Thread Number: 38895  /  Tag: 80s/90s Vacuum Cleaners
Running a 120v AC vacuum from 12v DC
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Post# 413040   8/23/2019 at 18:27 (316 days old) by Rowdy141 (Biryani)        

I've just stumbled upon this YouTube video, where a 120v vacuum cleaner motor is simply converted to run from a car battery.

Guillermo J Garzon
"How to make 120 volts vacuum motor work on 12 volts dc"

Does this mean we can convert our favourite vacuums to run from a car cigarette lighter socket?

I do like the idea of having a full-sized Royal or Kirby vacuum as a hand-held, kept in the trunk(boot), ready to clean the car with hose attachments & Zipp Brush.

Could it really be this simple?

Alan (UK)
(Finger poised on eBay [Buy-it-Now] button for 120v Royal Vac)

Post# 413041 , Reply# 1   8/23/2019 at 18:59 (316 days old) by aaron158 (Canada)        

u need what is called a power inverter

Post# 413042 , Reply# 2   8/23/2019 at 19:41 (316 days old) by Rowdy141 (Biryani)        

Hi Aaron,

If they're unmodified, yes. But did you watch his video? He uses no Inverter. Just a standard Car Battery to run a simply-modified Eureka.


n.b. I couldn't get a cut 'n' paste link to work. You'll need to find his YouTube video by Title or Author.

Post# 413044 , Reply# 3   8/23/2019 at 21:47 (316 days old) by huskyvacs (Midwest)        

huskyvacs's profile picture
Your battery would only last about less than 5 minutes and be unchargeable ever again. That motor in that video is a 12 amp Eureka motor from 2014. It was not even spinning at 1/5th of its power, so how is it going to work to do anything? All he did was make it spin around and make noise, there is no videos anywhere of it working in a vacuum, because it can not and will not.

Also you live in the UK, where your power is 240V. Would never work. Just get something they call an extension cord, run it out to the car and vacuum. Not a big deal.

Just because there is a video on YouTube does not make it true. A lot of people that have 0 knowledge put pointless videos like that up.

If you really want a car vacuum, go out and get a 12V car vac, but always better to have a large wall power canister or tank vacuum for doing cars. Something that has no dirty fan cleaner that will be safe sucking up change and rocks and whatnot that's in a car.

I bought an industrial Clarke power sander vacuum from the 1960's to use as a car vac. $60 barn find. It will suck the carpet off the floor no question, and I bought a car wash style tool kit that fits its hose opening, which comes in handy.

Post# 413045 , Reply# 4   8/23/2019 at 22:32 (316 days old) by crazykirbydude (Lexington, KY)        

crazykirbydude's profile picture
I tried plugging a Dirt Devil stick vac into an inverter once. All it did was "pulse."

Post# 413048 , Reply# 5   8/23/2019 at 23:26 (316 days old) by fan-of-fans (USA)        

fan-of-fans's profile picture
There is a video or two on YouTube of people touching the plug of their Hoover Constellation to a 9 volt battery. You can hear the motor whirring a bit.

Post# 413049 , Reply# 6   8/23/2019 at 23:39 (316 days old) by Rowdy141 (Biryani)        

Thanks Huskyvacs,

I figured he didn't know a great deal, when he says he doesn't understand why it works in the same direction when he switches polarity.

I can't practically run an extension cord from home to car.
So I was thinking of an Inverter and a USA 120v vac. Like a Royal 501. Presuming a 120v Inverter may offer better Amperage than 240v? That's when I found his video clip.

The 12v car vacs I've seen are little more than dolls-house toys. Most secondhand ones have only ever been used once or twice. With good reason. I've often thought a built-in vacuum for cars wouldn't go amiss. Perhaps with engine running? They do built-in tyre inflators now, apparently.

I guess I'll go for some sort of rechargeable small domestic, battery-operated.

Could you please expand details of your industrial Clarke power sander vacuum?


Post# 413050 , Reply# 7   8/23/2019 at 23:42 (316 days old) by Rowdy141 (Biryani)        

Thanks Fan-of-fans!
I feel REALLY gullible now 😀
I guess I've been lucky and selective, in those I've watched - 'til now.

Post# 413051 , Reply# 8   8/23/2019 at 23:56 (316 days old) by fan-of-fans (USA)        

fan-of-fans's profile picture
They do make cars with built in vacuums. The Honda Odyssey and Chrysler Pacifica minivans have them, possibly others. They're 12 V and I think mostly just suited for spills and quick cleanups. Not strong enough for getting sand out of carpet, etc.

I used to collect those little car vacs and yeah, they weren't that powerful, and yeah, despite being older, never were used. The best one I had was the Black and Decker model I got for Christmas '96 that looked like the Dustbuster but was 12V and came with 1 1/4" attachments. Still not that great though.

I still see the 12V wet/dry handvacs and little shop vac looking canisters in stores though.

Post# 413054 , Reply# 9   8/24/2019 at 02:30 (316 days old) by MadMan (Chicago, IL, USA)        

madman's profile picture
Seeing as how nobody else could copy/paste the youtube link, I thought I'd do it for you...

