Pump filters are key for reducing downtime due to clogged tips and gun filters. The larger the filter, the better. A large pump filter can collect a day's worth of gunk without slowing you down. If you rely on just the small filter in the gun handle, you'll have to stop and clean it out a few times a day – more if you don't strain your paint before spraying.
Vertically mounted filters are easier to lift out of their housing without making a mess; horizontal filters dump out the entire contents of their housing once loosened and you have to hold a bucket underneath to catch the mess. Vertical filters are found on the Airlessco and Graco units (Graco 390 shown). Large and small horizontal filters are found on the Titan Impact 440 and Advantage 400 pumps respectively, while the Milwaukee, Titan XT420, and Wagner tools rely on the gun filter alone.
Suction and Prime Tubes
Suction tubes draw paint from the bottom of a bucket up into the pump, and the screen filter found at the end strains out the largest gunk. To keep paint clean and prevent it from drying out while painting, a good trick is to feed the tube through the pigment hole in the top of a 5-gallon bucket. Some filter ends will fit in with no problem, like those of the Graco Ultra 395 (shown) and the other Graco units in the test, but larger ends have to be unscrewed and reassembled on the other side of the lid. This job isn't too bad at the start of work, but it can be quite messy at cleanup. Prime tubes with plastic deflector ends usually won't fit through the hole along with the suction tube and must be hung outside the bucket. Be careful of paint drips from an exposed prime tube, and don't switch the prime/paint valve unless the prime tube is pointed into a bucket.
A good prime tube is one that stays put in a second bucket during priming or cleaning operations, such as the one on the Graco Ultra 395. Its weighty rubber and metal construction and its extra length make it easy to position, unlike shorter or thinner tubes that can kink or splash water when hung over the edge of a bucket. And speaking of splashing, we prefer prime tubes fitted with a plastic deflector on the end to soften the stream of paint or water jetting out. The prime tube shown here has an excellent deflector. When it's time to put the prime tube back together with the suction tube, captive clips that stay on one of the tubes are a must. Clips that must be totally removed to separate the tubes will be lost soon enough. Good captive clips are found on the pump pictured, the other Graco units, and on the Airlessco and Milwaukee tools. The tubes of the Titan and Wagner pumps have loose clips that are difficult to deal with and are bound to disappear.