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Pressure Washer Maintenance. Tips from a Professional

Timely maintenance is a must to keep your pressure washer last for many years. In this article, I shall provide a comprehensive step-by-step procedure for preventative maintenance of both electric and gas pressure washers and even power washers.

Pressure washer maintenance. Tips from a professional

Generally, to keep your pressure washer well-maintained, the focus should be on the pump and, in the case of a gas pressure washer, also on the engine. Prevent your machine from extreme conditions. Pump oil needs to be changed regularly, and engine oil should be replaced after 30-50 hours of use for a gas pressure washer. Check the filters, spark plugs, nozzles, and hoses and ensure they are in good shape. Else, replace them.

You can follow the step-by-step procedure I explain in this article to perform pressure washer maintenance on your own.

How to Properly Maintain a Pressure Washer?

To maintain your pressure washers, always ensure that the nozzles are clean and debris-free. Inspect the high-pressure hoses and the detergent system. For gas chainsaws, engine maintenance is needed, which includes servicing the filters, plugs, and carburetor. For electric washers, you need to ensure that the pump is timely lubricated.

Keeping your pressure washers well maintained imparts a longer life to the machine and keeps it running seamlessly. Hence, every pressure washer user should be accustomed to the standard maintenance procedure to keep the machine in working order. The step-by-step maintenance procedure has been explained for both electric and gas pressure washers.

Generic Maintenance Steps:

Each maintenance step is to be repeated after a certain period, depending on how often you use your pressure washer. I recommend doing this yearly, at least. Certain steps must be performed more frequently (preferably before every use). It is a good practice to make these steps part of your routine maintenance checklist. Doing this ensures that you don’t encounter unexpected situations while using.

You can follow the steps regardless of whether you have a gas or an electric pressure washer. Of course, some parts are not applicable for an electric machine, and others are not for a gas model. The specific maintenance requirements for each type are also discussed further.

– 1. Inspect the Gun and Hoses:

Check both the high-pressure hose and the spray gun and inspect their connections. Tighten the hose couplings if they seem loose. If your hose has developed leaks or shows signs of damage, replace the hose as per your manufacturer’s recommendations.

– 2. Check the Nozzle:

Check the high-pressure nozzle before using it, and clean it thoroughly with water. Please make sure no debris is stuck, as it can cause a loss in pressure. Also, inspect your nozzle for signs of wear and tear.

– 3. Check the Water Inlet & Detergent::

The water inlet of most pressure washers has a debris screen that filters off foreign particles from entering the pump. Examine the screen and ensure that no debris deposits clog the inlet. After checking the screen, also check your detergent system and make its filters aren’t clogged as well.

– 4. Check the Pump:

The pressure washer’s pump must be cleaned of debris within its intake and outlet channels. Doing that would ensure that the water pressure remains adequate and the pump stays well maintained. You can buy a carburetor cleaner liquid and connect its hose to the pump inlet. Spray the liquid until it starts coming out of the pump’s outlet. When it does, it takes out particles of dust and debris with it.

Also, you need to check the pump’s oil condition. The oil changing frequency should be 300 hours of use. If it’s reached that limit, perform an oil change by following the procedure mentioned above in the article.

● Additional Maintenance For Gas Pressure Washers:

Gas pressure washers generally have a four-stroke engine with additional maintenance requirements. Hence, proceed to the following section after performing the above checks in case you own a gas pressure washer.

– 1. Inspect the Air Filter:

The first step involves inspecting and changing its air filter. The air filter assembly is located at the top. Remove the top screws to access the filter. Examine the air filter; if it appears damaged or worn out from use, replace it with an identical one.

– 2. Examine the Engine Oil:

Next, you need to perform a checkup on the engine oil. Check the dipstick to note the oil level. If the level has fallen below the threads of the dipstick, you need to top up the engine with additional oil till it has reached the thread level. If the oil appears dirty or needs replacing, drain the existing oil into a separate container. Afterward, add fresh oil and fill it to the appropriate level.

