* Prices may differ from that shown
"It's not picking up properly," she moaned, "it could be the belt..."
Eight months ago my friend had borrowed my Vax Quicklite compact upright to clean up after her, the budgie, a new dog and a very old cat. But the little Vax couldn't cope despite its eagerness to pick up dirt and it kept getting clogged because it had no hose. So we swapped and called it a day, she had her eye on my other Vax model, the Quicklite Widetrack V045 which is a bit more than meets the eye.
** Nar's Quick Skip Product Spec: **
12"/34cm full wide track floor head with edge brushing; No beater bars & can be used on hard flooring.
Two rubber coated rear wheels to ensure soft protection.
Washable HEPA filtration with additional outer mesh protection filter cup.
Downward dust release catch design in 2.7 litre dust bin.
5 position height adjustment dial.
Crevice too, snap on brush via flat lint assisted upholstery tool; all onboard machine.
7.5 metre power cord with additional holders for close fitting of cord.
Telescopic height adjustable extension pipe (2) also serves purpose as handle spine.
4:1 stair cleaning hose can be used via handle without extension pipe locked in, or with cleaning tools.
1400 watts with 200 watts of air suction. Exhaust is at the front.
One extra drive belt comes with the model if model is bought brand new.
Price from Asda £49-84.
Bottom hose secure hook - means hose can be taken off and if left on will not allow upright to topple over.
Having owned this for a short time, I like this model a lot only for its simple ease of use with the novel handle and tube. But it has proved to be too bulky thanks to its large 12" widetrack floorhead, so it seemed a good time to say goodbye.
** Setting Up **
When bought brand new then, setting up the Widetrack is very easy, with the only screwdriver you will need is a crosshead type to secure a hose clip to the back of the machine. Once this is done, it only takes milliseconds to fit the handle to the tube (by way of a pip fitting lock) to a metal extension height adjusting pipe (again by way of a pip fitting lock), slide into the back of the Vax and there you have your height adjusting extension tube acting as the main spine of the vacuum as well as the tube itself when it comes the time to use it with the additional small tools and long hose; now that is a neat design but nothing dissimilar to the Dyson DC01 range here.
** Price and Availability **
The availability of this model is now on sale at Currys and Asda with a recent price drop to around £45 to £50. It could well be the model for people in a small home or flat looking for a cleaner with a HEPA filter and a moving brush to get rid of all that pet hair...but don't consider this until reading the end of this long review!
** The Design **
Two visible cleaning tools for example are supplied, a short crevice tool and a lint fitted upholstery flat tool. A snap on brush grid is then optional to push on and take off, making the additional possibility of offering a third small cleaning tool. Both tools fit half way in the middle of the cleaner's spine at the left hand side by the hose, but the design of the hose means the crevice tool must be slipped and locked in at the bottom with the brush at the top. Even before I found the stub for the crevice tool, I had inadvertently just slipped the brush on top of the crevice tool on the top stub where both sit quite happily. All this is wrapped around a soft organic looking upright, painted in black with pink and silver decals. Luckily the bin itself is clear acrylic and it is easy to see when it it needs emptied.
One feature however isn't just the hose itself; although it doesn't appear to be big as it's "4:1" stretch hose according to Vax terminology suggest in actual use it can clean up to four stairs and measures just nigh of 2 metres in length only helped along by that telescopic height extension tube. Being located in the middle with a "safety hose grip" at the bottom ensures that the upright has less of a chance of being knocked over when the hose is pulled roughly. Pull the hose out of the grip and you can use the hose as normal for cleaning close areas to you, for example cleaning dust and food contents out of high cupboard shelves.
** What's It Like In Use? **
When I first pulled the easy cord grip upwards the whole 7.5 metre cord fell to the floor easily and once plugged in, I couldn't fathom how to switch it on. Usually uprights like this have a switch at the top, but not here. Instead whilst there is a squarish white ribbed pedal foot to the left of the main floor head at the bottom which releases the handle downwards, another white pedal switch oval in shape on the right hand side reveals that it is the on/off push button switch.
