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Kirby Vacuum Belt and Nozzle Changing
To change the belt on a post WWII Kirby vacuum, you have to deal with a sometimes confusing device called a belt lifter. You also have to deal with this when removing the nozzle to use the hose, carpet cleaner or other attachment. To use another head (nozzle) or hose on the Kirby motor unit, or change the belt, you have to remove the head from the rest of the vacuum. NOTICE! Always unplug any electrical appliances before working.
To remove the nozzle, first lift the headlight. Then turn the belt lifter (the one on the front that can turn about 3/4 of a turn) counterclockwise as far as it will go. This should catch the motor shaft belt. In many Kirbys some arrows saying take off the belt will line up Some early 70’s brown models had a window in the belt lifter I would say take off the belt. Now you can unlock the latch on the main body that holds the mouthpiece. This is right in the center above the top of the nozzle. Now you can remove the mouthpiece. If you look inside the hole in the back, you should see that the steel hook inside is at the top and the belt is hooked to it. This is what it should look like when you’re ready to put the mouthpiece back on. If you are putting on the hose or other head, I recommend turning the belt lifter backwards belt on position, so that you are not stretching the belt.
If you want to use the hose, hook the bottom of the end of the hose behind the small shaft under the motor shaft of the main unit, tilt it up and clip it to the top. If the small shaft is not centered (the same amount of shaft sticking out on each side), gently tap until it is centered.
Belts stretch and slip, especially on thick carpets. The genuine Kirby belt for machines manufactured since 1981 has a tread on the inside, to help reduce slippage. Also machines made since the mid 80’s had a green LED on top of the nozzle edge that lights up when the brush is spinning at a good speed. If you have an older machine (or your green light mechanism is broken), we recommend changing the belts routinely every 3-6 months as they will stretch. If your light is on when you are using the machine with the correct height adjustment, then your belt is correct.
With the nozzle off the machine, as described above, to change the belt, rotate the belt lifter belt on if you don’t have everything ready. Then remove the bottom plate. On machines prior to the G series (which came out in late 1989) the brush will be attached to the bottom plate. Carefully pull one end out, remove the belt, slide a new belt over the brush and reinsert the brush into the bottom plate. The screw heads should be facing down so you can tighten them. On the G series kirbys, the brush is on the nozzle and not the bottom plate. There is a number 1, 2 or 3 on the outside, there are also 1, 2 or 3 notches on the square end. The same number should be facing out on both sides when you reinstall it. Cut any hair. Place the bottom plate back (some had latches, others just push in). Push the brush up. Put a straight edge on the bottom. The bristles, when pointing down, should hang beyond the straight edge about the thickness of a coin. In a G series machine, 1 leaves less bristles. As the brush wears and there aren’t enough bristles, put the 2 down, if it’s still not enough, the 3. On older models, adjust the screws until a coin thickness of bristles hangs under the bottom plate.
IF you pulled the entire brush out to clean it more thoroughly, what end goes where is important. The bristles are angled so that as the brush rotates from front to back, the dirt will go towards the center. One end is bigger than the other so it should be impossible to put it wrong. BUT, if someone took the ends off to clean the bearings and reversed them when putting them on, then the brush will not go well. Also, in previous G series brushes, the large end can be forced into the small slot, even breaking the end. Also, on machines after the mid-1980s, there is a magnet on one end of the brush that induces a current in a coil of wire that turns on a small green LED in the nozzle. If the magnet is not at the end where the coil and LED are, something is wrong. The ends can be removed and changed to make it look good. IF you choose to remove the ends to clean the bearings, do so one end at a time and replace before removing the other end.
Then, when you’re ready to put it back on, turn the strap lifter to take off the belt position, making sure it grips the belt (you can see it through the hole in the back). Next, hook the nozzle over the shaft (making sure the shaft is centered, see paragraph 3) under the motor pulley on the main unit, tilt it back and glue it in, just as you unlocked it. Then turn the belt lifter to belt on position This should drop the belt over the motor shaft and you should be ready to go.
The carpet washer and old butler attachments also have a belt lifter and hook and unhook in the same way from the front of the machine. Leaving the belt in the air on the hook will stretch it.
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