Sometimes a pump can suffer from a catastrophic failure that may destroy your private water well system. This usually results from dead-head pumping. In this article, we will discuss what a dead head pump is and the steps that can be taken to prevent it.

What is a Dead Heading Pump?

When a centrifugal pump operates with no water flow. No water flow means that the pump circulates only a little bit of water. Lack of water raises the temperature of the pump. The temperature rises because the same water is being recirculated and heating up into water vapor. This is a dead head pump.

What Happens If You Don’t Fix It

As the water vapor continues to heat up, it will start heating the pump itself causing it to crack and compromising the unit.  Due to the energy being built up within the pump coupled with the fact that the extreme temperature will weaken the pump’s safety component, an explosion may occur that can destroy your private water well system.


The most common cause of a dead head pump is either a blocked pipe or a closed or a discharge valve that is not operational.

Will a Water Level Sensor Alert to a Dead Head Pump?

Unfortunately, a water level sensor will not alert you to a dead head pump situation.  As mentioned above, the pump has water, it is just being circulated.  So the water level would not drop to allow the water sensor to alert you of a problem.


The best way to be alerted of a dead head pump is to install a temperature sensor on the pump casing.  This sensor will alert you when the pump gets too hot and shut down the system as a precaution.  Another prevention method is to install a device that measures water flow on the discharge line.  If the water discharge has had a significant decrease, the device will alert you of a possible blockage and shut off the system from potential damage.

Steps to Take to Check For Damages

When dealing with a dead head pump, you will want to determine if your pump is damaged or not.  The following steps should be taken (We recommend a trained professional handles this):

  1. Shutoff the pump system
  2. Check for physical damages on the pump such as leaks or a burnt-out motor.
  3. If the pump is okay, disassemble the pump to see if flow occurs to determine whether there is a blockage.
  4. Last, check the circuit breaker for any tripped circuits.

Contact Experts

If there is visible damage to the pump or if you do not want to risk self-checking the pump, contact an expert to diagnose the situation.  The technicians at American Pump Services are trained on resolving issues related to dead head pumps and will be more than happy to come to your property to check your system and will make recommendations on what needs to be done.