How to Fix a Pressure Washer: Identifying and Fixing Common Pressure Washer Issues

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Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we lived in a world where when you bought something, it never went wrong and never required fixing? Unfortunately, we don’t, and pressure units will, unfortunately, require some attention at some point in their lives.

Having a pressure washing machine around your home is handy. They are the perfect cleaning buddies for all your outdoor needs and even your rugs. If you’ve decided to purchase your own rather than renting, you will have to deal with fixing any problems.

Even though it consists of several parts, pressure washers are quite simple in terms of their construction and use.

In this article, I will take you through the most common problems that pressure washers often encounter. I will show you basic troubleshooting tricks and tips to solve these problems.

Troubleshooting for Common Pressure Washer Issues

There’s a few problems that may occur with your pressure washer, and I feel you should know how to deal with, especially if you want to save some money by not calling in a professional. It doesn’t matter if your pressure washer is gas or electric; these are troubleshooting tips for some rather common issues.

1. Low Pressure

You purchased your pressure washer to spray water at a high pressure to blast away any dirt and debris from a wide range of surfaces. So when your unit suddenly lacks pressure, it becomes a bit pointless, so how do we fix this?

How to Fix a Pressure Washer

Typically when a pressure washer lacks pressure, it can be because dirt has accumulated in the nozzle tip; this lowers the pressure exerted. First things first, check the nozzle tip for any dirt, my pressure washer can with a pin which can be jiggled in the nozzle tip if that doesn’t work you may need to get a new set of nozzle tips.

It’s worth checking your hose for kinks and to see if the water is leaking if you find any issues you may need to replace the hose.

Another possible reason may well be because the water source isn’t fully open. Believe it or not, this is very common, and your pressure washer just doesn’t get enough water.

Finally, it could be dirt built up in the pump. Most electric pressure washers don’t have serviceable pumps, so you’ll need a new electric pressure washer. However, the ones that do, I would follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions on servicing the pump.

2. Leaking Pressure Washer

Believe it or not, but your pressure washer can leak, and it’s actually a very common problem. If this happens to you, while it may be water, it can also be oil, and the cause of both of these problems tends to be a worn-out seal. Check your seals regularly, and if you have noticed a leakage from one, replace it.

Sometimes the pump assembly must also be replaced. Age or a well-used pressure washer tends to show leaking from the pump assembly. If this is the case for you, just replace the pump assembly, or if you are game, you can consider replacing all the pump seals.

The pistons in the pump assembly can get worn. The pistons actually allow the pump to draw out the water from the inlet.

They have seals that pressurize the water, and if those seals are broken, then they would need to be replaced for the pressure washer to work.

Simply remove the pump and open it to see the piston and the O-rings. If any of these O-rings is broken, you can just get a new one and replace the broken one.

Finally, to make diagnosing easy *sarcasm*, there may not be a problem at all. The water might just be leaking through the thermal release valve. The water can get heated up when the pressure washer is not used for a while.

As a result, the water can heat up the pressure washer. Therefore, many pressure washer models feature a thermal release valve that releases the hot water and bring the temperature of the pressure washer down.

3. Pressure Washer Won’t Start

Your pressure washer won’t start? If it’s an electric model, try a different outlet, sometimes sockets can become defective. If it still doesn’t start, it’s also worth checking your extension cord, if the length of your extension cord is over 25 feet, then it needs to have 12-gauge wire to work with no issues. Lighter gauges just cannot provide the right amount of power to keep your pressure washer working.

If, however, you are using a gas pressure washer, then you should consider checking that it has gas in the tank if it doesn’t start. Another problem could be a pressure build-up, which can be fixed by pulling the trigger on the trigger gun, this will help to release the built-up pressure. If yours doesn’t have an automatic choke, make sure you have it set to the correct position for starting.

It also be that the spark plug is worn or defective, so switch it out for a new one.

If the spark plug isn’t the issue, then the next issue may be with the ignition coil. The ignition coil is responsible for sending the voltage to the spark plug.

If it is defective, then the engine will not run, and the pressure washer would not start. If it is defective, simply get it replaced.

Another common problem with a gas pressure washer is that the carburetor as it often gets clogged. This happens when the fuel is left in the pressure washer for a long time.

Although the fuel evaporates, some of it is left behind and becomes sticky. The solution is to clean the carburetor using a carburetor cleaner. In some instances, you may have to replace it entirely.

4. The Pressure Cannot Be Shut Off

Unable to stop the water pressure, firstly, shut off the engine and do not use it anymore until you’ve replaced the unloader valve. This is a common problem, I haven’t experienced this with a pressure washer, but my multi-spray head on my hose one of the settings once you start spraying, well it won’t shut off unless you switch to a different spray pattern.