– 3. Inspect the Spark Plug:

Lastly, you need to inspect the spark plug and check its electrodes. If they seem to rust or are damaged, consider replacing the plug. A new spark plug would prevent the engine from starting up problems.

● Additional Maintenance For Electric Pressure Washers:

Electric pressure washers require little maintenance, making them a convenient option for many users. Despite the reduced complexity, some checks still need to be performed to keep them the

– 1. Assess the Power Cord:

The power cord is a critical component when it comes to electric washers. Makes sure you store it by winding up the chord properly. Never store it in a place where rodents can easily access it. In some cases, mice have been found to have chewed the chord, thus making the washer unusable.

– 2. Keep it Dry:

Make sure you keep your electric pressure washer dry and drain off excess water after use. Keeping it as dry as possible is important as the machine uses electricity, and it can get dangerous when the water reaches the inside of the pressure washer over time.

– 3. Maintain the Pump:

The pump in your electric pressure washer needs to be timely lubricated to function seamlessly. Always add fresh SAE-30 oil to your pump every three months. Check your manufacturer’s manual before lubricating the pump, as some pumps cannot be disassembled and lubricated. More basic pressure washers use a wobble or axial piston pump where oil is added during manufacturing and then permanently sealed.

While storing your pressure washer, I recommend draining all the water from the pump, as it can damage its components over time. Besides the above steps, consult the owner’s manual for further guidance on electric pressure washer maintenance.

How do you Service a Power Washer?

To service a power washer, you need to inspect its three critical components, i.e., the engine, the pump, and the burner.

Power washers are slightly different from pressure washers as they provide a heated in addition to a pressurized jet of water. They contain a burner supplied with fuel. An electrode fires the fuel and creates a flame in the burner box. When pressurized water from the pump passes through the heating coil around the burner box, heat gets transferred and comes out as a pressurized hot water jet.

To perform a tune-up for a power washer, follow the procedure below:

● Pump & Engine Tune-Up:

  • Chang the Pump Oil: After buying a power washer, change its oil after about 50 hours of use. In routine, an oil change usually becomes due after 3-4 months of regular use. Make sure you change the oil timely in your power washer.
  • Replenish the Engine Oil: Check the engine oil level and monitor the oil quality. Oil in engines needs to be changed after every 2-3 months. While buying oil for your engine, consult the owner’s manual first.
  • Change the filters: Your air and fuel filters should be inspected regularly. Make sure you clean your air filter after every month. Make sure you replace these filters after every 6-7 months.

● Burner Maintenance:

  • Heating coil & fuel filter: The burner’s heating coil should be drained from moisture and water. Also, inspect your burner’s fuel filter and replace it every 6 months.
  • Fuel nozzle: The fuel nozzle supplies the burner with a fresh gasoline spray. The nozzle should be properly inspected. Typically, it should be replaced after a year of use.
  • Electrode: The burner’s electrodes must be checked regularly for cracks, carbon buildup, wear and tear.

Besides the above procedure, I recommend ensuring that you let your power washer cool down properly after use. You can do that by switching off the burner and pressing the spray, thus allowing the water in the heating coils to cool.

Pressure Washer Pumps, A Guide:

All pressure washers employ a reciprocating pump type ideal for a high pressure-head and low flow rate operation. These pumps can be classified into three main types:

  1. Wobble plate pumps
  2. Axial cam pumps
  3. Triplex plunger pumps

In pressure washers, the pump performs a critical role, i.e., pressuring the flow of water, thereby imparting energy to it. The pressurized water jet then passes through the nozzle, which becomes powerful enough to dislodge hard stains and deposits from surfaces that need to be cleaned. Let’s discuss these pump types in detail:

1. Wobble Plate Pumps:

These pumps fall in the most basic category for pressure washers. A wobble plate pump consists of a plate that is connected to the drive shaft at an angle, and the plate constantly wobbles as the shaft rotates. At the other end of the plate, spring-connected pistons move back and forth and pump water in each stroke.

