How To Start a Pressure Washer

Updated: Jan. 18, 2024

Need to wash your deck, car or patio fast, but aren't sure how to begin? Let us guide you through the process, step by step.

If you’re new to gas-powered pressure washers, you might find the prospect of starting one a little intimidating. I certainly did the first time I tried to fire one up.

I was a teenager and wanted to get my deck washing chore done as fast as possible. Try as I might, I couldn’t start my dad’s washer, and spent an embarrassingly long time yanking on the pull cord to no avail. That’s when Dad came around a corner and casually flipped on the fuel valve.

“Try it now, son,” he said patiently. “Gas engines need fuel to run.”

My overdeveloped sense of teenage embarrassment ensured I never made that mistake again. With so many hoses, valves and fittings to contend with, it can be hard to know where to start. Luckily, the process isn’t nearly as complicated as it appears.

Here are the steps:

Connect the Hoses

  • Find an outside water faucet as close as possible to the area or object you’ll be washing.
  • Connect a standard garden hose to the faucet. Then thread the other end on to water inlet port of the pressure washer. (Look for a threaded brass or aluminum fitting.)
  • Uncoil the thin, heavy-duty hose that came with your pressure washer. Connect one end to the water outlet port on your pressure washer. This connection may be thread-on or a quick-release fitting, depending on your model.
  • Connect the other end to the back end of your model’s spray wand.
  • Double-check that all connections on both hoses are tight.

Clear Hoses and Wand

  • Retract the quick-release collar on the end of your spray wand. If there’s already a nozzle attachment on the wand, remove it.
  • Turn the water all the way on at your outside faucet, then squeeze and hold the wand trigger for 20 seconds or so. This allows unpressurized water to flow through the hoses and out the wand, purging air from the machine and removing any sediment.
  • Select the appropriate spray nozzle attachment for the surface that needs washing. Attach the nozzle on the end of the wand with the built-in quick-release fitting.

Prepare To Start the Pressure Washer

  • Wheel your pressure washer to the exact spot where you’ll be using it. Don’t let it run unnecessarily as you move it around. Running for too long without spraying water can damage it.
  • Ensure you’ve topped off your pressure washer with fresh gas.
  • Check the oil level. Use the dipstick on the underside of the oil reservoir cap near the bottom of the engine. If it’s low, add some fresh motor oil, the type specified in the owner’s manual. Confirm with the dipstick it’s the right level. Make sure you know about different types of pressure washer oil.
  • Locate the fuel valve, a small toggle switch near the bottom of the engine with a gas pump symbol near it. Switch it “on.” (Rest assured, I never forget this step anymore.)
  • Find the choke — another switch, probably near the fuel valve. Make sure it’s fully open.
  • Look for for a throttle control slider. Some models have them; others don’t. If you find one, slide it to the full throttle position.
  • Find your engine ignition switch (probably labelled “engine”) and turn it to the “on” position. Your pressure washer isn’t running at full power? The muffler and spark arrestor could be responsible.

Start and Run the Pressure Washer

  • Put on hearing protection. Then examine your pressure washer for an electric start mechanism, typically a button or turnable key. Most gas-powered pressure washers are pull start, but a few are electric start. If it’s electric start, turn the key or push the button to start it.
  • If it’s not an electric start pressure washer, pull the cord to fire up the engine.
  • Allow the machine to run for several seconds, then gradually slide the choke control to the halfway position.
  • After a few more seconds, slide the choke to the fully closed position. Wait another few seconds to make sure it’s running smoothly.
  • Remove the wand from its holder and begin washing.

Shut Down and Purge the Pressure Washer

  • Switch the engine off via the same ignition switch you flipped earlier.
  • Shut off the water at the source.
  • Pull the wand trigger to drain as much water from the hoses and machine as possible.
  • Disconnect the hoses and put the pressure washer away.