What Happens if A Pressure Washer Freezes?

Approx Reading Time: 13 minutes

Pressure washers make tough cleaning tasks look easy. Whether it is scrubbing grime off your outdoor grill, washing the dirt off your car or cleaning concrete driveways, the convenience that comes with using these machines is incomparable to using water, soap and a scrub. However, there are days you will worry about the efficiency of power washers. Take, for example, winter season when temperatures fall below zero. Before you can think about changing used oil in the pump/motor at the end of winter, you should worry about winter cold, especially its effects on the performance of pressure washers. Many questions then come to mind. If a power washer does not deliver excellent performance, should you heat water a little bit? Also, what happens if a pressure washer freezes?

The above questions can go on and on. But on answering what happens when a pressure washer freezes, a straight-shooting answer is that during winter, pressure washers may get damaged by ice. The extent of the damage may, however, depend on maintenance practices one adopts, especially when temperatures fall below the freezing point. Often, the main culprit in your power washer during winter frost is the water pump. If it does not get completely damaged, water in the hosepipe freezes or the pump bends awkwardly.

What Happens if A Pressure Washer Freezes? 1

Blocked pressure washer pumps often bring about many other shortcomings. Given that the most notable effect of winter frost on power washers is distorted, warped or bent pumps, you should, therefore, take immediate winterizing measures. For those who use these machines at home or in commercial cleaning service centers, you will agree that a damaged pump is painstakingly difficult to use. Freeze damage happens in the sense that when water freezes (becomes ice) within the components of a power washer, it expands. The result is an increase in pressure from within, something that may cause bending/warping/distortion or crack. 

When pressure washer freezes, other notable effects of the winter frost are cracked nozzles. A split nozzle should also raise an alarm about the effects of cold on these powerful cleaning machines. Sometimes, especially when testing the machine, you may perceive a distorted pump sound, often signaling freeze damage. In a nutshell, the damage can be so extensive that your pressure washer may become obsolete at the end of winter. The next questions then follow; How do you diagnose pressure water for freeze damage?  Do you need to winterize your washer as soon as the cold season sets in? Well, to help you answer these questions and many more, dive in with us and explore the effects of subpar temperatures on pressure washers. 

How to Diagnose Pressure Washer for Freeze Damage

While it is obvious that subpar temperatures affect the optimal functioning of pressure washers, if not completely damaging them, we do not encourage assumptions. You should comprehensively diagnose your machine to ascertain the cause of damage. Pumps, for example, may work less effectively because the oil in them has thickened. Moreover, motors in pressure washers may grind to a halt because of residue from detergent oil going through a faulty filter. You should not always assume that a filter in your washer is effective, especially if you have not recently replaced it with a new one. Overused filters often let unwanted particles get into the engine system, wreaking havoc on the machine.

When it comes to diagnosing your power washer for freeze damage, here is a simple procedure you should follow:

  • After leaving your pressure washer in the cold for a few days or weeks, diagnosing it for freeze damage is vital. You should note that water in hosepipes can freeze almost instantly in freezing conditions. Thus, storing or using your washer in a warm bay/garage allows thawing to take place, which is a vital procedure. After a few minutes, frozen water should change to liquid.
  • The next step is switching on the power washer. With the pressure washer running, pay close attention to strange sounds its engine and pump produce. Do you hear clanking/humming? These sounds often signal freeze damage. It is also very likely that the machine will shut down after a minute or two. An electric circuit may strip, particularly when using electric pressure washers. Sometimes, a fuse may also blow, which is an indication that the machine is adversely damaged because of exposure to subpar temperatures.
  • Should you confirm the above signs of freeze damage, do not use the power washer. Rather, shut it down and take it to a servicing center for repair and maintenance.

It is noteworthy that while freeze damage may not render your washer useless, manufacturers are very skeptical in their warranty provisions. Repair and maintenance due to freeze damage are hardly one of them.  Often, the buck stops with the owner. If you always carry out maintenance on your machine to prevent unprecedented damage, there is no cause for alarm. However, not knowing how to winterize your power washer, something we look at next, will push maintenance and repair costs higher than necessary. In worst situations, you may end up buying a brand new machine when a washer breaks down beyond repair.

