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About Drill-Style Drain Cleaners

How to choose and use the right drill-style cleaner for your application

Super-Vee, or not Super-Vee, that is the question. With so many drill-type drain cleaners on the market how do you determine which one will be best for you? We believe General Wire offers top quality hand-held electrically powered drain cleaners that are not only durable and designed for years of good service but are also practical and easy to use.

Drill-Style/Hand Held Drain Cleaners

Super-Vee - Power-Vee - Handylectric

Since the Super-Vee, the Power-Vee and the Handylectric all look similar, we want to share with you the similarities and differences we have found and hopefully help you make a choice that will not only meet your needs but make you smile for years to come knowing you made the right choice.

In this article we list the features that each model has in common and also which features are specific to each individual drain cleaner. We also discuss basic operating instructions to show you how easy these are to use.


What They Have In Common

All three of these Drill Style Hand Held Drain Cleaners will clear drain lines from 1-1/4" to 3" diameter depending on the size of the cable used.

These three hand held drain cleaners use the same 3.2 amp, reversible, all ball bearing, double insulated motor with variable speed control from 0-500 rpm. This allows you to start at low speed eliminating any starting "kick" that could cause your cable to twist or kink. Once the cable is started you can then run at whatever speed is best for your job.

The cable drum capacity for these three drill style drain cleaners is 35 feet of 3/8" cable or 50 feet of 1/4" or 50 feet of 5/16" cable. The manufacturer recommends a maximum cable run distance of 50 feet no matter which diameter (1/4" or 5/16" or 3/8") cable size you are using.
They have an operating weight of 16 lbs using a 3/8" x 25 feet cable.

The manufacturer refers to these cables as "Flexicore®" cables. They are a heavy-gauge wire that is coiled and heat-treated around a 49-strand aircraft type wire rope, providing strength and flexibility.

Normally 1/4" cables are used for small drains such as tub, shower, or lavatory drains that are 1-1/4"-2" diameter. 5/16" cables are commonly used for drains 1-1/2"- 2" diameter, such as sinks, basins, urinals and laundry sink drains. 3/8" cables are normally used for toilets, laundry stand pipes or other drains and vent stacks 2"- 3" diameter.

All three Drill Style Hand Held Drain Cleaners also use the same cutters. The basic set is the #HECS containing an Arrow Head, a Boring Gimlet, a Down Head Boring Gimlet, a 1-1/4" Side Cutter Blade and a Flexible Spring Arrow Head Cutter.

Picture of General Wire Cutter Heads

The Arrow Head is a starter drill and should be used to get the water flowing. Once the water is flowing, you can then change to a larger cutter of your choice. The Flexible Spring Arrow Head Cutter is also a starter drill designed for getting the water flowing in small drain lines that have sharp turns. The Boring Gimlet is used for removing and retrieving loose objects, like a toothbrush or kids toy. The Down Head Boring Gimlet is also used for removing loose objects but the "down head " is designed to force the cable down the drain waste line, preventing the cable from going up a vent stack. The 1-1/4" Side Cutter is used for cutting and scraping away hair or grease type clogs that have attached themselves to the inside of the drain. Other specialty cutters and accessories are also available. For instance: There is a Down Head that can turn any 5/16" or 3/8" cutter into a down head cutter. A Double Down Head available that can be used for especially difficult bends. General Wire also offers a Clog Chopper to clear debris, scale or other tough clogs.


How They Differ

The main difference in these three Drill Style Hand Held Drain Cleaners is how quickly you are able to put your cable into the drain line to clear a stoppage.

The Power-Vee of course gives you the quickest cable feed because it automatically grabs the cable and drives it into the drain line when the motor is turned on and the feed lever is squeezed.

The Super-Vee is the next quickest since it allows you to release the cable by simply moving the grip shield on the front of the drum forwards. This allows you to manually hand feed the cable into the drain. You then simply move the grip shield backwards to lock the cable in place without the need of hand tightening a chuck.

