Can You Start A Pressure Washer Without Water?

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Pressure washers are powerful machines used for cleaning grime off surfaces. The surface could be the drive, bodies of automobiles, barbecue grills or outdoor furniture. You should, however, take care not to scrub the paint off surfaces when using these machines. As a precursor to using them is, therefore, testing the psi level. Jetting water at 1500 psi or more, pressure washers/ powered washers are at least 150 times more powerful than atmospheric air. That means they can cause considerable damage if misdirected to your skin. Simply put, powered washers are grandiose cleaning machines that strike off stubborn stains from surfaces at high pressure.

But here is the big question: can you start a powered washer without water? Also, what would happen if you do? Well, the answer is yes and no. While you can start a pressure washer without water, it is not the best thing to do. It is because starting a machine is one thing but smoothly operating it is another. We advise against running powered washers without water, so our final stand is that you should not do it. Let us explain.

Starting pressure washers without water is not only a big risk but also a recipe for damage to your machine. Often, the consequences are immediate, and sometimes catastrophic. If your machine does not get grounded, occasioning a need to buy a new one, you will have to spend extra bucks on the repair. Commercial cleaners who use these gadgets almost every day will tell you that the pump on your pressure washer is often the first casualty. Because powered washers are meant to use water, the absence of it means the motor will have a bigger load to handle. Do we then say that water is like a lubricant to pressure washers? Well, we bet that makes sense!

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The Basics: How does a pressure washer work?

The mechanisms behind the working of the powered washer should help explain why dry starting them is ill-advised.  When water flows through the pressure washer, it lowers the temperature of the motor while also lubricating the components. Thus, as experts rightly put it, powering on these machines without water is a recipe for faster wear and tear.

Onto explaining how pressure washers work, you should, first of all, take note of its components. They are a water inlet, a water pump, a motor (electric or gas), a hose, gasket and cleaning attachments. Most people think that powered washers are complex machines but after diagnosing them closely, the opposite will makes sense. Pressure washers are simple machines that make cleaning work easy. They also save time and money, save for massive volumes of water required for proper cleaning.

According to Pascal’s Law of Physics, applying pressure at a point in a fluid enclosed in a container results in even distribution of pressure throughout the fluid and to all points. Pascal’s law often applies to fluid dynamics, and in this case, water that is in motion. On pressure washers, water from a container flows in from a container/reservoir via a hose into the motor. The washer then heats the water to a temperature of about 70 degrees Celsius before pushing it to an exit nozzle. The pump, motor, nozzle (and any other attachments on the latter) increases the pressure of water. The result is water coming out forcefully-at high pressure and speed.

If your pressure washer does not have an electric motor/engine, it should run on gasoline. There is a set of cylinders and a piston attached to a pull cord that gets its momentum from the motor. There are also plungers in the pump connected to a crankshaft that sucks and ejects the water.  Water draws into powered washers when the plunger goes up. It then goes into the un-loader via a check valve.  When you press a trigger connected to the un-loader, pressurized water comes through a nozzle.

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Diagnosing your pressure washer for damage after powering it without water

Because we advise against running pressure washers dry, the next question is what if you accidentally do it and the damage is done? How do you locate the damage and make fixes? Well, while damage to parts like motor and pump may be immediate, sometimes you will have to carry out a comprehensive diagnosis to establish its extent. We would advise that you start the machine again and test it for optimal functioning.

A clear sign of damage to the pump should be when water does not come out through the wand. In that case, a new replacement pump is the best fix.  In cases where the motor sounds loud or differently, replacement becomes necessary. It could be worse, especially when the pressure washer shuts down every time you start it. If either the motor or pump is a casualty, you should check other components too before giving them a clean bill of health. There is always a high chance that damage to a motor, pump or both may spread to gaskets and seals. Thus, a rebuild of the whole machine may be necessary.

Can pressure washers work with little water?

You are probably thinking about those who do not have access to sufficient water, right? Well, little or no water is a real cause of worry because like you have learned, operating pressure washers without water is ill-advised. So, what if you take the risk and end up grinding your cleaning activities to a halt? Think about it this way: You offer cleaning services but because everyone forgets sometimes, you run your machine dry. First off, let’s reiterate that you should never use machines while drunk and that a high level of alertness is vital.

In situations/places where water is hard to come by, it is still possible to run your machine with little water. That would sound conservative though, especially because powered washers require a lot of water to run smoothly. The catch is that those who do not have access to water should tap rainwater in tanks, dig boreholes or run a hosepipe to a nearby lake/river. The most important thing, however, is ensuring that you have a long and durable water hose from a reputed manufacturer.

Taking care of your pressure washer: Important precautions and tips

Powering on pressure washers without water is a precursor to damaging them, whether partially or completely. Like water is life to every living thing, it is also a lifeline to these machines. The next concern is how do you ensure your machine remains in great working condition? Well, we did some homework and sampled the following tips and practices:

  • You should not use a strong detergent when cleaning your powered washer lest you damage it, especially the internal components. Corrosion is bad news for moving parts of a machine.  
  • To avoid a sudden drop in pressure and damage to valves, you should flush the inlet pipe to remove air before starting the machine.
  • Lubricate the pump in your pressure washer regularly. It guards against overheating of moving components such as pressure pistons.
  • Do not risk using the wrong type of fuel. You don’t want to run down your machine ahead of a long cleaning day.
  • Clean the carburetor as often as necessary. For pressure washers that use gasoline, there are filters on the fuel line leading to the motor. Cleaning carburetor rid it off obstructions. In some cases, replacement becomes necessary.

Drawbacks of using pressure washers

In as much as pressure washers are handy machines for cleaning stubborn stains and grime, sometimes questions do arise. For example, are they 100 percent efficient?  The truth is that these machines do not have many downsides but it is imperative to note the following:

  • First off, you need plenty of water to use powered washers. As soon as water jets out of the cleaning nozzle more comes in through the suction pump. Averagely, 2 liters of water go through pressure washers per minute. That translates to about 120 liters of water per hour. The question is how do you contain the risk of flooding? Is it possible to recycle the water? Such are debatable questions that would fit into another topic.
  • You should expect a lot of mess with powered washers.  If you misdirect the nozzle, the pressurized water will blast dirt onto unintended surfaces, including your clothing. That would mean extra cleaning. You should, therefore, wear protective clothing, preferably waterproof.
  • Pressure washers produce a lot of noise, usually averaging 70 to 90 decibels. Does it mean you should wear earplugs? Well, if you deem fit and of course, depending on your tolerance to noise.
  • There is a risk of electrocution with powered washers, thus it is important to ensure proper wiring and ground circuit breaking.
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Final Thoughts

In the end, every machine has downsides. With pressure washers, you should always read the user manual to avoid running into trouble. Together with this post, and expert opinions, using these machines should be hassle-free. Remember, never run powered washers without water. In case of damage, seek help from a repair service.