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I have a total of three 3-phase floating fountain aerators. Last year they functioned properly. This year when I connected them, two of them were running in reverse and 1 was running forward. All motors have submersible plugs, so the wiring cannot be changed upon hookup. The hookups are keyed so they can only hookup one way.

I shut off the system, swapped wire 1 with wire 3 in the panel on the 2 motors that were running in reverse. When I started them up again. 1 of those motors was running in reverse and the other forward. I then swapped the wires on the one running in reverse and it began running forward at that point.

So now, all three fountains are running normally, but I am afraid to leave them running in case the phases switch on startup and them running in reverse causes the impeller to fly off.

This seems impossible from my understanding 3 phase motors, does anyone have any ideas?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Details of the motor and some photos could help. They were left submerged over winter? Did they freeze? \$\endgroup\$ – rdtsc Jun 16 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would have thought they would not start with a blown fuse (single phasing). Hmm \$\endgroup\$ – relayman357 Jun 16 at 20:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @relayman357, I converted my comments to an answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Charles Cowie Jun 17 at 15:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Maybe it's actually single-phase AC motors. The third wire maybe for something else. I mean, proper three-phase motor would require a driver or a three-phase power outlet. \$\endgroup\$ – Gregory Kornblum Jun 17 at 15:50
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There is probably a missing phase. If there are fuses check them. If there is not a blown fuse, you will need to check the voltages on all three phases and trace the wiring to see where you could have a missing phase.

The impeller can probably be turned slowly with very little effort. As the speed increases it requires much more torque from the motor to turn. That is the variable-torque load principal that applies to fans and centrifugal pumps.

If one of the motor phases is not connected, the other two phases draw current and create a pulsating magnetic field, but the magnetic field does not rotate, so the motor does not develop torque. If vibration or the natural flow of the water causes the impeller to move a little, the motor could start in either direction. It only takes a little motion to get the motor started. Once it starts, the motor is able to develop torque in the direction of rotation. The explanation for that is called the double revolving field theory. It is the same principal that allows a single phase motor to be started using a circuit that is disconnected when the motor approaches full speed.

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