Monday 11 January 2016

Review/Experience Vax Air Pet Upright Vacuum Cleaner

Slightly swaying away from techie things, I felt I'd like to write a review on this product "Vax Air Pet Upright Vacuum Cleaner", it's something we decided to buy for our house around 1 year ago. Previously I'd owned a Dyson animal DC14, which was a great unit, it managed to clean up the cat air (two long-haired cats) and usual family mess for around 5 years, which I was happy with.

However, it's brush cleaners and plastic casing finally got cracked badly and the decision was made to purchase a new one. Unfortunately the newer Dyson units are very expensive, and I dislike the 'ball' idea they've had for these, so looked around, and found the Vax Air Pet Upright:
Which looked similar, it uses cyclone bagless technology, was designed for people with pets so generally has good suction and ability to grab the hair up.
They're also not cheap, but slightly less than the Dyson. Around £200 was the going price I think.

Initial thoughts, it looked ok, seemed to have the functions and did a decent first start at hoovering up, so was ok.
However, several limitations appeared almost immediately.
It has a very short flexi-hose. As you can see on the picture above, the flexi hose is moulded at the top of it, and clips into the front brushes, so for your flexi hose you unclip there. And you only have the length to the first plastic ring as hose that's any use. Realistically thats one arm length at full stretch. Not very long at all, try to clean the back of a sofa with the unit on the floor, it's almost impossible without dragging the whole unit up.
Suction, it's not that great, whilst it feels powerful, when you actually try to suck up pet hair from a carpet/sofa, etc, with an attachment on the hose the pressure release valve goes off and it stops suction, so you have to only half use the suction otherwise the pressure relief stops the thing from sucking.
Weight, it's not too bad on this, you can carry it with one hand reasonably, but I'm not going to hoist it up and above my head in a hurry.
Power cable length feels a bit shorter than the Dyson too, but that's not a major pain.
Waste/Dust container isn't huge, but sufficient, just remember to empty it often on a large house run.

Now onto the REALLY big problem, the front rotating brushes. These are ran by a separate motor (good idea) and belt driven (good idea), however they are really poor at getting clogged up. And not by something like a childs toy, wire or string. It gets heavily clogged up by HAIR, cat and human! So after quite a short vacuum run you have to then unplug it, upturn it and grab a pair of scissors and start to cut the tangled hair out of it. This is a continued pain I find. On the old Dyson I could leave that and do it maybe once a year (I probably should have done it more often!) but it certainly didn't impede it's work. On the Vax this slows down the rotor, causes it to smell badly (I think hair gets into the bearings or spindles and at the speed it spins causes it to burn slightly and give the bad smell of burning hair).
I spent quite some time over the weekend taking this part apart on the unit, to find out how it works and fits together. I found several parts that I wasn't impressed with. Firstly the bar:

It isn't very clear on this picture, but on the left hand side you have a toothed gear that attaches to the belt, it's pretty sturdy and good teeth on it so this is a good build. On the right however is where it worried me. This piece simply pushes into the base of the device and is held against the right hand side of the base by friction. So it's not actually supported on both sides, only the side with the belt and motor. This is probably what caused it to dislodge at some point with us and cause the whole unit to vibrate terribly.
Secondly, inside the ends of these there are small bearings for the rotation. These bearings are very small, but also aren't sealed, they appear to be open and able to get things jammed into them, like hair, dust, particles, etc. So again not very impressive considering this will be a part constantly in the path of dirt and particles that can get into bearings and not give them a good time.

So all in all, Vax, I think this is a very poor offering, it doesn't hold up to the tough PET name, giving you the impression it can deal with tough pet hair, etc. And so unfortunately I think this may not last very long and get replaced sooner.

