Pressure washers are a handy tool to have around, but if you live in a cold place, you might worry that your pressure washer will be useless for a large part of the year. Or maybe you already have one, it’s the middle of winter, and you just really want to wash your car.
Either way, it is fully possible to run your pressure washer in below freezing temperatures. This guide will include different steps you can take to make your frigid pressure washing dreams come true.
1. Bundle up and prepare yourself
I’m sure you don’t need a stranger on the internet to tell you what you already know–that its a good idea to wear a coat when it’s cold outside. However, I feel it’s necessary to say that pressure washing in the cold may be a bit colder than you expect.
In addition to the could temperature, you will probably be faced with some level of mist blowing back on you from your pressure washer, which can drop your own internal temperature way faster than you would have faced just standing outside.
Aside from just bundling up, remember that when you use a pressure washer in cold weather, the water from the washer will freeze when it’s running on the ground. This buildup of ice can be a threat to your safety, so it’s a good idea to invest in good boots, or even crampons so you can be sure to keep your footing.
Any reasonable weather precaution you can think of is a good idea. It will be much colder while wielding a pressure washer.
2. Store your washer in a warm place
This seems like a obvious part of the solution, but it will go a long way in expanding the availability of your pressure washer during the cold months.
If you think about it, storage is the most likely time for a pressure washer to freeze up and be unusable. When it’s in use, a pressure washer has an engine running, producing a not so insubstantial source of heat, so it is going to have a hard time freezing over.
When you store a pressure washer, it cools down, as does everything inside it, so it becomes susceptible to freezing. If you store it in a warm place, this is a non-issue.
You don’t have to store it in your home, or have a heated garage to keep your pressure washer from freezing. You may have to invest in some sort of heater, though. With the purchase of a heater you will be able to store your pressure washer anywhere you can keep where it will be enclosed.
3. Prepare with antifreeze
There is always the possibility that you won’t be able to store your pressure washer in a warm place. In case of this unfortunate scenario, it is a good idea to have a supply of antifreeze on hand so you can defrost the system by flushing it out.
While antifreeze is intended for cars it will do the trick, my recommendation will always be to use RV antifreeze. Auto antifreeze is not environmentally friendly, so using this in a pressure washer presents a risk to the environment. Windshield washer fluid can also do the trick, though it may not be as effective as antifreeze.
In order to do this, fill the float tank on your pressure washer with the antifreeze you choose, and run the pressure washer to flush out any water or ice in the washer. To reduce the consumption of antifreeze, remove the nozzle from the pressure washer hose, and place the tip in the float tank, this way you can repeatedly cycle the antifreeze through the system.
4. Additives for fuel
When the temperature drops below freezing, the fluids in the engine of your pressure washer will start to thicken. This is true of all of the fluids in the engine, including the gasoline used to run it.
Stabilizers are available to keep the gas in your engine from thickening. It is important to add one of these to maximize the use you get out of your pressure washer during freezing temperatures.
There are a lot of great options for fuel stabilizers out there. A simple one like this should be totally sufficient for the average consumer’s needs, but it’s pretty easy to find all kinds of fuel stabilizers online.
5. Lubrication is key
When engines cool, they move more slowly. This makes them a great deal less efficient. This drop in efficiency means that you will be consuming more gasoline while running your pressure washer. Additionally, you may see a drop in water pressure due to the lack of efficiency, which make your pressure washer less effective.
This can be accomplished by ensuring that your pressure washer has fresh oil in it. You should also look into oils that are temperature rated for the climate that you use your pressure washer in. Using the correct oil will improve the performance you see in your pressure washer.
Remember, your oil should be a liquid, so if it starts to turn to sludge, it’s time to change your oil, even if it hasn’t run for 100 hours since your last change.
6. Watch the weather
Here we come to a sort of impasse. The truth is, yes, you can absolutely use your pressure washer in freezing temperatures, so long as the temperature remains within a certain range.
Generally, you will be able to run your pressure washer in temperatures possibly down to, but probably not lower than 15 degrees Fahrenheit. This is because when you reach temperatures that cold, the risk of exposure goes up, and the freezing rate of the water from your pressure washer goes up.
This, however, implies 15 degrees in otherwise good circumstances. Wind chill can make a huge difference in the usability of your pressure washer. Temperatures of 35 degrees Fahrenheit, accompanied with wind, can present situations every bit as bad as 15 degrees without the wind.
So it is crucial that you and anybody who wants to pressure wash in the cold know the limits weather conditions impose. As a small addition to this weather warning, please point your pressure washer leeward as often as possible; water vapor blowing back at you can present a serious health risk.
7. Be ready with snow/ice melter
So your pressure washer is winterized, you’ve checked the weather, and you’re dressed for the occasion. With all that done, you may wonder what else there is to do. Winter conditions present many problems, and winterizing your pressure washer will only address half the issue.
When you pressure wash the water will inevitably run all over the ground in the area you are washing. In the summer this is not a big deal, as the heat leads to evaporation. But in freezing temperatures, the water on the ground will freeze.
This icy ground presents a risk, and it is important to address the issue for yourself and anyone else who might walk there. Because of this, you should keep some sort of ice melt product (salt or the like), with your pressure washer. You’ll likely need a great deal of it to address the ice build up.
8. Your hoses are at risk too
In general the water that comes from a home pump is about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and while running through a hose on the ground, that water can freeze.
During use, the risk of freezing is low enough that it isn’t really that much of a cause for concern. That said, if you stop pressure washing and take a break, even just for a few minutes, and water still in the hose is at risk of freezing, so it is important to run the water out of the hose whenever you stop.
9. Be careful traveling
Something that doesn’t exactly apply to the home pressure washer, but does apply to anyone who transports their pressure washer for use, is the risk of ice buildup during travel.
If your pressure washer is kept on a trailer, the transportation of your trailer presents conditions similar to the wind in freezing temperatures, which will cause freezing more quickly than it occurs in a stationary pressure washer.
The first steps to preventing this are doing everything else you should to winterize your pressure washer. Additionally, it is a good idea to minimize travel however possible. Barring this, you can run the pressure washer to keep it warm, before and directly after transportation.
Know that this will not guarantee freezing will not happen, and you may have to use antifreeze or similar methods upon arriving at your destination.
10. Consider having your washer professionally winterized
I know that seeking out the aid of a professional is not the most attractive option for a lot of pressure washer owners, and the cost of addressing issues yourself can be a lot easier to stomach than a professional bill.
But these tips and solutions are not a perfect replacement for a professional winterizing, and you always run the risk of having problems come up that you simply aren’t equipped to respond to.
These tips are great for someone who doesn’t use their pressure washer all the time, who may want to break it out a handful of times during the winter months.
But if you use your pressure washer on a daily basis, it is probably worth your time to seek the help of a professional.