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Pressure Washer Starts Then Dies? Let’s Trouble Shoot

Buying a pressure washer is one thing but ensuring it remains in great working condition calls for proper care and maintenance. While it is expected that machines will develop mechanical problems at some point, a situation where a power washer starts then dies is often worrisome. For someone who does not know how these machines work, you would be trying to figure out a problem in the middle of a cleaning routine to no avail. Questions then come to mind. For example, why does the engine/motor stall a few minutes after you start it? Is there clogging in the carburetor, fuel, or air filter? How do you troubleshoot problems in a pressure washer? Also, who can help you fix your pressure washer’s problems?

A Pressure Washer Starts Then Dies? For a gas pressure washer check this:

  • Troubleshoot the pressure washer air filter for clogging.
  • Troubleshoot the Spark arrestor.
  • Check the fuel filter.
  • Check the Fuel Cap.
  • Clean the carburetor.

Let’s face it. With machines like power washers, anything can go wrong. From failing water pumps, stalling engines, damaged trigger guns to nozzles that won’t work, figuring out a problem requires patience. You should also understand the way pressure washers work before troubleshooting them for problems or even attempting to fix a mechanical hitch.  Take, for example, a pressure valve or a cracked o-ring. Unless you discover a problem through troubleshooting, one may end up fixing a working component instead of a faulty one. Thus, we do not encourage guesswork when it comes to repairing your machine.

When a pressure washer stalls, it can be very inconveniencing, to say the least. It could get worse for a novice who does not know how to troubleshoot problems in these machines. While visiting a repair clinic is one way to go about identifying a problem before getting it fixed, you can still do much of the fixing at home.  Moreover, based on our experience with these machines, troubleshooting varies,  depending on whether you have an electric or gasoline-powered pressure washer.

Most Solutions for Stalling Engines in Pressure Washers Often Target Fuel System

Most solutions for gasoline-powered washer engines that start then die after a few seconds or minutes often revolve around the above parts. In this post, we help you troubleshoot one component at a time. In the end, you should know how to fix a problem in your handy cleaning machine should it develop a mechanical problem. With engines that stall, you never can tell whether it is due to wear and tear.

Most people think that when engines won’t stay running, it is likely that the fuel system is the culprit. But based on our extensive experience with these machines, you can only be sure of fixing an existing problem such as a faulty filter or a pre-cleaner as running a diagnostic. Often, everything boils down to examining the pressure washer very closely.

● Let’s troubleshoot the spark arrestor

Anyone who has used power washers will tell that troubleshooting problems is not always a one-off thing.  You should examine every part that is likely to cause stalling. Now, let’s start by the spark arrestor, and so the question is, how do you go about it? First off, note that a spark arrestor is a small screen installation that guards against fire hazards. By continuously preventing the power washer engine from producing sparks, the spark arrestor collects soot overtime. Clogging of spark arrestor is, therefore, a common cause of engine stall.

The question is what should you do if the spark arrestor is the issue? Well, the best solution is to clean it using a brush. In cases where the damage is beyond repair, our advice is that you should remove the spark arrestor then replace it with a new one. You can find spark arrestors for your pressure washer here.

● Fuel filter troubleshooting

The next component in your power washer that needs troubleshooting is its fuel filter. But first, take note that electric pressure washers do not have fuel filters. You only find them in gasoline-powered pressure washers. Most importantly, understanding the role of a filter in your machine is a vital step in the right direction.  

A fuel filter cleans the fuel before it flows into the carburetor or combustion chamber. After months of trapping impurities in the fuel, you should clean or repair a clogged fuel filter. Soon enough, especially if you do not troubleshoot the filter for clogging, chances are high that the engine will develop an array of problems. The next question is how do you troubleshoot a fuel filter in a pressure washer? Well, it boils down to doing a few things.

First off, take note that leaving fuel in your pressure washer for more than three months is a leading cause of engine problems. It should be your first troubleshooting tip. Unused fuel loses its viability over time, especially after vital ingredients evaporate. You should, therefore, check the condition of the fuel before replacing it. If it is stickier and thicker, drain the tank then pump new fuel into it. The problem with sticky and thick fuel is that it ends up clogging the filter. Your power washer will then develop engine problems such as stalling. Another possible outcome is that the machine will often shut down as soon as you power it on, begging the question, why does a pressure washer start then die?

