How to Fix Short Cycling Sump Pump

How to Fix Short Cycling Sump Pump: 3 Reasons & Solution

Sump pumps are supposed to do one job: keep water outside and prevent flooding. However, when short cycling occurs, your pump activates more than once within a short time.

Unfortunately, this can be the cause of severe flooding in your basement. That’s why you should learn how to fix short cycling sump pump.

One of the easiest ways to fix your sump pump’s short-cycling problem is by replacing the float switch. However, additional problems that might result in short cycling can also arise and call for different solutions.

So, keep reading all the way through to know all the approaches.

Quick Table of Short-Cycling Problems and Solutions

Short cycling is a common problem that can be hard to diagnose and fix. Here’s a quick reference table of problems and solutions.

Stuck float switchReplace the switch
Damaged check valveInspect the valve, and replace it if necessary
Frozen discharge lineThaw the line

How to Fix Short Cycling Sump Pump?

There can be several causes for the short cycling of a sump pump. The most common cause is a broken float switch, but there are other causes as well. Let’s take a look at all of them and see what you can do to fix them.

1. Stuck Float Switch

Usually, when the float switch gets hooked on the sump basin’s wall or entangled in the electrical cord, it can’t move freely. That’s when the pump gets stuck in the brief cycle.


The easiest way to fix this problem is to replace the float switch. You can directly buy the replacement switch from the manufacturer of your pump system.

However, you should note that the switches are pretty expensive and might require a licensed plumber, as the installation process is quite complicated.

2. Worn-out Check Valve

Did you know that your sump pump was designed to have a check valve on the discharge pipe? If the check valve in your discharge line is broken or missing (usually after a few years), the pump can run continuously without switching off. However, it might shut off but it’ll turn back on again immediately due to a damaged check valve.


The check valve is quite inexpensive and effortless to replace. Just remove the valve from the line to examine it thoroughly. If the check valve doesn’t look like it’s working correctly or closing properly, you may need to replace it with a new one.

Relevant: Sump Pump Discharge Line Underground Clogged!

3. Clogged or Frozen Discharge Pipe

A clogged discharge pipe is another common reason for a sump pump to short cycle. But when the outlet pipe gets clogged or frozen, water can’t go anywhere, causing the engine to run indefinitely, resulting in the pump burning out.

Additionally, you’ll need to replace the entire system if the motor burns out, which could be incredibly expensive.


If you notice the line is blocked or frozen, thaw the line using a portable heater. You must seek help from a professional in case you’re not skilled with DIY thawing.

Other Common Sump Pump Short-Cycle Problems

Short cycling is the continuous operation of the sump pump, pumping water again and again. Many people face several types of brief cycle issues regarding the sump pump.

Drainage Problem

Sometimes you might notice that your sump pump running every 2 minutes. That suggests a drainage issue or a leak. Another possibility is that the pump switch isn’t set to the required depth.

It’s important to check for these problems to fix them before they become disastrous and start causing damage in other areas of your home. You can always call a plumber to sort out this problem.

Water Flow

If there’s too much water in your basement, your sump pump will activate more often than necessary. There may come a time when you’ll encounter the sump pump runs every 4 minutes depending on the volume and consistency of water pouring into the pit.

You don’t need to be concerned about this because the sump pump will turn off whenever the level of water drops.

High Rainfall or Moisture

Due to weather, heavy rain or moisture in the air can trigger the sump pump to run continuously. If your sump pump runs every 5 minutes, consider raising the float valve setting, so the cycle doesn’t begin and stops quickly.

However, as the rain stops, the pump will most likely return to normal operation.

A Too-large or Small Pit

No matter what size your home is, your sump pump must be the right size to manage the unique demands of your home. If you have a larger home with more floors, you’ll need a bigger pump.

Likewise, it could be that your pump pit is too small or too shallow to accommodate the size of your house. A sump pump pit is where water is collected and pumped out of your house.

If the pit isn’t deep enough, you’ll witness the sump pump runs every 30 seconds. That is, the pump will turn on, but then turn off again after only a few seconds.

You can try to increase the depth of your sump pump slightly as it’ll raise it above the groundwater level resulting in solving the problem. However, it’d be better to seek help from a professional as the process is easier said than done.

How to Check the Sump Pump

Whenever you encounter a short cycle like a sump pump running every 2 seconds, you better check the machine right away. There are a few ways to check

  • The first and easiest way to check your sump pump is by pouring a bucket or jug of water into the pit, which will turn on the unit automatically. If, unfortunately, it doesn’t start, call the plumber.
  • Examine the GFCI breaker since sump pumps are connected to it. When the place is moist, the breaker could trip. That’s why, if it’s not turned on, make sure it is.
  • Some sump pumps are installed underground, while others are free-standing. Double-check that the sump pump is in the correct position, as it might collapse due to pump vibrations.
  • After removing the submersible pump from the pit, you must clear out the grate at the unit’s bottom. Most frequently, tiny stones get stuck in that grate, hindering the flow.
  • Check if there’s any unpleasant odor left. If there’s a smell, water is probably not moving from the trap toward the basin. In such an instance, combine one gallon of water and one cup of bleach, then pour the liquid into the trap.



Why is my sump pump pumping so much water?

There’s a good chance that your sump pump isn’t working properly. In that case, check the float switch on your sump pump. It’s the part that senses when the sump pump needs to turn on, so if it isn’t working properly or broken, the pump will run constantly and overflow.

Why my sump pump turns on and off quickly?

A sump pump turns on and off quickly can be caused by several factors. It can be due to a faulty float switch, clogged discharge pipe, drainage problem, heavy flow of water into the unit, etc. And if your sump pump runs for 5 seconds only, the mentioned reasons can be the cause. However, there might be something else too. Feel free to call in an expert.

Why is my sump pump running every minute during heavy rain?

During heavy rain events, it’s common for sump pumps to run every minute or so. The reason for this is that the water level in your basement can increase at an alarming rate. Oftentimes, this stops happening after stopping the rain. However, if it continues operating the same way, contact a professional.

Why is the sump pump making noise every few minutes?

Sump pump humming sounds are natural, but they must never get too loud. When they become noisy, it might be due to a faulty impeller, jammed discharge pipes, a clogged check valve, or a blocked vent hole.


Short cycling is a pervasive problem in sump pumps that can often lead to flooding. Hopefully, we’ve provided you with enough information on how to fix short cycling sump pump.

If not, there are other options available to you. You can always hire a professional to solve the problem, or if your sump pump has settled into a rut or become clogged over time, it might be time to replace it altogether.


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