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Handyman question: Power Washers

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  • Handyman question: Power Washers

    I have a love/hate relationship with Power Washers. Over the last decade or two, I've had to use them for a variety of projects. I've owned a few, borrowed a few, and rented some. All were basic electric plug-in models.

    For the actual job they do cleaning, well, they're awesome. I've refinished all sorts of outdoor projects and decks and furniture, and power washing was always the first step. And it's such a huge help! Now for the downside: they all seem to break! (well, aside from the rentals)

    I don't know if there's something I've done wrong with them--not cleaning/storing them correctly. But after a season or two, they inevitably no longer pressurize the water. I'm guessing the motor breaks--I dunno. Never really looked into it that hard because I was usually in such a hurry to get going with a project that I'd inevitably throw it away, and go rent one so I could finish and move on.

    So I have two questions:
    1. Is there something I've done wrong that makes them all break? I stopped buying them years ago and just rent now for this reason. My father breaks them all the time, but just keeps buying new ones.

    2. Is it worth it to step up to a gas-powered one? For what I'm doing, I don't think I need any more pressure--but who knows, maybe I'm missing out. Or are the gas-powered ones even more work to maintain?

    I have a lineup of summer projects coming that I'm going to need one again, and I'm debating if I should just rent again, or if I should take the plunge and try buying another--and hoping this time it doesn't break.

    Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

    Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
    Twitter: @undefinition1

  • #2
    Are you storing them where they can freeze? I have no experience with the electric variety, but I've had the same cheap ($300ish) gas one for a decade and it still seems to work fine.


    • #3

      I have one of them there cheap Greenworks electric pressure washers from Lowe’s. I use if for the driveway and to blast the crap off the side of my house. I have been using it on and off at least several times a year for at least 6 years and it’s never let me down.


      • #4
        There is a storage spray available for pressure washers that flushes water from the pump and adds a little antifreeze types of solution to prevent freezing damage, seems to work well for me.
        I have also had an issue with a washer that refuesd to generate any pressure after storage one year, and that turned out the be a stuck pressure bypass valve. On all the pumps I have seen there is heavy spring that is visible from the outside, that spring is for the safety valve that will bleed off pressure if the pump becomes plugged.. preventing it from exploding. IIRC inside that valve there is another smaller valve with a very light spring... like the one in a pen, that is the punp bypass valve and it defaults to bypass mode when the pump isn't running. It doesn't take much pressure to open that valve normally but if it gets stuck with a little bit of corrosion or minerals from hard water you will have a non functioning pressure washer. And accessing this is easy just remove the big spring for the safety valve, no need to disssemble the pump.
        Paul O


        • #5
          Paul, I've been through similar experiences with other power tools. I've had several electric trimmers and blowers and finally gave up bought quality gas replacements and have never looked back. That said, I was in the market for a power washer a few years ago and ended up getting an electric one: a Sun Joe SPX3000. The price seemed ridiculous compared to gas washers and the reviews on this were stellar. I figured there wasn't too much downside in trying it out but my expectations were low. I've had it just 2 seasons now (stored in heated garage over winter) and I'm really happy with it. I've only used it maybe half dozen times so can't comment on long-term durability but seems like a pretty good product for the price point.


          • #6
            I've only used Karcher products, they're electric and work well, the expensive ones work too well: I managed to crack cement render on our house with one when I was cleaning off the mould. However, you must turn them on at the tap before you turn on the power, or you will quickly kill the motor.



            • #7
              Spend about $300+ for an electric power washer (double for a gasoline one) and ALWAYS turn on the water hose BEFORE the electric motor, use the "anti-freeze"/lubricant in the pump and you should get good service from it. Even the new ones from Heber Fraught come with Acme or Peerless pumps now and aren't "5 minute junque". (Runs five minutes and is junk...) Gas or electric, ever run one dry even a second and you'll score the pump and ruin it, until you get into commercial-duty pumps with by-passes....think 3 grand and up units! Most "home owner" washers I've seen have a very inexpensive "repair kit" with a gasket, the light spring and a check ball (ball bearing). In real life, usually the spring and the check ball get rust on them. Have a spare on hand (like a spark plug for your mower!), and if you need it, you don't have to make a trip for it. I used an early airless paint sprayer (Grayco) on an apartment complex I lived in when I was young and foolish to help with my rent. Latex paint would score the little spring and ball.


              • #8
                Our gas powered pressure washer died after 10 years of use yesterday. It got more use being loaned out to friends most of the time. The wife wanted to undertake our yearly house wash and the pressure was really nothing. The 2nd axial pump gave was a cheap pump. I have done a lot of research over the years and for residential/continued use there is no better combination than a Honda GX engine and CAT pump. It can get pricy, but if you look enough you can find this combo for under $800. Yes $800 is not cheap but It will outlast you if it is takencare of. CAT pumps are also 100% rebuildable and the Honda GX is really the best small engine you can buy. If you are in an area where it can freeze winter prep is key. Also making sure water is running through it and pressure is released when starting. Water should be coming out of the gun first and many of the mid $500 and up units do have unloader values to bypass. We purchased a Simpson ALH3228 on the Zon (had some gift cards). More importantly it has the GX/CAT combo. and quick release hoses.Never run pump gas in it and make sure the fuel used is ethanol free.
                "A dirty shop is an unsafe shop, if you injure yourself in a clean shop you are just stupid" - Coach Kupchinsky

                The Madeleine
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                Swopes 5.0
                Acoustic Panels
                Living Room Make Over


                • #9
                  I always enjoy project farm

                  John H

                  Synergy Horn, SLS-85, BMR-3L, Mini-TL, BR-2, Titan OB, B452, Udique, Vultus, Latus1, Seriatim, Aperivox,Pencil Tower


                  • #10
                    Funny timing on that Project Farm. I've watched various videos of his, usually pretty fun. Unfortunately, my biggest issue is not which one performs the best, but which one is the easiest to keep running.

                    Anyway, yesterday I pulled the trigger on the Greenworks 2000 PSI. it was on sale at Lowes, and looks pretty well-designed.

                    My big concern now is to make sure I learn how to properly feed and care it so I can get it to last several years. Hopefully there's a big enough "support community" out there who knows its kinks.
                    Isn't it about time we started answering rhetorical questions?

                    Paul Carmody's DIY Audio Projects
                    Twitter: @undefinition1