The Pressure Cannot Be Shut Off

This is basically the same as the unloader valve. Sometimes they become defective, and they can’t switch into bypass mode when you release the trigger wand, which results in the pressure not being shut off.

This is why I suggested replacing the unloader valve if it’s malfunctioning, otherwise your trigger wand may end up getting damaged requiring a new trigger wand.

If the unloader valve is not the problem, then it’s probably the trigger wand itself. Most likely, the seal that halts the water is broken. Unfortunately, it cannot be replaced, and you must replace the entire trigger-wand.

Wands normally do need to be replaced after a few hundred hours of use, If you use bleach or soap quite often, that can also cause the seal to dry out and crack.

5. Pulsating Pressure Washer

This is typically because the discharge valve or the inlet has become dirty, this is why you should make sure to keep them clean and free of any dirt. If you notice pulsation in the unit, give them a clean. Personally, I clean these every 5-6 uses.

The plunger may also be a cause of the problem if the valves and inlet are clean, so give that a look and see if it needs replacing.

Another possible issue is a kink in the inlet hose, this happened to me. My wife hooked the machine up, and it kept pulsating and losing pressure. I then noticed that the hosepipe with being contracted, hunted back through the hose, and it had a kink. Sorted that out, and everything worked again.

6. The Unit Is Running Rough

Typically the reasons your pressure washer may start to run rough could be because the water is too hot. This can happen when your faucet runs both hot and cold water, ensure that you are feeding in cold water only.

Asides from making sure that you are supplying cold water, you should also be aware that water left in your hose can warm up if exposed to the sun for a long time, there are horror stories of children getting scolded by hot water in hose pipes, so you may notice your pressure washer may be a bit rough when starting but then settle into normal function.

That could have been hot water in the hose.

Another reason could be that the inlet has gotten stuck, so there isn’t enough air getting in. Check the inlet if it’s faulty, fix it if possible, or replace it entirely.

Finally, the crankcase may have suffered some damage, which will cause the unit to run rough. If hot water isn’t the problem, then the crankcase is the next common issue. Repair any damage.

7. Unit Is Too Noisy

Suppose the unit has suddenly become rather noisy. In that case, it could be because the engine doesn’t have enough oil, or that the water intake becomes blocked. If it’s the water intake, then a quick clean or a replacement will get it sorted.

If it’s low oil, replace it with a good pressure washer oil.

Also, there could be an issue where the pump doesn’t have enough oil. If you can disassemble the pump, take a look inside and add more oil if you can. Check to make sure that the noise has been fixed. If you can’t disassemble and you are still in your warranty period, it’s best to return the unit under warranty.

8. Pressure Washer Soap Injector Does Not Work

If the soap injector on your pressure washer does not work, all you need to do is replace the chemical injection kit.

Doing that should deal with any problem occurring in injecting soap into the water stream inside the pressure washer.

You can search online for the chemical injection kit for your particular model. It is best to use the one made for that model to ensure that it would work.

Should You Always Open Up Your Unit?

If your pressure washer is still under warranty, then the answer is no. Opening the unit may well void your warranty, and that’s never a good thing, I would fill a warranty claim instead and have it dealt with for free. Though do try all the methods I’ve listed above that doesn’t require opening the unit first as they may fix the problem, meaning you don’t need to go through the warranty process.

However, if your warranty is expired, try all the methods i’ve listed above that fit your problem.

Tools You Need for Fixing Pressure Washer Issues

When it comes to repairing your pressure washer, you will need a selection of tools to disassemble the unit and fix those issues. Now you can buy the individual tools or purchase a kit.

The tools I suggest you have at a minimum to help you troubleshoot the issues include:

Tools You Need For Fixing Pressure Washer Issues
  • A set of wrenches
  • Hex/Allen keys
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Utility knife
  • Snips
  • Screwdrivers
  • Sockets and a ratchet
  • A rubber hammer or mallet

Closing Thoughts

Over their lives, pressure washers may suffer various issues. Depending on the causes, the way you work with the device, it’s brand, etc., will decide how fixable they are. But you must take the time to troubleshoot them, it will save you money over hiring a professional.

Hopefully, these tips will help you work through the most common issues. If the problem feels too big or if you don’t feel confident then call a professional, I will say that I always feel a bit overwhelmed when dealing with a problem for the first time with something I don’t know, a bit analysis paralysis.

But once i’ve got stuck in, then 9 times out of 10, I solve the issue. Though there is always that 1 time out of 10 where I get caught out, but I’ll accept those odds!

How to Fix a Pressure Washer: Identifying and Fixing Common Pressure Washer Issues