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I bought one of those expensive Dyson vacuum cleaners a few years ago and it worked pretty good...at first. Like every other vacuum, it started to lose power and go bad over time. I took a chance and spent like 400 bucks on it thinking it would last longer and work better than those cheap ones. After about 2 years, it got to the point where it was almost worthless. I cleaned the big middle canister and scrubbed it down frequently, but that didn't so much. I also took the bottom rollers apart and scrubbed them as well. Still, nothing. Today's task was to take it apart completely, which we hackers love to do, and see if I could fix it...make it stronger...build the 6 million dollar vacuum!!!! OK, maybe I just wanted fix my $400 dollar vacuum but that didn't sound dramatic enough to post.
I took it out to the driveway to work on it outside so I didn't make a mess. I took a couple of tools (brute force tools like pliers and a flathead screwdriver to pry stuff apart) and began methodically taking this thing apart. I went through the same process that I had been through before, cleaning and scrubbing each part as I removed it. I finally had the thing in pieces and thought that it wasn't really that dirty and there was nothing that I saw that should have stopped it from working better. There were no noticeable blockages in any of the hoses/tubes. Nothing was stuck or clogged anywhere. The tornado chamber thing (or whatever the patented term is) where all of the dirt is caught was now as clean as a whistle and I could not seem to get it apart any further to see if there was anything more on the inside to clean. So after sitting there thinking that I would never buy one of these things again I went ahead and started putting it back together to go give it one last try when I noticed a small sticker on the bottom of the main unit itself. The sticker said to clean the filter once every 6 months. I thought, yeah, well I clean it and it doesn't help. I started to put the central tornado unit thing back onto the base when I realized...wait a minute, these things don't have normal filters like other vacuum cleaners...do they?
I always thought that the center piece, which I cleaned many times, was the filter. I took this off and looked again at the base and noticed that the center of the frame was round where the plastic tornado thing clicks in and it looked like it might have something beneath it. I looked closer and could see another sticker that showed that the center piece, which looks continuous and like it should not come apart, actually flips up to get access to another section. Do you want to guess what was in the section?
I felt like a moron. I cannot believe that I never saw this before. I pried it open, careful not to break it, and sure enough, there is a small round filter maybe 8 inches in diameter and about an inch or two thick. It was COVERED in about an inch of pure crud. Dried crud, but crud none-the-less. It was clear that this was the reason that the thing had lost suction. I pulled it out, beat the big dirt off of it outside in the driveway and then brought it inside to clean in the sink. It turns out that this filter, like everything else on the Dyson, is strong and well designed. It is rubber on the sides and designed to be washed under the sink and squeezed to drain the water. After a minute or two of washing and letting it dry for another 30 minutes, I finally put the machine back together and sure and heck this thing was as good as new.
Now I consider myself to be a fairly smart guy, and I didn't notice this section until a final breakdown of the entire machine. I wonder how many other people out there have also run into this problem and returned units, or thrown them away and/or written bad reviews about them all because they couldn't find the filter either? I never even knew that a filter existed! I thought that was what made Dyson different but they are just like every other vacuum. They all need filters somewhere, and even when I bought it I knew that something was strange about a vacuum that didn't have a filter and now, 3 years later, I find that I was right. So I don't like the way that they make it sound like there is no filter involved, but even with that being said, it is still an awesome vacuum with good design and engineering.
So why am I writing about it here in a hacker blog? Because as hackers, we like to take stuff part, so it was actually a fun process. Sometimes we end up being unable to put them back together, but this one worked out for the best. Hackers are pretty good handymen (and women) and I don't know why so many people don't realize that. There is this old stereotype that we all sit on computers all day and are weak feeble invalids that don't go out in sunlight, but the truth is that we make great mechanics because we hack our cars. We make great handymen and engineers because we take stuff apart, improve it, and fix it. We make great survivalists because we like to be prepared for anything. Hackers are so misunderstood in what makes us tick. We just like to be challenged...and that applies to everything, not just technology.
So go out and take something apart! Especially after it is broken or dying. Try to fix it or even improve it and put it back together. If it was broken, you don't lose anything anyway. You might surprise yourself with what you can accomplish.