Gear Drive vs Belt Drive vs Direct Drive? Which Type Of Pressure Washer Is Best?

Updated: May 11

The age long question over the years is which type of pressure washer should I be using? Which one is better? Is a Gear Drive better than a Belt Drive? What about a Direct Drive Pressure Washer?


The simple answer to the question is this:

The best pressure washer you use is the one most appropriate for your set up and technical needs. The facts are true, every power washing unit has a purpose. You just need to find out which one is best suited for your application.


Before we can talk about which unit is best for your pressure washing needs. Let's look at the differences between the three.



GEAR DRIVEN PRESSURE WASHERS

(Pictured. Manatee Gear Drive 8GPM at 3500psi Pressure Washer MGD-8035)


A Gear Driven Pressure Washing Unit is often a Single Cylinder Engine or V-Twin Engine with a gear reduction assembly that sits on the engine gear shaft in between the pump and the motor.


The purpose of the gear box is to reduce the rotations of the engine output into a lower rpm output which allows specific pumps to create a vacuum drawing in water from a buffer tank, or large water supply source. The pumps vacuum is often so strong that a Non-Collapsable (CRUSHPROOF) hose needs to be installed between the water source and the unit. This is because the vacuum is so strong it can collapse standard hose and starve a machine for water flow resulting in pump damage. Gear Driven Units usually take up a smaller foot print than a belt drive unit does. They can often be fit in tighter builds or skid options.



Gear Driven units can also be mounted above a water source. They have enough water vacuum, that they can pull water with ease up into the system.


(Picture. Testing only here, all units need a filter installed for pump protection in final production.)



It's important to ensure your Gear Driven Pressure Washer has enough water available for the jobs you are doing.

How do I know which size tank I need for my build?

  • Think about how much water on average will be refilling in your tanks while out on the job site. Most residential buildings in Florida can feed 4.5-5.5gpm average back into your supply tank.

  • If your machine runs that same or close to the amount of Gallons Per Minute then you can go with a smaller buffer tank or supply tank if you plan on always being attached to a reliable source of water at a customer's property.

  • If you are running a large GPM unit you will need to greatly consider how much water is available for your unit. Wasted time in the field waiting on water is pointless to having a large GPM unit. TIME is EVERYTHING when in the field.

  • We usually recommend a 200 gallon buffer tank for 5.5 or 8gpm gear drive machines as a minimum.

Can a gear drive be hooked up to a water supply source like a house or commercial building? In Short, YES. However... The SUPPLY SOURCE MATTERS. Your pump needs a specific amount of flow. (ex. 5.5gpm 6gpm 8gpm 10gpm etc.) The water source you are working with must have enough to constantly feed the unit or it will cause severe damage to the pump.





BELT DRIVE PRESSURE WASHERS

(Pictured. Bandit Belt Drive B-K5530HC 5.5gpm at 3000psi)


A Belt Drive Pressure Washer is often a Single Cylinder or V-Twin Engine which has a pump separated by a Belt System that reduces the pump RPM by using different size pulleys per pump and motor assembly.


The purpose of the Belt Drive System is to reduce the RPM required to spin the pump allowing for the unit to be paired with a pump that will vacuum water out of a buffer, supply tank or water source. The pumps vacuum is often so strong that a Non-Collapsable (CRUSHPROOF) hose needs to be installed between the water source and the unit. This is because the vacuum is so strong it can collapse standard hose and starve a machine for water flow resulting in pump damage.


It's important to ensure your Belt Drive Pressure Washer has enough water available for the jobs you are doing.

How do I know which size tank I need for my build?

  • Think about how much water on average will be refilling in your tanks while out on the job site. Most residential buildings in Florida can feed 4.5-5.5gpm average back into your supply tank.

  • If your machine runs that same or close to the amount of Gallons Per Minute then you can go with a smaller buffer tank or supply tank if you plan on always being attached to a reliable source of water at a customer's property.

  • If you are running a large GPM unit you will need to greatly consider how much water is available for your unit. Wasted time in the field waiting on water is pointless to having a large GPM unit. TIME is EVERYTHING when in the field.

  • We usually recommend a 200 gallon buffer tank for 5.5 or 8gpm belt drive machines as a minimum.

