How to fix an electric pressure washer turning on and off?

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In this blog post, I will discuss a few simple DIY ways to fix your electric pressure washer turning on and off repeatedly. You can always do some basic maintenance yourself without seeking expensive professional assistance. Read the user manual of your electric pressure washer carefully and get ready for some minor repairs even if you are not good at technical tasks.

The engine of your electric pressure washer needs a sufficient supply of fresh air to operate correctly.  When the air filter gets clogged, you must replace it immediately. The engine of your electric pressure washer turns on and off when its unloader valve fails, so you must check it regularly. Sometimes replacing the capacitor can also help solve your electric pressure washer’s problem.

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Scroll on to read the details of these simple DIY methods to fix your electric pressure washer especially if it turns on and won’t stay running long enough as its engine dies immediately and keeps stalling again and again.

What makes your electric pressure washer cut in and out?

An electric pressure washer does cycle or turn itself on and off when you turn its engine on and don’t immediately press its release nozzle. It makes a lot of pressure to build up inside your pump which engages a switch that can turn itself off.

Once you press the nozzle, the pressure inside the pump is released and it disengages the switch and turns the engine on again. This repeats itself when you let go of the release button. It is a unique feature that you will find only in electric pressure washers, and not in gas-powered pressure washers.

If your electric pressure washer turns on for only a couple of seconds and then suddenly shuts off, it does so to prime the pump. It automatically shuts off to wait for you to press the trigger of the spray gun. When you press the trigger of the spray gun, water starts flowing through the pump.

There is a water sensor inside the electric pressure washer which senses the movement of the water and at once automatically turns the engine on. You can reset this function by turning the power switch to off. Now hold the trigger of the spray gun and while still holding it, turn the power switch of your electric pressure washer on.  

If the engine of your electric pressure washer gets started and runs fine for a couple of minutes and then loses power, it’s probably the unloader valve that has failed. When the unloader valve of your electric pressure washer fails, it is unable to recirculate the water back to its pump inlet. This makes the pressure to build up inside the pump outlet, making it very difficult for the engine of your electric pressure washer to run its pump.

Thus the engine of your electric pressure washer bogs down while struggling to run its pump. To find out if a bad unloader is making the engine of your electric pressure washer lose power, again and again, you can try this test.

Stop the engine.

Now take off its nozzle from the tip of its wand. If the engine of your electric pressure washer continues to work smoothly instead of losing power, again and again, then you must replace your unloader valve at once.

Step No 1: Preparation before repair

Before repairing your electric pressure washer, make sure all of its connections are fully dry and off the wet ground. Make sure your hands and feet are dry. Put on a pair of rubber gloves and sturdy boots.

Never touch any electrical plug with your wet hands. Make sure your kids and pets are away. When you buy replacement parts to replace the damaged components of your electric pressure washer, select only the approved spare parts.

First of all, you must check its water inlet screen. It is located near the connection of the garden hose. If the water inlet screen of your electric pressure washer is dusty, clean it at once and if it is broken, you must replace it with a new one.

If your electric pressure washer has an inline screen attached to its wand extension, check it to find out if it is clogged. Also, clean it with water on a regular basis. You must also replace it when it gets damaged.

Now, carefully inspect and lubricate the spray tip, spray gun and the wand extension of your electric pressure washer. You must be sure that all the connections, especially the connection to the high-pressure hose are safe and secure. You must also check the spray gun trigger and its lock, if they are both out of order, replace both of them at once.

You must then very carefully examine the high-pressure hose for any bulges, cracks, cuts, holes, gaps or leaks. You must carefully and closely follow the manufacturer’s replacement instructions to replace the high-pressure hose if you find any kind of damage in it. Always buy an approved one.

Next, very carefully check the detergent siphoning tube of your electric pressure washer. If you find it fully clogged, then clean it out properly. If the detergent system of your electric pressure washer is equipped with a filter, check it out also to learn its condition.

Before connecting the garden hose to your electric pressure washer, flush it out completely. Now, look at your adjustable or interchangeable nozzles, clear out the clogs if you find any. Check the O-rings in the high-pressure hose, spray gun and water inlet of your electric pressure washer, replace them if necessary.

Step No 2: Check the power cable and wall plug

Check the extension cord that you use with your pressure washer. Maybe there is a loose connection or a broken cable fault. You can use another household item like a lamp to check if all is ok. Move all parts of the cable to make sure that there is no part that has a broken cable fault.

If the cable is ok, check the wall plug. Make sure that there is no fault when you move the cable and plug. If the pressure washer has a removable connector check it as well.

If your machine uses a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) Plug check if is working. They often break down. If you get a green light on the plug and on the pressure washer machine it should be ok.

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Step No 3: To check the unloader valve:

Your electric pressure washer’s unloader valve is the mechanism that can divert the flow of the water in your pump system into a loop as soon as you let go of the pressure washer’s trigger. The unloader valve lets the water to stay under pressure when it is not flowing out of its nozzle. It will not allow the pressure to build too high inside the pump.

The structure of the unloader valve lets the water to keep moving inside your pump system. The next time you pull its trigger, the spray has a consistent pressure. The stalling of the engine of your electric pressure washer may be because of the bad unloader valve, which is due to the pressure inside the pump becoming greater than your engine’s power to rotate your pump.

If your electric pressure washer is turning on and off, a bad unloader valve is probably the reason. In almost all of the latest models, it is located on the top of the electric pressure washer’s pump system. Most times, it has a black handle on top of it.

