Karcher mini pressure washer

Karcher OC3 Portable Cleaner review

Cleaning your bike is sensible to keep it running better for longer, and to uncover any potential problems. Alfred Kärcher is the most recognisable name in power washing, at least his surname is, with a vast array of powerful mains or petrol-powered machines. The trouble is, a bike’s bearings aren’t designed to resist water being forced in to them at pressures north of 110 bar/1,600psi.

Advertisement

  • How to jet wash a bike
  • 6 steps for cleaning your road bike post-ride

The challenge is to create a portable washer that’s compact and powerful enough to clean effectively, with a water supply that’ll get the job done.

The non-adjustable, fan-shaped, flat water jet is effective at stripping solid dirt from bikes at close range

Kärcher’s OC3 is the smallest and lightest cleaner I’ve seen, measuring just 277x234x201mm. The unit’s lower half contains the rechargeable lithium ion battery, motor and recessed top to store the coiled hose and spray nozzle. On top sits a clear four-litre water reservoir that’s held in place by the two-part handle. When empty the OC3 weighs 2.2kg.

Rubber flaps cover the top filling port, which accepts a hose plus attached nozzle, and the mains charging port on the bottom. The stated charge time is three hours, with a run time of 15 minutes. That doesn’t sound long, but when you factor in the OC3’s water flow rate of two litres per minute and the four-litre tank, it makes more sense.

I tested mine continuously from brimmed tank to empty, and managed two minutes 15 seconds. Separating the tank and base allows you to pull out the 2.8m hose, then refit the tank, press the button and go. Even when full, you can easily hold the OC3 in one hand while moving around spraying.

The non-adjustable, fan-shaped, flat water jet is effective at stripping solid dirt from bikes at close range, but won’t sting if spraying your hands, making it fairly safe for bearings. Wash a road bike sparingly and you’ll manage a couple on one tank, but if you have two filthy cyclocross bikes, you’ll need more water.

Kärcher offers accessories including a 2m suction hose with built-in filter at an extra cost, which replaces the water tank and can suck water from another container, theoretically allowing unlimited supply. The limiting factor becomes battery life. A 12v car charging cable would be an obvious boon and should be available in the new year.

Advertisement

For ease of storage, transport and use, the Kärcher is brilliant, making it more useful for other small domestic cleaning tasks, such as boots, pets and pushchairs. At the moment you need to plan ahead to make the most of it away from home, but if you’re realistic about the task ahead, the OC3 is a very smart choice.

Score

8/10

Pros

  • Very portable
  • Good battery life
  • Adequate spray power to get surface mud off a bike

Cons

  • Limited reservoir capacity

Price as reviewed:

£150

The Karcher OC3 portable cleaner makes getting the muck off your frame a bit easier. At this time of year, in particular, keeping your bike working well means a decent clean after every ride. There’s usually a layer of surface grime, and often salt from the road too, which needs to be cleaned off your frame and mechanicals.

Leave it too long and the job becomes a lot harder and you can easily damage components.

>>> Perfect post-ride routines

The Karcher OC3 portable cleaner is battery powered and incorporates a 4 litre water reservoir, so you’re pretty self-contained if you want to take it with you to an event, or just clean up your bike somewhere away from a hose. There’s a built in handle to make the Karcher OC3 portable cleaner easy to carry around and the 2.8m long spray hose and trigger pack away into the base, below the reservoir.

The reservoir can be removed from the unit, and has its own carrying handle, so you can take it separately it to a tap for a refill. It’s a bit fiddly to separate from the base until you get the hang of it and I found the rubber cap slightly awkward to close.

The 2.8m trigger hose packs into the unit’s base

The nozzle on the Karcher OC3 portable cleaner produces a wide flat jet, which can’t be adjusted. As you’d expect, you don’t get as much spray power as with a mains powered pressure washer. But that’s no bad thing, as a full pressure wash can rinse the grease out of bearings and damage tyres.

>>> Dr Hutch: The impossibility of bike cleaning

The Karcher OC3 portable cleaner has enough pressure to clean up surface mud and road grit though. It’s capable of cleaning up a cyclocross bike after use, so it would be useful if you want to get your bike washed off after an event, before putting it in the back of the car to drive home.

There’s a large switch on the side of the unit and an indicator light to show it’s turned on. You don’t get a low battery level indicator though, so you need to keep the unit charged up, or it might suddenly shut down mid-wash. The Karcher OC3 portable cleaner switches itself off after a period of inactivity to save battery though.

Battery life is around 15 minutes, which is fine for multiple clean ups, with a recharge time using the supplied mains adapter of around 3 hours. But with the limited pressure and reservoir capacity, I found that I needed to refill the Karcher OC3 portable cleaner, sometimes 3 or 4 times, to get all the mud off a muddy crosser. Karcher quotes a flow rate of 2 litres a minute, so the 4 litre capacity will be used up in a couple of minutes.

