Leaks Tutor

A leaking hot tub was the thing I feared most when I started fixing hot tubs and continues to be my biggest fear. Partially because if you mess up, you got to remove the failed area and start over again. Partially I just don't like gluing. Current production has a lot less glued fittings and more barbed. But older ones don't.

Lets walk through the major generations of piping. First, all the piping are Schedule 40 pvc and white. First came rigid piping and what we most often think of when the say "pipe". Hard plastic and straight. To get around corners you glue in fitting after fitting. Every fitting being a potential of failure.

Then in early 90's came "flex hose". Same exact gluing but the hose has a great amount of bending ability. So you can run the flex hose 6 feet around the corner without a coupling.

Current generation hot tubs include both of the above PLUS clear hose for like garden hose (but not same material). This hose is NOT glued but a barb fitting inserts into the hose and a clamp secures it to seal.

All these generations work fine.

Actual pvc hoses rarely fail. Its the joints that fail.  Some methods to "patch" the leak are putty and liquid plastic like material and epoxy and like. I don't use any nor sell them. They might work. But I get paid for good service and pushing putty on a fitting and hope it seals never spoke well of "good service" when you have to return and do it right when it leaks later. We never wanted patch jobs. So from day one in the repair business I was taught on only do the "right way".

Exception: there always is exceptions. When repair meant turn the model on its side, cutting the bottom of the hot tub out to get to the fitting and then replacing major piping... just to fix a drip, I HAVE used a product like radiator sealer that worked. It was worth the try to save a $500 labor bill for a drip. AND it worked. But that situation is rare and the homeowner was willing to try knowing the $500 repair might be the only solution.


This is a common example of a leaking coupling.

First, note the upper left piping; that is rigid. The lower right piping is flex. The upper part of the coupling has an elbow and a smaller flex hose glued to that.

The leak is the joint between the flex hose and the "T" coupling.

For those who do a LOT of repairs, you couple cut the flex pipe where the arrow is pointing, take a pipe reaming drill bit and remove all the old pipe and glue inside the "T" and reglue the flex hose into the coupling (IF you have enough play in the flex hose to allow the hose to glue completely into the fitting... you usually don't)

Over the years I would do it this way: Cut the rigid pipe at the coupling. Cut both large and small flex hose at the coupling. Throw the whole coupling assembly and rebuild. BIG problem is usually the pipes are shorter. So you need to lengthen them by adding more couplings and hose. Not a costly thing but takes time and the more joints you have, the greater likelihood you will have a leak somewhere.

So... they invented the "magic mender".

With the "coupling extender" you cut the flex hose at the arrow. Glue the "extender" over the coupling itself. It this case you would glue a new 1 1/2" coupling onto the end of the extender. Then the hose would nicely glue into that. Done. Slick.

This principle applies to a wide variety of applications. But sometimes none of the "magic menders" will apply. It that case, you simply cut out the piping to the nearest straight rigid plastic pipe or flex pipe you have. Than rebuild the area.

JETS: Jets can leak in several places. If the joint includes part of the jet, the above "magic" will not work.

Above see a typical jet. "A" is the larger fitting and brings water to the jet to go into the hot tub. "B" is the smaller hose and provides air to make the bubbles.
USUALLY, if the leak is in the "A" area you must replace the complete jet.
But... if the leak is the smaller jet.. you might be able to cheat. Turn off the hot tub and look. Water will drip. Turn hot tub on and Jets to HIGH. IF the drip is still there, replace the jet. But if the drip stops, you might be able to cheat. Get your pvc primer and glue ready along with towels. I prefer "medium" body glue which typically is FAST drying. It works best.
Turn on HIGH and completely dry the jet with towel. Water and glue don't mix. When the area is dry, use primer to clean the area. Use liberally. Then apply a coat of glue; liberally. Leave jet on. About 10 minutes (that is why medium body is so good to use) apply second coat of glue (no primer). Let dry. IF it will work, the leak will be gone. Why? The drip and no drip test above showed that when the jet was on high, you now have a sucking going on which means instead of water coming out of the crack, air was going in. So while that was happening, you primed and glued the crack and sealed it. Second coat was just added insurance.
Over the years I have fixes these leaks this way with great success. But since the 1 1/2" line on this jet or the larger line is a pressured line, you can't do this.
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