When the piston in the unloader valve fails to shift to divert the flow of the water while it is not coming out of its nozzle, the pressure inside your pump system will be allowed to develop to the point where it is dangerous so the engine of your electric pressure washer will turn off. To solve this irritating problem, you must carefully inspect and immediately replace the old unloader valve with a new one.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Why should I keep the adjustable or interchangeable nozzles of my electric pressure washer clean?

Clogged nozzles can increase the pressure of its pump and probably damage the pump. You must pay attention to them immediately.

2. How do I clean the clogged nozzles of my electric pressure washer?

  1. Disconnect the spray wand from its gun before cleaning the nozzles.
  2. Clean the nozzle with a little hard piece of wire, like a paper clip.
  3. Flush them rearwards using water.
  4. Reconnect its wand to its gun.
  5. Restart your electric pressure washer.
  6. Press the trigger on the spray gun.
  7. If you find the nozzle still plugged or half plugged you must repeat steps number 1-4.
  8. If these previous procedures do not clean your nozzles, replace them with a new nozzle.

3. What are the important things that I must consider while buying a new electric pressure washer?

The following are the important things you must always consider when buying a new electric pressure washer:

  • Adjustable wands: Adjustable wands will allow you to change the spray pattern and pressure without changing the nozzle tip. Make sure you pick the electric pressure washer with adjustable wands for convenient use.
  • Angled wands: Angled wands are really necessary if you intend to clean your gutters. Angled wands work well with extensions.
  • AMPs: You must always check the power output which is measured in AMPs.
  • Brushes: Brushes let you apply scrubbing power to the object or surface you are cleaning.
  • Corrosion and friction resistance: Pick the electric pressure washer with dual oversized radial ball bearings and forged brass head, as it resists corrosion and friction. Make sure it has a fully anodized die-cast aluminum crankcase and polished stainless steel pistons.
  • Chemical or detergent tank: Pick the electric pressure washer that has a built-in tank to add concentrated, ready to use, degreasers or vehicle detergents to it.
  • Extension wands/spray tips: These help you clean the second floor of your home and other hard to reach areas. Select the electric pressure washer which is compatible with these accessories if you intend to clean your attic or roof.
  • Thermal relief/unloaders: It helps reduce the heat buildup and cool down the washer. Make sure you select an electric pressure washer with a reliable unloader as it increases the lifespan of the pump and the engine.
  • Surface cleaners: Surface cleaners are spinning jets. They are necessary to clean driveways and sidewalks.
  • Pump Type: There are three types of pumps in an electric pressure washer:
    i) Wobble plate pump: Lifespan= four hundred hours or three years.
    ii) Swashplate pump (Axial cam): Lifespan= Eight hundred hours.
    iii) Triplex Plunger Pump: Lifespan= Eight thousand hours.
    Choose the electric pressure washer that best suits your budget, energy costs and requirements. Calculate the Cleaning Units (CU) by multiplying the PSI (pounds per square inch) times the GPM (gallons per minute).
    PSI x GPM = CU 

4. How many types of commercial pressure washers are there?

There are seven types of commercial pressure washers:

  1. Electric commercial pressure washer: An electric pressure washer is used for brightening wood, cleaning siding, removing stains, stripping paint, purifying meat-packing factory and washing vehicles. There are two types of motors in different electric pressure washers: i) brush or universal motors and ii) brushless or induction motors. Brush or universal motors are inexpensive and are found in small, hand-held washers.

    Brushless or induction motors are long-lasting and are used in larger and more powerful washers. The advantages of an electric pressure washer are that it never produces any emissions and is healthy for indoor use. It is a lot quieter and portable.

    It starts with the flip of a switch. Electric pressure washers are further categorized into:
    i) Coldwater washers.
    ii) Hot water washers
    iii) Handheld washers.
    iv) Vehicle-mounted washers.
    v) Wall-mounted washers.
  2. Gas commercial pressure washer: This is used for cleaning agricultural equipment and the removal of graffiti. You are not limited by the length of the cord, so it gives you the mobility you need. Some gas pressure washers have a manual pull-up start, while others have a push-button electric starter.
  3. Direct Drive Pressure washer: It is connected with a hollow shaft to the engine drive shaft. It means the pump runs at the same speed as the engine. The pump is located near the hot engine.
    Due to the simplicity of the connection between the pump and its motor, a direct-drive pressure washer is inexpensive.
  4. Belt drive pressure washer: It is connected via belts and pulleys to the engine drive shaft. It allows the pump to turn at one-third the speed as the direct drive pump. The pump sits farther away from the hot engine and runs cooler, this increases its lifespan.
  5. Diesel pressure washer: It depends upon diesel as its fuel. It is perfect for medium and heavy-duty work. It is suitable only for outdoor cleaning tasks.
  6. Petrol pressure washer: It depends on petrol as a fuel to power the pump. It is available in different sizes. It is good for outdoor use only.
  7. Hydraulic pressure washer: This is perfect for farms and agricultural industries. It is best for remote areas without electric power output. It gives out no fumes or emissions.
    It is lightweight, compact in design and noiseless.

5. Why is nozzle size so important?

The positive displacement pumps are not alone the creators of the pressure. The restriction or the nozzle is the source of trying to limit the water flow thus causing the pump to develop the proper pressure in this system. Imagine you are watering your lawn with a garden hose with nothing at the end of that hose.

If you want to water further away from you, you then put your thumb over the end of the hose. The pressure builds up in your hose and you can water the grass far away from you. It is the same idea.

If you do not properly size the restriction or the nozzle to the unit, one of two things will happen; Your unit will not work properly or the component life will become severely shortened.


In order to conclude this blog post, I would say that you can easily troubleshoot your electric pressure washer turning on and off by carefully following the simple and comprehensive guide given above. Observe the safety measures given in the user manual.