Whenever you store your power wash equipment over an extended period of time in a place where the temperature drops into the thirties or below, you run the risk of damage to your equipment due to freezing. Failing to properly prepare your power wash equipment for cold weather can cost you dearly. If you allow water to sit in the pump and freeze, the resulting expansion can damage the pump. Common problem areas beyond the pump include the unloader, the lines, and the coil.
This is not new stuff, nor is it rocket science. Yet, every year we get a number of repair jobs from folks who forgot to thoroughly winterize their machines when they hung up their wands for the winter ? even in the southern half of the country. If you are lucky, it will only be the unloader that will need to be replaced.
Here is the typical advice within our industry: Whenever storing a power washer for extended periods in cold climates, drain all liquids from the pump and flush the wet-end of the system with an antifreeze solution to prevent freezing. Never run the pump with any frozen liquid in it.
- Blow water out of the system with compressed air if possible.
- Prepare an antifreeze mix using automotive antifreeze mixed 1:1 with water. You will only need 2-5 gallons to fill your system.
- For hot water skid units with a float tank, replace your regular hose with a short whip line and attach your trigger gun. Add the antifreeze mix to the float tank and run your system until the antifreeze solution comes out the trigger gun. You can aim the trigger gun back into your float tank and keep running until you are confident that your entire system is protected. Cycle the trigger gun several times to engage the unloader and displace any water inside it with the antifreeze solution.
- For hot water machines that pull from a water tank and do not have a float tank, I would disconnect the pressure washer feed line from the water tank and drop the feed line into a 5 gallon pail of antifreeze mix.
- For hot water skids with upstream injection (but no float tank) you can pull undiluted antifreeze into your system using your injector system.
- For typical cold-water portable power washers, the downstream injector is not suitable for introducing antifreeze because it will typically mix at 20:1 (too light). You can feed your pump with a short piece of garden hose (used as a suction line) into a container of the antifreeze mix. Start your power washer and hold open the trigger gun long enough to see the antifreeze mix coming out. Cycle the trigger gun several times to engage the unloader and displace any water inside it with the antifreeze mix.
If you continue working through the winter (which is pretty common south of the Mason-Dixon) you may find yourself winterizing your equipment repeatedly each season (whenever the temp drops severely overnight).
Preparing your equipment as I have outlined here will prevent most problems, but there are other things you can do. Keeping your equipment in a heated garage is always the best situation, but this is not always practical. On the other hand, keeping the equipment inside even an unheated building is a big improvement over leaving it outside. If you can get it into a building, aim for a spot that is away from an outside wall and as close to a wall that connects to a heated area as possible. Consider covering the equipment with a tarp and placing a warmer under the tarp. (I used a clip-on flood light holder for heat, a $5 item at your favorite big box home store.) Be careful not to create a fire hazard by letting the tarp touch the light fixture. A 50W light bulb, left on continuously for about 4 months, will only use about $15 worth of electricity. A 500W halogen light will produce ten times the heat at ten times the cost. If you are indoors and covered with a tarp, the 50W solution will probably be enough added heat to prevent any problems.
While you are winterizing, don?t forget the rest of your system. Either run the machine completely out of gas or fill the tank completely and add a fuel stabilizer. Change the oil in the engine, too. Disconnect the battery from the system and connect it to an automatic trickle charger set at a very slow rate. (Automatic trickle chargers shut off by themselves when the battery is fully charged.)
Taking care of your equipment adds years to its life and saves you both money and down-time.