Thread Number: 39019  /  Tag: Recent Vacuum Cleaners from past 20 years
$10 Sanitaire!
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Post# 414127   9/22/2019 at 17:48 (290 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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I've been known to gripe about the lack of decent quality vacuum cleaners at thrift stores around here, but today I made a score. I just got home from Goodwill with a Sanitaire SC686 upright vacuum cleaner, for which I paid the princely sum of $10. I'm not sure how old it is but it's in very nice shape--red plastic chassis with chrome metal motor shroud and triangular selector knob. It's nice and shiny, albeit a little dusty. The only part that is missing or broken is the lower cord hook but those are dirt cheap online with ridiculous economies of scale coming into play. One lower hook would cost me $4.50 while three complete sets of upper and lower hooks goes for $7.50. Go figure... They must break off a lot in commercial settings, where they'd likely be subjected to more abuse.

I gave it the Persian rug test when I got home (vacuuming cat hair off of a Persian rug) and was a bit disappointed with the result. Although the bag inflates nicely, indicating suction, the brush roll, which appears to be in great shape, spins a bit slowly momentarily hesitates before it starts spinning when the unit is turned on. I think the belt is a big part of the problem. To prove that theory. I replaced it with a spare that came with it. That was a bear to get on. I had to use a screwdriver to stretch it over the motor hub and it snapped immediately when I turned the thing on. The original belt went on way easier but it's stretched and misshapen, apparently from sitting in place with the machine not running for a very long time. I'm also kind of disappointed that it's a dump bag model instead of one that uses an inner filter bag.

I've got ten days to decide whether to keep it, so I'll spend some time tinkering with it and see if I can't get it working better.

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Post# 414128 , Reply# 1   9/22/2019 at 18:06 (290 days old) by KirbyClassicIII (Milwaukie, Oregon)        

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Wow! For $10 you just purchased this Sanitaire dating from around 1980!


Post# 414131 , Reply# 2   9/22/2019 at 18:56 (290 days old) by eurekaprince (Montreal, Canada)        

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Get a nice fresh bag of Sanitaire/Eureka round belts from your local dealer. They are a challenge to install, but not impossible. Don’t use a screwdriver. Use your hands, maybe with some rubber gloves to get a good grip. You want to set the belt in place on the brushroll first, then install the brush roll, then position yourself towards the bag side of the power head to pull the belt over the pulley. You can remove the bag to get your body in better alignment to pull on the belt.

Why not get a brand new Eureka Vibra-Groomer brush roll to really bring this Sanitaire to life?

They are great basic carpet cleaners....from the golden era of Bloomington’s Eureka Williams Company.

Post# 414134 , Reply# 3   9/22/2019 at 21:09 (289 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Wow, 1980. I had no idea it was that old. If that's the case, this thing has hardly seen any action, much less the commercial type action for which it was designed. I had assumed it was newer than that and thus posted my find in the 'Contemporary' forum instead of 'Vintage'. I had a girlfriend a few years ago who used one of these in her house as her only vacuum. I remember it working better than this one, so I'm sure a tune-up is in order.

The machine definitely needs a belt. What's on there is a bit dry rotted and cracked, not to mention it's more than a little bit stretched out. It also has a thin spot where it sat on the hub without moving for a very extended period of time. I'm sure it's only a matter of time before it gives way. I think the spare belt had probably hardened and maybe even shrunk over time, contributing to its immediate failure. My screwdriver installation method involved putting the belt on the brush roll and reinstalling that, then pulling the belt with the screwdriver up to the hub and then turning the screwdriver around the hub so the belt would follow and seat itself. I also want to check the height adjustment mechanism. It seems to either have almost no resistance or it's almost impossible to turn.

I'm thinking it'll be a keeper but not necessarily a daily driver. Not that I vacuum daily, anyway.

Post# 414137 , Reply# 4   9/22/2019 at 23:27 (289 days old) by Lesinutah (Utah)        

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My sanitaire newer blue line edition and my 1989 eureka imperial are beasts. I got 137 CFM from my sentria. I pulled 142 CFM from the older eureka and 141 from sanitaire. If you spend $50 you can get s&t bag, fan, brushroll, fan, belt and bags. If looking for just the belt maybe $2. Every vacuum shop has these. The eureka had stock bag fan was good is bearings spun a little bit. The eureka was 840 watts 7 amp motor and sanitaire I spent about$50 replacing all mentioned. I'd get a belt and put I on. I'd check where bag connects to the vacuum for a clog. I'd imagine just the belt is needed.
Once you have the belt on try it out. It deep cleans carpet very well. It needs height up because it's similar to eating ends of the rugs easily. You will notice hair catches on the brush roll and it sucks on hard wood floors. It is a direct air motor. You got a good deal. The vacuum and a Bbelt your out $12. The vacuum is worth it. Let us know when you get the belt.

