Power Washers Pressure Washer Troubleshooting

Published on March 18th, 2015 | by Jacks


Troubleshooting Your Pressure Washer

Warmer weather is on its way, so it’s time for some spring cleaning. You get your pressure washer out to do some outdoor washing, you try turning on the engine, and nothing happens.

Or, you are in position to start washing, you pull the spray-gun trigger, and water doesn’t come out.

First, step back and take a deep breath. Now let’s figure out how to troubleshoot your pressure washer.

Nozzle and Spray-gun Troubleshooting

Your nozzle and spray gun are two important parts in your pressure washer to deliver the high pressure water spray. If these parts fail to work, here are some tips on getting them back in shape:

  • Inspect your nozzle, spray gun, connections and O-rings to make sure everything is tightened
  • Check if the nozzle, spray gun or inlet screen are clogged. Wash out if they are.
  • Replace O-rings if dirty or damaged.
  • Inspect hose for any twist, cuts, bends or dents.
  • Check your nozzle, hose, and spray gun for any clogs, dirt, and debris. Clean out or replace if needed.

Your Engine Won’t Start or is Lacking Power

If your gas-powered pressure washer engine does not start or is lacking power, there are a few things you can do.

First, check the on/off switch to see if it is in the “on” position. However, before you touch anything, turn the engine off! Even if it’s not running, turn the switch to the “off” position. You don’t want to inspect the engine while it is on, or could turn on, this could lead to serious injury and/or damage to the pressure washer engine.

After you make sure the engine is off, here are some ways to check if it is running properly:

  • Run water through pressure washer until all air is removed from the hose.
  • Check your air filter. Clean if dirty and replace if damaged.
  • Check oil level. Change if needed.
  • Top off fuel in tank
    • If your fuel is more than 30 days old, dispose of it. Always use fresh gas.
  • Make sure your spark plug is connected to the wire.
  • If your engine was smoking:
    • Check if choke is on, return to off position.
    • Make sure there is an unrestricted air flow you’re your engine (clean your air filter).

If You Find a Leak…

A leak in a pressure washer may have you at your wits end. However, some easy preventative maintenance can eliminate this. If for some reason it happens, here are some things to look over:

  • Inspect hose for any dents, cuts or twists, replace if damaged.
  • Clean or replace O-rings, if that is where the leak is stemming from.
  • Tighten all of your connections.
  • Make sure you are using the proper wand size for your pressure washer.
  • Clean filter screens on the water intakes, replace if damaged or broken.

Low Pressure Won’t Help You Clean

If the issue arises that your pressure washer isn’t providing you with the amount of pressure it should be, there are a few things that are easy to fix:

  • Make sure your nozzle is the right size and installed properly.
  • Ensure that your nozzle is not in low PSI position.
  • Make sure your water supply is not restricted by anything (bends, cuts or damage to your garden hose).
  • Look over your spray gun, nozzle and hose for any leaks.
  • Check your nozzle, hose and spray gun for any clogs or dirt and debris. Clean out or replace if needed.

Unloader Valve

The unloader valve in the pressure washer is a very important part. This keeps the pressure from building up when you aren’t spraying water. If your engine is dieing after you are finished spraying it, or you are experiencing low pressure without being able to identify the cause, it could be your unloader valve. If the unloader valve isn’t replaced when suspected to be damaged or broken, this could lead to low pressure, safety hazards, and damage to your pressure washer.

In Conclusion:

Pressure washers are a great cleaning tool, if you keep them working properly. The majority of your pressure washer malfunctions should be a simple fix. Some preventative maintenance and occasional troubleshooting can keep your pressure washer in top shape and keep you cleaning without frustration.

Jack’s Safety Tips: Before servicing or repairing any power equipment, disconnect the spark plug and battery cables. Remember to wear appropriate safety glasses and gloves to protect against harmful chemicals and debris. View our Disclaimer.

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About the Author

Jack's Small Engines has been providing parts for outdoor power equipment online since 1997. We also run a service center for outdoor power equipment like riding mowers, snow blowers, generators, chainsaws, and just about anything else.

38 Responses to Troubleshooting Your Pressure Washer

  1. harold paul says:

    i have a excel with honda gx340 engine was in shed for about a year took it out cleaned carb got motor running now hoses leaking and little water coming out of a bottom of pump not full pressure.Had pump rebuilt 2 years ago and have not used maybe three or four times worked good last time i used it. Do u have any suggestions?

