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How long can you run a pressure washer?

When using pressure washers, there are dos and don’ts every homesteader should know. To people who use these machines to render commercial cleaning services, note that machines can outlive their usefulness sooner than expected if you use them carelessly. Pressure washers, therefore, can develop mechanical problems or become thoroughly grounded when you fail to follow instructions in the user manual to the letter.

How long can you run a pressure washer?

You should not run a pressure washer (except professional equipment) for more than five minutes. While the duration may vary from model to model, it should be between 3 and 5 minutes. Leaving your pressure washer running for more than five minutes can result in overheating.

Have you ever wondered how long you can run a pressure washer? Keep reading to find out and learn some essential maintenance tips! Uncover the key to preventing overheating and ensuring your machine’s longevity.

You can check prices here if you are interested in a more professional Pressure Washer.


Pressure Washer Overheating: Do Pressure Washers Overheat?

Pressure washers can overheat, and it is not a good thing. With this, the next question that comes to mind is what causes overheating in power washers? Well, based on our experience, it can happen because of the following reasons:

  • Hot water: When pumping hot water into pressure washers designed to use cold water.
  • A mechanical problem in the heating system may result in excessive heat build-up in the unit.
  • Failure to pump enough water into the unit. You should pump water into a pressure washing unit as per GPM requirements. Always check the pump rating for directions.
  • Time: Leaving your power washing running for more than five minutes is likely to cause overheating, something that causes damage to the pump.
  • Gas problems: In gasoline-powered pressure washers, excessive fuel pressure causes overheating. Therefore, you should check the manufacturer’s fuel pressure recommendations before powering the unit.
  • Wrong use: Other causes of overheating in pressure washers are improperly installed burner nozzles and wrongly set unloaders.
  • Thermostat: In some cases, a thermostat in pressure washers may develop problems, resulting in unprecedented overheating.

Diagnosing pressure washers for overheating

You should feel your power washer heat when the unit is in by-pass. A surge in pump pressure and boiling water are common signs of overheating units. Therefore, the best advice we can give is to stop using the machine and seek help from a repair professional.

Heating problems in power washers are mechanical. Thus, it would be best if you did not risk using the system should the problem persist.

You should also not try to fix the issue, especially when unsure how to proceed. We discourage guesswork when troubleshooting overheating power washers because you could damage the unit more.

Role of a thermostat in regulating pressure washer temperature

A thermostat is a vital component in most, if not all, machines. It is fitting that it regulates temperature so that it does not go above or below optimal. You should, therefore, understand how a thermostat in your power washer works to aid your troubleshooting of the overheating problem.

Pressure washers can have either adjustable or non-adjustable thermostats. Naturally, water will heat above the optimal temperature. Diagnosing a thermostat when heating persists will help you rule out or confirm a glitch.

Exceeding the recommended duration for operating a pressure washer can have detrimental effects. The risk of overheating escalates, potentially damaging the motor and other integral components. This misuse can also expedite wear and tear, undermining the longevity of the equipment.

Fixed thermostats maintain the desired water temperature by cycling the burner nozzle on and off. It is important to remember that improper use can lead to issues.

You should set the thermostat to the desired temperature for it to work effectively. Do not worry if the water temperature increases and decreases at intervals.

However, to realize constant water temperature, reduce the heat output of the burner nozzle. This is necessary to find a balance in the machine’s operation.

The Importance of Being Cautious with Pressure Washer Maintenance

On the contrary, pressure washers with non-adjustable thermostats present a different challenge. Because the burner nozzle will be firing non-stop, water temperature is expected to increase constantly when using the machine. If that is the case, use a safety switch to control overheating.

It works because the safety switch goes off when you achieve a preset water temperature. This is where you need to be cautious about what can happen if there is a build-up of dirt and debris in the machine.

Troubleshooting tips that can help include regular cleaning to prevent a build-up of dirt and debris. This is important to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your pressure washer.

Do electric pressure washers overheat?

Electric pressure washers can also overheat. It can happen if you leave the unit running when not in use. This often results in the pump running hot and, finally, in pump damage. Another cause of overheating in electric pressure washers is a build-up in the power supply circuit if the machine is not used correctly.

Excess heating in electric power washers is often a significant cause of worry, from damaged capacitors to faulty fuses, because you will likely suffer an electric shock.  We recommend consulting a professional service provider for help if your machine is improperly maintained.

If you cannot run a diagnostic procedure to identify the cause of the problem, it’s best to seek professional help.

Pressure washers protection against overheating

Pressure washers have some built-in protection mechanisms against overheating. Gas-powered pressure washers have a thermal release valve that will open when the temperature reaches a dangerous level. I recommend avoiding such high temperatures by giving the pressure washer time to cool down regularly.

Electric pressure washers use a different mechanism against overheating. They have a switch built into the trigger that only makes the motor work when needed. This makes the chance of overheating for electric pressure washers smaller.

But also, for electric pressure washers, I recommend working intermittently. Give the machine time to cool down, and never let the motor run for an extended time.

