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.

The tale of Hetty & Henry

A small mix up nearly resulted in some body modification…

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’20, Henry & Hetty bathing in the sunshine

Make and model: Hetty Vacuum Cleaner (HET200-22)

Fault reported: Not working

Cost of replacement: £100-£140

Manufacturer support:  10/10

Cost of parts: £21.59, inc. carriage

Hours spent on repair: 1 hour with service

Tools needed: Screwdrivers, test meter etc

Sundry items: Silicone spray, cleaning materials

Repair difficulty: 4/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: Ginger Nut X2

If only everything was as well made and built to last as a Henry (or Hetty!) hoover.  Simple as a knife and fork, with tried and tested technology, it’s a machine created by an engineer, for everyone to own, use and repair themselves, when needed.

A neighbour got in touch to say that their broken Hetty was about to be scrapped and asked if I could do anything with it.  Of course, I said.  To be honest with you all, I’m not that confident with all repairs, but I knew that in the case of this one, I should be fine as Numatic products are pretty well supported by the manufacturer. And this is the thing:

How many purchases do we make that consider; “will I be able to get parts for that one day”?

We all do it, but as a tinkerer I try and consider the longevity and likely need for replacement components when I’m considering handing over my hard earned wedge, at point of purchase.

The Hetty had been working fine, but had then conked out, mid clean.  No drama, no noise, no smoke, it had just stopped.  The owner had already checked the fuse, but that was fine (as they often are).

When things just stop and won’t restart, that symptom is often trying to tell you something and if you’re listening, capturing the way something fails and acting on the information can save you time and often money.  It’s a trick I’m always trying to perfect, although one can be caught out anytime- but that’s half the fun.

  • The machine stopped suddenly…
    • Maybe the cable broke?
    • Maybe the plug is damaged
    • Maybe a component failed quickly

Expensive things like motors tend to start making noises, run slower than usual or smell bad before failing.  They can ‘just stop’ of course, but it’s likely that there will be a build-up, so I proceeded with some confidence that the motor was probably fine.  I always check motor bearings and brushes anyway, when servicing this type of thing.

Since the mains cable and plug were fine, it was time to delve inside.  The Hetty top is simply held together with a few screws (normal cross head) which then frees the cable winder and motor assembly, when undone.

I suspected the two-speed control PCB as these can fail suddenly without warning and since I have no Numatic PCB tester (if there is such a thing), all I could do is prove the component as faulty, beyond reasonable doubt.  A quick check with my multi-meter revealed that there was no output, when connected to the mains.  Suspicious.

It is also possible to by-pass the speed control PCB on these machines, which I did.  I connected the motor up without it’s 600W/1200W control circuit in the loop and the motor spun up just fine.

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Often, I like to go direct to the manufacturer (where possible) for spare parts as you often get the truth about an appliance as well as the latest version of a part.  Often, manufacturers continue to iron out bugs and develop upgrades for spare parts as these will be fitted to the latest models.  A company such as Numatic seem to apply those upgrades retrospectively to older models too, so that all customers new and old, can enjoy the benefits.  For information; UK spec speed controller part 208436 (red) replaces part 206735 (orange) for model HET200-22.

As I couldn’t find the part I needed on any website, a quick call to Numatic UK, gave me the information I needed.  Even during Covid-19 lockdown here in the UK, the lady in Numatic’s spares department, working from her kitchen, was able to advise me on the upgraded part I now needed and arrange for it to be with me for the next working day.  If that’s not good service, I don’t know what is.  http://www.numatic.co.uk

With the new part installed, the motor spun once more, at the correct two speeds.  Happy days.

All fine then.  Not quite. 

Hetty had been supplied with a red base, not the original pink one that Hetty should have.

As we all know… no?  Just me then, Henry is red and Hetty is pink and there is a range of names and colours to choose from in the range.

When I tried to fit the Hetty top to the supplied red base, it didn’t fit.  Quite a head-scratching moment, if I’m being frank with you.  Had it never fitted? Had the owner simply just put up with it the way it was?  Had there been some kind of strange swapping incident that I wasn’t aware of?  Time to get some answers!