  2. Thanks so much for putting this article up. We were having problems at work with our high pressure washer but none of us could figure out what the reason was. When I suggested that we check the unloader valve (and that turned out to be the problem) I was heralded as the most valuable worker that day.

  3. ed says:

    i’ve read the questions above and am still unsure. my power washer has no pressure when i pull back on the nozzle. i think the pump is pumping out enough water, but honestly, i have nothing to compare it to. can i paste a video onto this website? i can show you the pressure i’m getting.

  4. beth porter says:

    We were trying to clean our power washer , the engine starts but as soon as I pull the trigger it dies. I don’t have a clue as to what the problem is, I would appreciate advice

    • harold sites says:

      i have a 3000 psi pressues washer by troy built,just replaces pump,when i engage the wand the motor shuts down

    • Billy Mote says:

      Briggs Motor- Washer runs fine for about an hour after that it cuts off when Wand is engaged.Will crank up but will cut off after about 3 to 5 mins when Wand is engaged? Could it be over heating?

      • Billy says:

        Having similar, Pressure washer will start, runs 3 mins cuts off. after 15 mins will start again runs 3 minutes with wand engaged and cuts off. also seems to not have the power it use to have, it is only 1 year old. I have replaced spark plug. I have empty gas tank and clean, I have rebuilt Carburetor (clean, replace needle value and set clean all port holes) everything look good. Made no difference. I though at first it was a gas/ carburetor problem. Now I am just not sure. Did you ever get an answer to your question , My is a troybuilt pressure washer from lowes.Fresh out of warranty.

  5. Jerry says:

    how do replace the unloader valve? I have a troybilt with a Briggs & Stratton engine 3000 max pressure.
    As long as the spray wand is open it runs fine as soon as I release the trigger it shuts the motor right down.

    • till says:

      you can see a rubber boot or cover the size of a cigar butt, It’s at the pump. Remove the cover and pull out the clamp that goes through the casing that holds the uploader in. With a flathead screw driver, pry the uploaded out by putting the screwdriver inside the spring nearest the casing and pry it out. There’s a stem at the back of the uploaded, make sure it moves freely, make sure o rings are in good shape, if not replace the unit, If alright put Vaseline on the o rings and and push the uploader back in and push the u shaped clamp back in. Check it out.

  6. Charles says:

    H1610 small electric power washer – I replaced the entire water path parts – the three sections were pre-assembled, so I believe they are correctly put together – inlet assembly, body assembly, manifold – and pump is working, but absolutely no water goes through pump passively when water source hooked up and turned on and pump motor still off. It used to leak through and bleed the air out before I started motor as instructed. and of course if turned on (briefly only to test) no water comes out then either. I can’t see any possible blockage and valves are all in correct direction – not a drop gets through, even with outlet hose off, so it’s not the trigger/nozzle.

  7. Chris says:

    How much oil dus the water pump hold can someone please help

  8. Pete says:

    I have a question. I connect the garden hose and turn on the water. Even when the engine is not started, shouldn’t water flow the machine? Even when I engage the gun, no water flows through. Any idea what the problem is?

  9. Scott says:

    So I am having an issue that when I start my pressure washer it just goes full tilt with the hose. There is no shut off option! I do not have to use the handle for it just continually runs. I have to shut down the machine to change a nozzle head not to mention it is a pain having water on full time. Any ideas what may cause this? Thanks in advance.

  10. Dianne says:

    Briggs Stratton power washer works great except when I try to put chemicals on deck it won’t draw from container, screen is clean, put on new hose nothing works

    • Mark says:

      I’m experiencing the same issue at the moment. The pressure washer is basically brand-new and I’ve used it probably over a dozen times however I have you on the field cleaner in it after every use and always use fresh gas/change the oil Etc. The nozzle that intakes the fluid you are to be cleaning with can sometimes get clogged with sediment or other debris of you often use the unit to clean without the hose attached to it so I always keep mine intact since it has a filter attached to it , that just ensures that if the unit is in Proximity to debris/dirt while you are high pressure cleaning, none can be sucked into the intake the hose attaches to for solution-based cleaning. I would suggest a large piece of heavy monofilament (fishing leader) or metal wire that you can stick into the intake to try and dislodge the debris your unit likely has sucked into the opening. Please let me know if anyone else has suggestions on this topic as it can be a frustrating endeavor, not unlike most issues with pressure washers

    • Billy says:

      Where the hose connects to the pump transmission from the chemical holder, If you unscrew that fitting, there is a small ball bearing and a spring, If you have ever used Clorox it will rust the spring and ball bearing, You need to clean or replace it..

