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.
Good battery life
Adequate spray power to get surface mud off a bike
Limited reservoir capacity
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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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