Water Filter Troubleshooting

Water filters will usually work without any problems for many years on end, especially if you observe the maintenance requirements laid down by the manufacturer. Periodic maintenance is a key factor in ensuring that your water filter is in top shape and does what it’s supposed to – remove contaminants to the best of its abilities.

Failing to replace your water filter system’s filter cartridges can lead to a series of water filter malfunctions and can potentially endanger the health of your family since your filter will no longer be able to remove contaminants, or even worse, contaminants trapped in the filter cartridge can wash back into your drinking water.

Most water filter issues will usually appear when the water filter system is not regularly maintained or not maintained at all. But lack of maintenance is not the only factor that can interfere with the faultless operation of your water filter – a filter and water type mismatch can also cause water filter operation issues.

Our guide for troubleshooting water filter issues covers the most common problems that you may encounter while using a water filter. In no particular order, here are the most common water filter problems, possible causes, and some easy solutions:

Sudden drop in water pressure

If you’ve been using your water filter for a while, but you suddenly notice a drop in water pressure, the cause may be one of the following:

  • Overused water filter cartridges due to missed filter replacement;
  • Clogged water filter cartridges due to high sediment content in water.

When water filter cartridges are used past the end of their service live, they will become too saturated with contaminants or even clogged by sediments, and can no longer filter out contaminants. When filter cartridges become clogged, the pressure of water drops, and you may notice only minimal or no flow from your water filter tap.

The solution? Replacing your old filter cartridges with new ones will most likely solve the issue, and restore the initial pressure of your system.

Sometimes, a missed filter replacement is not necessarily the cause of the pressure drop. If your water is high in sediments, and filter clogging appears way before the next scheduled filter replacement, it may be that your system’s sediment filters have a much lower micron rating than the sediments present in your water. In this case, you may need to look into a sediment filter with a higher micron rating.

Filtered water suddenly tastes or smells bad

If your filtered water acquires an off taste that you haven’t noticed before, you may need to check for one of the following problems:

  • Missed filer replacement date;
  • Filter cartridges in your system were not designed to remove certain tastes or odours;
  • Water contamination issues.

Beyond filter clogging issues, forgetting to replace your filter cartridges can also alter the taste of your filtered water. As filter cartridges get saturated with contaminants, they become a breeding ground for bacteria, which end up in your filtered water. This may be one cause why your filtered tap water tastes or smells bad.

Another cause for filtered water acquiring a strange smell or taste is simply that the levels of some types of contaminants have risen, and your filter was not designed to tackle those specific contaminants.

The solution? You can start by replacing your old filter cartridges, and see if there is any improvement in taste or odour.

If the problem persists, make sure to test your water for contaminants and contact your water provider to alert them about the issue. If certain contaminant levels are too high, you may need to refrain from using your tap water or follow the instructions of your water provider regarding the permitted use of tap water (e.g. you may need to boil your water before drinking it, you may not use tap water at all until further investigation, etc.).

Also read: Why does my tap water taste bad?

Water running to drain

This is a common issue specific to reverse osmosis water filter systems. If you notice that water in your reverse osmosis filter keeps running to drain, you need to consider the following possible causes:

  • You’ve failed to replace your reverse osmosis membrane;
  • Municipal water pressure levels are lower than what is required by your RO system;
  • Automatic shut off valve or check valve malfunction.

Any of the above can cause water to keep running to drain. Since RO filters thrive on water pressure, you need to ensure that your incoming water pressure is at acceptable levels. Since this problem undermines the economy of your RO filter, it’s a potentially serious problem that needs fixing as soon as possible.

The solution? If it’s been a while since you’ve replaced your reverse osmosis membrane start addressing the problem by replacing the membrane. If the problem persists, investigate further as you may be faced with malfunction issues or low water pressure levels.

If your automatic shut off or check valve are defective, you will need to replace them. This may be a tougher nut to crack for a beginner, nevertheless, our article on Troubleshooting Reverse Osmosis Water Filter Issues provides some tips on how you can test for automatic shut off valve or check valve issues.

Problems caused by low water pressure levels can be managed by installing a reverse osmosis booster pump, which helps increase pressure and improves the overall performance of your reverse osmosis filter. Some reverse osmosis filters are dispatched with a booster pump, others – non-pumped versions – are not equipped with one, but you can add one later should it become necessary.


As you can see from our short water filter troubleshooting guide, most water filter issues are preventable if you remember to replace your filter cartridges on time and if you keep an eye on the quality of your filtered water. Even after maintenance related problems do occur, most issues are manageable. Even so, it’s crucial to change your filter cartridges periodically. If not for the health of your water filter, then for the health of you and your family.


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