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yes -- it will remove any loose paint then keep going to take all the paint off
if used around the mechanical bits ,it has the pressure to blow in gaskets and force water into places that water would not normally get to
Most people I run into with this problem are trying to get the cleaning solution to work with one of the high pressure tips, usually red, green, white or yellow. The only way to make the machine use the cleaning solution is with the low pressure, soap tip, usually black. With the high pressure tips there is too much back pressure for the solution to be picked up and mixed into the water stream.
The first thing I would check would be the oil level, to make sure you didn't put in too much oil. If the oil level is correct, it could be a stuck piston ring, letting oil blow by the piston, and out the exhaust. If this is the case, you are going to have to tear down the engine.
It is easy to check if your hose and quick connects are supplying enough water to the pump. Your pressure washer gallon per minuite requirements are printed on the machine and also on the pressure tips in GPM. Your post indicates 2.5 gpm but check your documentation of GPM. Next remove the tip from the wand and connect your hose with current quick connects to the machine. Start engine and direct the pressure wand into a bucket for exactly one minute. Measure the amount of water in the bucket, it should be very close to stated gallons. Do the same test with tip installed and compare measurement. If pump is starving for water you will not get proper amount of water in the bucket and the water hose will collapse. Two to four gallons of water per minute is not very demanding and should be delivered even with very small opening. You can even just direct the hose into the bucket for one minute and check how much water your hose is capable of delivering. I believe that you will find no problem with water delivery to pump. I would certainly enlighten Northern with your findings and question their evaluation. When you start using your pressure washer again try using it at lowest pressure to get the job done. Lowering the pressure to about 75% of max will increase the life of the pump and engine. Good luck with you pump
It sounds like your intake is plugged with debris. What usually happens is a water hose that has been laying around will get various stuff in it -- dirt, grass clippings, small insects (and whatever they take into it nest building). These days most homeowner pressure washers do not have a proper inlet filter, but just a screened hose washer like on a washing machine. The unloader valve can cause pressure variance, but usually not in the manner that you described. The pump is being "starved" for input water. Just use a pair of needle-nose pliers and pull out the screen and clean it or replace it.