Your jetter hose won’t last forever, but you can prolong its life by following these tips.

How long will a typical jetter hose last? Answering that question is as easy as trying to estimate when a jetter’s pump will break down.

“A hose is meant to be a consumable — it’s not going to last forever,” says Bernie Hengels, a marketing official at United Environmental Manufacturing Supply Inc./Hose and Televising (UEMSI/HTV), a national distributor of jetter hoses. “We always say it’s like a set of tires in a car. A teenager can ruin a set of tires in one night, just as an operator who improperly uses a hose can tear one up in just a day.”

Bob Glick, product specialist at Piranha Hose Products Inc., agrees.

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“There’s no hard and fast rule for how long a hose will last,” he says. “Unfortunately, because of the harsh environment they’re subjected to, operators often don’t know what they’re getting into … and you can destroy a hose the first time you put it down a pipe.”

On the other hand, there are simple and relatively inexpensive things you can do to prolong the life of your hose. First and foremost: Shield your hose from sharp edges on things like manholes and corrugated pipes by using a protective sleeve called a tigertail. Hengels says UEMSI/HTV manufactures a specific product trademarked as Tyger Tail, but workers in the waterjetting industry often generically call these protective sleeves tigertails.

“Every time you use a hose without a tigertail, you run the risk of tearing the outer jacket of the hose,” Hengels says. “Once you get a nick in the outer jacket, it reduces a hose’s effectiveness.”

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Tigertails come in various diameters and lengths. Each one includes a tie-off rope that workers affix to a stationary object near a friction point, like the edge of a corrugated culvert pipe or manhole, for instance, or perhaps between a doorjamb and a door. In any case, the tigertail stays in one place while the jetter hose moves through it, unimpeded by any sharp edges.

“I’ve seen guys use two of them at a time in certain applications,” Glick says.

Glick also suggests using a product known as a manhole roller guide, which also protects hoses from sharp manhole edges. Some companies make manhole rollers for use both at street level (an upper manhole roller) or down inside the manhole (lower manhole roller).

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“They (the lower manhole rollers) also help feed a hose through the center of the pipe,” Glick says.

Regularly cleaning hoses also helps extend their life. Hengels suggests operators wipe down a hose as it’s pulled back to the hose reel.

“Hoses can come in contact with damaging chemicals and waste gases,” he says. “You don’t want the residue from that waste eating away at the hose. And it really helps to have a clean hose if you keep it inside an enclosed vehicle because it minimizes the odor.”

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Moreover, it’s difficult to detect nicks and cuts in the hose if it’s always grimy and dirty, Glick adds.

Both Hengels and Glick also suggest jetter operators use a leader hose, typically a 10- to 15-foot-long rubber hose that attaches to the front end of a jetting hose.

“It’s also known as a sacrificial hose because it takes the brunt of the load as it goes through a pipeline,” Glick says.

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Because it’s made of rubber, a leader hose is more flexible than a thermoplastic-coated jetter hose. As such, it’s more flexible and can make its way through bends in pipes easier, too, Hengels says.

“It’s cheaper to replace than a jetter hose and when you do replace one, there’s much less downtime than repairing a jetter hose,” Glick says. “You can just grab another one off a shelf, unscrew the old one and screw on the new one and you’re up and running again pretty quickly.”

A leader hose also boosts job site safety because when operators see one emerge from a drainline, they know the end of the hose will follow shortly, alerting them that it’s time to power down the pump.

“Think of it as an early warning system that makes for safer operation,” Hengels says.

There’s one more way to extend jetter hose life: Regularly inspect every inch of the hose for nicks and cuts. Glick and Hengels suggest an inspection at the start or end of a job, or even both.

“It should be like a daily DOT truck inspection, where contractors take a walk around their vehicle and make sure everything is OK before they start it up,” Hengels says.

Glick and Hengels say they both know of a contractor who takes a hose completely off a combo vac truck reel every Friday afternoon and lays it in the company parking lot for a thorough inspection. If workers find a defect, they tag it out and the hose gets repaired or replaced before the truck goes back to work on Monday morning.

“It’s certainly time-consuming, but that might well be the most valuable half-hour that contractor spends every week,” Hengels says. “There’s a lot at stake here … when a hose goes, it’s not pretty. I’ve seen them blow out on jobs where hose wear was overlooked.

“I always say that the braid on a hose is like a suspension bridge,” he continues. “When the braid starts getting cut away, eventually the ‘bridge’ is going to fail.”

Hengels says it’s understandable that operators may not want to take the time to inspect their hose. But he says their minds might change if they knew about some of the situations he’s heard about in the field — like one Wisconsin contractor whose 3/4-inch-diameter hose had developed a pinhole leak. By the time he finished a job, it had become a full-pressure leak.

“He had to shut down completely and bring it into our shop for repairs,” Hengels says. “Worse yet, he had tried to fix it with a hose clamp and some duct tape, and there’s no way that was going to hold back water at 3,000 psi. It’s just too dangerous.”

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