It turns out that my neighbour have both Henry and Hetty models and had given me the wrong base.  They had assumed they are all the same.  They’re not actually, see below.

The latest Henry and Hetty tops have a cut-out for the tool storage bracket moudling as shown on the red base above.  The earlier Hetty I had in the workshop had no such bracket in the plastic.  I did offer to modify the Hetty top I had with my Dremel saw, but this offer was declined!

With the right top and base paired up once more, I was happy, the neighbours were happy and another vacuum cleaner had been saved from being scrapped needlessly.

Time for another brew.

 

Wheezy Dyson DC19

Another Dyson not biting the dust, just yet.

A mate asked if it was worth saving his abused Dyson cylinder vacuum cleaner which has been residing in the garage for a couple of years, in the dark, unused. It had last seen service when clearing-up building dust and allsorts of non-domestic detritus and that abuse had now given the vacuum cleaner breathing difficulties. A vacuum with breathing issues means no suction.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, January 2020, Dyson DC19.

Interestingly, the reason the Dyson was being called out of retirement was due to a lack of performance from the family’s more recently purchased battery machine. Hopefully I’ll get to see that in the workshop soon as well. I’m getting ahead of myself already.

Make and model: Dyson DC19 (grey and purple)

Fault reported: 70% reduction in suck

Cost of replacement: About £200

Cost of parts: £9.54

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Cleaning tools

Sundry items: Silicone spray

Repair difficulty: 1/10

Cups of tea: 1

Biscuits: 2 (M&S Belgium Selection)

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Like many abandoned vacuum cleaners I see in the workshop or at the tip, there really wasn’t much wrong or really broken, yet its owner was considering its future. What to do. I’ll write about readiness to repair and repair inertia another time!

The repair in stages:

  • Remove, clean (and replace) filters and refit once dry (48 hours)
  • Remove collection cylinder and clean thoroughly and refit once dry (48 hours)
  • Clean all seals with soap and water, dress with silicone to revive
  • Check by-pass valve and clean as needed
  • Check power cable (clean to improve flex rewind system)
  • Check and clean roller brush head
  • Test!

The filters on this machine were so dirty that I decided to invest in a new set which, at under £10, seemed good value and will certainly extend the life of the DC19.

After giving the main unit a good polish the Dyson DC19 was ready to go home to clean-up. Another Dyson not biting the dust, just yet.

Genuine or pattern parts? A Dyson DC40 gets a little tune-up.

Genuine or pattern parts? What to do!?

Article 100!

It’s a dilemma sometimes.  Should you always fit genuine replacement parts or is it OK to fit quality aftermarket or pattern parts.  My answer:  It depends.

Make and model: Dyson DC40

Fault reported: Torn hose and loss of suction

Cost of replacement: About £200.00

Cost of parts: £16.53 (hose and filters)

Hours spent on repair: 1

Tools needed: Screwdrivers

Sundry items: Silicone spray, PTFE spray, rag

Repair difficulty: 2/10

Cups of tea: 2

Biscuits: 1 McVities Gold Bar

A mate of mine contacted me to ask if it was worth fixing his 6 year old Dyson DC40 and as always, I said yes it was.  A couple of days later, it was working again, like new.

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FixItWorkshop, November’19, Dyson DC40.

The DC40 is still supported by Dyson and parts are readily available direct from them.  Problem is that, as my mate did, the price of some spares (although quite reasonable actually) can put some people off, which means that serviceable machinery can end up at the local dump, prematurely.  Which is a shame.

This is where pattern parts can help.  Often, aftermarket manufacturers will make spares for popular models and the advantage of these is that they are often much cheaper than the original part.  However, it’s not as simple as that.

I’ve fixed 100s if not 1000s of things and have used and continue to use a mixture of genuine original (often called OE or Original Equipment) and pattern parts for different reasons.  Assuming original equipment parts are the best, here are my thoughts, in no particular order, to help you if facing a similar dilemma.

