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The Fix It FAQ indexes tips related to getting old stuff going again. Topics may include things like "getting a Eureka Boss vacuum cleaner to stop blowing fuses", etc....

My vacuum cleaner is tripping breakers when I turn it on. What do I do?

  • Check for stuff in the intake.
    Open the area where the brush is. Is there anything big stuck in there?
    Once we had a Eureka Boss that started doing tripping breakers. After removing three screws to open the cover where the belt is, a battery compartment cover from some mysterious toy fell out. Bingo. The vacuum works great now.

My air conditioner drain line is plugged. How do I clean it out?

Use pressure, pipe clamps, and a bicycle inner tube

Caution: Use this procedure at your own risk. Be careful. It has worked for me quite a few times now. It might work for you too, but if you are careless or do not really think through what you are doing, you could get hurt, make the blockage worse, cause water damage, or dirty up your inside unit, etc.
  1. If you can disconnect the drain line from the inside unit, do so. Since the line is plugged, probably water will come out when you do that, so be ready and try to keep it from getting on things - especially electrical things. I cut the PVC pipe coming out of the inside unit - leaving at least several inches of pipe attached to the inside unit so that I could use it to repair the line later. If you are lucky (or had a good A/C installer), you won't have to cut pipe.
  2. Cut a piece of bicycle inner tube that is long enough to let you attach it to the A/C drain line with about six inches of length to spare. Extra length is probably okay, but we want pressure to work on the blockage, and not blow up the inner tube. Ideally, cut the inner tube twice as long, and double it back on itself to double the thickness of the rubber. This means more of the pressure will go to moving the blockage instead of blowing up the inner tube like a balloon.
  3. Slip the piece of inner tube over the end of the A/C drain line leading to the outside.
  4. Use a pipe clamp to secure the doubled inner tube to the A/C drain line so it will not leak or slip off.
  5. Get pressure.
    • Air. You can use a tire pump, air compressor, or air tank. Make sure you can easily control the air flow. Don't go crazy with the air pressure. There's no point in breaking things or getting hurt. The procedure might not work on a severe blockage. It worked for me twice, but that's no real guarantee for all applications.
    • Water. Use a garden hose. It probably supplies around 60 PSI and can flush junk from the drain line. I prefer this method to air and have used water pressure to clear both A/C drain line blockages and sewage line blockages. Be careful though. If the hose is poorly attached, or attached in such that the inner tube ruptures, you'll create a big mess, and could get hurt if you haven't shut power off to the area.
  6. Put the pressure source in the loose end of the inner tube, and use another pipe clamp to secure the air source to the inner tube so it will not leak. Place the pipe clamp to expose as little inner tube surface area to the pressure source. It is fine to crush the inner tube if it is too big. It is rubber after all.
  7. Pump pressure into the A/C line. Do not go crazy with this if you're using air. There is no point in exploding the inner tube. It will expand (less if you doubled it), but unless the A/C line blockage is really bad, probably after pressure builds up, the blockage will break loose. You can probably tell when this happens because the inner tube will deflate. You might even be able to hear it.
  8. Disconnect the clamp sealing the pressure source to the inner tube.
  9. Optionally, use the inner tube to connect a water hose to the drain line going outside. Use a pipe clamp to make sure that the water hose does not separate from the drain line and get water all over the place. Flush the line to try to get any loose debris out of the pipe. This will not remove debris that is attached to the inside of the pipe, but it might help to clear the line of loose debris.
  10. If you had to cut the drain line to the inside unit, you might be able to effect a quick fix of the cut by simply slipping the loose end of the inner tube over the end attached to the inside unit and then use the pipe clamp to seal it. Be careful if you do this. The inner tube is not very stiff, so unless you are careful to make sure the pipe ends meet up, it is quite possible that the inner tube could crimp and stop up the drain line.
  11. If you used the inner tube fix for a cut drain line, implement a more permanent repair when it is convenient to do so, but when you repair the line, go the extra mile.
    • Garden hose fittings
      • Remove the pipe fitting screwed into the A/C unit inside the house.
      • Replace it with an adapter that changes the A/C unit threading to a male garden hose fitting.
      • Cut out an appropriately short section of PVC drain line to leave a gap to replace with hose.
      • Glue a PVC to female garden hose fitting adapter to the drain line.
      • Make a short "garden hose" to connect the drain line to the A/C unit. It should only be long as required to connect the two.
        Your local hardware store should have vinyl hose and appropriate fittings.
      • With this set up, to clear the line in the future, just disconnect the drain line, and connect a water hose to it.
        This picture shows what mine looks like.
    • Y fitting and valve
      • If you can, put an Y fitting in so that the bottom of the Y leads to the outside drain (you can also make a Y with a T and an elbow, but really it is best to avoid the right-angle bends so that blockage material can move through it more easily).
      • Attach one of the top legs of the Y to the inside unit, but put a ball valve between the Y and the inside unit. This valve will let you pressurize the drain line without cutting the line next time it stops up.
      • Put the Y slightly below the level of the inside unit if possible. That way you have the option of running a temporary drain from the inside unit if it gets stopped up later, and, you can put chemicals in the drain line without them going back into the inside unit.
      • Cap or plug the open leg of the Y to seal it until next time you need to maintain the drain line. Do not glue a cap on. You want it to be your "clean out" access next time trouble strikes.

Other drain line tips.

  1. The aforementioned procedure can be used backwards... blowing the blockage from the outside in toward the inside unit. That might be advantageous depending on where the blockage is relative to elbows or bends in the line. Be careful if you do this though. You really don't want to blow the mess in the line all the way into the inside unit. You really must disconnect the drain line from the unit before doing this.
  2. If you modified your drain line to insert a Y, as described above, periodically open the line cap and pour some bleach down the drain line. Fungus grows in the drain line, and bleach can keep it in check.
  3. If you experience a blocked drain line, perhaps there are areas of the line that collect water. If you can, consider maintaining the line to make it continuously slope down the the drain point so water does not stand in the line.