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Kenmore Durapower bagless
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Post# 158292   11/6/2011 at 23:44 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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This is a Kenmore Model 216.37045800. These were made for Sears by PhoneMate, a company in China that is mostly known for making answering machines.

This particular machine was only made in July '08 but was already on the junk pile. The serial number on these is in the same format as later Hoovers in that the first part of the number contains month and year of manufacture. This one had led a hard life in a short time and had been used to vacuum up baking flour or drywall dust, I've not yet decided which it was. The handle lock feature didn't work and the nozzle flopped around.

When I first saw it sitting in the four dollar junk pile, I thought, "That thing isn't very old." The power came up but the brush roll and bottom plate were missing. It had all the attachments and was otherwise complete, so I bought it mainly for parts. I was out on multiple errands, and because earlier I'd had a load to carry, I was driving my '72 Ford Custom 500 station wagon. There is no radio in that car, so for entertainment you're on your own. Mostly, I just think about this and that while I'm driving along and on this occasion, I remembered I had a brush roll and bottom plate at home in my parts.

This will be the fifth Phonemate-built Kenmore that I've worked on. I didn't write down the model numbers, but of the previous four, they consisted of three different models. The common characteristic is the white surround that goes on the back and sides of the dust compartment. The first was a blue Progressive with a bag. The next was a blue Durapower bagless with two chambers. The third was a sickly green Retraxx (so-called because it has a cord retractor) bagless with one chamber. About the time I was finishing up a recondition on the Retraxx, another just like it popped up and I got it. Good thing, because I found a previously unnoticed broken part on the first Retraxx. The second one was pretty beat-up, so I sacrificed it for parts. This is how I happened to have the brush roll and bottom plate for number five in the series, the maroon Durapower that is the subject of this discussion.

When I got the newly-acquired machine home, I noticed that it had a kinda weird feature. To me, anyway. It has a electronically controlled carpet height adjustment. All the PhoneMate-made Kenmores are kinda gimmicky, it seems to me. Sometimes they have the "dirt finder" feature; the Retraxx makes a bit of a deal about a retractible cord; now the electronic height adjustment.

This thing was very dusty and the meager filters were badly clogged. The failure of the handle to lock into place turned out to be not a failure of the latching mechanism but a broken lug on the motor case. Sigh. That meant I had to take it apart fairly deeply so I could get at that part of the motor housing to craft a new latching lug or boss. It's just as well, as when I opened up the fan case it was a mess. I blew it out thoroughly with compressed air, removed some ducting and washed it out, etc. Once apart, I also found a broken pawl on the other side that engaged a limit switch so that too had to be reconstructed. That probably happened at the same time as the handle pedal lock. An act of anger or abuse?

Once I opened up the fan case, in addition to the dirt I found a rat's nest of wiring and PC boards. This machine is loaded with electronics. When you first press the on/off switch to power up, you can tell it isn't a direct electrical connection. When you turn it on, you are closing an electronic circuit that then tells the motor to come on. A very different sound. Some of the other PhoneMate machines were just like this; the Retraxx had a direct electrical connection to the power switch, which was mounted low on the back instead of high in the handle like the others.

Anyway, the machine is finished and all back together. I downloaded the manual for it from a Sears site. The whole manual is about 49 pages long, but if you leave off the Spanish and French, you are left with about 16 pages of English. The first five pages or so are just boiler-plate, warnings, denials, etc, so that only leaves you with about ten pages of information, subtracting the one page for warranty info. What I wanted to know about was the electronic carpet height control. The manual was very scant of information about this. It only described what the five LED light positions meant. It didn't say anything about when to or not to engage the adjustment. After getting this thing back together, I think it works thusly: With the handle locked in the upright position and the power on, the electronic height adjustment defaults to the highest carpet setting (remember the limit switch?). When you unlock the handle and tip it back, you then can adjust for carpet height. When you tip the handle back up again, it defaults back to the highest setting.

Although I didn't have to buy any for this machine, parts for the PhoneMate-made Kenmores are considerably less expensive than those made by Panasonic. I did check to see if the broken part of the motor housing was available and if so, how much. Bear in mind this machine was made in 2008 and the on-line Kenmore catalog says that this part is no longer available. What more can I read into this than so many of these broke (like mine) that they are already out of them.

I'm simply not a fan of bagless machines. My experience is that bags work best for filtration. However, some people want only bagless so I get them to recondition and sell to them. Under-filtration is the main problem that I see with bagless machines. Some of the senior Hoover Windtunnel uprights have pretty large filters but even these get gunked-up fairly quickly.