Post# 414139 , Reply# 5   9/23/2019 at 03:50 (289 days old) by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
I'm bettin it's the belt

and possibly a clog or lots of hair wrapped around the roller bearings. I have an SC888 and it has same motor. It's one of the most aggressive vacs. I have. As Les pointed out, you can convert to top fill paper bags, even hepa! Watch that you get Eureka belts and not the smaller Hoover belts. By the time my Hoover belt gets stretched, I can usually put in on Eureka and get more mileage from belt.Unleash the beast!

Post# 414182 , Reply# 6   9/23/2019 at 16:18 (289 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Yeah, I've ordered an 8-pack of belts and three complete sets of hose hooks It's overkill, I know, but parts for this thing are so damned cheap. The brush roll is in excellent shape, no sign of hair wrapped on the bearings and it spins easily when out of the machine. Cat fur appears to be mostly collecting on the bristles from the Persian rug rather than being sucked up, so I'll check for a clog. I took the bag loose at the machine end before I bought the vacuum and it was a bear to put back into place. It didn't want to go down far enough for the latch to engage. The fan looks to be in very good shape but one thing's for certain, this sucker is hard as hell to push. I didn't see any markings on the brush roll to indicate a left and a right. Is there a right and a wrong way to put it in?

Post# 414184 , Reply# 7   9/23/2019 at 16:47 (289 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        
Update--No Clogs...

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I took the bag off again and there are definitely no clogs in the pathway between the motor housing and the bag. I can look into the opening and see all the way to the fan--no obstructions, whatsoever. The bag inflates instantly when the machine is turned on, so there aren't any obstructions there, either--and there was cat hair and Persian rug fibers in the throat of the bag, so some of it was indeed getting sucked up. There's also a fair amount of dust and dirt around the opening where the bag seats, so I'm thinking a good wipe-down with a disinfecting wipe is probably in order, both for the sake of sanitation and a nice firm fit. It only took me about three tries to re-install the bag this time, so maybe my technique is improving. It'll probably be even easier when it's cleaned.

Post# 414188 , Reply# 8   9/23/2019 at 17:17 (289 days old) by kloveland (Tulsa, OK)        
Also check

the fan. Since it was probably used commercially the fan may need to be replaced. I've had a few of the Eureka 1400 series with poor performance and the fan blades were worn down. Some right down to the nubs but still produced just enough air to fill out the bag.

Post# 414196 , Reply# 9   9/23/2019 at 21:13 (288 days old) by eurekaprince (Montreal, Canada)        

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There is a correct way to install the brush roll as it should match up with the metal cover plate. There is a smaller “window” and a larger “window” in the cover plate, and the brush roll needs to be installed so that the belt is covered by the bar between the windows. Also make sure to align the belt so that it matches up with the groove in the suction channel. If you don’t do this, the brush roll ends up spinning in the wrong direction.

Post# 414197 , Reply# 10   9/23/2019 at 21:41 (288 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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From what I can see of the fan without doing a full teardown on the machine--looking up from the underneath with the bottom plate removed and looking in from the hole where the bag attaches--the fan is in remarkably good shape for an almost 40-year-old commercial grade vacuum cleaner. Other than the missing cord hook, the only real 'battle scars' are paint scuffs on the rubber bumper along the sides of the machine, but not the front. It's as if it was used mainly to clean a corridor. The wheels minimal wear on their rolling surfaces, so maybe the corridor had wall-to-wall carpet. Even the bottom plate only shows minor scuffs and the shiny metal motor shroud shows almost no wear at all, like it was seldom, if ever run under low furniture The cord and plug are also relatively clean and undamaged, as is the heavy canvas dump bag, which shows no tears, snags, stains or fading. If this thing was used commercially, it got extremely light use, perhaps for only a short period of time. The flattened spots on the belt would indicate sat unused--presumably in a cool, dry place--for a good many years. It definitely was not run into the ground as one would expect a commercial machine to be. The photos below were taken before I did any cleaning on it.

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Post# 414253 , Reply# 11   9/25/2019 at 16:51 (287 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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So I've cleaned the vacuum up, especially around the opening where the dump bag attaches to the motor unit, and I just attempted to vacuum my bedroom with it. The thing did better on the realtor beige carpet than on the Persian rug in the dining room but it was still too hard to push and after a couple of minutes, I started smelling hot rubber. I turned the machine over and the brush roll wasn't even spinning at first. It started about two seconds after I turned it over. I'm 99 percent sure the problem is with the belt. It may still be in one piece but it's done. I'm not doing any more testing until the belts I ordered arrive next week. Hopefully, I'll figure out what's wrong before I snap them all. I also plan to hit the brush roller's bearings with some teflon lube before I fire it up again and I still have questions about the height adjuster, which doesn't seem to do much. when I turn the knob.