Can a Belt Drive be hooked up to a water supply source like a house or commercial building? In Short, YES. However... The SUPPLY SOURCE MATTERS. Your pump needs a specific amount of flow. (ex. 5.5gpm 6gpm 8gpm 10gpm etc.) The water source you are working with must have enough to constantly feed the unit or it will cause severe damage to the pump.





DIRECT DRIVE PRESSURE WASHERS


A Direct Drive Pressure Washer is often a Single Cylinder Engine with the pump directly attached to the engine shaft. This means the pump will be running the same rpm as the motors engine shaft.


Most Direct Drive Pressure Washers are NOT designed or made to draw/vacuum water from a buffer tank or supply tank. The reason for this is often the tank does not supply enough forced water into the pump. The pump is usually moving at such a high rate of RPM that is does not allow the unit to pull the water into the pump. Sometimes it will work fine, sometimes it won't.


What we have found as a large repair shop is that when a unit is ran on a tank that doesn't supply it with enough forced water it will cause the pump to over work its valves and seals and shortens the lifespan of the pump, or makes it overheat and blow up. We do not recommend running a direct drive unit off of a buffer tank. We always recommend using an adequate force fed water supply such as a residential house or commercial building.




So Which Pressure Washing Unit Is Right For You?


The Pressure Washing Unit that you use will be determined by the build or application in which you plan on using the unit. If your plan is to have a mobile unit that you can take anywhere and always has adequate water supply for, then a Direct Drive would work perfect for you. If you need a tank to feed the unit. Then you would want to choose between a Gear Drive or a Belt Drive Pressure Washer.


This is the tough question that we get often here at MPWSR.

Which unit should I buy, a Belt Drive or Gear Drive?

Often that is a tough question we get asked. We are one of the largest Bandit Belt Drive Distributors in the Nation so you know we love Belt Drive Pressure Washers. Then there is the Manatee Gear Drive Pressure Washers. Those are made in house by our team and tested daily. So for us the choice is even harder. We are an honest company and team so what we usually do is ask about the build you are working on. Because facts are, both units do the same thing. Both are EXTREMELY RELIABLE. So what it comes down to for us is space and orientation.


Gear Driven Units usually take up a smaller foot print and the orientation of the motor is different on the skid than the way a Belt Drive is set up. This might not matter on a build for you, but on many builds space is already limited and when running multiple units everything comes into consideration like air flow, space, and orientation on a trailer or skid build.


The Unit that you would choose should be best for your trailer or skid build. If you need a specific orientation to make it easier to access a unit. We consider looking at both options before making a choice.


(Pictured. A Pressure Pro Belt Drive on an open flat bed trailer build)


(Pictured. Geary Chris "Big Bird" stacked Manatee Gear Drives on his custom built rig)


What About Repairs?

This is a good question.

Which unit will last longer, a Gear Drive or Belt Drive?

That question often comes up to us here at Manatee Pressure Washer Supply and Repair.

The way we often address the solution for customers to decide is that it's very similar, depending on your knowledge or local repair shop's ability. Here at MPWSR we specialize in all repair types so we are often doing both repairs in our shop.


The Gear Drive Pressure Washer does have an ability to fail. It is not often, if properly installed and properly maintained. But if the unit does fail. The gear box is often damaged resulting in need to have it removed from the unit and a new gear box installed. Typically this would be installing a new gear box to the pump and 4 bolts later you are back in action. (We know, it doesn't always work that way...) But majority of the repairs needed on a gear box are relatively quick and inexpensive to do if you know how, or if your local shop is adequately equipped to work on them.


The Belt Drive Pressure Washer will fail over time due to belt wear-and-tear and friction. The belts are fairly in-expensive to purchase, but do require quite a bit of time to replace when you are not familiar with the system. Again, we recommend consulting your local shop to see what they are able to work with easier. It typically takes our technicians about 1 hour on average to make a belt swap. Most of the time is spent adjusting and making sure the belt is properly aligned.


Both options are extremely reliable like we stated above and if properly maintained should keep you running in the field season after season. We highly recommend speaking with your local shop when considering which Pressure Washing Unit to buy. When your equipment does go down, you want to rely on a place that has supply and can repair your equipment quickly to get you back in the field working AFSAP.


We hope this post helps you better understand which power unit is best for you to consider when buying or upgrading your pressure washing equipment.