I'm still not 100% sure what the guy in the video did. It looks like he put the two field coils in series with each other, and then the armature in series with that... which is kind of silly, because they were already in a big series string, just in a different order. I think he might have intended to disable a field coil to reduce the resistance of the motor. Not sure. Of course, no matter what he did, there will be a significant loss of power, because the motor is simply not designed to operate on 12v.

The reason car vacs are 'doll house toys' are because they are designed to work within the maximum ampacity of a typical cigarette lighter outlet. Which... isn't very much. Typically 10 or 15A. Remember that the lower the voltage, the higher the amperage. Watts remain constant. Because of this, though, the lower the voltage, the thicker the wire needed to deliver the same wattage.

Incidentally, I believe low voltage motors also require thicker winding wires, making them heavier and more expensive than an equivalent mains voltage motor. (Also, most DC motors are permanent magnet motors, and magnets are heavy [though this makes them easily reversible]).

For example, a 5A vacuum motor at 120v = 600w. To deliver an equivalent power at 12v, you'd need 50A. Which is a lot of juice in car terms. Consider that an ordinary car's alternator's capacity is usually less than 100A. You'd also need 10AWG wire (~6mm).

However. Here's something interesting. A car's HVAC blower fan is not a far cry from an acceptable vacuum cleaner motor/fan arrangement. For inexpensive cars, they're fairly cheap too. You could easily buy one for 30 pound, and make your own vacuum... out of a bucket or something. You'd need a direct - but fused - connection to the battery, and have to be running the engine (and NOTHING else) while using it. But very much possible and I'm sure much better than the crappy car vacs available. Blower fans are usually only about 30A, however, so don't expect a Royal's capability.

As for an inverter... it *should* work. As long as the inverter is capable of outputting the vacuum's wattage. I don't think either 120 or 240v would be more advantageous than the other. Bear in mind inverters are usually sold by maximum output wattage, and not the wattage that can be reliably drawn constantly. They will usually put that number somewhere in smaller font size. I just saw a $70 inverter on amazon. Labeled 2000W. In the fine print, it says 'make sure not to use more than 1000w.' Again, the inverter would have to have a direct (fused) and solid connection to the battery.

I would also use a regular vacuum with a normal universal motor for that, not some complicated brushless DC motor Dyson or whatever (although they might technically have less issues on an inverter).

A universal motor will work just fine on any frequency, or even DC, and should not mind being on an inverter's imperfect AC power.


Post# 413058 , Reply# 10   8/24/2019 at 08:41 (315 days old) by Rowdy141 (Biryani)        

Perhaps when Electric Cars take off (and we have more than four charging-points in the UK) you'll see rows of new shiny Teslas recharging - and Alan cleaning his old beat up car with a full-sized Kirby connected to their charging sockets 😊

Post# 413060 , Reply# 11   8/24/2019 at 12:29 (315 days old) by vacuumlad1650 (Chicago Suburbs)        

vacuumlad1650's profile picture
You also have to think, a car battery runs on Direct current, but a vacuum motor is made to run off of Alternating current.

You could wither find a 12 volt DC motor to fit or get a power converter to run it properly off the battery. Know that those power converters have a load limit as well.

Post# 413121 , Reply# 12   8/27/2019 at 03:51 (313 days old) by Vaclover (Freestate, Virginia, South Africa)        
Vacuum cleaner motors are mostly universal...

Vacuum cleaner motors are mostly universal Ac/Dc Motors. It can run off of Mains or battery. But it must be more or less the same voltage. It will run with a small voltage like 12V but you wont be able to use it. I think with DC the motor will run a little unnoticable bit stronger. If you take out the field coils of a vacuum cleaner motor and can manage to work in two strong magnets where the field coils where, you connect the + and - incoming leads to the two brushes, it will be stronger on 12 Volt, but it will work beat on something like 24 or 32 Volts.

Post# 413460 , Reply# 13   9/6/2019 at 08:03 (302 days old) by Collector2 (Moose Jaw, Sk)        

collector2's profile picture
While vacuum motors will run on A/C or D/C the switches in most new ones wont stand up to DC as the gap in them is too small and DC will arc across burning them out.

Likewise you have to remember that to get the same power out of a motor it is an inverse correlation between voltage and amperage required. Eg a motor made for 120V will draw 10 A while a motor made for 240V will only draw 5A to produce the same degree of power. This is why most heavy duty machines, like large air conditioners, are 240 V in the US instead of 120 V. So if a motor were to be re wound to work on 12 Volt you would require a much heavier gauge cord to accommodate the greatly increased current it would draw.

If you look at the old machines that were made for farms that ran a 32 Volt DC system in the early part of the 20th century this is readily apparent. A good example of this is the model 12 Electrolux's that I have in my collection. The 32V example has a very heavy cord as it draws about 11 Amps while the 110 V model only draws a little over 3 Amps and the 220 V model only draws a little over 1 Amp.

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