The filtration in this latest PhoneMate/Kenmore is a joke. Yes, it has two chambers (so what?) but both have the baffle tubes in them ("Dual Cylconic Action" where have we heard that before?) which only filter out the big stuff. The real clogging dust goes on to a primary filter that doesn't even make the marginal category in my opinion. The size of this filter is 4.5 x 2.5 x 1.5, that's it. The exhaust filter is approximately the usual size of most Kenmore uprights.

Just today, my wife saved for me a Miele advertisment out of the newspaper. In it, they lambaste the bagless vacuum cleaner concept, calling it a "fad". I wish I could reprint it here.

A few pictures follow.

Post# 158293 , Reply# 1   11/6/2011 at 23:46 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Another picture. Notice this machine still has the Sears store security color tape stuck on the dirt bin. It must've been a "carry out." I left it on just for laughs. There is also a Sears inventory label stuck on one side.

Post# 158294 , Reply# 2   11/6/2011 at 23:48 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Another picture. This one is looking down on the top of the nozzle from the operator's position. It shows the LED lights indicating carpet height.

Post# 158295 , Reply# 3   11/6/2011 at 23:49 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Still another picture. This shows the front of the handle where the two switches are (+ or -) for the carpet height adjustment and below that, the power switch.

Post# 158296 , Reply# 4   11/6/2011 at 23:51 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Still another picture. View looking down from the operator's position. Top of dirt bin and the LED indicators for "dirt finder" feature and "performance indicator."

Post# 158297 , Reply# 5   11/6/2011 at 23:56 (1,968 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Okay, finally the last picture. This shows the back of this rather hefty machine. Definitely not for 90 year old ladies. The attachments are mounted on the back, including a turbo tool, telecoping wand with long crevice tool that nests inside it, and a very cheap little brush that has a removable bristle. I'm not quite finished with this machine; I still have the hose to clean up inside and out. The white hose from the nozzle up to the machine has an automotive hose clamp on it; that's my touch for extra suction.

Post# 158299 , Reply# 6   11/7/2011 at 00:06 (1,968 days old) by Vacuumfreeeke (Orlando, FL)        

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Wow, thanks for sharing. I would have guessed that was a TTI machine.... I didn't even know that Phonemate made vacuums, and for Sears nonetheless! I've seen the Retraxx and also thought it to be TTI.... Lately there's a lot of Kenmores that look like cheap Bissells and I wonder who makes those?

I like that height adjust.... the machine looks like it was made to compete with the Dirt Devil Reaction with the dual sided dirt chamber.... here's a pic for comparison.

You took a lot of great pics, but I'd love to see the brushroll too. What kind of belt does it take? Does the brushroll turn off when upright or for bare floors?

Post# 158300 , Reply# 7   11/7/2011 at 00:09 (1,968 days old) by Vacuumfreeeke (Orlando, FL)        

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Nevermind about the bare floors.... I answered my own question by looking again.... the thing that looks like a handle release is for bare floor/carpet mode and the thing that looks like a cord retractor is for handle release... I'd be stepping on the wrong one all the time! I bet it was broken because someone stepped on the bare floor pedal and forced the handle down! I hate it when handle releases are broken and some of them are pretty involved so I feel your pain there. I do like that all the controls are finger tip or toe touch, no bending over...

Post# 158338 , Reply# 8   11/7/2011 at 12:20 (1,968 days old) by vacman117 (Valparaiso, IN)        

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I remember when those first came out. I had wanted the blue one incredibly bad back then. I think those were sold along with the bagged ones as well, but I could be wrong.

Post# 158388 , Reply# 9   11/8/2011 at 00:23 (1,967 days old) by gmerkt (Edmonds, WA)        

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Yes, PhoneMate made at least one bagged version and I've had one of those. It had the same Progressive name that has been used on so many Panasonic-made Kenmores. A lot of the engineering is done differently on the PhoneMates than that used on Panasonics.

The bare floor feature is a ratchet that puts tension on the belt and lifts it off the motor capstan. It's a little better on the PhoneMate, as there is an actual roller rather than the plain pin used on the Panasonic.

You can tell who makes Kenmore machines by the first three digits of the model number. Panasonic is 116., PhoneMate is 216., the Korean-made canisters are something else, etc. Older Bissell-made machines I think were 175. You can look these codes up online (and all sorts of other Sears products, such as power tools, appliances, and so on).

The pedal release on the side is just a plastic cover that engages the actual release latch underneath. There is a certain way that cover pops out but it isn't too difficult. The side covers are a clever design. However, I don't work on these ever day, so I kept the side covers off the parts Retraxx so I could refresh my memory on how they come off. I don't want to have to re-learn it over and over again and I can't remember everything. They snap on and off a certain way and looking at them from the outside isn't intuitive.

Not being familiar with the Dirt Devil Reaction, I can only judge from the pictures but my guess is the Kenmore Duramatic is heftier. The latter weighs 27 pounds.

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