Kärcher’s excessive maintenance costs

Some years ago I had bought a “Kärcher K 4.650 Jubilee” high-pressure cleaner (I don’t remember the exact price but it must have cost something in the 300€ range):

Funtionality wise the device did a decent job but the big disappointment hit hard when some signs of (normal) wearout kicked in and the time for repairs had arrived (there are many videos on Youtube useful for do-it-yourself repair):

At first the machine started to leak water (Interestingly the leak had nothing to do with the high-pressure stuff but originated from the o-ring seals of the motor cooling enclosure). Then some other day the pressure collaped. Upon disassembly of the device this problem was also quickly located: The spring used for one of the three pistons of the pump had broken into three fragments.

No big deal, one might be tempted to think.. Shouldn’t be difficult/expensive to replace one little steel spring (maybe 5cm in length)? Wrong! Firstly Kärcher does NOT sell you this spring separately and then you have no idea about Kärcher’s “spare parts” pricing (e.g. see https://www.buy-spares.ie/pressure-washer/k4650-1180-6080/catalogue.pl?path=401194,68311&model_ref=8499257): The CHEAPEST part you’ll find goes for more than 3€ and that will get you ONE smallest size o-ring or screw. So the spring that I needed to repair my device costs 20€ (without shipping) and comes with an extra replacement piston that I don’t need.

Given the fact that one of the 3 piston springs had already broken due to the wear, I would normally be ordering 3 replacements and to replace all of them – rather than wait some weeks for the next one to break.. but then that’s already 60€. Replace the 3 wornout piston rubber seals as well – another 15€.  Add another 15€ for the respective three oil seals.. you haven’t even started to renew the various o-rings that might need changing after some years of use.. and none of the really expensive components have failed yet – but it’s 90€ in replacement wearing material already! A steep investment considering the fact that you’ll get a similar NEW cleaner for about 100-150€ in the hardware store and there is a big risk that more of the used Kärcher’s stuff – that you haven’t touched yet – will breakdown next.

Kärcher’s “spare parts” are so riddiculously expensive that the device would probably cost you 10x the price of the new machine if you were to build it from spare parts.  Technically the Kärcher could be easily repaired – but Kärcher’s “spare parts” pricing makes it an economically absurd possibility and thereby a throw-away product:

My neighbours never repair their Kärcher when it fails – but get a new one instead… I will certainly NOT make the same mistake again and whatever pressure cleaners I may be buying in the future it won’t be a Kärcher – never again!

update (January 2021): The next parts have failed on my K 4.650: Yet another one of the 3 “pistons springs” has broken (one that I had not replaced last time since I had not wanted to waste 60€ to replace all 3 “piston/spring sets” in advance) and this time the cylinder head has cracked (it seems the “cheap” PP66  material used by Kärcher just does not sustain the high pressure and has to be considered “consumable material”).

Kärcher still does not seem to sell certain spare parts (e.g. “cylinder head” for this model) directly to retail customers (see german online store) and in some countries it does not seem to sell any spare parts to retail customers at all (see Kärcher’s bad joke french “online store” – to which the german store will still forward you if you are trying to buy spare parts from France). Depending on where you live it may be practical to use 3rd party stores like “Kärcher Store Schreiber” for bulk orders as a workaround (they seem to provide more reasonably priced spare parts as compared to the 3rd party store mentioned in the above text).

Also it seems that some of the spare parts are actually interchangeable between different pressure washer models, i.e. the above mentioned piston springs are not listed as an individual spare part for the K 4.650 (at least not in the product documentation that I found on Kärcher’s website).. but instead of buying the suggested excessively expensive “piston set” for 20€ it is actually possible to just buy a 2€ piston spring listed for a *different* pressure washer model (if you are feeling lucky that the respective part is indeed interchangeable – which it may or may not be) and/or if you are willing to waste extra money on postage for having to potentially order in a foreign country. Sadly Kärcher seems to go out of its way to make life difficult for those retail customers that just need specific spare parts at reasonable prices.