30 Minutes and 500 Bucks

Did you catch it on my social channels? Your's truly, crunching through the gravel after the sun went down? 

What was that all about?

If you've hung around the AZ DIY Guy blog for any measurable amount of time, the phrase, "The pool turned green" isn't a new one.  Not by a long shot. The old pool became an unrecoverable cesspool of algae, before we had it remodeled.  (Check out that exciting story here).

Still, even with a complete remodel and mechanical upgrade, the pool occasionally runs into issues. There've been issues like palm fronds clogging it, and turning it Dagobah green. Our salt water cell died (warranty covered it), then the salt water controller died. Another time, our pool vacuum, robot dude kicked the bucket. We had to replace it with a new one.

Once again, problems.

Heat comes early in Arizona. As we spike into the 90's, green crud likes to attack pools that don't have chlorine protection. Since we use a salt water system,  it doesn't generate chlorine unless the water is moving through pipes. It must have been 4 days, before I realized the creeping green had started to sneak back. The pool pump wasn't running and I couldn't get it to start. It would bump a bit and go silent. The controller screen kept saying we had a "Drive Stall" error.

I tried everything I could find, searching the internet and trying to self-diagnose the problem.


The electrical connections were good, all the mounting screws were tight, and the impeller turned freely. 

DIY Confidence?

Based on some serious YouTube consumption and articles like this one by Pool Rescuers, I was pretty sure I had a solution,... albeit an expensive solution.  I was pretty sure I'd need a "Motor Drive Replacement", specifically a Hayward SPX3400DR Motor Drive with Digital Control Interface Replacement for Hayward SP3400VSP Series Pump, as listed on Amazon.

I was "pretty sure" that's what I needed. Everything I read and watched seemed to point that way. But with tax, I'd be gambling $500 on it. It wasn't like the time I gambled $6 dollars versus a new $550 panel and fixed the salt water control panel.

Should I have called in a pool repair contractor and hope for a couple hundred dollar fix? It most likely was going to still need this part and then maybe run me twice the cost with their labor. What if I bought the part and screwed something up or found out wasn't even the problem? Could I DIY it?

No performer should attempt to bite off red-hot iron unless he has a good set of teeth.
— Harry Houdini

Screw it. I'm a steely-eyed, DIY risk-taker with a decent track record of success. Mostly.

I grit my teeth and ordered the part. I threw a couple bags of chlorine shock powder in the pool. Amazon Prime would deliver the part in 2 days. If I screwed up, I'd call those Pool Rescuers.

LEt's see if this works.

I got home from work a couple days later, ate dinner, and carted the smiling Amazon box and my electrical tools out to the back yard, figuring I could at least get started before the sun went down.

A rare sighting of a man  actually reading instructions

A rare sighting of a man actually reading instructions

It seemed simple enough. With the circuit breaker turned off, I took out 4 screws, disconnected a few wires, and removed the old motor controller from the top of the motor. 


I pulled the new one of the box. It was not an exiting $500 purchase to hold, just a chunk of plastic and circuitry in a bag that looked like it should have been wrapped around a fruitcake.

That ain't no fruit ake

That ain't no fruit ake

I removed the digital interface and spun it to face the right direction.

Quit screwing around. It's going to be dark soon.

Quit screwing around. It's going to be dark soon.

I got to work on installing the new controller unit. From this point it only took about 30 minutes to reattach everything, fight some wires into place, make the connections and seal it all up. If I had only started 30 minutes earlier. 

Tucked up against a decent sized mountain, the sun goes down really fast here in the desert.  It's not like the lingering hours of twilight I remember as a kid in Michigan. Last time I raced the sun and lost, I was on the rooftop. This time, I was tucked down beside the house. 

That's how it went down my friends. The project, the sun, and our bank account. 

I powered the system back up and ordered up quick-clean mode, 3500 RPM of water-flowing fury.  I stood up to put some distance between myself and certain doom if the thing blew up in my face. I stretched my aching back as the electronics ran through their first startup.


Praise the heavens, the motor roared to life like it was brand new. There was a quick blast of bubbles over at the pool.


The air cleared the lines and the tank-like vacuum started moving. Soon it was climbing the walls. 

I'd done it. It was super easy and actually worked.


I cleaned up my mess as the night deepened. By the time I shot the Instagram video, the reality had set in. As excited as I was to successfully DIY the repair in 30 minutes, without hiring a service technician, we'd just spent $500 to repair something we'd just bought 4 years ago. Yay. 

Thanks to Pool Rescuers (who I've never talked to) for the generous, honest website