twisting and pulling it from the fixture.
- Use a large pair of water pump pliers to remove the plastic retaining nut that holds
itthe fixture in place. You may have to cut away insulation foam for access.
- Push the lens from the back, so it drops into the hot tub.
Spa lights come in different styles and sizes, so it’s best to take the fixture to a pool supply store and allow them to either match it with a new light or provide a replacement gasket. To reinstall a new light, simply clean any gasket residue from the inside, slide the new gasket onto the new lens, place the lens into the hole from inside the tub, and tighten the plastic retaining nut in the access area.
Note: If you have several lights, it’s best to replace all of them at once. They’re most likely the same age and liable to leak soon.
Other Common Hot Tub Leaks
The most challenging leak to locate is one coming from a jet, pipe, or hose buried inside the insulation. Finding a leak inside the insulation takes quite a bit of detective work. With as many access panels removed as possible, allow the hot tub to run like normal. Lying on the ground, use a flashlight to detect any drips or wet foam, which will give you a general idea of the leak’s location. Using a metal spackle knife or similar tool, cut away at the foam around the drip, checking for water every so often to ensure you’re still on course (and the water isn’t coming from somewhere else).
Hot tub jet leaks
If the leak is from a jet, you’ll need to remove the hoses attached to it. Using the pump pliers, squeeze the metal tabs on the clamp and slide it to the side. If the hoses are difficult to remove, use a heat gun to warm them up a bit (don’t melt them). Then, remove the plastic retaining nut that holds the jet in place.
Take the jet to the spa store for a replacement if it’s cracked, or simply buy a new gasket if that was the culprit. To reinstall the jet, slide the gasket over the back of the jet, place it into the hole from the inside of the tub, and tighten down the plastic retaining nut from inside the access area. Reattach the hoses, heating them if necessary, and slide the hose clamps back over the fittings. Once you test the repair by running the hot tub, cover the repair area with a can of spray foam.
Hose and pipe leaks
If it’s a hose or pipe that’s leaking, you’ll need to remove the foam to find the cracked section. Using a tubing cutter or hacksaw, cut out the cracked section of pipe or hose. Match that section of pipe or hose with replacement material at a local home center and pick up a few couplings meant for PEX/PVC pipe or hose.
To replace the pipe or hose, install the fittings onto the existing section on the hot tub and cut a replacement section to fit. Then it’s simply a matter of sliding one end of the replacement into or over the fitting (depending on the type) and then into or over the other fitting. Once you test the repair by running the hot tub, replace the insulation with a can of spray foam.
Your hot tub should be back up and running, leak-free. Finding and accessing the leak is almost always the hardest part of repairing a leaky hot tub, so take your time and be prepared to cut away a lot of foam. The end result is worth it.
Tools and Materials
There are a few different ways in which a hot tub can leak, and the cause will determine which tools and materials you’ll need. Your best resource for replacement parts and materials will be a local pool supply shop, but you may be able to order parts online. Let the following list serve as a guide to what you might need, not a definitive shopping list:
- Water pump pliers
- Spackle knife
- Tubing cutter
- Heat gun
- Spa fittings and couplings
- PVC pipe or hose
- Leak-stopper liquid
- Various gaskets
- Spray foam insulation