By Dan Galvin / Published October 2022
It’s October. You’re enjoying the early fall weather. Your thoughts are probably on this month’s PowerClean convention, not winterizing your equipment! Life has a way of pushing the fast-forward button on you when you least expect it. Keep a copy of this article stored in your equipment room. When the time comes to replace whatever’s in your drink coozie right now with a warm adult beverage, you’ll be glad you did.
When water freezes, it creates pressure anywhere from 25,000 psi to 114,000 psi. Depending on the temperature, that level of force could destroy your pressure washer.
All it takes is one night when you didn’t protect your equipment, and BAM! You need new hoses, a new pump, a new unloader, and new trigger guns or a new coil for your heater. In that post-holiday, slow business time of year, the money tree hasn’t started to bloom and yet you’re looking at having to replace all that equipment. Don’t be that person. Take the following advice.
Winterizing your pressure washer is more than taking the supply line off your pump, letting the water drain out, and putting it in your garage. As a professional power washer, you most likely have a water tank, supply line, bypass line, high pressure pump, and unloader; and if you have a hot water pressure unit, a coil—and don’t forget the engine.
If you are storing the pressure washer for longer than 30 days, the engine needs to be winterized as well. Ethanol in today’s gasoline can cause major problems to your small engine. One problem is phase separation; this happens to gasoline containing ethanol that comes into contact with water, either liquid or in the form of humidity. Ethanol absorbs the water; and when it reaches the point of saturation, it will phase separate, causing water to form in your fuel tank, carburetor, and the engine float bowl. The colder the temperature, the quicker the phase separation happens. For example, at 60 degrees Fahrenheit E-10 gasoline can hold approximately 3.8 teaspoons of water per gallon, and if the temperature drops to 20 degrees, it can only hold 2.8 teaspoons of water, which causes phase separation sooner.
Before storing your equipment, add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank and run your engine for two minutes or until the fuel is distributed through the engine; turn the engine off, and let it cool down. Remove the fuel line or safely drain or siphon the fuel from the attached fuel tank. Next, start the engine and allow it to run until the remaining fuel is completely out. This process prevents problems with the fuel “gunking” up in the carburetor.
There are three basic ways to prevent your pressure washer components from freezing up. Keep the components stored in a warm place, drain or blow the water out with compressed air, or winterize it with antifreeze.
The best and easiest way to prevent your pressure washer components from freezing is to keep your pressure washing equipment warm in a heated shed, garage, or warehouse. Not just your equipment stays warm, but your cleaning detergents and water in your tank will be ready to go when you need them.
This is not the best way to winterize your pressure washer components. I have seen pumps with air valves (looks like a car tire valve) on them but personally have never used this method because it’s difficult to get all the water out of the system. You’re not just removing water from the pump, either—there is the unloader, the supply lines, the bypass lines, the hoses, the trigger guns, the lances, the water tanks, and—if you have hot water—the coil. Why risk residual water freezing? Antifreeze is the way to go.
This method takes time, but by being slow and thorough, it saves your equipment. I think it is the safest way to protect and store your equipment for the winter months.
Some companies have antifreeze systems built into their equipment, and with the turn of a couple of valves, they quickly and easily winterize the equipment. If your equipment isn’t configured that way, try connecting a three-foot supply line to the inlet of your pump and placing it into a
bucket of antifreeze.
Use non-alcohol antifreeze. It’s the safest because alcohol will cause problems with pump seals, O-rings, rubber hoses, and gaskets. Most RV/marine antifreeze does not contain alcohol.
If you work in the winter months and need your pressure washer ready to go, have the antifreeze go through your pump, coil (if you have one), hoses, trigger gun, lance, and most importantly, your bypass line. Once the antifreeze starts coming out of your nozzle, release the trigger and let the antifreeze run through your bypass hose. Make sure you take the bypass hose out of the water tank so you don’t get antifreeze in the tank. The average pressure washer with a coil and 150 feet of hose can use up to five gallons of antifreeze.
If you are going to store your pressure washer for the winter, you can remove the high-pressure and bypass hoses to save antifreeze.
If your bypass is a closed loop and goes from your unloader back into your inlet on the pump, release the trigger on the gun as soon as the antifreeze starts pouring into the pump. This allows the unloader to get the water out of the bypass hose. This should only take about one second if your bypass hose is less than five feet. You may want to cycle the pressure washer a couple of times to make sure all the water is out.
For the economically minded (and who isn’t these days?), you can reuse the antifreeze. Take the nozzle out of your lance so you are using low pressure and place the lance into a bucket. Then run your pressure washer until the antifreeze is out of the system. A little trick I have used is to have some air between the antifreeze and the water, so when air came out of the lance, I knew all the antifreeze was out. Then I pull the lance out of the bucket so I don’t dilute the antifreeze.
For cold-water pressure washers where you are only winterizing the pump and unloader, you can use a can/bottle of pump stabilizer/antifreeze that connects directly to the inlet of your pump. Drain the water tank. Note that you may have to angle the tank to allow all the water to drain out.
You winterize your equipment because you want it ready to go when you need it. What happens if it’s
not? Now’s the time to check your supply of replacement parts and replenish your inventory ahead of
the spring thaw and the demand that follows. We’ll all PowerThrough!™ this supply chain backup, but preparation now beats regret later. See you at PowerClean!
Dan Galvin is EnviroSpec’s president and CEO and has worked in the power washing industry for 20 years. If you have more questions for Dan, contact him at (800) 346-4876 or visit www.envirospec.com.