by Michael Shade, IQS Editor
Most of my encounters with quick release couplings involve pressure washers. When I was in high school, I worked at my uncle’s used car dealership between school years one summer. My responsibilities there included removing stickers from other cars, jumping dead batteries, filling flat tires and a myriad of other mundane activities. But my favorite task was washing the cars. Where I live, in the summer time, it gets very hot and very humid. Also, remember that a car windshield is like a magnifying glass for the sun. After a few hours of cleaning coffee stains from the upholstery of cars that have been baking on blacktop all day, the pressure washer starts to look pretty friendly.
Quick coupling image courtesy of Snap-Tite.
Like many of the appliances and tools found in our utility room, our pressure washer had seen better days. It regularly failed to start, when it did start sometimes it couldn’t stay on, and we frequently had problems with the oil and gas mixing in with the water stream. There was one part of the washer, though, that could be relied on to never fail. That part was the quick release couplings on either end of the spraying wand.
The spraying wand was a long black tube with a handle. On one end it was permanently connected to a narrow black hose that connected on its other end to the washer. On the other end of the wand was a quick disconnect coupling that allowed for the attachment and detachment of different kinds of nozzles. Different nozzles allowed for different waterjet strengths and concentrations, and different cars needed different kinds of attention. I had to strike a balance between removing dirt and other accumulated grime from the cars without causing damage to their paint. So, I often found myself switching back and forth between different nozzles in order to meet the needs of whichever car I was working on.
This process was made much easier by the quick connect couplings on the end of the wand. I can only imagine what my fingers would look like today if instead there had been a threaded fitting on the wand. Threaded fittings usually are knurled for the sake of increased grip, which is great if you only have to screw something on or off every once in a while. But if you have to repeat that action over and over in rapid succession, your fingers are likely to look like they were burned in a tiny waffle iron after just a few repetitions. Quick disconnects eliminate the possibility of such injuries because they involve a mere release of the fitting sheath, which allows for the attached component to be removed easily and replaced with another.
Quick disconnects are also simple in terms of their design, which means that there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong with them. If I was working on a car and my boss called me over about something, I could drop the wand on the ground, and the connection made by the fitting would always remain secure. It never became deformed, it never stopped performing as it should and it was always easy to operate. It’s safe to say that the quick fitting was the only part of the pressure washer that consistently did what it was supposed to. This was true in my later pressure washing encounters as a deck refinisher and house painter. After all those different jobs, all the detaching and attaching of different nozzles and all of the abuse to which I subjected them, the fittings never failed.
It’s not just pressure washing that is made easier by this simple yet elegant innovation. Pneumatic tools, hydraulic fluid lines, compressed air tanks and a wide variety of other utilities can be connected using quick release fittings. I came to further appreciate the joy of using quick couplers when I worked set construction for one of my high school’s school plays. Whenever I had to switch quickly back and forth between different pneumatic tools, I didn’t have to worry about unscrewing anything, which in the case of the pneumatic nail gun was a particularly welcome feature.
The list of possible applications that could benefit from the use of quick release couplings is virtually endless. They’re as brilliant as they are simple, reliable and easy to use.