Post# 414254 , Reply# 12   9/25/2019 at 18:31 (287 days old) by eurekaprince (Montreal, Canada)        

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Like most height adjusters, start with the Dial-a-Nap at the highest position and turn it lower one step at a time until you hear the Vibra Groomer sweeping the nap. Usually one more setting lower will give you the optimum position. These Eurekas can be very powerful and you don’t want it to “suction lock” on the carpet which could cause the brush roll to stop turning and burn up the belt. As always on deep pile carpet you want some airflow to clean the carpet properly.

Post# 414264 , Reply# 13   9/25/2019 at 21:07 (286 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Thanks for that explanation. I think I was setting it too low. I'll experiment further once the new belts come in.

Post# 414364 , Reply# 14   9/28/2019 at 15:09 (284 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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The new belts arrived a little while ago, delayed a day by USPS' infinite capacity for error. Tracking shows they were inexplicably diverted from here to another town an hour away. But be that as it may, I got one of the new belts on the Sanitaire and it's now a dirt-sucking beast on the highest 'Shag' setting.

I'm still waiting on the cord hooks I ordered. I'll probably have them around the middle of next week and then I can put the 'done' stamp on this machine unless I decide to retrofit it with a top fill bag system.

Post# 414461 , Reply# 15   9/30/2019 at 16:04 (282 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        
The Sanitaire is completed...

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So the replacement cord hooks arrived today and the Sanitaire is now complete. What I got were generic replacements but the quality seems to be quite comparable to the original, even if the color is a little off. The replacements are kind of a dove gray while the original top hook is more of an ivory. But for just $7.49 for three complete sets, I really can't complain. Besides, it's likely only a matter of time before the top hook breaks and two match again. I'm sure somebody's thinking that if it's that much of an issue, why not go ahead and replace the top hook before it breaks and maybe I'll do that one day, but not today. I may, at some unspecified future date, do the filter bag conversion but for now, I'm putting the "DONE" stamp on the Sanitaire.

Post# 414476 , Reply# 16   9/30/2019 at 22:06 (281 days old) by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
I got reemed

I paid 4.95 for one set of cord hooks. Oh well, live and learn!

Post# 414480 , Reply# 17   9/30/2019 at 22:53 (281 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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It's amazing what you can find on eBay if you're willing to scroll through a few hundred listings. The economies of scale for Sanitaire parts in bulk quantities are unreal. Right now, I'm into the machine, including the spare belts and cord hooks, for $25 and change so it has been a fun and economical project. Now that Kirby Legend II, on the other hand...

Post# 414577 , Reply# 18   10/4/2019 at 09:17 (278 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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Here's a video that confirms a lot of my recent observations about Sanitaire vacuum cleaners. It's a tough, no-nonsense, no-frills machine that's designed to be rebuilt, not thrown away. Apparently, demand for replacement parts is high enough that manufacturers can achieve economies of scale and thus offer them cheaply, especially to commercial customers who typically buy them in bulk quantities. The machine he's tearing down is a newer model than mine and I like the removable fan cover, which mine doesn't have.


Post# 414609 , Reply# 19   10/5/2019 at 00:53 (277 days old) by kirbyklekter (Concord,Ca.)        
Watched the videos

I've got one just like the one he's working on except lucky me I have a headlight on mine. SC888. I was trying to read the serial no. on his but the camera guy wasn't cooperating. The first of the three I have is a real oldie, It has a red metal hood, no lite and a black base,plastic. I suspect that this was somebodies Sanenstein or Frankentaire or... The 2nd Sanitaire I have is the Blueline model,(for the home) which has chrome hood with lite and the paper F & G bag inside a blue zippered cloth bag. It's really the fancier of the three and performs just as well as the two red commercial duty vacs. It's like a 'souped up' Eureka ESP of the same time. The difference between the blue and red lines as I see is the reds have shake out cloth bags and 3-pin commercial cord and plug.I do like the wider rear wheels and easy access to the fan. I've been listening to the second video while typing this and something just happened while he had a cleaner running so I better go watch!

Post# 416714 , Reply# 20   11/29/2019 at 12:48 (222 days old) by sanitairewill (Hampstead maryland)        

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The serial number does NOT tell the build date on Sanitaires or sanitaire knockoffs. The year it was built is in a circled nipple in the removable fan chamber and the non quick kleen models it's on the base in the same area

Post# 416754 , Reply# 21   11/30/2019 at 18:18 (221 days old) by human (Pines of Carolina)        

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My Sanitaire does not have the removable fan chamber cover but the numbers surrounding the nipple are 18 and 4. I assume that would translate to the 18th week (somewhere around mid-May) of 1984.

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