Once I pushed this, the V0 45 sparkled into life, quite literally sparkling due to the fact that it features a headlight at the base of the motor. It's been a few years since I last used an upright which has a headlight, but it is very welcome as it shines brightly and downwards, spreading a path of light just after the brush bar. Whilst it cannot be switched off, the headlight bulb can be replaced when it dies out but for the moment, after a few months of ownership the light still shines brightly. And you won't have to take the whole cleaner apart to replace the headlight - the cover slips out by way of a blunt knife used at the end tabs of the plastic ribbed cover.
The noise of this motor is loud and the weight of the cleaner is 6kg total weight. The exhaust for the motor is located at the front just above the headlight. Whilst the hot whoosh of air is heard and felt, it does not blow dirt around due to the lower floor head design of the cleaner and for once doesn't burn my legs!
Whilst I have never liked a floor head height adjustable control dial because of having to bend down all the time on Hoover vacuums in the past the dial on the Vax is easier to move when it is put into the upright position. Crucially though the Vax ploughs lightly through the carpet when it is set to the correct height and there is a little added noise as the brushes vibrate on the carpet. There is also a hard floor setting at either ends of this selection. The last setting for example pivots the head away from a hard floor if the Vax is upright and the hose is pulled out the top via the handle and lock.
The other setting however pushes the floor head directly onto hard floor and with the help of a permanently built in squeegee strip, keeps the grid of the floor head away from the hard floor with only the brushes (soft but long bristles here) hitting the floor. Again the use of the rubber wheels comes into their own here as they further protect hard floors whilst cleaning them.
The sides of the floor head on both sides have edge brushing as standard and scoop in dirt which is visibly close to the sides of skirting boards. You can also trim the brushes to make the floor head easier to glide but don't trim too much as you could end up loosing the excellent brush action.
The floor head is very large which means getting through furniture can be a downside but in its defence the T shape of the floor head means you can get between. It does remind me of a Kirby in this respect and at times weighs up less time of actual use because of the generous length. I guess this is why Vax still have their compact un-hosed V046 still on sale for its small and compact size (although at £49-99 you have the option here for big or small.)
Due to its design the V045 uses a drive belt (Vax quote £2-99 for the single belt replacement but with P&P charges this adds to another £2-99 on top) but I found an EBay specialist who can supply the same part (Part:1-9-125851-00) for cheaper.
** Emptying Dirt/Filter Design **
Since Vax have licensed the V045 from Dirt Devil, the principles of the filter are very similar to most of Vax's Dirt Devil based uprights on the UK market. This means you get a large pleated paper filter which serves as the basic HEPA filter. This is where the differences of the larger, cheaper to buy Swift upright makes it point here.
Whilst the HEPA filter is easy to clean, it is easier to tap the filter into a bin to dislodge any dirt or use a paint brush to ensure it is completely clean. Here however the Vax uses a design similar to Dyson; once the whole bin and carry top are unlocked from the Vax (there's a handy white button which shows the lock push mechanism clearly) the whole bin can be put into a bin, push down the black release lock and the bottom unlocks so that dirt contained can fall downwards. Once that is done you can simply close and lock the bottom door back in and push the bin back onto the cleaner.
But if the filters are very dirty and suction has been reduced, the whole assembly can be lifted out of the top of the bin which consists of inner HEPA filter, outer Mesh filter and the bottom long pole which directs most dirt to the bottom of the bin. Compared to the Swift though the HEPA filter has extra protection due to the outer mesh filter which receives the most dirt and all you need to do is give it a brush down to dislodge dirt. Or so I thought.
Back to my friend's problem of why the Vax wasn't picking up. After taking off 8 screws on the floor head including having to take off the dial for the height adjustment, the floor head came away easily revealing the drive belt which was in perfect condition. After putting everything back together and switching on the Vax again the cyclone still wouldn't spin dirt viewable in the clear bin, the motor was straining and something was most definately clogged. After switching the Vax on and off a couple of times I could hear something rising in the main pipe and after switching it off and removing the handle, my friend grabbed a knitting needle and started to force the clog out. What was revealed was a rather small piece of carpet with tons of dog hair wrapped around it and a piece of dog dry cereal food! Not the most pleasant kinds of things to get clogged. After the removal, back on with the handle and tube and switch on. Still nothing.
