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Thread Number: 33991  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
Rob's Classic Omega restoration...
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Post# 368575   3/17/2017 at 19:45 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

I originally bought this unit in 1995 before I had my first house built, to serve as my sole 'daily driver'. I was young then and had used my mom's original D50 when I had lived with her. Therefore I was totally familiar with the operation, quality and performance of the Kirby. The Omega came from a not-so-nice local 'all-vacuum' shop, which claimed it completely rebuilt every Kirby they sold. I tried the Omega in the store, it looked nice (I was not too picky), and worked well then. I loved the classy rosewood brown color. It came with some basic old D50 attachments, but not a complete set. I think I paid 160 for it all then... To me it was a good price, it was just a vacuum and I used it just like that. And used it. And used it. And used it.... Vacuuming was just a chore, so it was neglected, but it still kept running well. It never broke on me; I just fed it a new belt every year or two when it started slipping, and checked the brushes every so many years.

Around 2003 or so, I replaced the shakeout bag with a Legend II assembly so I could use the better-filtering paper bags. I did not like the dust buildup at the base of the bag. The original pinstriped bag assy was stored away. At that time I had taken the motor case apart to check the brushes and it was filthy inside - much worse than I could have ever made it. Brushes were fine though. I am convinced that this machine was not completely torn down, cleaned, and rebuilt like the shop owner had claimed.

Around 2010, the front wheels started squalling when doing carpet and the motor bearings began emitting an intermittant hissing/scraping sound when running or during spindown. I checked motor brushes again and they were fine. Eventually it would need a rebuild. In this same year I had scored a near-complete set of Omega attachments in the box, as well as a Handi-Butler in the box to add to it. I only need the long wand now (ANYONE HAVE ONE?) A suds o gun would be a nice-have also...

By 2016 the motor bearings were a lot noisier, even making squeaking sounds as it came to a stop; the time for rebuild has come.

Last month I successfully rebuilt my newly acquired Tradition, so the Omega was next, so it will look and run like new, and to outlast me! And just this month I bought a very nice Omega rug renovator set that came with a D50 parts unit. So I ALMOST have the complete attachment sets...

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Post# 368576 , Reply# 1   3/17/2017 at 19:54 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

The 'Omega-squad' project was started earlier than expected, mainly due to us having the warmest February on record. Perfect time to be outside polishing metal!
Before beginning, I took some measurements of the Omega to have as a comparative baseline. These are all on LOW speed, as the speed/safety switch had been bypassed before I bought it long ago.
No hose or bag - 4.83A, 11066 RPM
With new HEPA bag, no hose - 4.3A, 11800 RPM
With new HEPA bag and hose - 3.6A, higher than above RPM
With new HEPA bag and rug attachment on carpet, moving slowly - 4.8A
Commutator bar wear - 0.075"

Teardown was pretty straightforward. Most of what I had learned on the Tradition applied to the Omega. There were some differences, but I was able to figure them out without issue. For example, the belt lifter being held on by a screw under the decorative label, the dump bag vs the paper bags, metal fan vs plastic, the handle lock switch, etc.

Metal fan with '74' stamped in it appeared original. It wore many small nicks and dings, but looked good except for one bent blade. I did not want to try to straighten it as die-cast breaks easily. It worked okay for this long, so it can again.

The bearings in this unit were very bad. Both were marked 'NTN Japan ' - might these be originals? I see NTN still exists today. The front bearing was quite loose and noisy. The rear had some slight resistance but I could feel the balls bumping over dried globs of grease. A quick spin proved it to be noisy. It looked like it had spun in the rear housing holder, too.
Motor brushes were 1/2" long (when new they are 3/4") so they were position-marked for reuse. I had bought a new set of brushes in 2006 or so but just never needed them. Apparently they last a LONG time! They are larger than the D50's brushes that I remember my mom replacing a few times in her machine.

