Can You Run A Pressure Washer Without Water? (Find Out Now!)

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Pressure washers are amazing things, especially if you need to clean the outside of your house. They are amazing, but there’s always one ingredient that is mentioned in their use: water. Sometimes, it’s water that’s mixed with other stuff, like soap. But, there’s always water. Can you run a pressure washer without water inside?

While it is technically possible to run a pressure washer without water, it’s never a good idea. Water acts as a major cooling aspect of a pressure washer’s design. Running it without water will cause your pressure water to burn out, destroying it in the process.

If you are worried about starting up a pressure washer without any kind of water, you’re right to be concerned. Let’s explain why this is a bad idea.

Is It Possible To Start Up A Pressure Washer Without Water?

It is, in fact, possible to start a pressure washer without any water in the bucket or system. Pressure washers are built to be able to start up and push air through their systems regardless of the material the air is supposed to propel. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

Author’s Note: Some pressure washers will need to expel air before they can actually take water in. It only takes 1-2 seconds. Make sure to read your pressure washer’s manual before you use it if you are worried. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Why Should You Not Use A Pressure Washer Without Water?

Pressure washers are built to start up regardless of what’s in their machine, but that does not mean that they’re meant to run for long periods of time without some kind of liquid in them. Here’s why you should avoid doing this:

  • Water is the primary cooling agent in most pressure washers. The best way I can explain this aspect of pressure washer design is that it’s a lot like a car engine and its coolant. Without coolant in your car (or water in your washer), your motor will burn out. And, it’ll burn out fast.
  • In some rarer cases, your pressure washer may not even turn on without water. Some newer models have features that detect water as the machine starts. This means that you might not be able to turn on newer models without the use of water. These types of pressure washers are rare.
  • Using a pressure washer without water can also void a warranty. Pressure washers are not easy to buy. They cost a pretty penny, especially if you opt for a high-end washer. If you use your washer without water, you can bet that your warranty will probably be null and void by the end of the session.

How Long Can You Run A Pressure Washer Without Water?

Not much data is shown about the maximum time that you can run a pressure washer without water, primarily because they are not supposed to do that. However, I *can* tell you that it won’t be too long. In most cases, you can run a pressure washer for a couple of seconds before you will hear a loud squeal of pistons that have not been lubricated by water.

Most pressure washers will not last after a single session of “dry running.” If you are lucky, you might get two or three more runs on dry. It’s unlikely, simply because your pressure washer will have a hard time pushing anything through it if it’s burnt out enough.

How Can You Tell If A Pressure Washer Got Damaged From Being Run Without Water?

Most of the time, it’s fairly obvious. A pressure washer that got damaged as a result of dry running doesn’t sound good. It may sound extra mechanical, or it might start to screech. In some cases, you might even hear a grinding noise or the motor just won’t stay working too long.

If you are a business owner and believe that your employee wrecked your pressure washer, then you should take apart the washer to see if you notice scorch marks or scrape marks near the pistons. That’s usually a dead giveaway. Of course, you might be able to just file a claim on your insurance too.

Is A Pressure Washer Safe To Use After Running It Without Water?

Honestly, I wouldn’t chance it. However, we all know how pricey it can be to replace a good pressure washer and we all know some people will risk it. If your power washer is still running, you might be able to give it a try. Though it might still work, it’s absolutely at a “do at your own risk” type of deal.

Related Questions

What’s the difference between power washing and pressure washing?

Though these two terms are often interchangeable, they are not the same. Pressure washing involves using a pressure washer to add hydraulic power to water. This gives you a heavy stream of water that can clean off most grime. Power washing, however, has an added element of heat. You can often pressure wash and power wash from the same machine.

How much water does a pressure washer use to clean a car?

A typical pressure washer will use around 100 gallons of water to fully clean an average-sized car. A larger car, like a crossover or SUV, will require slightly more—like 150 gallons. If you want to clean a very large truck, then it could easily take more than 250 gallons to do the job. It’s best to plan accordingly if you want to ensure you have enough resources to clean your car.

How are you supposed to prime a pressure washer?

It’s true. Pressure washers should be primed for maximum efficiency, especially if you want to add soap to your mix. To properly prime a pressure washer, you need to run water through it for a total of one minute. Pull the cord to start it and squeeze the trigger to let the water pressure bleed out.When in doubt, check your pressure washer’s instructions. Your pressure washer manual should have some kind of instructions regarding the priming process.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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