How to Troubleshoot an Airless Paint Sprayer

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Things You'll Need

  • Crescent wrenches

  • Paint strainers

  • Paint buckets

  • Hammer

Large or small, all airless sprayers essentially work the same way.

Without an airless paint sprayer, it takes days instead of hours to paint a house. Hard-to-paint surfaces such as acoustic popcorn ceilings or fences are difficult and messy to paint by hand but are a snap with an airless sprayer. The sprayer can be frustrating to use if not cleaned or maintained properly. Work stoppages due to a balky sprayer can make you tear your hair out; a single piece of grit in the paint can make the machine quit working. Troubleshooting an airless sprayer is a bit easier when you know how it works and can make quick on-the-job adjustments.


No Pressure

Step 1

Check the level of paint in the bucket or hopper first if the sprayer doesn't build up enough pressure to spray. If it's below the level of the intake filter, it's sucking up some air along with the paint. Refill the paint bucket, remove the spray tip and run the sprayer for several minutes to purge air from the system.


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Step 2

Thin your paint according to both sprayer manufacturer and paint label directions. More powerful contractor-grade airless sprayers can pull up and spray thick paints without a problem, but smaller sprayers often cannot. Make sure you're using the correct size spray tip for the material.


Step 3

Tap the metal inlet hose housing (where the pickup tube attaches to the motor) sharply several times with a hammer. A ball valve inside can become stuck, but it's easily jarred loose.

Step 4

Check the filters. If they're clogged with dried paint or grit, the machine can't build up pressure. Check the pickup tube filter first. If that is fine, turn off and unplug the sprayer, and check the bowl or inline filter. You will probably need a crescent wrench for these. Rinse them clean, or replace them if the paint has dried. As a last resort, take the spray gun apart, and check the gun filter.


Improper Spray Pattern

Step 1

Match the spray tip to the material and the job. You can't use the same tip interchangeably for semi-transparent stain and latex paint. Spray tips are relatively inexpensive, and every sprayer dealer or paint store carries them. Worn spray tips will also cause uneven spray patterns.


Step 2

Check the pressure setting. If the spray pattern is weak and "grainy" looking, increase the pressure. If the paint runs and drips, turn the pressure down a notch.

Step 3

Strain the paint if the tip keeps clogging; there is probably debris or grit in there. It's a good idea to strain all your paint through a strainer into a clean bucket in the first place, even if you are opening brand new cans. Keep the sprayer covered with plastic sheeting if you're working in the sun or in a dusty environment to prevent the paint from skinning over or debris from falling into it.


Cleaning your airless sprayer and all the filters meticulously after every use and always storing it filled with mineral spirits instead of water will prevent a lot of problems. Use the throat seal liquid or lubricants suggested by the manufacturer on the recommended schedule.


Always bleed pressure from the sprayer before dismantling any part of it. The pressure release valve is usually on the side of the motor housing. Once you've done that, unplug it from the power source.


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