The pump is often referred to as the heart of the swimming pool system for good reason. Like the human heart, the pump is a pool's circulatory system. It draws water from the main drain (located at the bottom of the pool or spa) and the surface skimmer(s); then it pushes the water through the filter and heater and back into the pool through the return lines. The pump also helps distribute chemicals that are added to keep the water pure and in balance.
The pump consists of an electric motor, an impeller that draws water, and a "pot" that holds a strainer basket. The strainer basket gathers objects large enough to be sucked through the main drain or skimmer, such as small pebbles, leaves, or hairpins, but are too large to be sent to the filter. Many pools, and most spas, have more than one drain designed to prevent a youngster from being drowned by being held underwater by the powerful suction of a single drain.
The pot typically has a clear plastic cover that monitors the amount of debris collected by the basket strainer. An accumulation of debris in the basket strainer restricts the flow of water, causing the pump to work harder and permanently damaging the pump. Therefore, the basket strainer should be checked and cleaned regularly -- at least once per week or after a heavy swim load.
Instead of cleaning the pot on the spot, have an extra basket strainer on hand and rotate them. This allows the contents of the dirty basket (hair, string, leaves, and small pebbles) to dry out which makes cleaning a heck of a lot easier. What's more, you can clean the dirty basket at your convenience and the system won't need to be shut down for long.
Cleaning the basket strainer is easy. First, turn off the pump, unscrew the plastic cover, and remove the basket strainer. A rubber O-ring is generally located between the pot housing and its plastic cover to assist in making an airtight seal. The O-ring should be rinsed off with fresh water and periodically lubricated with Teflon or silicone lubricant. The lubricant keeps the O-ring supple and helps it withstand cracking and deterioration from chemicals and prolonged exposure to sun.
Since most modern pumps used for residential pools have self-lubricating bearings and seals, they typically don't require lubrication. Your best bet is to check the owner's manual for your pump to determine the suggested maintenance.