Portable Upgrades

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Jim Davisson

Well-Known Member
Aug 23, 2016
Serving the greater Charlotte area
Real Name
James Davisson
Business Location
United States
I think we need to spend a little time talking about how to do it properly and what common pitfalls to avoid. When you are just starting out you don't have the luxury of time. The luxury of watching the evolution of equipment, what things manufacturers changed over time, why they changed them and what to take away from all that. This isn't a definitive guide, just some hard won information learned over the years, that I know really makes a difference in the real world. Nothing kills any great piece of equipment faster than heat, vibration, starvation, water intrusion and frugality.

We all have heard if life hands you lemons, make lemonade... definitely not so with portables and upgrades. Size, shape, ventilation and ability to upgrade airflow fittings is going to make some chassis' a lost cause and the components are not to blame for this. The good thing is that the market has plenty of used ones for sale.

Power needs to be addressed. Old cords replaced and good connections free from water intrusion of proper gauge wire. Internal short wire runs don't need 12 gauge wire, external long runs do though and even 10 gauge over 50'. 14 gauge cords are not for HP portables. Spade quick connects are not forever, a properly sized wire nut filled with silicone chalk like GE does inside refrigerators is probably better than anything, but the least handy.

Airflow, simply installing new vacs isn't enough if they are starved for air before the wand hits the carpet. The size of all airpaths in and out need to be 2" for maximum performance, if you ignore fixing this issue with some portables, expect less than optimum results. Soft bends are best and every hard 90° elbow robs some performance. Vacuum leaks have to be fixed, shoot for none. Leaks lose some cfm's, but kill lift inside and outside of the machine.

Motor cooling, ideally the motor draws ambient air from outside the compartment through the end of the motor and all the exhaust air entirely leaves the motor compartment. Operating in a small space where the two will quickly combine is going to be an issue before long. Simply adding a short piece of vac hose on the exhaust to direct it out of the room from the intakes is a great idea for those situations like a hall bathroom. A cooling fan isn't a must, but it should be especially with certain compartments. For long extended running times like big commercial jobs, I open my compartment and point an airmover directly at it, not possible with most machines, but cooler air is a benefit even around the machine.

Plumbing leaks kill everything around them. Use really good Teflon tape (Blue Seal 3/4" is my new favorite, folded in half on 3/8" and under connections), wrap it conterclockwise and not on the first thread. Periodically check and tighten hose clamps and put QC's in where you will need them for ease of future maintenance.

If you do a lot of stair climbing, check and tighten motor mounts periodically. Don't bang your machine hard up and down stairs.

Pump plumbing needs to be sized to get the most bang for your buck. The bigger the suction line, the better. The bigger the discharge line the better (and remove any restrictive fittings anywhere in between). Even just using a short, but bigger diameter section of solution hose right before the wand on long runs will help because of the "bladder tank" effect. Flow = production and if your vacuum is now on point, you can up your game.

Hopefully this helps the some guys a little to take away some things that really make a difference in performance and longevity, especially the ones just starting out. There is so much to know on both sides of the wand just to remove dirt from fibers and confidence in your equipment running right and lasting longer, really does make the other a little easier by putting the focus where it should be.