How Do You Winterize A Pressure Washer?

Freeze damage in pressure washers can be catastrophic depending on the extent of frozen water in the pump, hosepipes and other components. And so, the next question everyone should answer is how best should you winterize pressure washers?

First off, note that winterization is a process that involves preparing pressure washers for cold weather, especially during winter.  You should also perform it on other machines such as lawnmowers. Most importantly, understanding that subpar temperatures will damage your power washer machines gets you a step closer to doing the right thing. You don’t want to take chances, right?  Well, taking note that people living in areas that experience harsh winters hardly use their pressure washers during the cold season, winterizing becomes necessary. You cannot avoid it and realize the optimal performance of your cleaning machine.

Tips on winterizing the motor

You don’t want the motor in your machine to become inoperable after winter, hence winterizing it means you should do the following:

  • First off, making sure water does not condense into the gas lines leading to the motor and gas tank is the key to keeping pressure washers operable throughout winter. Always fill the tank of your gasoline-powered with fuel. We also recommend using a fuel stabilizer. However, you should do so based on guidelines provided by the manufacturer on the user manual.
  • Secondly, turn on the power washer and let it run for a few minutes. The catch here is to ensure proper circulation of water throughout the pump system. It is also to ensure that the fuel stabilizer reaches carburetor, gas lines and gas tank.
  • Another way of winterizing the motor is by draining all the fuel from the system of the machine. You should do so with the help of the manufacturer’s guidelines in your user manual.
  • Because pressure washer engines work slowly and even become inefficient during winter, you should lubricate the engine, cylinders, and carburetor to keep them working optimally during and after the cold season.  Most importantly, you should use clean oil. For the best results, change the oil regularly, preferably after every 200 hours.

Tips on winterizing the pump on your pressure washer

You should, of course, winterize the pump too. To do so, we recommend doing the following:

  • Start by draining residue of a cleaning detergent/solution from the system of your power washer. Hold the gun trigger on your washer while the injector is in a bucket with water.  For power washers that have pre-pump injectors for detergent, turn off the water inlet and the engine.
  • Always make sure no water remains in the pump by pulling an engine starter cord on your pressure washer.  While doing so, disconnect pressure and water hoses.
  • Preserving power washer pistons, seals and manifolds is another important winterization task you must perform on your machine. If you will not use it throughout winter, lock these parts inside a pump screwed to the water inlet. Alternatively, you can screw the pump saver to the point at which a garden hose gets connected to the pressure washer.
  • For homesteaders who do not know how to use a pump saver, contact your manufacturer for the best advice on the anti-freeze flushing of the machine.
  • There are pump fuel additives you can use to preserve the integrity of the machine, especially if you are going to use it during winter.
  • Lastly, storing a power washer in a cool and dry room saves it from winter frost.

More Tips on Winterizing Pressure Washers

Winterizing power washers does not stop with stabilizing fluids in the machine or lubricating its movable parts. Taking into considering the above tips, here are more practices will preserve the structural integrity of your handy cleaner:

Keep the washer in a warm room

We know performing an anti-free procedure on your pressure washer all the time can be time-consuming. Thus, you may want to try other methods of winterizing it. Because the pump is the most susceptible to subpar temperatures, often freezing at the slightest change in temperature, we recommend keeping it in a warm room.  But first, you must disconnect the washer from the drain and the hose. It is because hosepipes too expand and may crack when temperatures fall below zero degrees.

Seek professional help with winterizing

You may want to schedule pressure washer winterizing along with other maintenance routines and that’s okay. It is especially necessary if you are planning to use your power washer throughout winter. While winterizing the machine is something you can do at home, seeking help with the exercise from professional service providers comes with many benefits.

First, they will evaluate your gadget and recommend maintenance practices that will improve its structural integrity alongside winterizing.  Secondly, they will charge you less, especially if repair falls on the month of annual power washer servicing. For first-timers in using pressure washers, a quick web search should pull up results on winterization services near you. Or you can seek recommendations from a friend on the best service providers.