Wobble plate pumps are used in pressure washers below 2500 PSI and 2 GPM flow rates. They are pretty cheap and hence are easier to replace than maintain. However, they aren’t as efficient as the other pump types.

2. Axial Cam Pumps:

Like the wobble plate pump, axial cam pumps are driven by the drive shaft. They are built with a swashplate titled at an angle. The angle made by the plate remains constant throughout. At its other end, the plate is in contact with pistons. These pistons move to suck water at one end of the plate, and as they reach the other end, they push the water out.

Axial cam pumps are used in pressure washers less than 3500 PSI. These pumps are more efficient than the wobble plate ones and last longer. The downside is that they can get quite hot during operation and are also prone to cause vibrations.

3. Triplex Plunger Pumps:

The triplex plunger pumps are driven by a crankshaft powered by the engine’s driveshaft. The pump’s crankshaft drives three pistons that slide back and forth in their cylinders. This pump type is regarded as a plunger type.

Triplex plunger pumps are the most efficient (about 90%) among all pump types. They offer a smooth operation with little to no vibrations. Moreover, they require the least maintenance and have a high service life. But the downside is that all these factors make them a more costly alternative.

● Does a Pressure Washer Pump Need to be Lubricated?

Pressure washer pumps need to be lubricated so that their mechanical components can operate optimally with minimum wear and tear.

As discussed above, all pressure washer pumps have moving components in the form of pistons, plungers, springs, swashplates/wobble plates, etc. Other than that, there are O-rings and fasteners which ensure mechanical connectivity of the components.

When a pump operates, friction between metal-metal contacts generates heat and raises the temperature of these components. As the temperature rises, so does the wear rate. Moreover, thermal expansion also comes into play and may affect normal working. All these conditions make the likelihood of a failure quite imminent.

How often should you Change the Oil in a Pressure Washer?

The first oil change of your pressure washer is recommended after 50 hours. After that, an oil change should be performed every 300 working hours or three months with more heavy use (whichever comes early).

An oil change depends on what type of pump is being used by your pressure washer. Most low-end pumps that cost under 400$ require no oil change throughout their lifetime. Oil is filled and sealed in these pumps when manufactured, and no further work on them is possible or needed. Wobble plate pumps fall under this category.

Pressure washers with sealed pumps are not designed for heavy use. If you expect to use your pressure washer often, I recommend choosing a type with replaceable pump oil. The exact information regarding your pump type and maintenance can be obtained from your device’s operating manual. Hence, make sure you go through it thoroughly.

● Oil Changing Frequency:

Triplex plunger pumps require oil changes after a specific interval. Typically, it is recommended that this should occur after 300 working hours or once in a quarter year. If you use your pressure washer frequently, I recommend changing the pump oil at least after three months.

● Signs that Oil Needs to be Changed:

When you notice that water from the hose has developed a milky color, you should consider changing the pump oil. In some cases, you notice tiny black particles coming along with water. This is possibly due to internal wear within the pump resulting from the lack of lubrication.

How do you Lubricate a Pressure Washer Pump?

To lubricate your pump, first, drain all its oil into a separate container. Then, gradually fill it with a non-detergent pump oil till it touches the level. Slowly pull the engine’s chord, so the oil gets evenly distributed.

Before you decide to change your pump’s oil, consult your owner’s manual to confirm if the pump is suited for an oil change, as most pumps (wobble plate type) do not have this provision. If you’re doing an oil change for the first time, please make sure that you select the suitable kind of pump oil.

● Choosing the Oil:

Most pressure washer pumps use 30W non-detergent oil. While choosing an oil, make sure you take care of two most important features:

– 1. Viscosity:

Viscosity is a measure of how easily a liquid can flow. Thick oils or oils with higher viscosity flow with difficulty as compared to thin oils. 30W on your oil denotes its viscosity as designated by SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers). Choosing the oil viscosity depends on the operating temperature.