In the end I took off the bin via the handy and well marked release button at the top, carried the bin outside and lifted the entire filter assembly out of the clear bin. I stood by my friend's disused coal bunker and realised the problem straight away when I unscrewed the mesh filter cup which sits in front of the pleated paper filter cone.
"When was the last time you tapped the filter clean?" I enquired.
Silence was the reply and a nondescript look.
After 20 minutes, I was still tapping the top edge of the paper pleated filter off the roof of the coal bunker and didn't realise the whole of the garden was now covered in household dust whilst the bunker now looked beige grey as opposed to rusting black! All I could smell was doggy odour coming from the filter with the similar smell of household dust I've become customed to with bagless cyclonic vacuum cleaners. The white edges of the pleated filter was now appearing over the waves of dust this filter just kept on loosening every time I tapped the filter off the roof.
Finally after another ten minutes (and this time being caked in dirt myself) the filter was no longer depositing dust. Screwing the mesh filter back on produced more dust, then drop into the bin assembly, fit the top on and lock it to the Vax. Did all this work? You bet it did!
The Vax is now working as originally when I had it and it goes to show that if you don't tap and clean the paper pleated filter, it will stop suction completely.
** Storage **
One of the design additions of the Widetrack designation is the fact that it has been made for users who are looking for a machine in limited space accomodation. So, the model's maximum height (with handle attached and lowered to minimum height) is around 74cm to 80cm, although a further reduction can be had if you take the actual handle off and lock it around the main neck of the upright. Maximised with the handle and extended pole raised, the V046 measures 104cm which is 8cm down from Vax's next bigger upright in their range, so it is quite compact in terms of height and can be easily stored as a result.
** Downsides **
There are quite a few. Build quality has been questionnable. I sustained a finger cut when I was trying to ease the floor head off to look at the belt for example! Therefore general plastic quality on this machine is generally poor. There is also an additional view window set on the roller brush itself handy to see if the brush roll is moving as well as indicating just how dirty your carpets really are, but it can be difficult to clean unless you open up the floor head. Whilst the black plastic doesn't get in the way of actual use it is too shiny and shows up scratches easily. The tools are not the cheapest looking but the upholstery tool is actually very cheap in feel unless you have the snap on brush fitted which adds strength to the actual implement.
Well the drive belt change was a nightmare to check and in general use that elevated floor head means that it does struggle to get under low furniture.
** Final Consideration **
The amount of dirt the Vax has already picked up has been overwhelming and each use shows surprising results whenever it has been used on carpets and flooring. And it is all there to view in the dirt bin, and with it being 2.7 litres, it just continues to provide excellent suction until it needs to be emptied and the filters tapped to loosen all that dirt.
** Conclusion **
So is this Vax worth considering despite its low price, good general suction and somewhat ease of use?
In terms of the filter design even after I returned home and had a shower, I could still smell the dirt off the filter. It may well have a HEPA filter as standard but the odour of pets is still evident when the machine is put on. One way of clearing the filter completely would be to wash it once and for all. What a pity then that all of a sudden given the favour of helping out a friend, my recommendation for this vacuum has changed.
If you want to escape from dust, this upright vacuum is a classic example of not considering despite being cyclonic. The filters are by far one of the worst designs on the model, despite the mesh filter cup which is the easiest to clean. And that all important HEPA filter means that the consumer is sucked into believing that the machine will give out cleaner air - but the machine has to be thoroughly cleaned out before it can actually leave the air cleaner than the air that goes into it. In use it hasn't minimised the smell of dog and cat and when it gets clogged the maintenance is messy and very stressful.
So despite its excellent design in some parts, the actual ownership proves to be a different story entirely. You have been warned! Thanks for reading. ©Nar2 2007
The V-045 is a Upright vacuum with 1400 watts power / Short name: Vax V-045