A few months after purchase I wanted to solve the short hose problem and get some better attachments as the one that comes with it was very poor indeed (single tube type). So I went via the official vax shop, compatibility checker and chose an accessory pack called "Vax Pro Cleaning Kit" which was £39.99 and had lots of handy adapters in there, which would help with stairs, etc. I also ordered a "Vax Stretch Hose" which is listed as a replacement but also an extension, which I thought would be ideal, add that on and better adapters and all would be well. However after they turned up several problems again were spotted. Several of the adapters didn't actually FIT the hose! Some were way too small and by forcing them on it would work, but this felt like a wrong design. Others went on fine and worked. The extra hose, this doesn't act as an extension but a replacement (same short size) of the original so this also was useless and couldn't even be modified to fit (I tried all sorts to modify the hose and fittings, plastic shaving, resizing, etc, nothing would make it fit right and work) so I gave up with that also.

All in all, not an impressive offering.

Thursday 7 January 2016

12v LED indicator bulbs for Chrysler grand voyager

A short post this one, but I noticed the orange colour was fading from my rear indicators on my Chrysler Grand Voyager.

This is a common problem on many cars now, as they use clear lenses and an orange bulb to make the indicator orange. This 'solution' to me is flawed and since its the bulbs with an orange paint on them, over time the pain burns off/fades which is what happened with mine and the indicator now looks white rather than orange (This is an MOT fail here in the UK, and as my MOT is due I needed to sort it)

So I found these LEDs on an ebay listing

They are ORANGE 581 BAU15s PY21 replacement LED bulbs in the same package, etc.
One warning that I saw on the Chrysler Grand Voyager forums is that the voyagers electrical wiring is non-standard and actually has positive on the surround and negative on the central pin. On normal bulbs this isn't a problem as they don't care about polarity, but LED's require + and - polarity so this could have been an issue.
I did a test with my multimeter on the pins and verified that this was NOT the case though, the central pin was positive like on all other vehicles as standard, so first issue out of the way.

The bulbs fit into the holders fine, and then into the external bulb/reflectors fine too, so these are the right size and shape.
Testing them with the hazard indicators on, all looks good, swapped them and they were blinking away and brightness looked ok (I did expect a little brighter to be honest, but they were comparable to the existing ones).

So all was well.
Until the next day when I actually drove to work, and realised that when I put the indicators on I got the dreaded 'fast flash' or hyperflash as some people call it. This is where the indicator bulbs flash very quickly. Most cars were designed to have a load from the bulbs and this allowed them to flash at a normal pace. When a short or an open circuit (bulb failure) was detected, the current consumed dropped and this causes the flasher unit to flash faster, the idea being that it was then easy to tell when a bulb had failed and needed replacing.
Unfortunately the LEDs consume a lot less current than the original bulbs and so this was causing the circuit to think the bulb was missing, when in fact all the bulbs and LEDs were lighting up correctly.

Doing a bit of maths I can calculate the difference.
These are 24LED units, and assuming an LED voltage of 2v for orange and estimating at 25mA per LED, adding that up we get 0.05 watts at 2v per LED. Multiple by 24 and we get 1.2 watts in total.
The usual bulb consumes 21 watts, so there is a difference of 19.8 watts, which is quite significant and obviously what the car is detecting and causing the fast flash.

There is a solution, this is to use a load resistor. This is effectively a resistor across the terminals (shunting the voltage/power through the resistor as well as the LED) which causes a higher current to flow and the indicator circuit to think it has a valid bulb installed.
This has several problems for me, firstly it's a waste. We would be wasting current shunting it through a resistor effectively wasting this current through heating the resistor up. Secondly you have to cut into the wiring loom and install this load resistor which is untidy and messy. I'm also not sure if this will stop the bulb sensing for the other bulbs in the indicator circuit (I only swapped the rear to LED, front are still standard). So this to me isn't a good solution.
I still did the maths to calculate what resistor I'd need.
So for 19watts at 12v this is 1.58 amps.
So using Ohms law (V = ir) I could calculate the resistor size. So 12 = 1.58R, and calculating that it comes out at 8.2 Ω (Ohms)
So if I were to install a load resistor it would need to be an 8.2 Ohm 19 (or 20) watt resistor. (Which are the larger ceramic style rectangular units as they are dissipating so much wattage)

Therefore I'm thinking of swapping and going back to the regular bulbs rather than LEDs as don't think this solution is quite right. I'm open to comments though, please let me know your thoughts.