Keep track of temperature changes

During winter, when temperatures fall below zero degrees and the frost is making it difficult to clean pavements, you can still use your pressure washer. However, we would advise that you only perform cleaning duties from midmorning to late afternoon because that is when the temperature is friendly. You should not use a pressure washer when the cold is unbearable. However, if a cleaning task is urgent, we recommend putting money on a good washer that uses warm water. There are many warm water pressure washers in the market, but let’s reserve that for another topic.

Using Your Pressure Washer during Cold Season: Practical Tips You Should Know

Learning how to use homesteading machines like pressure washers when temperatures fall below the freezing point is important. It is because cold season often comes with risks, most of which threaten the health engines/motors. Moreover, the harsh weather itself is a threat to your health. Thus, apart from putting on warm clothing to guard against contracting hypothermia, when duty calls, you must do the right thing. Now, taking note that pressure washing in freezing conditions comes with lots of challenges, you don’t want to take chances. For example, clearing ice from your car’s exterior is only possible if you work smart.

While adding salt to ice on roads works most of the time, it also poses a risk to both your pressure washer and car. If your car does not rust with continued exposure to salt on roads, its door and window may become difficult to open/close because of ice. Thus, a pressure washer becomes a great alternative to cleaning icy driveways during winter. But before getting started, take note of the following pressure washing tips for the cold season:

Work indoors

Working indoors will save your power washer from freeze damage. You also stay safe from hypothermia. If you have a home garage, insulate its interior to further cushion you and the machine against cold. But for those who do not have garages, constructing a wash bay should only take you a few easy DIY steps. You can also hire a service provider to construct one in no time.

Always de-ice

De-icing driveways using sand or salt is crucial when using pressure washers outdoors during the cold season. However, it often leaves behind a slippery surface, hence the need to be extra careful when using your washer indoors. If you choose to de-icing, clean water that splashes onto concrete driveways lest you end with an even trickier icy situation.

Warm water in the resource

While you can still use relatively cold water to wash your car or clean driveways during winter, you should not risk doing so when temperatures are extremely low. You should warm the water a little to guard against the risk of it freezing within the hosepipes. If water from outdoor taps/reservoir is very cold, connect the hosepipe to an interior one.  The ideal water temperature for pressure washing during winter is 180 degrees. However, it should not exceed 200 degrees.

Use winter-friendly cleaning chemicals

Home and car cleaning detergents vary based on chemical composition. Thus, you should seek help with finding the best winter detergents for pressure washers. A quick online search should get you some leads.

Aim the nozzle appropriately

You should not splash water haphazardly when pressure washing during winter. If, for example, you are washing your car, shut and open its doors and winters often. You don’t want to end up struggling with opening your car window after a cleaning routine because of the frost.

Lubricate pressure washer wheels

Wheels of a pressure washer are often a culprit of freeze damage. And it could get worse when using the machine outdoors. We, therefore, advise that you should grease the wheels as a precautionary measure of guarding against water freezing in openings and cracks.

You should ensure a steady flow of water in the pipes

Using pressure washers in sub-zero temperatures is very tricky. You drop the hosepipe onto the ground; water inside it freezes, almost instantly. Thus, to avoid such a situation, ensure a steady flow from the reservoir.

Use the right nozzles

A zero-degree nozzle is the best for washing ice off your car in subpar temperatures. First off, use it to cut large ice blocks on the car’s exterior then blast smaller pieces with pressurized water from a power washer.

Apply wax on surfaces before cleaning

Waxing off or applying wax on surfaces before cleaning during winter comes with two main benefits. First, it protects painted surfaces. Secondly, it facilitates faster drying after cleaning. Your detergent supplier should recommend the best spray wax.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, using pressure washers during winter is often very tricky. You are faced with the danger of contracting hypothermia and also the risk of losing your machine to freeze damage. However, with tips in this post, including knowing what happens if a pressure washer freezes, you should do the right thing at the right time. Winterizing machines, which is technically preparing them for the cold season is, therefore, the best thing to do.