Nilfisk GM80 industrial vacuum cleaner

This ‘vacuum beast’ from the 1960s gets serviced, ready for today

Sometimes big is best and when it comes to longevity, this machine is tough to beat.

I wasn’t born when this machine was made, but good quality designs and engineering foresight, means that new parts fit retrospectively.  Why aren’t all machines made this way?

Make and model: Nilfisk GM80 (large)

Fault reported: Poor running

Cost of replacement: £600-800 (approx.)

Manufacturer support:  8/10

Cost of parts: £14.94, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1.5 hours

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter, soap and water etc

Sundry items: Silicone spray, WD-40, cleaning materials, wire wool

Repair difficulty: 3/10

Cups of coffee:  X1

Biscuits: X2 Chocolate Hobnobs (that don’t dunk that well in coffee, truth be told)

Recently, I got the opportunity to tackle an industrial vacuum cleaner in need of a proper service, which had been in continual use since the late 1960’s.  Judging by the condition it was in when I first received it in the workshop, I doubt that some parts of the machine had received any care since its first day at work.

The machine in question is a Nilfisk GM80 (large).  It’s a ‘large’ as it has a milk-churn sized base to it, which means it can swallow a lot of dust.  The large base has long been discontinued, but you can still buy the current smaller base, should yours be damaged.  Indeed, the Nilfisk GM80 range of vacuum cleaners are all quite modular and feature different levels of filtration, depending on the specific environment they are put to use in.  This means you can easily swap parts from donor machines to keep older machines going. The design means that parts seldom go obsolete, new parts just get improved and fit older models.  Great news for sustainability.

Back to the machine in question.  It had been covered for many years under a service contract, but for whatever reason, that company were no longer taking quite as much time as they should and applying as much care with each inspection.  This ‘serviced’ machine had recently had a new motor (hence later model motor housing) but the basics of vacuum principles had been overlooked.

I won’t go into the repair blow-by-blow, so here’s a summary of the work completed:

  • clean of all rubber seals and mating surfaces, essential to avoid air leaks
  • check and adjust all housing clips and adjust as necessary (all of them in this case)
  • wash motor diffuser (this had been changed within the last year)
  • wash main cotton filter (this had never been done, it was so clogged)
  • wash motor intake filter
  • check condition of motor brushes and bearing end-float (all fine)
  • check and tighten electrical IEC connection
  • inspect flex for damage (all OK)

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The previous service agent had stated that the damaged hose (original 1960’s rubber item) was now unavailable and that a replacement was impossible.  Impossible eh?  That’s two letters too long.

Upon taking the old hose connectors apart (and removing layers of gaffer tape), I discovered that the internal diameter was similar to a Nilfisk-to-Numatic aftermarket adaptor and with a little adjustment, this 1960’s Nilfisk machine could be made compatible with Numatic’s vacuum cleaner hose design, which is much more abundant, here in the UK.  So, with a little jiggery pokery, this machine is ready to work for its living, once again, with a shiny new hose.

So yet again, when an ‘expert’ tells you that something cannot be repaired, don’t necessarily take their word for it.  A second opinion can sometimes save you time and money.

The repair didn’t break the bank either and I have since taken on more machine service work for this organisation.


Hi, my name's Matt and I'm on a mission to save everyday items from the bin. Many things are repairable, but we've seemingly fallen out of love with mending things. I aim to fix that by publishing each repair I carry out in the hope that others will be inspired to repair their things and keep them for longer.

4 thoughts on “Nilfisk GM80 industrial vacuum cleaner”

  1. This was a good example to share with our Facebook page @r2rAussie. We agree wholeheartedly and some more about the ‘experts’. We are fixperts and have confidence in our abilities. If we do not know we will contact other like-minded fixperts, not ‘experts’.


    1. I think it all started when someone in appliance repair shop once told me that a replacement element for my parent’s Russell Hobbs K2 kettle was obsolete. At the age of 11 (no internet), I did my own research and found a new part available elsewhere. Stuff like that always sticks in my mind. I was an odd kid!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My first job in 1987 was a service technician for a cleaning supplies firm. Nilfisk was one of our big brands and I have fond memories of the well built GA and GS series canister vacs; the 1000W GM series motor came out in 1988/89, the original GM motor was more robustly built and developed from the previous GS model; the field coils, bearings, armature & fans/stators could all be replaced individually. The motor on the featured machine here looks like a one piece assy, this machine would have originally used the 500W GA series motor. Back in my day, the Nilfisks were very repairable with excellent parts backup and the machines themselves were robust, but unfortunately, they have unavoidably gone down the same route as other manufacturers due to competition from cheaper brands. I have a 46 year old GA70 still going well, but I had to scavenge carbon brushes for it from a machine at a recycling depot, since I cannot even source these new. Nice to see somebody who likes to repair stuff. Just refurbed my Mum’s 27 year old tumble dryer with a set of metric bearings and a new belt, total cost of parts 25 quid. On the other side, had to scrap my 10 year old Indesit dishwasher as the recirc pump failed, a new one cost minimom 110 quid, despite trawling the internet. The part looked like it cost no more than 5 quid to produce in a chinese factory. Right to repair legislation is futile without tackling the artificially extortionate spare parts prices.


    1. Totally agree Peter. Years of sitting on the bench at my father’s work at an Indesit service shop in the early 1980s while he changed parts on machines had a positive effect on me. We’ve seen a race to the bottom for sales from shirt sighted brands, for sure.


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