Sewer Jetter Winterization

With freezing temperatures recorded in all 50 states just a couple weeks ago, it’s probably safe to say that — for better or worse — most of us have already become well-acquainted with wintry weather. And, while the wintertime provides a variety of challenges to plumbers and drain cleaning technicians (frozen pipes, frozen ground, bad road conditions), a particular issue worth highlighting is the threat cold weather can pose to your sewer/hydro jetter. Properly winterizing your jetter will ensure that your unit is protected and runs whenever you need it.

When water freezes, it expands — think of the busted, frozen pipes you’ve seen on the job or how ice cubes get larger as they form in a tray. Even a small amount of residual water turning to ice in the pump, lines and hoses of your jetter can cause serious — sometimes catastrophic — damage. The cost to repair such damage is expensive, not to mention the losses incurred from having your jetter out of the field. Fortunately, this damage is preventable through proper winterization techniques, so there’s no need to stow away your jetter until spring.

TRICK OF THE TRADE TIP #1:  While a heated garage can protect your jetter from the elements, don’t let it be your only line of defense. Freezing can still occur when the jetter is in route to a job, and a loss of power to your garage could cost you thousands. After all, we all know how crafty Mother Nature can be!

Let your investment continue to pay itself off by using one of these two winterizing methods. Most jetters can be winterized by using air or antifreeze (jetters can be equipped either way, or sometimes both). Although these methods are generally applicable across brands, always consult your jetter’s manufacturer for specific instructions and warnings. Air Purge Method: The air purge method uses compressed air to blow water out of the pump, lines, and hoses. Jetters that use this method have an air purge fitting near their pump assembly, where an air compressor can be attached.

If you’re in the market for a jetter, always opt for one with an air purge fitting or antifreeze system, if they do not come standard. If your existing jetter does not have an air purge fitting, it is relatively simple to install one.

When no more water exits the hose, the purging is complete. After any job, this task should be re-performed before exposing the jetter to freezing temperatures. This is especially true for cart jetters that may sit in your truck overnight; make sure they are dry before storing. Antifreeze method: Running antifreeze through the pump, lines and hoses of your jetter is another way you can protect it from cold temperatures. Some trailer jetter manufacturers also equip their jetters with an antifreeze tank, making recirculation and recovery after each job easy.

If the distance between two jobs is short (10 min or so), some jetter owners opt to keep their unit on with the water recirculating, rather than re-winterizing. However, this is not recommended when temperatures are extremely cold (subzero), or if the travel time between jobs is too long. 

Please note that jetters should be winterized with “pink” or “RV” antifreeze only, not the “green” antifreeze most often used in automobiles. Besides being more environmentally friendly, pink/RV antifreeze is far less caustic and won’t cause premature wear on your jetter’s inner workings. As for the antifreeze-to-water ratio, a popular saying is that “50/50 will get you 50 below.”

Be sure to also winterize your hand gun/washdown gun and auxiliary hoses.

Comparing the two methods, running antifreeze through your jetter is generally seen as the safest bet, primarily because it ensures that every nook and cranny has been protected from freezing (blowing air through may miss some residual moisture). However, either method is vastly superior to no method at all. The decision to use air or antifreeze depends on your jetter’s capabilities, the climate in your region, your budget and your personal preference.

Stay Safe

Always practice safe jetting habits when winterizing with air or antifreeze. Wear eye protection to protect from splatter, foot protection as you would around any high pressure water device, and gloves to create a barrier between your hands and the jetting hose. When circulating antifreeze through your jetter, most manufacturers will also state that the engine and pressure should be on their lowest settings, for your safety and in case any ice has already built up in the pump. Again, always check with your jetter’s manufacturer for specifics.
Whatever frightful weather is in store for us this winter, you can be sure that your jetter investment is productive and protected through winterizing.

Samantha Long is an e-commerce specialist and content manager for Spartan Tool.
// ** Advertisement ** //