Tech - How to Open Water Guns / Water Blasters .:
While one always hopes for ones water blasters to function smoothly and perfectly every time, as with many things, there are times repairs made be needed to correct some problems or replace parts that have worns down over time. The following page presents an overview of common and useful techniques for opening up stock water guns / water blasters safely and effectively to access their internals for assisting with diagnosing and fixing problems that may arise.
Note: this article covers general procedures for opening most water blasters. However, if you encounter a specific problem or want help for your particular water blaster, please feel free to ask for help at WaterWar.net. It is quite likely that a member there has already done something similar to what you are attempting to do and can offer you even more specific helpful advice.
Prepping the Blaster and Workspace .:
Though some may wish to jump right into opening up their blaster, it is best to practice pre-opening preparations. There are several things that should be checked and performed before opening any blaster.
- Clean and clear the work area: Before beginning, make sure you have a good-sized, clean, and clear work area in which to work. The good thing about this is that you will have plenty of space to move the blaster and tools around. As well, in the event something pops loose, having a good, clear area should make finding any dropped part that much easier to find. While a clean workbench is optimal, many other areas can also be used including clear desks, kitchen tables, or even a cleared spot on the floor. (One of my personal favourite simple work areas is using the lid of a large plastic storage container on the floor as can be seen in many of the internal pictures taken by me including the Super Soaker Quick Blast and Water Warriors Tarantula).
- Gather the most-likely required tools: when opening a blaster, it is best to have a decent selection of tools near-by to deal with specific blaster opening challenges. While one may sometimes find that one needs something else not readily available in order to open a particular blaster, there are some tools that are pretty much needed and/or extremely useful for opening up the majority of stock water blasters. Recommended tools include: Phillips head (+) screw-drivers (sizes 00, 1, and 2), flat head (-) screw-drivers (sizes 00, 1, and 2), a utility knife, a pair of pliers (vice-grip better if available), a magnet, and safety glasses (just in case of flying plastic bits). Sometimes a hammer or other heavy weight can come in handy as well as a small saw or coping blade, but hopefully will not be regularly needed.
- Depressurize and empty everything: (see cleaning guide for tips) this may seem obvious to some, but it is still important to verify. As many modern blasters must be pressurized to function, the parts that are pressurized must be depressurized to open any blaster safely. Pressurized reservoir blasters should have their reservoir opened and drained. Tubing should also be dry-shot a few times to reduce the amount of residual water remaining. Water blasters with separate pressure chambers should be air pumped and shot many times to minimize the amount of lingering water within. The last thing one wants it to get an unexpected spurt of water on one's face or worse, having a pressure chamber suddenly launch unexpectedly and uncontrollable when opened under pressure.
Note: in the event that you are needing to do a repair due to a blaster's failure to depressurize, one can still go ahead with opening it, but extra care MUST be taken since one never knows at which point the blockage may get cleared, resulting in a sudden spray of water or worse, a launching pressure chamber.
- Clean your blaster: (see cleaning guide for tips) though not an absolute necessity, it is still better to be opening a relatively clean blaster. The advantage here is that you will avoid introducing unwanted dirt and debris into the blaster internals which may be more easily affected. As well, a clean blaster allows one to more easily see parts of the blaster and have a better grip when manipulating things, particularly small pieces.
- Photograph your blaster: assuming you have access to a digital camera, taking a picture of your still-unopened blaster is highly recommended, particularly if you run into problems down the line. Photographing both the left and right side of the blaster is recommended, though the more important side to photograph is the side with the majority of the screw holes. While some water blasters have screw holes on both sides or even on other parts of the blaster, in general, stock water blasters are built in such a way that the majority if not all the screw holes are on the same side of the blaster. This is likely done since one half of the casing is used for laying out and attaching the internals to while the other half of the casing is put on after to fix the remainder in place. After photographing your blaster, if possible, print out a hard-copy of the side of the blaster with the screw holes for reference.
- Give your blaster a once-over look: before opening your blaster, even if you have taken a picture or two of it, it is still a good idea to look at your blaster up close to become more familiar with its design. Look at all the parts of the blaster you can see at this point, making mental notes about location of screws as well as looking for parts such as pump caps or nozzle caps that may be glued on. As most water blasters are built from at least two sides (some have more pieces), make sure you examine the seam that runs between the sides of the casing. Some water blasters are glued in parts; the amount of glue used will determine how easily and successfully the blaster will be opened.
