Thread Number: 35950  /  Tag: 50s/60s/70s Vacuum Cleaners
Servicing vintage vacuums
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Post# 385529   2/6/2018 at 14:58 by Seijun (Portland, OR)        

seijun's profile picture
I am seeking tips and info for general servicing of vintage vacuums. Do you have a checklist that you run through when you get a machine that probably hasn't been serviced in 30 years? I only know the most basic stuff. Cleaning off dirt, pulling pet hair out of the motor, and replacing bags and filters. Should I be oiling or greasing anything? How should I be handling carbon brushes?

Post# 385533 , Reply# 1   2/6/2018 at 16:12 by hooverU4089 (CT)        
You've come to the right place!

Vintage vacuum cleaners often have bearings that can be lubricated. Motor bearings usually need grease. Some, like the top bearing of a Hoover, need to be oiled.

You can expect to find ball bearings in the brushrolls of vintage vacuum cleaners that will need lubrication as well.

As for carbon brushes, only worry about those if the motor is not running properly after servicing the bearings (i.e. not turning on, limited power, excessive noise, sparks).

When first receiving a vacuum cleaner, cleanup comes first. Dispose of any used bags or belts, then remove the brushroll, outer bag, all housings and finally the motor off of the base and clean everything.

I usually start by using another vacuum to get rid of the initial dirt. As for cleaners, Simple Green is good for general cleaning, isopropyl or magic eraser works well on more difficult grime.

Next comes the mechanical work. Bearings should be cleaned out ( I use isopropyl) and then lubricated. The inside of the brushroll often will get dirty and will need to be cleaned before lubrication. I will tend to any loose/exposed/shorted wires and replace burnt light bulbs. After these steps are done, I will test the cleaner out. If the motor exhibits any symptoms described earlier, I will replace the carbon brushes (I am actually doing this on a machine now).

Once in good working order, I will move on to cosmetics. Vinyl outer bags can be treated with Armor All or Vinylex, cloth ones can be machine washed on a gentle cycle, but beware of lettering that may be printed on them as they could get washed off. Scratched plastic housings can be wet sanded and polished with a headlight refinishing kit and metal ones can be buffed. Of course, you could repaint painted features that are severely scratched, but that is quite a bit of work.

Finally, install a new bag and belt and enjoy!

I know I have essentially written an essay about this, but you might be pleasantly surprised at how relatively simple and easy many older vacuum cleaners are to work on.

Post# 385546 , Reply# 2   2/6/2018 at 20:05 by TheSpiritOf76 (Historic Midtown Wichita Kansas. )        
I would also like to add a few things....

thespiritof76's profile picture
I am a firm believer in marking everything so things go back together just as they were. Get a set of colored sharpies, in 5 or 6 different colored. So when you service a machine that has a complicated nest of wires and a 2speed switch you can color code. take small pieces of masking tape, and for 1 wire nut of wires, select one color. Put a piece of tape around each wire in that nut, and then scripple a little of that color of sharpie on each little piece of tape. Then repeat for the rest using different colors. take a moment after you have done that, BEFORE you undo your wire nuts to make certain each bunch has the same color marks. Then after service, you just simply match colors and reassemble.

You also need to go to a craft store and buy a gold paint pen not a sharpie, a gold or sliver leafing paint pen. I use these a lot. I use them to mark how Field coils are installed, and to make sure things get re assembled the right way. and the reason I use a paint pen, is then when I was parts, the paint pen ink does not wash off. so your marks remain.

Now and easy way to take care of carbon brushes, when you dismantle a motor, and you are ready to remove carbon brushes. take care that when they are released, that you catch the brush still partially in its holder. this is so you can see which way the brush is installed. Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way for carbons to be installed, the wrong way will cause some motors to spark, and arch. So, what you do is after you see which part of the brush is facing up, you take a small sharp screwdriver and make a either horizontal or vertical hatch mark in the brush, then you take your paint pen, and make a matching mark on the motor housing so you know which carbon when in on which side, and which way is up.

These few things will really help, just use common sense, and have the courage of your convictions and you will be just fine!

Post# 385566 , Reply# 3   2/6/2018 at 23:10 by broomvac (N/A)        
Miscellaneous tips

broomvac's profile picture
Don't wash bags with screen-printed logos unless you don't want to see the logo again.

High-temperature grease in rolling element bearings.

Non-detergent oil in sleeve bearings.

Always clean a vacuum's wheels and sole plate before running it across nice carpet.

If the sole plate is steel, make sure it is not rusty/rough so as to not destroy your carpet.

Use synthetic cloth HEPA inner bags whenever possible. They maintain performance better and keep outer bags dust free.

Be gentle when tightening screws which thread into plastic. Always tighten by hand, follow the original threads, and never over-tighten.

Unless it's really special, don't bother with a used vacuum which has a damaged outer bag or brush roll. If available, these parts will cost more than the machine is worth.

I'll think of more, but that is it for now.

Good luck.


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