You can find pressure washer fuel filters here.

● Run a diagnostic for Air filter

 Gasoline-powered pressure washers have air filters. Clogging of the filter is, therefore, likely to cause engine stalls. Thus, here is another vital question you must answer through troubleshooting the machine.  How do you troubleshoot air filters for problems? Also, what is the right procedure for fixing a faulty or clogged air filter?

The catch is that clogged air filters often hinder the entry of air into the combustion chamber/carburetor. When running a diagnostic, we recommend inspecting the entire air filtration to rule out a possibility that apart from a clogged air filter, no other problem exists. You should also pay close attention to the seals in the fuel line. Are they dirty? Dirty seals can cause engine stalls hence the need to check and clean them often.

Sometimes you do not have to wait for annual pressure washer servicing when a mechanical problem is already showing signs of big trouble. You can either clean the system at home or consider replacing the filters altogether with the help of a repair specialist.

You can find pressure washer air filters here.

● Troubleshooting the carburetor

When your pressure washer starts then dies, troubleshooting it for problems should not stop with cleaning clogged fuel filters, cleaning spark arrestor, or replacing damaged air filters. You should investigate further. The cause of the problem may very well be in the carburetor or it could be that the machine has outlived its usefulness due to wear and tear after many years.  

Thus, here is the next question most people ask. What is the right procedure for running a carburetor diagnostic?  First things first, you should note that electric power washers do not have a carburetor.  Troubleshooting carburetor is a diagnostic procedure that applies to gasoline-powered pressure washers only in this context. You can find pressure washer carburetors here.

Often, carburetors develop problems if you leave your pressure washer unused for a long time. While winterizing the machine so that it survives the cold season is vital, we help you investigate further should a problem surface.  A problematic carburetor directly affects the engine, in which case, a pressure washer starts then dies after a few minutes.

Technically, a carburetor is where air and fuel mix. Most importantly, the mixing should be the right proportion, usually in the ratio of 12:1. In some cases, it is 15:1. Where there is a proportionate mixture of air and fuel, you should expect effective combustion, the result of which provides the engine with the power it needs to start and run.

If it is your first time troubleshooting a carburetor, then note that the main issue is often clogging.  Clogging of this vital component in a power washer hinders effective combustion. Without combustion, the engine lacks power and that answers why your pressure washer starts then dies. Another problem that often surfaces due to a clogged carburetor is a high rate of fuel consumption beyond normal. When a pressure washer guzzles fuel, you should troubleshoot it for a clogged carburetor. There are other signs to look for, and they include:

  • Stall after a few mins: Pressure washers that have difficulty starting, but if they do, stalls after a few minutes is an indication of clogging. The carburetor is likely the culprit in this case.
  • Black smoke: If you notice black smoke coming from the motor, run a quick diagnostic to rule out or ascertain clogging in the carburetor.
  • Popping sound and sneezing of the motor is another sign to look out for when troubleshooting a pressure washer for clogging. It signals an imbalance in fuel and air mixture.
  • A blocked carburetor is also likely to cause fuel leakage. Clogging in the carburetor prevents fuel from flowing to the combustion chamber, triggering an overflow.

Clogging in the carburetor happens when you leave fuel sitting inside a fuel tank for a long time. It could be weeks or months but somehow, clogging happens then the engine’s health deteriorates. Sticky substances that remain after the fuel evaporates are, therefore, the main cause of clogging in the carburetor. We recommend a cleaning routine that keeps components of your pressure washer clean at all times. If you decide to replace your carburetor you can find them here.

– Steps to cleaning the carburetor

Let’s say you have determined that a pressure washer starts then dies because of the clogged carburetor. The question is do you know how to clean it so that your machine can operate optimally once again?