How to prevent a pressure washer from overheating

Several tips can help against your pressure washer overheating:

● Use the pressure washer intermittently to prevent overheating

When using a pressure washer, this applies both to gas and electric models. One of the key things to remember is not to use them for an extended period. For electric pressure washers, this means that you spray for 10 to 20 seconds and then release the trigger.

This will stop the motor. Wait for 5 to 10 seconds before continuing.

This is usually the time I move to a slightly different position. During this time, the pressure washer pump can cool down. This is crucial when working in conditions that can lead to overheating.

For gas pressure washers, this applies as well. In this case, I recommend stopping the engine when you notice your pressure washer is getting hot. After around 20 to 30 minutes, I do this and stop it for 3 to 4 minutes.

If the pressure washer is in the sun, and I’m using high pressure, I even recommend a slightly shorter time.

Now, let’s discuss some additional precautions. If you notice debris in your pressure washer or if it’s getting too hot, it’s essential to take action immediately. Ignoring these signs can lead to significant damage to your pressure washer. Always remember, safety first!

From my extensive experience, I’ve found that the optimal duration for running a pressure washer can vary. It largely depends on the specific model and the task at hand. However, as a general rule of thumb, it’s safe to run a pressure washer for about 1-2 hours at a time.

● Use a lower pressure to prevent the pressure washer from overheating

When you use lower pressure, the pump will heat up less. In many cases, such high pressure is not needed. The higher the pressure, the hotter the pump will get and the quicker it will heat up.

● Use adequate water pressure to prevent the pressure washer from overheating

When the water pressure is insufficient, the pump will not get enough water to cool it down. A pressure washer pump uses the water to cool itself and needs a certain minimum pressure to function correctly.

This minimum water pressure will differ from model to model and is found in the user manual. It will be mentioned as gallons per minute (GPM). Most pressure washers say a minimum of 2 GPM. They primarily will work with a lower pressure, which means a higher chance of overheating.

Tip: If your location has lower water pressure, do not use the pressure washer too long. Give it enough time to cool down. There are also pressure washers that are rated for lower minimum water pressure.

● Do not use the pressure washer in the sun to prevent overheating

When the pressure washer is in the sun, it can heat up much quicker. Move the pressure washer to a more fantastic location, in the shade. This can be under a tree or beside another object.

Is it bad to leave a pressure washer running?

Generally, it is bad to leave a pressure washer running for more than five minutes. If you cannot switch it off after a minute or three, do not idle the unit for more than five minutes. Leaving your pressure water running will damage its inner workings because the pump is at risk of damage as temperature builds up.

The catch with pressure washers is that pulling a trigger gun ensures a constant flow of water in and out of the unit at set GPM. Constant flow means that the machine’s inner components remain cool, usually at an optimal temperature of 60 degrees.

However, the water flow stops when you push the trigger but leave the engine running. The result is water recirculation in the pump, often under high pressure while bypassing the outlet. As recirculation continues, water keeps heating up.

The Consequences of Leaving a Pressure Washer Running

Imagine a situation where the water temperature in the pump head rises to 145 degrees. The health of your power washer would be at stake if the water continues to heat up. The worst happens if you do not switch off the system within five minutes.

Overheating due to water recirculation in pressure washer pumps damages the unit.

Leaving pressure washers running/idling is the last thing that should cross your mind. If something interrupts your cleaning routine, especially when using a power washer, shut it down.

Pressure washer longevity is a testament to regular maintenance. Checking for leaks, cleaning the nozzle, and changing the oil are the cornerstones of effective operation. Adherence to these practices ensures your pressure washer runs optimally for the desired duration.

But if it’s a brief interruption that would not last more than three minutes, pull the trigger gun to let in freshwater. The pump should cool down within a few minutes.

Overheating in pressure washers will immediately damage the pump. Other problems, such as the following, will also begin to manifest:

  • O-rings: Faster wear and tear of o-rings.
  • Water seals in the pump and other machine parts will also wear and tear sooner than expected.
  • Warping of some components may occur, especially on the sides with low pressure.
  • Valves will also become distorted.

You can check prices here if you want a more professional Pressure Washer.

Protecting pressure washers from thermal damage

Thermal damage in pressure washers will double the cost of repair and maintenance. You should, therefore, avoid it at all costs. Apart from not leaving the unit idling in by-pass/running for more than five minutes, we advise installing a thermal valve.

A thermal valve will open when the pump heats up to 145 degrees. The opening valve lets out heated water. Fresh, cool water then goes in to cool down the system. You should always ensure that the thermal valve resets correctly after opening.


If your power washer has a stainless steel plunger, there is no cause for alarm. The ceramic coating on the steel plungers usually conducts heat to prevent overheating.

Pressure washers are bound to overheat, provided you leave them running for a few minutes. It is because, by design, water recirculation takes place in the pump head when the trigger is off.

And because overheating is a leading cause of damage to machines like pressure washers, you risk damaging your most handy cleaning machine. If you plan to do something midway through cleaning a routine, do not leave a power washer in bypass mode.

We advise reading the user manual for a novice looking to purchase a power washer or use one for the first time. If the pump is rated 5.0 RPM, pump 5 gallons of water per minute to avoid overheating.

Less water going through the system means some components will overheat, causing warping in low-pressure zones.