Expert Level Pool Inspection

Should I buy a new Polaris 380 or a used one? Should I buy a different pool cleaner? What pool cleaner is right for my pool? Is one model better than another? What is the difference between Polaris 180, 280, 340, 360, 380, 480, 65, 165, and the Turtle? All of these are good questions. Ones that we are sure you have asked yourself.

We answer these questions everyday.  We want to sell product as much as the next guy, but we also want our customers to make an educated decision before they spend those hard earned dollars. So we are going to try to answer some of these questions for you. We hope this information helps you make the right buying decision.

Should I buy a new Polaris 380, or a used one?

First, you need a little history. Polaris 180 was the first pressure side pool cleaner that ran from a booster pump. The Polaris 180 has only 1 jet that creates the cleaning power.  It has a narrow throat, which allows leaves to clog it up.  It works very well, and it is easy to repair. Although it was the best at the time it came out, it is now old and out-dated.

Polaris hoses! THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Hoses on old Polaris go bad. Don’t waste money buying a lot of hose parts. Replacing back-up valves, swivels, and sweep tails is okay, but if your floats are sinking, causing the hose to drag on the bottom, you need to buy a new hose kit. The old floats were a type of foam that got water logged, causing them to sink.  Don’t waste money buying floats for the hoses, the old ones are way too hard to take off.

Polaris 360 & 380 were the next units to hit the market. These are 3-jet cleaners. The 380 In-ground requires a booster pump as does the 180, 280, and 480.  The 360 works off the return lines. The 340 works off the skimmer. The 65, 165, and Turtle work off return lines. The 165 is for in-ground, while the 65 and turtle for above-ground pools.

Let’s start with the Polaris 380. It’s a great unit, but if you are buying an old one you need to ask:
If one wheel turns do they all turn? (If not, bad belts) 
Does unit lay on it’s side? (If yes, bad head float)
Dose hose sink?(If yes, bad hose floats).
Does unit back-up? (If not, a bad back-up valve).
Does bag stay clipped on? (If not, possible bad bag on throat where bag clips into it.)
Are tires rounded a lot? (older tires were squared in edges, the newer types are slightly rounded, so if they are rounded a lot, you have bad tires). The front tire and single-side tires wear out the most. The trailing tire (back right) wears the least. You can rotate the tires to keep them working longer. If wheels are wobbly, you have bad bearings.
The 380 is hard to fix – belts and inside bearings. These parts need to be replaced when they show problems. To inspect, just pop off the cover and do a visual inspection. Look for broken bearings, see if things wiggle. If you are handy, you should be able to fix one. But be careful not to lose parts.
The 380 is a great cleaner. However, we do not recommend buying used cleaners, you can’t tell from a picture if the inside parts are worn. If you do buy one used, the units with the clear type tops are only a year or so old.

Next topic: the Polaris 360. This unit head is just like the 380 except it does not use a booster pump, it works off the return line. The heads are the same, the same type of things go wrong with them both.  The hose for the 360 are different though. It has a backup valve, but it is different than the 380’s. The 180, 280, 380, and 480 all use the same backup valve. If a backup valve stops shooting water out, you must replace it. It has a timer gear inside, if it goes bad, it is not worth replacing parts, so I recommend you buy a new valve. 360 hoses last longer if you do not have an automatic chlorinator on the return line. You will have to replace hoses from time to time, but you should get up to 3 years out of the hoses.

Next is the Polaris 280 – we like this one best. This unit has a larger throat, so it is less prone to leaf clogs. It has 2 ports that create the cleaning power. The flow design off the bottom and larger throat allow it to clean way better than the old 180, and is just as good as the 380. This unit is very easy to fix, and the parts cost less than the 380. Again, if any Polaris lays on it’s side the Head Float is bad and needs to be replaced. The 280 does not have a rebate program, but parts will cost you less, and in the end, this unit will cost you less.

Now the 180, 280, 380, and 480 (only sold by builders of new pools) all use a booster pump. They all need a dedicated line to run in the pool. The booster pump runs off a time clock. The cleaner timer can be jumped from the filter timer, or connected to it’s own breaker. Booster pump motors go bad; if it hums, it is either bad bearings or capacitor (if it is the bearings, it will be screaming, then after time the bearings heat up and cease). Time for a new Booster pump. Don’t replace motors on booster pump, it’s not worth the money.  The capacitor is under that bump up thing on top of  the motor. In there is the capacitor. They can explode, rupture, and sometimes just go bad.
Never take that top off with the power on, you will get shocked! We do not recommend that you ever mess with electrical connections on your pool if you do not know what you are doing. You could do something wrong, causing a charge in the water, and a swimmer could be injured.
Signs it is bad leaked fluid, the top where the terminals are should be flat. If it is bumped up and terminals are crooked it is bad.
Bad Polaris pump Seal. You see water spraying out of the side of the seal bracket. These seals go bad over time, and if the pump runs without water, the impeller over heats, then the seal over heats and pump leaks, spraying water all over. This water can get into motor bearings and cause that to go as well.
The new hose kits for the booster pump are excellent. If yours leaks, replace them.  Some booster pumps are set up with garden hose type fittings, with washers. Chlorine cause these washers to swell up, and decrease flow to the pump. This can cause the pump to be loud and overheat.

We hope this information is of help to you, we still have more to add later.

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