  11. brand new pump installed—-engine bogs down when trigger is engaged–produces very low

  12. Hey Everyone! These are all great questions, and you might find more help heading over and joining the discussion on our new forum!

    Head on over to the Pressure Washer Forum

  13. i have Honda XR2750 pressure cleaner, I tried using it, i start perfect and it seems to run ok, but it is leaking oil from the cap
    on top of the pump part, can not find the book for the machine,
    i had loaned to a friend, and he claims he had changed the oil
    on the engine and the pump,
    could it have to much oil in the pump? and if so how much oil
    do I need in it?.

  14. dustin says:

    my briggs and Stratton motor dies when I hit the trigger on the wand

  15. Bryan Gatewood says:

    I have a craftsman pressure washer. The problem is when I turn on the water, fire up the engine, and hold down my trigger on my wand it takes it about 10 minutes to get a steady and consistent stream/spray.The stream will stall and then engage again. Eventually it works amazing but it just takes a while. What could be the problem? choke is off, gas is turned all the way on and is being utilized at full power. Could it be too much air in the hose? Why does it take so long to get good?

    • Bryan, when you pull the trigger, the engine is put under a load. A clogged carburetor could be the cause of then inconsistency in performance. Or possibly a buildup of material in the unloader or bypass valve.

      • Dave says:

        My briggs 3000 psi dies when I engage the wand rebuilt the carb no different where is the unloader or bypass valve is it on the pump Thanks

  16. Lojo says:

    I have a Briggs pressure washer And have replaced the 6 valves and the underloader. Now washher works fine for about 20 to 30 minutes, tgen the motor cuts out and cannot be restarted without disconnecting the water supply. Any suggestions.

  17. Michael Mabe says:

    I have the Troy-Bilt 2800 psi 2.3GPM with a 8.5 Ready Start Briggs & Stratton Engine. I have a major leak looks like in between where the pump mounts too something that mounts the the base of engine. Is there one big seal you change or a bunch of little ones ?

  18. Mike says:

    Can bad unloader valve cause oil leak under carburetor, or is seals on carburetor bad???

  19. Mark Schlechty says:

    I have a coleman poermstr premium powerwasher with a gx 160 horizontal shaft Honda engine. I would like to remove the water pump and add the engine to my sons old atv. I have removed all of the bolts, but the pump will not come free from the engine. Is this a key shaft, threaded or possibly tapered model? How do I remove the pump without damaging the shaft.?

  20. Matt F says:

    have 2800 Generac power washer, Seems trigger mechanism was getting slower to engage until it stopped working. Now pull trigger and no water is expelled. Is it fixable?

  21. Greg K says:

    I have a Generac 2800 power washer that has new gas, oil, air filter, and checked oil levels and water pressure from city faucet. It is less that a year old and stored in a new shed. I make sure no pressure is in power hose and gun beyond a gentle spray thru. I start it with a half and or full choke that causes it to sputter to some life and immediately throttle up enough so it won’t run rough and I close the choke to off position. It runs smoothly with 1/3 throttle for about 2-3 minutes and will spray about a minute and die. Restarted over and over again trying different minimal choke levels and throttle positions to no success. The results are it won’t start via throttle alone. It will start with choke and quickly add throttle while reducing choke and it will run smoothly at about 1/3 throttle afterward with no load or with load it dies. My arms, now as big as Popeye’s would thank you with appreciation if you would satisfy this mystery during our Hurricane cleanup.

  22. wayne says:

    Hi Jack,
    I have a Karcher g2600xc pressure washer that may have froze last winter. There was water in the crankcase oil. I changed the oil and ran the unit for an hour. Worked great, but when I checked the engine oil it was completely full of water. Any suggestions?

  23. Bob Hey says:

    I have a Simpson 2800 PSI 2.3 GPM. It worked fine a month ago. Went to start it but no resistance at all on the engine pull cord.

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