Things to Remember Before Opening Your Water Blaster .:
There are a few things to remember before you start attempting to open your water blaster.
- Stock water blasters are not designed to be opened: while many blasters can be opened without too much difficulty, it should be remembered that manufacturers do not design water blasters to be readily opened. Often parts may be glued on, screws tightened extremely tightly, and other parts snapped together in a unidirectional way. In fact, some water blasters simply can not be opened without doing significant damage to the casing. That said, if you have the option to exchange your blaster for a new one if an internal part had broken, it is often better to exchange than to attempt a repair. However, if opening the blaster is what you still desire to do, you should remain digilent when opening a blaster, looking for parts or areas that may be sticking. Being observant to how the blaster parts behave during the opening process will minimize the chance of causing unintentional damage to the blaster.
- Safety is priority: opening up a water blaster involved a number of unknowns, particularly if some parts require more force to open and/or remove. Before opening any water blaster, make sure you know how to use all the tools you have safely. Take particular care when using sharp tools such as saws or utility knifes which can be very helpful to pry apart sections of casing or assist in removing glued on pump caps. It is always recommended to wear a pair of safety glasses when working with any tools since you never know if a piece of plastic or something may pop out when opening up the casing that can end up in your eyes. Better to be safe than sorry.
- Take your time: rushing is usually not helpful to any activity (well, except perhaps sprinting)/racing, but not taking your time, observing and analysing things as you work on opening your blaster can result in things not going as smoothly as they could or even should go. In most cases, those who open their water blasters still wish to be able to close them up again in working order after a repair or tweak is performed. Taking care during the opening process will help ensure things will go back together once the internal exploration and tweaks are done. It will also give you time to see how parts are arranged so you will have a much better idea of how things should go back together afterwards.
General Steps to Successfully Open a Water Blaster .:
If you have read this far, this likely means you are confident enough to attempt to open up your water blaster and are willing to even sacrifice it should the opening process fail and you accidentally end up doing irreparable damage. Then again, more often than not, those wishing to open their water blasters wish to do so to repair something, thus without opening it, the water blaster is not usable, anyhow. That said, the following are the general steps used at iSoaker.com whenever opening up a new water blaster, either for repair or for exploration and internal picture taking so that others can see inner workings without needing to sacrifice their own blasters.
- Prep the blaster: as noted above, all water blasters to be opened and prepped and cleaned before even considering opening them. With a clean, empty, depressurized water blaster in hand, the blaster is examined, looking for the various screw holes and tracing along the seams on the casing, checking for parts or areas that may be glued on. The presence of glue does not mean the blaster is not easily opened, but it does mean that additional care may need to be taken when attempting to open or remove certain parts of the casing.
Note: if you cannot properly depressurize your blaster (i.e. the nozzle valve is stuck closed on a separate firing chamber blaster), you can still proceed, but must do so with extra caution. Definitely one should wear safety goggles since one never knows when the blaster may suddenly depressurize, spraying water and perhaps other things in every direction. Other things to keep in mind is to attempt to point the pressure chamber away from yourself or anything fragile (i.e. if the chamber were to suddenly launch, make sure its likely flight path is clear of fragile items, other people, electronics, etc.). Another thing you may consider doing is temporarily taping the pressurized portion of the blaster to the casing using some duct tape to minimize the tank of sudden flying tank syndrome. Of course, if your blaster is pressurized with water when attempting to open, it is also a good idea to have a towel nearby for quick clean-up once the water is released.
- Remove all the screws: if the blaster opening is to be attempted, the first active step is to remove all the accessible casing screws. In general, clockwise rotation tightens while counter-clockwise rotation loosens. On some blaster, certain casing screws can only be accessed after some other external covers are removed (e.g. the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz pump caps need removing to access the pump-rod screws). When removing screws, care should be taken not to lose or mix-up screws. For some water blasters, all the screws are identical. However, for others, different diameter and length screws may be used to hold different parts of the casing together. Usually, screws are taped or even inserted through a printout of a picture of the water blaster being opened. Screws can also be taped onto the casing, itself, near to each screw hole. Of course, if you do happen to misplace or lose a screw, there is no need to panic. Blaster casings can usually hold together decently even if not all screws are replaced; however for durability purposes, any lost screw should be replaced as soon as possible. One should be able to purchase replacement screws from a local hardware store.