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Post# 368578 , Reply# 2   3/17/2017 at 20:03 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Both the Legend II bag assembly and the original dump bag assembly were disassembled, washed, and reassembled. The dump bag will be for show, the Legend assembly will be used for cleaning. I washed & rinsed the bags in a bucket outside before rinsing them some more in the washing machine. On the dump bag, GOOP hand cleaner helped remove black stains from contact with the aluminum handle.

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Post# 368579 , Reply# 3   3/17/2017 at 20:06 by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

kirbyclassiciii's profile picture

Your Omega looks terrific! It appears your metal fan is still original going by the fact it says "74" on it.

Here's my 1974 Kirby Classic Omega. The original warning label and pinstriped bag are not present. Before I restored it, the headlight cap that came with it when I got it was broken and the cap spring was gone, as was the suction relief vent on the nozzle which had duct tape over its opening.


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This post was last edited 03/17/2017 at 20:39
Post# 368580 , Reply# 4   3/17/2017 at 20:11 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

All non-greasy parts not held together with rivets or wires were disassembled and washed with simple green. Mineral spirits removed old grease from non-plastic parts.
The Tradition I had hand-polished and it looked very good. I polished the Omega with a 4" buffing wheel on my cordless drill - it worked wonders! It came out much better than the Tradition and even took out small scratches and corrosion marks! No sanding was needed on this one. The pictures do not show the beautiful shine!

The one-row brush roll was replaced with a two row roll that I got from a parts-unit Heritage I. I took it apart, cleaned it, lubed it and reassembled it. However the Heritage roll had shorter adjustment screws so I had to reuse the screws from the original roll. The belt was reused since it was recently replaced.

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Post# 368581 , Reply# 5   3/17/2017 at 20:17 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

How many parts make up a Kirby Classic Omega?
Oops - I had put the brushroll together already...

Assembly went well with no issues, aside from the brushroll screw issue above...
Fan case was resealed with silicon and I did not even get any on me!

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Post# 368582 , Reply# 6   3/17/2017 at 20:24 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

On the Omega's first run after resto, I was impressed. It sounded so much better than it did before. What really surprised me was that the newer brushroll gave it an almost-self-propelled feature! I hate to say this, but I cannot wait to have to vacuum again!
Of course it looks so nice now that I am reluctant to store it back in the laundry room - it looks better on display in the front room!

Here are some tests after restoration (again all on low speed)...
No fan - 2.45A, 16300 RPM
With fan, open (free air) - 6.6A, 8300 RPM
Assembled, no bag, No hose - 5.1A, 10700 RPM
No hose, original bag - 5.0A, 10800 RPM
No hose, new HEPA bag - 4.87A, 11200 RPM (Hepa bag more restrictive than the dump bag)
Rug nozzle up, down/moving - 5.3A, 5.6A
Hose, orig bag - 3.7A
Do note that as the motor warms up from normal use, the RPM increases some and current decreases some.

Another successful resto!

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Post# 368585 , Reply# 7   3/17/2017 at 20:44 by wyaple (Ohio, USA)        
Rob, What Do You Use To Measure

RPM's on your Kirby. I have an FFT app on my phone, but that's not very precise.

Great resto! I take it you either replaced or re-greased that noisy bearing? Since it appeared to have a rubber seal, I usually clean all the junk out and re-lube with Mobil EMB grease.


Post# 368586 , Reply# 8   3/17/2017 at 21:10 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

The tach is an optical type from Harbor Freight. I cut a 3" round disc from black corrugated cardboard, poked a hole in the center, and pressed it over the motor shaft. The silver detection tape was stuck to the disc.
For what it is, it is pretty accurate. I originally bought this to check vintage turntable platters, but I have been checking lots of other stuff with it also.

The bearings were replaced since they were only 6 bucks apiece from my Kirby service center. If the NTN bearings were original, then they lasted 35 years. This means that the new bearings should almost outlive myself!

