Kenmore 31912 Progressive Upright Cleaner

21 ratings (20 Epinions reviews)
Epinions Product Rating: Very Good
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A Barney Of A Vacuum -- Model 31913 & 31912

Feb 16, 2003 (Updated Mar 11, 2003)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Very Good

  • Ease of Use:
  • Durability:
  • Ease of Cleaning:
  • Style:

Pros:It sucks well and does it relatively quietly.

Cons:So many for a $300 vacuum...it should do more than just suck.

The Bottom Line: It's a good vacuum, but for $300 it should be better. There are so many tiny flaws and the support for ordering supplies from Sears is terrible.


I killed my last vacuum, the one that I had a long affair with. It was perfect and I was sad to see it go. It died just before we left on vacation and for some reason my husband INSISTED on replacing it that very day. Who knows how some minds work….I begged to be given a few days to decided, but he had to have it that minute.

I loved the bagless model we’d just parted with and tried to get him to replace it with the exact same model (so well made that they haven’t changed it in 5-years….that says a lot to me!). Nope he’s VERY OLD-FASHIONED, he likes a bag. Oh well, he’s the one who went to the store and the one who does most of the vacuuming, so who was I to complain?

What he brought home was an EXPENSIVE purple dinosaur….I can’t help it, “I love you, you love me….” runs through my head every time I use it. I even call it Barney—my husband isn’t amused. Sorry, to me it was taking two steps backwards—back to having a bag to change, back to a vacuum that sounded great but one I hate to use.

FROM THE TOP
He brought it home and put it together—one screw to hold the handle on and it was done. It comes with the standard on-board tools (crevice tool and dusting brush) and a much-hyped HandiMate Jr. power nozzle (flimsy—any pressure at all stops the agitator brush since it’s only “air-powered”), a HEPA media filtration for clean air, and 1-year Warranty (be warned though, it is only covered if used in private households--those running daycares, adult homes, or home offices may want to reconsider this model).

We got the 31913 model with the 35ft cord for the same price as model 31912 which only has a 30ft cord—whoopee…but my husband thought it was a big deal. This is the only difference between the two models.

WHY HE BOUGHT IT—aka Salesperson’s Successful Pitch
It is a conventional upright vacuum which features triple filtration with HEPA exhaust filter (I insisted on a closed filtration system—for info on why, visit my review on my old Eureka vacuum for info: (Click here for a great vacuum!).

It has a Beltless Direct Drive System that makes it feel like it is self-propelled (you have to yank it back as it's great at running from you) and therefore it doesn’t use belts. (To me it's just one more thing to go wrong--a simple inexpensive belt or a entire drive system that needs to be replace...hmmm.)

It does run rather quietly, I'll give it that. It uses two rows of spiral agitators which are supposed to help “brush” your carpet (I don't notice any improvement over the old one-spiral agitator it replaced). It has edge cleaning on both sides so you don’t have to think ahead when vacuuming against baseboards (the edge cleaning works well).

It boasts a 1-speed 12-amp motor, a 14”-wide cleaning path, a 35’ cord, a typical foot-activated handle release, and a manual pile height adjuster (to use it you have to turn off the cleaner, tip it back and slide the lever to adjust it for bare floors or carpet).

WHAT’S “BAGGING” ME?
Sorry, I hate bags—I love the instant gratification from dumping a cup knowing that the vacuum is going to perform better empty than full of dirt. It also took care of the worry about when the bag was changed last.

It took me forever to find the bags on the Sears site—long story, but here’s the info:

Kenmore 3M™ Filtrete™ Upright Vacuum Bags – the current price for 2 bags is $7.99 (plus tax).

WHAT DOESN’T WORK FOR ME?
The cord is incredibly stiff—hard to coil, hard to keep throwing out of the way and a danger to tiny tikes and fine china—like a stale piece of licorice.

The dirt indicator light is a joke—meant to tell you when the carpet is clean; it rarely signals the carpet is dirty all the while I’m sucking up small animals. Even my husband (who LOVES this vacuum) agrees that this is a worthless feature.

If you push the handle to far into the upright position while vacuuming, the beater brush shuts off thus you’re no longer vacuuming and the light switches off to tell you so—on…off…on…off…like a Nun with a ruler slapping you for being naughty.

The on/off switch (the only complaint on my old model) is in what I think is the PERFECT location—right on the handle. Too bad it takes two hands to turn it on and off! Please, does it have to be so hard??? The switch is flat to the handle with ridges to help you grip it but it’s so tight I have had to resort to getting a screw driver wedged into one of the ridges to force it into the on position.

There’s no bag light—heck, if you have to have a bag, it’d be nice to know when it’s full! ****CORRECTION--oops, there is a bag light--boy, do I feel dumb!****

To use the attachments you must remove the hose from the agitator—not an easy fete—trying to get it back onto the agitator is harder. There’s a tiny nubbin that must be matched up and then turned and pushed in. This is in an area that is hard to reach, dark, and it is metal on metal—no color cues to help in the matching process. My old Eureka just needed a tug and a push to use the attachments, not a contortionist act.

The attachments are fastened to the vacuum in the same manner—too much work to get them off and back to their onboard storage area. There are easier ways!

It’s made of formed plastic with no bumper in site—my walls are going to pay!

Nowhere in the pages and pages of information Sears/Kenmore provided with this vacuum does it tell you when you should change the filters, what the approximate lifespan is, or how to tell if they need to be replaced. Major flaw which leaves me to believe I’ll find out after I’ve ruined the machine.

WHAT DOES WORK?
It sucks.

PARTS & COST
Not listed anywhere on the Kenmore or Sears site, so if you loose your instruction book you’ll have no idea which parts to buy! A simple link to these “accessories” would have been nice. Instead, I did extensive searches (the part numbers on the site don't match the numbers in the book) and here’s what I found:

20-50690 Dust Bag – See above

20-5240 Headlight Bulb – I can’t look up the price as it’s not on the Sear’s website (goodness only knows what it costs!)

20-86889 Exhaust Filter – This one isn’t there either, hope I don’t need one soon!

20-86884 Motor Safety Filter - 2 filters, $9.99 (plus tax)

FINAL THOUGHTS
It does its main purpose—it sucks and does it well. It is just a bunch of little things that make me long for my old Eureka, and the purple really is awful. I LOVE purple, but this is Barney-purple (the pictures are much nicer than the vacuum you receive). It’s expensive—my old one is still just about $100…this was much more and hardly worth the expense. There are just too many parts that need to be ordered and no easy way to do it.

I rated this middle-of-the-road because he loves it, I hate it. Do yourself a favor—save a two hundred or so and buy the Eureka. Think of all the fun things you can do with the extra money.

UPDATE 3/11/03
Oops, as noted above, it does have a bag light.

One flaw in the design we've found is that to remove an item accidently sucked up (in this case a backpack strap), you must remove 7 screws and take apart nearly the entire vacuum. Also, the powerhead blows it's fuse to stop it from becoming damaged--you'll have to look for the switch to turn it back on.

My husband still loves it and so far we haven't had to change the bag. I still want my old one back.


Recommend this product? Yes


Amount Paid (US$): 329.00

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