Proper care, usage keeps inspection cameras in good use.


Adam Teets can sympathize with contractors using an inspection camera to discover a problem in the line.

“You see the object causing the obstruction right there and there’s a temptation to just start using the camera to push at it and move it out of the way,” says Teets, a service manager with RIDGID. “But you need to fight the urge, since doing something like that will only damage the equipment.”

Contractors use inspection cameras to spot what may be causing any blockages inside pipes. The waterproof cameras have a flexible rod and can be maneuvered around corners as needed.

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But while they are a valuable tool, they can wear out or break if not used properly.

Dave Dunbar, assistant sales manager for General Pipe Cleaners, says reels with kinks or damaged camera heads are the most common repairs that land equipment in repair shops.

To prevent that from happening to you and to get the most use out of your equipment, industry experts shared these tips:

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Do a simple check of the equipment first

Taking care of your equipment protects your investment and avoids many headaches down the road. Be sure to follow all of the recommended maintenance specific to your equipment. Here are some general maintenance items to check with your equipment each day: check for damaged power cords, pulled out strain reliefs, damaged switches and missing ground prongs. Inspect the cable for any kinds or damage. Repair or replace as needed.

You should also expose, clean and lubricate all bushings, bearings and moving parts at least twice a year. A well-lubricated machine will last longer and is less likely to break down in the middle of a job.

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Keep hands near the drain opening when operating

When a contractor’s hands are near the opening, they are able to provide greater control over the reeling. Without proper control, the reeling can kink up or move too quickly and potentially cause damage to the camera, Teets says.

Don’t use camera as a tool

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Dunbar says the camera being used to inspect clogged pipes is similar in design to cameras used to record family events.

“Most of the damaged camera heads that arrive at repair centers have a cracked lens cover or light ring,” he says. “The LED lights are hidden behind bulletproof Plexiglas and the whole thing is either pipe threaded or epoxied to the end of the pushrod, so it’s sealed up like an Egyptian tomb. That sounds impressive, but it’s really no defense against an overly enthusiastic drain cleaner.”

As Teets mentioned, it can be tempting for a contractor to use the equipment to push the obstruction out of the way, but “that’s asking for trouble. You need to remember the camera is a diagnostic tool. You are trying to find out what’s wrong.”

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Keep it clean

Keeping the camera and reeling clean will improve the equipment’s longevity. “I always keep rags in my truck and wipe it all off after I pull it out,” Teets says. “Some people pour clean water over the cable as they pull it out, but if there’s a back-up, adding more water is not always the best move.”

The lens of the camera will need to be cleaned after each use. Cleaning the camera will also keep oil, grease and grit from building up, which would damage the camera if left.

When cleaning, do not use an oil cleanser, as this could impair the camera lens. Instead, use a dry cloth and gently wipe the camera head to remove any dirt or debris.

Go slow

When starting on a project, the key is to move slowly and carefully as you put the pushrod into the pipe. If a worker moves too quickly or applies too much force, Dunbar says the pushrod will bow out and kink up.

“Once you are in, use short, fast motions to get around a bend and watch where you’re going,” he says. “Just pay attention.”

A kink in the reeling can be expensive to fix, with Dunbar estimating it can cost up to $600.

As part of the repair, technicians usually cut the reel above the kink, which also creates a shorter reel, Teets says. “You have less flexibility with the camera and may not be able to see as far into the pipe,” he says.


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