Well, cleaning the carburetor of a gasoline-powered pressure washer should be easy, especially if you do the following:

  • Step1: To expose the carburetor for cleaning, remove the spark plug and fuel valve.
  • Step 2: The second step is that you should disconnect the gas line connecting the fuel tank and the carburetor. Most importantly, ensure that the line is clamped to guard against fuel leakage.
  • Step 3: Next, use a nut driver to dislodge the carburetor from its seating. Do not forget to disengage a throttle cable before you start cleaning.
  • Step 4: For a novice looking to clean the carburetor for the first time, note that re-installing a cleaned carburetor or a new replacement can be tricky. We, therefore, recommend that you master the process of assembling the carburetor. If necessary, take pictures to help you keep track of the whole process.
  • Step 5: Now, with the carburetor removed, spray it with an ideal cleaner. You should make sure the cleaner does not come in contact with the rubber components lest it causes erosion.
  • Step 6: Finally, presumably, after using a spray cleaner, use clean water to rinse the various parts of a carburetor. Dry it using compressed air then reinstall.

● Troubleshoot fuel cap for problems

Another possible reason why your pressure washer starts then dies is a clogged fuel cap. The catch here is that when the level of fuel goes down in the tank, air that passes through the fuel cap fills a gap that is created. However, when the fuel cap is clogged, a pressure washer is likely to develop ignition problems. It is a phenomenon referred to as ‘vapour lock.’

Vapour lock happens when no air gets through to the fuel tank as fuel empties into the combustion chamber. In the process, fuel fails to reach the carburetor for mixing with air. You already know that a lack of fuel in the carburetor causes the engine to stall. It is something you don’t want to experience, especially when you are busy cleaning driveways or pressure washing your bike after a muddy ride.

To diagnose fuel cap for problems, loosen it a bit then ignite the engine again. Does the machine run without stopping? If the answer is in the affirmative, it means the fuel cap is heavily clogged and needs cleaning. If it is damaged beyond cleaning, we recommend a new replacement. You can find pressure washer fuel caps here.

Troubleshooting electric pressure washers that start then dies

Unlike gasoline-powered pressure washers, electric variants are smaller and produce less noise. Also taking note that electric power washers do not have a carburetor, troubleshooting them takes a different approach. You should, therefore, run a diagnostics for main components such as motor pump, hose, and trigger gun. The question is how do you do it?

Well, we researched extensively on troubleshooting electric pressure washers and compiled the following tips to get you started:

  • Unplug the machine: First, you should unplug the machine from its source of power, an action that should turn it off. You don’t want to troubleshoot an electric pressure washer while it is plugged lest you get electrocuted in the process.
  • Quick diagnostic: Now, run a quick diagnostic to determine if any of the three main components has a problem. Remember, we are troubleshooting to determine why your machine starts then go off after a few minutes.
  • Check the fuse: A fuse in an electric power washer plays a vital role in ensuring a surge does not damage the system. The excess flow of current would cause a bigger problem such as motor burn-out and it may mean you seek the help of a specialist. You should replace a problematic fuse with a new one. If a fuse blows, it triggers a disconnection on the circuit board, hindering the flow of current. The outcome is that your power washer will not start but if it does, it can only run for a few minutes then stops.
  • A burning smell: Also ask this question: does the pressure washer produce a burning smell as soon as it stops running? If you perceive a burning smell, you may have to seek help from a power washer repair specialist to fix the problem. As opposed to gasoline-powered pressure washers, electric variants are delicate hence require specialized care and repair.
  • Current flow: You should also run a diagnostic for the current flow. Is the voltage below the threshold required to run the machine? Lack of enough current is another thing that causes stalling of pressure washer engines.
  • Faulty extension cord: Another possible cause of stalling in your electric power washers is a faulty extension cord. While some cleaners use extension cords, we advise against using them as they are likely to shorten the lifespan of your machine. It is either the fuse or a capacitor blows, and that would mean your machine won’t start or run. Steer clear of extension cords by plugging the washer directly to a power outlet. It is a recipe for your safety and health of a pressure washer. You can find good extension cords here.

Final Thoughts

When pressure washers start developing mechanical problems, you should not sit and wait for the situation to get worse. Prompt action is necessary to save these handy machines from stalling due to an engine problem. Most importantly, you should understand how your power washer works before running a diagnostic. The type of power washer you have also plays significance. While engine stalls in gasoline-powered pressure washers are often attributed to clogging in the fuel line, it is not the case with electric pressure washers. In the latter case, troubleshoot your machine for electric faults.