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Ridgid WD14500 14-Gallon Wet/Dry Vac….

This one was close. From the point of view of a shop vac, it works well. It provides a considerable amount of suction, even from the 2-inch-diameter hose. Sure, you can’t change the direction the exhaust points to, and sure, it’s noisy, even though it has “Scroll Marketing Technology” noise reduction. But the truth is that it’s missing a few critical usability features that 90% of products out there are missing.

Exploded view of the Ridgid WD 14500

Exploded view of the Ridgid WD 14500.

Refer to this exploded view (also included here as a backup). See the castors, #16? Do they look small to you? That’s because they are. Assuming you are trying to vacuum from a dirty place, the tiniest of wood chips will jam one of these wheels. Not only that, but they just set into the mostly hollow feet of the bucket, #13 and #15 (there are two of each). On one of these, the socket into which the caster pivot fits is already worn and that wheel is rubbing up against the foot and effectively jammed. Keep in mind I’ve tossed this thing around a bit, but this means that if you’re trying to carry 14 gallons worth of wet muck over an asphalt driveway (like mine) you won’t be able to (because the wheels are too small) and if you’re carrying that much weight and drop it you can kiss those four feet goodbye.

The clips that hold the motor up to the bucket—#4 (there are two of them)—can be latched with a swift palm-punch. But unlatching them requires a claw hammer. This is completely unnecessary; the detent is just too big. That’s kind of a pain in the ass. Also, it is easy to try to put the top on backwards—there is only one direction in which it will actually fit.

Along those lines:

1. Horrible cord management. There are two tabs on the handle that invite you to roll the cord up there. The plug side has a notch to clip the plug to a piece of the cord. The notch requires too much pressure to latch on, and neither tab turns to release the loop of cord—you have to unroll it. Whatever happend to spring-return cord reels in vacuum cleaners?

2. The way you’re supposed to store the attachments (nozzles) is in a stupid canvas bag on a stupid frame #10 that fits right under the exhaust port. The attachments don’t really fit in there well, especially if you buy another one (it doesn’t come with one that has a brush on it). Oh, and what happens to the storage capacity of a bag when you wrap it partially around a cylinder? Can you guess? Maybe that’s why nothing fits in there.

3. It comes with two rigid tubes and a flexible hose. The rigid tubes are meant to be stored by putting on end of the tube on feet #13. Unfortunately, the end of the tube that fits there is also the end that attaches to the hose, so the free end of the hose has nowhere to go. Trying to wrap the hose around the body of the vac, between the bucket and the tubes, makes the tubes fall off, because the nub on the foot they are meant to stay on isn’t enough to hold them unless you’ve already put the vac away and aren’t going to touch it until you are going to need the tubes anyway.

So unless you are willing to have this thing occupy most of your garage while “put away”, you’ll have to hang several hooks on the walls to hold the hose and tubes, and you’ll likely have to detach the hose from the bucket anyway, because the bend radius is pretty big. Then you may as well hang the cord on the wall, too, since there’s no use for a vacuum without the hose. Feel free to nail the attachment bag to the wall underneath all this shit somwhere. In all, it should only occupy about a 3-foot-wide section of wall and some 3 feet of depth for the unit itself. Who needs that space anyway?

This all sounds pretty negative. But in an uncluttered garage, the thing will suck up garbage and will more-or-less follow where its hose pulls it. So I can’t say it’s all that bad; I just wish designers in general paid more attention to the “minor details” of ownership. I bet they miss these things because the prototyping stage is overlooked; if they built 10 prototypes and took them home for a month they would have been fed up well before we had to be.