In favour of pattern parts:

  • They can make a repair viable, financially
  • Parts can be available, long after original parts become obsolete
  • They can provide enhanced features that were not part of the original design

In favour of genuine/ original equipment parts:

  • They will fit exactly as the specification will be to the original design
  • They maintain manufacturers warranties, where applicable
  • They normally last well and perform as expected

As a further example, I will only fit genuine water pumps (on car engines) but will fit pattern air filters.  Water pumps must work within very exact performance tolerances whereas air filters, although important, don’t so much.  It’s a personal thing at the end of the day.

Back to the repair.  This Dyson wasn’t picking up dirt and the extension hose was torn, so a new hose was ordered from a supplier on eBay for under £10, a genuine part was over £25.  The hose just clicks out and in, so all that was required was a small flat bladed screwdriver to remove and refit the hose.  Nice and easy.

The next job was to sort out the lack of suction.  As with all Dysons with a problem like this, I always check filters.  As suspected, both filters were expired and needed to be replaced as they were too far gone to be washed.  Again, pattern part filters were available on eBay for under £7, genuine ones were much dearer.  All new parts fitted well and soon the vacuum cleaner was breathing easily again.

Another issue with the DC40 is the switch lever which diverts suction from the beater head to the hose, which was sticking on this machine.  A quick clean up and a small spray of silicone spray on all the moving parts had it all working again.

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I always clean-up the beaters on any vacuum cleaner in for a service and this one seemed to have half a head of hair stuck in it, which would have impeded performance.  The hair was so bad, I had to remove the beaters (just one screw) and cut off the hair with a knife.

With all the remedial work completed, the Dyson ran well proving once again that it’s usually worth repairing, rather than replacing.

 

Dyson DC25 with various problems

Another Dyson dodges the dump

An email dropped into my inbox about a poorly Dyson DC25, that needed a bit of a clean up.  I said no problem, I’ll take a look.  What turned up was a vacuum cleaner that needed a bit more than a quick clean up with a J-Cloth.

Make and model:  Dyson DC25 (blue/ grey)

Cost of replacement:  £N/A, price when new £300

Cost of parts:  £6.89 (plus my time)

Hours spent on repair:  2.5 (plus testing)

Repair difficulty:  5/10

It soon became apparent, that the Dyson was quite ill.

Here’s a summary of the problems:

  1. The mains cable flex was split, exposing the internal cables risking electric shock
  2. The roller beaters would not spin
  3. Suction was limited

None of these features were useful in vacuum cleaner, so out came the screw drivers.

The mains flex damage was about 90 cms from the handle end, so rather than replacing the whole cable at about £30, I decided to shorten the one already fitted on the Dyson.  This involved removing three screws on the reverse of the handle to expose the wiring.  From there, the broken flex could be cut-out and the sound part of the flex, reattached to the Dyson’s wiring.  See below.

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The DC25 features a roller-ball, enabling the beater head to twist and turn in to tight spots on the floor.  This means that mains power must navigate the various joints and hinges on the way from the main body to the roller beaters.  A quick test revealed that the power was not getting through.  After removing one of the side covers, there was evidence of a previous repair.  One of the mains cables had broken and had then been twisted back together.  Clearly, an improvement was needed.  Using a section of repair cable, a small joint was soldered back in to place with some mains-rated heat shrink around the connection for insulation and reinforcement.  See below.

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The beater head also needed a good clean, which meant a strip-down and re-build.  All parts were cleaned, inspected and reassembled.  During that process, a small break in the beater head wiring was found, repaired and put back together.  See below.

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Finally, the machine needed a good clean up.  The main cylinder was washed, the filters washed (although I later decided to replace these) and the main seals on the vacuum system, cleaned and silicone sealed.  See below.

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During clean up, the spigot-yoke that holds the roller ball in place on one side was found to be missing.  Luckily the owner had kept this and dropped it back to me to re-fit.

This Dyson was on the brink, but with a little bit of spanner-time, it’s now ready to serve many more years.

 

 

 

 

Gaggia Espresso Machine with a nasty blockage

A Gaggia Espresso machine gets a rebuild.