The Handylectric is the least quick way to get the cable into the drain; however, it is also the least expensive purchase of the three. The cables used in the Handylectric are gripped by a Collets Chuck that must be loosened by hand in order for the cable to be manually fed into the drain and then the chuck must again be hand tightened to lock the cable in place. The Handylectric would be a good tool if you don't need this sort of tool often, or use the same size cable most of the time. The Power-Vee would be a better choice if you plan to use this tool all the time and need a variety of sizes regularly.

The Super-Vee and the Power-Vee both use cable cartridges in the drum, allowing you to quickly change to a different diameter cartridge. The Handylectric however does not give you the quick change capability. The Collets Chuck is too small to allow the cable end spring or cutter connector screw and lock washer to pull through the chuck assembly. For this reason you would need to pull the existing cable, in the drum, all the way out of the aluminum drum and feed another sized cable back through the collets check and into the drum. This procedure could be very time consuming and may be a "pain", especially when time may not be on your side.


Optional Accessories

Picture of General Wire handy stand

A Handy Stand is available to hold any of these three drill style drain cleaners and allows you to have greater control of the cable and the machine during use.

Picture of General Wire Cutter Heads

A hard plastic carrying case is available for all three of these machines and is capable of housing the machine and an extra cable cartridge. This case makes for easy and safe storage of your investment.


Power-Vee Handheld Drain Cleaner with Power Feed Cable

Power Vee drain cleaner
Features:
  • Power cable feed
  • Power feed handles 1/4", 5/16" and 3/8" cables
  • Automatic adjustment for different cable diameters
  • Ability to feed 3/8" cable at 16 feet per minute
  • Quick-change cable cartridges available for different sized cables
  • Great for tight or awkward places
  • Use with leather gloves only
  • Click here to see a basic components diagram
  • Click here to view the parts schematic
  • Click here to purchase the Power-Vee

Your Power-Vee cable may have a drop-head spring on the end to help the cable around tight bends, or it may have a connector with a screw or lock nut for attaching cutters to the cable end.

If you will be attaching a cutter, make sure the Power-Vee is unplugged. Remove the screw and lock-washer from the cable end connector. Slide the cutter into the slot and replace the lock-washer and connecting screw. Make sure to tighten the screw firmly. The Arrow Head and the Boring Gimlet are great starting cutters to get the water flowing. After the water is flowing, you can then change to one of the larger cutters.

Follow these simple steps once you have the correct cable and cutter installed and the Power-Vee is properly plugged in.

Step 1:
Place one hand on the grip shield, to support the machine and operate the feed lever. Use your other hand to pull the trigger.

Step 2:
Put the Power-Vee close to the drain opening, at a distance no greater than 6 inches from the drain opening (greater distances could cause cable twisting or kinking). If you are unable to place the machine this close to the drain opening, run the cable through a hose or pipe to prevent cable whipping.

Step 3:
With the Forward/Off/Reverse switch in the forward position, pull the trigger with one hand and with the other squeeze the feed lever. The cable will automatically push out of the drum. Guide the cable into the line.

Step 4:
When the head of the cable reaches the stoppage, you should feel some resistance on the motor and the cable. Release the feed lever, putting the feed in neutral. Move the Power-Vee back and forth while the cable is rotating until the stoppage has been cleared. Very-slight feed lever pressure may be applied if it is required to maintain contact with the stoppage. Never force the cable; let the cutter do the work.

Step 5:
Once the cable pushes through and dislodges the stoppage, release the trigger and reverse the direction of the drill.

Step 6:
Pull the trigger with one hand and with the other, squeeze the feed lever. The cable will automatically retract back into the drum. Release the trigger occasionally and stop the cable rotation to wipe the cable clean with a rag. Repeat as necessary to wipe the cable of any unwanted residue. The use of snake oil will help preserve your cable. Click here for cleaning suggestions.

Click here to purchase the Power-Vee


Super-Vee Handheld Drain Cleaner

General Wire Super Vee Drain Cleaner
Features:
  • Manual cable feed
  • Grip Shield for quick grip and release of the cable
  • Slide Action Chuck built right into the grip shield
  • Automatic adjustment for different cable diameters
  • Quick-change cable cartridges available for different sized cables
  • Use with leather gloves only.
  • Click here to see a basic components diagram
  • Click here to view the parts schematic
  • Click here to purchase the Super-Vee

Your Super-Vee cable may have a drop-head spring on the end to help the cable around tight bends, or it may have a connector with a screw or lock nut for attaching cutters to the cable end.

