Dyson DC14

With an impending first home on the horizon, the marriage of interests between all things tech/elec and housey has come about. What could be more iconic an item then than a vacuum cleaner, the home owners equivalent of a Jedi knight’s lightsaber. Not content with buying one, I wanted to build my own so-to-speak.

Dyson is quality, at it’s core is the commercial realisation of heavily designed/re-engineered everyday products. The Dyson DC14 is a much loved long standing model, and unlike most companies, Dyson refuse to integrate deprecation features that mean the unit becomes junk in a couple of years. Not only will the original product last for many years (our family vacuum is a DC14, 11 years old and still going strong), the spares market is huge. Unlike a product which has reached the point of ‘tack-on’ improvements, making the item very difficult to work on (common in all arenas: computing, cars, etc.), the Dyson is designed from the ground up. This might sound like an ethereal pointless concept, but it translates into the very real practicality of a machine that fits together like Duplo Lego bricks.

Along with the excellent availability of parts from the internet (Ebay & Amazon) second hand units can be found in abundance ‘he just said they are great, why people selling em cheap?’ They get sold for various reasons, the most common being that people decide they don’t work well any more or they know something is broken, due to the initial high price, the ‘broken’ item still seems to have some worth. Also there’s a sizeable industry of people buying units and turning them around with varying amounts of work. Enterprising souls will hoover up anything and re-sell jay-cloth wiped units and job-lot anything more problematic to more experienced traders.

When buying a second hand unit to repair as per this blog post, look for the following in order:

  1. Good plastics – the overall body isn’t as easy or cheap to replace, so you want a sound unit, this is the bit hiding between the bin and the cable loop – analogous to a spine.
  2. Decide if you want clutched (all floors) or un-clutched (original). The difference being that the brush bar will always rotate, potentially scratching hard floors, the clutched model is slightly harder to work on, but a better unit. If the listing is unclear, look for the control foot knob as shown in orange on the base of the unit.
  3. Preferably find a unit with a good brush bar housing (the bit with Dyson written on it), it’s the more expensive of the easily replaced items.
  4. Look for rusting and signs of workshop use, it’s a stalwart but not a wet/dry or hard debris machine.
  5. Make sure they’ll post it, a tank or two of petrol negates the exercise, most are collection only. That said, if there’s one local to you bonus!
  6. Don’t worry about filters, attachments (a common non-genuine part being a straight crevice tool, doesn’t fit flush to the body), hoses, brushes, electrical cord, switch as they can be bought easily.

The best (cost/condition) unit I found was £50 + £8 courier. Was looking at spending ~£80 for a new basic model from another manufacturer. The seller on eBay listed the item as cleaned/serviced with cleaned filters… Complete bollocks, the bin came with a free inch of dirt, the cyclone had matted hair and fluff one of the brush-bar rollers wasn’t, the whole thing was unloved and filthy. Starting it up, was ok when upright, awful sound and smell when used for carpet cleaning. The eBay purchase can be seen here (until it’s removed).

dc14_dirty_1

dc14_dirty_2

dc14_dirty_3 dc14_dirty_4

So full strip to clean & check everything, knowledge on how to disassemble the less obvious parts can be found on YouTube. T10 and T15 long-handled drivers are required to remove screws set deep within the body (eBay/Amazon few quid each). If removing the brush-bar, please get a Dyson belt change tool, it costs about £5 and you’ll be happy to pay twice that if you try levering off with a screwdriver (this is pretty dangerous). Success the first time round using a bit of string to manoeuvre the belt, and while no blood or tears, I did level-up patience. Picture taken after starting rebuild, the motor is back in housing and base fixed to spine. The Cyclone is reassembled into the bin along with gasket, cyclone plate and lid separate.

dc14_Rebuild

I’ve not gone into much detail, as the videos found on YouTube are great. In addition to basic cleaning, the plastic responds well to light use of wet&dry paper on any heavily scratched areas and rubbing compound (automotive paint prep, think toothpaste++) for persistent marks. As shown in the final pictures the unit is vastly improved.

dc14_clean

Learn from my mistake: Dyson don’t support the idea of opening the clutch to change belts, so they don’t sell clutch belts. If you see belts for sale, they’re main belts for non-clutched units. As it is, a new genuine Dyson clutch with belts already fitted costs £15, not much more than the belts, so while bonus points can be earned (if you have c-clip pliers, ball-bearings, washers, seals and three hands), it’s just not worth the hassle.

Filters as mentioned are readily available and cheap, for £5 a set of pre and post filters are available. Look for a pre-filter, blue one in the top lid, with the yellow plastic housing, because this also has an integral mesh filter. The white pad is the post motor filter it hides in the less accessible lug-clipped housing under the bin.

dc14_rusty_rollbar

The previous owner had left/used the unit in wet conditions, evidenced by a couple of rusted roller pins. The main problem was a rusted spindle and bushes in the brush-bar. Fitted to the unit the brush should roll by the force of your thumb, out of the unit it should freely rotate. As pictured the brush had seized up due to corrosion, fortunately a replacement can be had for £10. The sized bar caused the motor to strain and the clutch to burn out, damaging the belts, if left running for long it would likely have damaged the motor. Though a new motor can be had for around £35, it was nice to avoid the spend. Shown rebuilt with clean carpet post test.

dc14_tested

DC14 + P&P: £58
Tools & spares: £35
Total project cost £93

Could have bought a brand new inferior vacuum complete with 2 year warranty, instead have a tried and tested unit that I fully understand and can repair. Housekeeper rank already at Jedi Knight, and don’t even have a house.

Copying between flash memory and HDD via USB

This post applies to any storage medium connected via USB on Windows 7 x64 

I run an 8GB USB flash key, with TrueCrypt in traveller mode filling majority of stick.  Within this encrypted volume, Portable Apps provides me with all the applications I need.  This setup allows me to do everything from online banking to writing websites.  My problem occurred when I tried to backup the key.

The copying process started fine, but soon became slow and died with a message to the effect that the source drive was not present.  This happened repeatedly, each time I checked the drive and found the drive letter showing but not fully connected.  I’d gone through various attempts at copying single folders and files off, but always came undone with email 300MB, and above.

Looking back, this has happened twice before, I’d previously thought the fault lay with either the flash drive itself or the integrity of the volume in file produced by TrueCrypt.  I’d Googled the problem and found hardly anything relevant.  Some stuff from M$ suggesting issues between NForce chipsets, though no resolutions or anything directly related to my system.  Until…

I have gone to the properties of the USB HDD in Device Manager and then to the Policies tab and have set the device to “Better Performance” as opposed to the default of “Quick Removal”. BE AWARE: you must now make sure you do safe removal before unplugging the device or you risk data loss (no big deal to me as I always did safe removal anyway).

This strangely seems to remove all curruption issues but must be done on every USB HDD as it is a policy for that device and not all USB HDD’s. Once set on that PC it should remain set for future use.  http://tinyurl.com/4y6emw4 

I’d ensured the policy item was set to quick removal deliberately (though this is the default for flash memory), the idea is that the OS won’t cache data for writing at a potentially more optimal time instead forcing immediate writes and allowing removal of the drive without first having to perform writes.  While this is true, it’s misleading as users generally believe this means they can yank the drive out.  The system might be writing at the moment of yanking or more likely a program you are running has a handle on the drive.  This includes programs with bugs using shared resources.

Screen capture of setting location

This is where the setting is changed

For this reason and seeming as I have to follow a sequence for dismounting the TrueCrupt volume it makes hardly any difference to me.  It worked a treat, immediately after the setting change, I was able to copy an 8GB file between the USB drive and the computer.