In winter or in areas where the average temperature is less than 70 degrees, you should prefer to use low viscosity SAE 15 oils. Whereas, if you live in Florida or Texas, you can switch to SAE 30 or SAE 40 instead, as in summers, the increasing temperature causes the viscosity to decrease.

– 2. Non-foaming oils:

Make sure you use a non-detergent oil. These oils have ND marked on their bottles. Please note that using detergent oils results in foam formation as these pumps do not have an oil filter. Hence, the detergent cleans the debris particles, further contaminating the oil. I strongly recommend using a non-foaming or non-detergent oil in your pressure washer.

You can get pump oil from brands like Simpson, Briggs and Stratton, CAT pumps, Mi-T-M, and Valvoline. After choosing the oil, let’s look at the step-by-step procedure for an oil change.

● Step 1: Gather your tools:

Please note that you will need an oil-catching container, a funnel to direct the oil, a wrench to open the bolt, an oil storage container, and a rag to clean the spills.

● Step 2: Start your Engine:

Remove the wand from the spray gun and start the engine. This would remove the residual water inside the pump. Also, this would cause the pump and the oil to heat, making dirt removal from the pump easier.

● Step 3: Drain the Oil:

The oil drainage plug is located at the bottom of the pump. Above the plug is a transparent level indicator that denotes the oil level in the pump. Before you remove the oil drainage bolt, there’s a bolt located at the pump’s top that must be removed first. Using a wrench, remove this top access bolt. This would equalize the air pressure and would make the oil drainage easier.

After this step, place an oil-catching container at the bottom of your pump. Using the wrench, remove the bolt and allow the oil to drain into the container. After it has drained, tilt the pump slightly to allow the remainder of the oil to be poured out. After the drainage is complete, you will notice the level indicator showing no oil.

● Step 4: Pour Fresh Oil:

After the above step, secure the oil drainage plug. Place a funnel at the pump’s top inlet. Pour fresh oil from the manufacturer into the funnel and keep noticing the level until it reaches the limit line. Please avoid overfilling beyond this point, as this may result in oil leakages during operation. Secure the top access bolt after the oil is poured.

● Step 5: Start the Engine:

When the oil addition is complete, ensure all the bolts are completely tight. Use a rag to wipe off oil spills. Start your engine and allow it to warm up. This would cause the fresh oil to circulate in the pump, thereby lubricating its components thoroughly.

After you’re done with the oil change, don’t forget to recycle the drained oil. Store it in a secure container and hand it to an oil recycler nearby.

How long do Pressure Washers Last?

Pressure washers from reputed manufacturers can last up to 10 years when used frequently, and if used in moderation, they can last even longer. In general, the pressure washer’s life depends on its overall maintenance.

The answer to this question is subjective and varies from brand to brand. By and large, most pressure washers can last from 7 up to 10 years, given that they are used frequently and belong to reputed brands such as Briggs and Stratton, Honda, etc. Some cheap Chinese variants may hardly last up to 5 years.

  • Overheating: Overheating the engine is probably the biggest cause of engine failure in a pressure washer. When the engine is run at full throttle, it causes the pistons and the seals to overheat. The seals may get damaged, and the piston can score the cylinder walls. When prolonged, this condition can even cause an engine seizure, which is a permanent engine shutdown.
  • Cavitation: Secondly, cavitation occurring within the pump can also degrade its life. Cavitation occurs due to the small diameter of hoses or inadequate water flow to the pump. It also occurs when air leaks into the pump. Cavitation causes bubble formation, which may damage the pump’s pistons and seals.

The pump and engine are the essential components for gas pressure washers. Hence, they need to be appropriately maintained. You should check the lubes for both the engine and the pump and ensure both are kept clean and not subjected to rough use. A well-maintained pump and engine can make your pressure washer last more than a decade.