You would need to be near a tap or take a supplemental jerry can of water if, for example, you wanted to use the Karcher OC3 portable cleaner in the pits at a cyclocross race or to clean multiple bikes after a ride. You can buy a separate suction hose as an accessory, to allow you to use another water source for extra capacity.

>>> Eight simple ways to make your bike faster for free

So the Karcher OC3 portable cleaner is a neat way to get enough cleaning power to your bike to give it a quick surface hose down, although it’s not really a substitute for soap and water or a higher pressure unit, if you’re racing cyclocross. And don’t forget to re-oil your chain, so it doesn’t start to rust.

Karcher suggests that you can use the cleaner to sort out pushchairs, muddy boots and dogs too, so it’s a piece of kit which should prove more widely useful, helping to justify the expenditure.

Verdict

The Karcher OC3 portable cleaner lets you clean up your bike when you’re not near the mains or a hose. There’s plenty of battery life and it’s easy to carry around. But the 4 litre water reservoir gives limited capacity and empties quickly, so you will probably need to top it up to get your bike fully cleaned up.

Details

Weight: 2270g
Contact: www.madison.co.uk

REVIEWED: Karcher OC3 portable pressure washer

  • Total: 81
  • 74
  • 7

Karcher OC3

The Karcher OC3 is a light weight and compact, battery powered pressure washer.

It’s designed to go with you in the car and avoid the age old “can I borrow a quid?” to use the trail centre jet wash.

The 4L tank can be filled up before you leave and the battery means it works without any need for an external power source. Just charge it up, chuck it in the car and use it when your ride is over.

Best bits:

  • 2L/min flow rate
  • Built in battery
  • 2.5m hose
  • Neat and tidy compact design
  • Weighs just 2.2kg
  • £150 (available for £129.99 at Tredz)

Light and compact

The OC3 is certainly light weight and compact. It’s not far off the size of a full-face helmet and it’ll do nothing to steal space in the boot or even in your bike bag for an overseas trip. At just 2.2kgs it’s light enough (on paper at least, but we’ll get to that) to chuck in a kit bag and take on the road without hassle.

Karcher’s website claims the battery lasts for 15 minutes but so far it seems to have lasted longer than that on its first charge.

Neat and tidy

Out of the box the OC3 is a neat package. The unit is small, light and compact. The battery and 4L tank form one neat little unit and the 2.8m spiral hose folds up and is kept tidily inside.

There’s a carry handle on top and a single and large good-for-cold-fingers button on the front to turn it on and off. Charging is done via the mains with a charger.

As neat, simple, well designed products go you couldn’t ask for much more.

Under pressure

The pressure on the OC3 is spot on for washing bikes. It’s vigorous enough to blast loose, wet mud without being so powerful that it’ll strip your paint, blast grease out of bearings or upset your suspension seals. Compared to the tsunami-like force of the pressure washer at the Morrisons in Risca it is a godsend.

For that guilty day-after ride when the mud is properly caked on, the Karcher needs to be accompanied by a good brush and plenty of water to do a better job than the garden hose. It’ll get there, but it’ll take lots of refilling and plenty of elbow grease.

The Karcher comes into its own in the trail centre car park when your mates are scrabbling for the jet wash. You can smuggly wash your bike next to the car and on fresh, wet mud the Karcher does a decent job.

Be warned though, the 4L tank is way short of what’s needed to get a bike clean. You’ll need to bring plenty of bottled water and top the tank up every five minutes or so.

Buy online: Karcher OC3 £129.99 at Evans (13% off)

Is the Karcher worth your money?

The Karcher is great for anyone that doesn’t have easy access to a bike wash. If you live in a flat or don’t have a garden, this could well be your ticket to winter riding.

It’s also great for anyone that wants to get their bike clean before it goes in the car. Better clean it straight away than save it for your next day-off, right?

To get your bike clean you’ll need to add a decent brush and at least another 4 – 6L of bottled water to your list. With those, you’ll give the Karcher a fighting chance and should be able to get your bike decently clean. Without them, you’re wasting your time.

For an extra £16.99 you can buy a Suction Hose that allows you draw water from an external water source. There’s also a bike accessory box that includes a brush and can be clipped neatly onto the bottom of the OC3.

The £150 price tag is also a bit steep, compared to the competition.

The OC3 is £50 more than the Mobi V17 which has a massive 17L water tank and £100 more than the smaller Mobi V15 with a 15L water tank. Both of those options are cheaper but both are considerably heavier. Neither feel quite as well made or well designed.

We like:

  • Lightweight, compact, tough space-saving design
  • Great for hassle free washing after your ride
  • Great for people without a garden hose
  • Strong-enough but not too much pressure

Could be better:

  • 4L tank isn’t enough to wash a bike, you’ll need to carry extra water
  • Costs more than other brands with larger water tanks

Buy online: Karcher OC3 £129.99 at Evans (13% off)

  • Total: 81
  • 74
  • 7