- Gently pry apart the casing halves where you can: this does not necessarily mean that you can fully open the casing. Instead, this refers to seeing how much of the casing does split apart and figuring out what parts may still be held together either from clips, partially fastened parts, incompletely removed screws, or even glued sections. To assist with prying the casing gently apart, use a flat-head screw driver to help with wedging apart the casing. The idea in this step is to verify all screws were removed and locate any areas that are being held together by something other than screws.
- Deal with pump caps, nozzle caps, and other potentially glued regions: this is the step that is often the most difficult one. In order to improve overall stability, but minimize some aspects of manufacturing costs, many blasters are held together in parts using glue. If ever a part seems to be really stuck on tightly and you cannot remove it easily, feel free to pause and ask others about your specific problem on WaterWar.net. It is possible another member there may have already gone through that particular process and found a good solution to removing a piece. The following outlines some common strategies used here:
Pump caps (the plastic plug that pump shafts typically feed through) are often glued into place. If you are lucky, the glue used is not too strong and a little prying using a screw driver or utility knife, working slowly around the edges bit by bit, will be enough to snap the glue and allow the cap to come off easily (note: be sure to wear safety glasses in case things pop off). Heating the part using hot-to-boiling water may also help soften the glue (but careful not to burn yourself). There are also times the pump cap is only well attached to one half of the casing and the other half can actually be removed (e.g. Super Soaker Liquidator Internal pictures). For particularly stubborn pieces, assuming one really desired to access the internals, cutting the offending part may be in order. Of course, if you do end up cutting the piece, you will typically need to figure out a way to secure that portion of the casing after the repair is done. Carefully and tightly wrapped duct tape or electrical tape can work as decent means of holding together the casing where a part was cut.
If you do opt to cut a glued-on piece, be careful both not to cut yourself as well as not to damage any internals beneath the part. Careful and controlled use of a small coping saw or sharp utility knife to slice into the plastic along the seams will work, but this should only be done as a last resort.
For dealing with parts of the casing halves that may be glued together, it is easiest to start from an area that can be pryed apart and use a flathead screw driver to give you more leverage and try gently prying apart the glue regions (note: be sure to wear safety glasses in case things pop off). If prying from one side is not very successful, try working at it from the other side. A utility knife can also be used to cut away at the glued region along the seams. There are some blasters tried, though, that appeared to have their casing glued quite strongly together (e.g. Water Warriors Stingray). While the casing on such blasters could be forced open using brute strength, doing so may cause significant damage to the casing and potentially prevent putting the blaster properly together afterwards.
- Splitting the casing fully apart: assuming all the screws could be removed and all the glued regions were successfully dealt with, it then becomes time to try completely opening the casing. As noted above, one must remain observant as there can still be certain surprises or important details to note when opening some water blasters.
Generally, a stock water blaster's internals is actually fixed to one half of the casing while the other half of the casing is put on after all the internals are in place. In most cases, the free side of the casing is the one with the screw holes on it (this was NOT the case with the Super Soaker Hydro Blitz opened at iSoaker.com). Thus, it is a good idea to put the blaster down on its side, screw-hole sides up, then try lifting off the upper piece of casing. Keep an eye out for any small pieces, the trigger, and/or springs that may be loose or come loose as the casing is fully opened. As well, if the blaster uses electronics for operating, there is also the chance that there are wires on the inside that may or may not be attached to the side of the casing you are attempting to remove.
At this point, if all the above has been successful, your water blaster should now be open and ready for inspection and internal analysis. What comes next really depends on what you need to do. If you are not familiar with how water blasters work or are commonly arranged inside, check out the Repair section for more information. The Repair section also has information on many common water blaster problems and solutions to them. Also see the Soaker Tech: Basics article for an overview of the common technologies used in stock water blasters.