If you will be attaching a cutter, make sure the Super-Vee is unplugged. Remove the screw and lock washer from the cable end connector. Slide the cutter into the slot and replace the lock washer and connecting screw. Make sure to tighten the screw firmly. The Arrow Head and the Boring Gimlet are great starting cutters, helping to get the water flowing. Once the water is flowing, you can then change to a larger cutter.

Follow these simple steps once you have the correct cable and cutter installed and the Super-Vee is properly plugged in.

Step 1:
Move grip shield forward away from the drum to release cable.

picture of super vee in use

Step 2:
Manually pull the cable out of the drum with your hand and force-push it into the line until it is stopped by the blockage and you are unable to push it any further. Note: The Super-Vee should be put at a distance of no greater than 6 inches from the drain opening. Greater distances could cause cable twisting or kinking. If you are unable to place the machine this close to the drain opening, run the cable through a hose or pipe to prevent cable whipping.

Step 3:
Slide the grip shield back towards the drum, gripping and locking the cable, making the unit ready for the power spin. The slide-action chuck will automatically adjust for different sized cables.

picture of super vee in use

Step 4:
Make sure the "Forward/ Off/ Reverse" switch is in the FORWARD position. Use one hand to pull the trigger, and place the other hand on the grip shield to support the Super-Vee. As the cable is spinning, push the Super-Vee towards and into the drain line. Do not force the cable, let the cable work for you.

Step 5:
Push forward until the Super-Vee reaches the drain opening and you are unable to push the Super-Vee any further.

Step 6:
Repeat the above steps until you clear the stoppage. When the head of the cable reaches the stoppage you should hear some resistance on the motor and feel some resistance on the cable at first. Once the cable pushes through and dislodges the stoppage, the motor should spin freely as before.

Step 7:
If you are using a 3/8"x 25 foot cable and you run its entire length but still have not reached the stoppage, you can connect another 3/8" x 25 foot cable by removing the drum and putting another cartridge into the drum, attaching the two cables. General Wire does not recommend using cable lengths longer than 50 feet. The cartridges are very easy to change; for more information on changing the cartridge, click here.

Step 8:
After the stoppage is cleared, move the grip shield forward and away from the drum to release the cable and push it back into the drum, wiping the cable clean with a rag. The use of snake oil will help preserve your cable.

DO NOT USE REVERSE TO PULL THE CABLE OUT OF THE DRAIN. Use reverse only to release the cable if caught in the drain line.

Step 9:
Run some water down the drain to make sure your stoppage is cleared.

You can easily switch to a different diameter cable if needed. Just loosen three screws from the drum. Pull the front of the drum off over the cable. Remove the cable cartridge and load a different sized cable cartridge. Replace the drum over the cable and tighten the three screws. Changing the cartridge should take no more than a minute and the cable cartridges help keep any mess contained in the cartridge.

Click here to purchase the Super-Vee


Quick-Change Cartridge

Picture of General Wire Quick Change Cartridge
Easily switch the Power-Vee or Super-Vee to a different diameter sized cable. The following directions may take you longer to read and understand than to actually physically change the cable cartridge.

Step 1: Unplug the Power-Vee or Super-Vee from electrical source.

Step 2: Remove any cutter and connecting screw from the cable.

Step 3: Squeeze the feed lever and pull back the retaining latch.

Step 4: Swing the feed lever open and remove the top roller assembly.

Step 5: Loosen the three screws that hold the front and back of the drum container together.

Step 6: Pull the aluminum container front off of the unit, revealing the cable cartridge.

Step 7: Remove the cable cartridge.

picture of cable drum exploded view

Step 8: Press the replacement cartridge firmly back into the back of the container. Make sure the grooves in the cartridge line up with the slots in the container back.

Step 9: Slide the cable through the container front.

Step 10: Position the front of the container so that the three screws align with the slots in the back of the container. Press the container front into the back.