Post# 368618 , Reply# 9   3/18/2017 at 15:29 by CharlesKirby66 (Manteca, CA)        

charleskirby66's profile picture

Yet another gorgeous restoration!  Great job!  Makes me want to tackle my DS 50!

Post# 368700 , Reply# 10   3/19/2017 at 13:41 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Thanks Charles! I have a 505 in the works right now and then my mom's DS50 will be done this fall. If you tackle your DS50 and have questions or issues, just let me know!

Post# 368711 , Reply# 11   3/19/2017 at 14:48 by TheSpiritOf76 (Historic Midtown Wichita Kansas. )        
Here is my

thespiritof76's profile picture

Omega that I rebuilt. I have a original bag waiting in the wings for it.

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Post# 368727 , Reply# 12   3/19/2017 at 20:04 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Sorry I missed your post - I just now saw it tangled up in all mine! :o)
Interesting you mention the warning label - is there a source for reproductions? I got mine off intact but it is not pretty anymore. I would like to put it back for historical reasons.

Spirit of 76,
Nice job on your Omega! I really like the dark-chocolate brown and the gleaming metal! Bag looks good - what did it come from?

Post# 370450 , Reply# 13   4/10/2017 at 20:53 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        
Amazing Omega!

Now that's a shine! You've just convinced me to get a buffing wheel. I have to go to the parts store this week to get a bearing puller, anyways. The bearings should be in two weeks from now for my Tradition. What a shine that Omega has! And ditto Ben on the sticker for the belt lifter. If you know, it would be great to find out.


Post# 370505 , Reply# 14   4/11/2017 at 20:48 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        

Yes, the 4" wheel on my drill and Mothers mag polish worked wonders.
The decal Ben and I were discussing is the "Warning - do not use on wet surfaces" one. I had to remove it for polishing. It came off in one piece but is in bad shape. Yes, I am a purist for silly things like that.

Now the belt lifter decal is available from kirbyfans for 1.85 and my local shop for 0.98. (If you ever order from kirbyfans, DO get all you need at once and 'request invoice' so you get a really good shipping deal.)

Post# 370529 , Reply# 15   4/12/2017 at 07:51 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        


I too, when it comes to restoring things right, am a purist. For instance, whenever I finally do start the Tradition restoration, despite the suction being compromised by the Style 1 bag system, I will nevertheless, use it, as it is the original setup for that vacuum. The Heritage is my mod machine, and it is only modded with an LED headlight and the newer twist type bag system. I couldn't bear to do much more to it. My 517, I am debating an all original restoration, or just a refreshing of what's already on the machine. The bag (which is Genuine Kirby replacement circa 1976) and the cord are the only things I would consider keeping -not- original on that machine, and that's only because it is Kirby that put it there when it was refurbished. Since it is a part of the machine's history, you know. So thus, I keep it. The 560 belt lifter, however, has GOT to go, and I already have a NOS original coming for it to correct that problem. Lol! I will though keep the 560 belt lifter for when I get a 560! Heheheh.

You were able to find the Tradition Label for the belt lifter without buying the belt lifter?! I can't find it anywhere on his site. I'd love to get just the "Tradition" label, as the rest of the belt lifter is perfectly intact!


Post# 370587 , Reply# 16   4/12/2017 at 20:10 by texaskirbyguy (Plano, TX)        
You confused me!

Tim, since we were in the Omega thread, I thought you were looking for an Omega belt lifter label. (I thought you had an Omega as well, but that coulda been someone else here.)
The Omega BL label is available as stated above.
The Tradition BL label I have not seen, nor have I looked. Add that to your list to take to your Kirby shop. I will try to remember to ask my guy here next month if he has one in a dusty bin. If he does I can mail one to you.

Post# 370592 , Reply# 17   4/12/2017 at 20:41 by KirbyKleanKarpet (Florida )        

Will do, and thank you, sir!

And sorry about the confusion.


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