Home coffee machines are very cool.  Home espresso machines are even better as they’re the closest you can get to a coffee shop brew, in my opinion.  Due to heat, water and coffee mixing up on a regular basis, they need ownership with care for long life.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Gaggia Espresso Machine.

Top tips for longer coffee machine life:

  • Use filtered water, especially if you live in a hard water area
  • Clean the tank regularly
  • Keep all rubber seals, especially those around the main coffee making area, clean with a damp cloth

Someone got in touch with a machine that was a few years old, but had once made a lovely cup of coffee.  The owner had used it daily but recently it had begun to leak and not perform at its best.  The machine had also been to a UK repair specialist, but sadly, they couldn’t solve the problems.  I always test appliances when they arrive to confirm the fault and as expected, water came out of places it wasn’t supposed to.

I’ve worked on a few of these machines, so I know the drill.  Remove the lid, make a note of the wiring connectors, the pipes and remove the bolts holding the main boiler in place.  I also ordered a service kit (new seals) for a reasonable £7.99.

The main boiler separates into two halves which reveals the main boiler chamber and exit for hot water.

This boiler was in poor condition and years of corrosion and scale had built up and was probably blocking the main group head, the bit where you attach the group handle/ filter bit to make coffee.

Time for more dismantling.  The group head is held in position with a couple of screws, but years of corrosion had taken their toll and this head was going nowhere.  Great care was needed as the soft metal is easily damaged.

Thinking about this a bit more, I decided to cut a screw thread into one of the water holes in the head and use a bolt to lever the group head apart.  It worked.  Once off the head revealed loads of debris and scale.

The next job was to give all parts a thorough clean, re-faced with wet and dry paper as needed and use new seals as part of the reassembly.

Once back together, the boiler was reinstalled and reconnected.  After a few blasts of fresh water through the machine, it was ready to make its first proper brew.

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Cost of replacement:  £100-300.  Cost of repair:  £7.99, my time, one tin of elbow grease, one cup of coffee and a ginger nut.

 

 

Dyson DC40 missing a beat

A small repair on a Dyson DC40 leads to a big improvement.

A powerful, easy to manoeuvre vacuum cleaner, that gets into every nook and cranny.  But not this one.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40.

Three top tips for keeping your Dyson DC40 in rude health:

  • Keep all filters clean (wash or replace frequently)
  • Clean all rubber seals with a damp cloth to remove dust build-up
  • Occasionally lubricate moving parts of jockey wheel mechanism (springs and lever) with silicone spray

Do these things and your Dyson will love you forever.

I’m a bit of a sucker for Dyson products.  They are well engineered products from the school of function over form and in my opinion, objects of art.

This Dyson wasn’t very well when it was admitted to the workshop.  The owner had complained that the vacuum cleaner wasn’t picking up dirt and dust properly.  The beaters were not spinning either.

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FixItWorkshop, Worthing, May’19, Dyson DC40 beater head.

The beater ‘head’ is attached to the main body of the vacuum cleaner and is held in place with a sliding clip.  The head can rotate and move to allow maximum control.  The beater roller is driven not via a belt from the main motor, but from its own smaller motor in the head unit.  So, there is an electrical connector between the main body and head unit.  As the beaters were not spinning, it seemed sensible to test the electrical connection.  Upon testing, it was not working.

The mechanism on this vacuum cleaner is quite complicated and relies on levers and joints working in harmony.  Dismantling the wheels, filters, brackets and covers around the motor revealed the problem.  The supply that feeds power to the beater head is routed around the motor and sliding lever mechanism and a broken cable was to blame for the beaters not spinning.

Access was difficult due to the design so rather than completely tearing down the body to replace the supply loom, I reattached the broken wire with some soldering and heat shrink to make a robust repair.

After carefully rerouting the cables and reassembling the body, wheels and beater head, the beaters spun once more.  Result.

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After a new set of filters were fitted and a light service, the machine was as good as new.

Cost of replacement machine:  £000’s.  Cost of repair parts: £11.69 plus my time and two teas.