Step 11: Firmly tighten the screws, making sure the screw heads are centered in the slots and flush with the container surface.

Step 12: Insert the top roller assembly into the feed housing. Make sure the guide pin in the carrier is aligned with the slot in the housing.

Step 13: Swing the feed lever closed.

Step 14: Squeeze the lever and push the retaining latch forward to secure the feed lever in place.


Handylectric Handheld Drain Cleaner

picture of General Wire Handylectric
Features:
  • Manual cable feed
  • Collets style chuck with hand tightening handle
  • For use with 1/4", 5/16" and 3/8" cables
  • Note: Not for use with quick-change cartridges
  • Use with leather gloves only.
  • Click here to see a basic components diagram
  • Click here to view the parts schematic
  • Click here to purchase the Handylectric

Your Handylectric cable may have a drop-head spring on the end to help the cable around tight bends, or it may have a connector with a screw or lock nut for attaching cutters to the cable end.

If you will be attaching a cutter, make sure the Handylectric is unplugged. Remove the screw and lock washer from the cable end connector. Slide the cutter into the slot and replace the lock washer and connecting screw. Make sure to tighten the screw firmly. The Arrow Head and the Boring Gimlet are great cutters to get the water flowing. After the water is flowing, you can then change to a larger cutter.

Follow these simple steps once you have the correct cable and cutter installed and the Handylectric is properly plugged in.

Step 1:
While holding the Handylectric unscrew the "chuck" handle clockwise to release the cable.

Step 2:
Manually pull the cable out of the drum with your hand and force push into the line until the cable stops against the stoppage and you are unable to push into the line any further. Note: The Handylectric should be put a distance no greater than 6" from the drain opening. Greater distances could cause cable twisting or kinking. If you are unable to place the machine this close to the drain opening, run the cable through a hose or pipe to prevent cable whipping.

Step 3:
Screw the chuck handle counter-clockwise to allow the cable to be locked and gripped, ready for the power spin.

Step 4:
Use one hand to pull the trigger, and place the other hand on the grip shield to support the machine. As the cable is spinning, push the Handylectric forwards, into the drain line.

Step 5:
Push forward until the Handylectric reaches the drain opening and you are unable to push the Handylectric any further. Release the trigger.

Step 6:
Loosen the chuck again by turning in a clockwise direction. While holding and keeping the cable in place, pull the Handylectric back another 6 inches. After you are past the first bend you should not have to hold the cable when pulling the machine back.

Step 7:
Tighten the chuck, squeeze the trigger and move the Handylectric towards the drain again.

Step 8:
Loosen the chuck and pull the Handylectric back again. Remember to allow no more than 6 inches between the machine and the drain opening.

Step 9:
Repeat the above steps until you clear the stoppage. When the head of the cable reaches the stoppage you should hear some resistance on the motor and feel some resistance on the cable at first, but once the cable pushes through and past the stoppage the motor should spin easier again.

Step 10:
After the stoppage is cleared, while holding the Handylectric handle in one of your hands, unscrew the chuck clockwise to release the cable and push the cable back into the drum, wiping the cable clean with a rag. The use of snake oil will help preserve your cable.

DO NOT USE REVERSE TO PULL THE CABLE OUT OF THE DRAIN. Use reverse only to release the cable if caught in the drain line.

Step 11:
Run some water down the drain to make sure your stoppage is cleared.

Click here to purchase the Handylectric


General Wire Drill Style Drain Cleaner Troubleshooting Guide

Problem Probable Cause Solution
Cable kinks or breaks Operator is forcing the cable Do not force the cable, let the cutter do the work
Too much slack between the machine and drain Do not allow more then six inches between machine and drain
Cable used in wrong size drain line A cable that is too large or too small in diameter, for a line, is more likely to kink
Cable exposed to acid Clean and oil cables regularly
Cable tangles in container Operator is forcing the cable Do not force the cable, let the cutter do the work
Failure to feed Feed Rollers are frozen Clean and lubricate feed rollers regularly and replace worn out rollers
Cable tangled in drum Use the proper cable size
Motor does not run Trigger in neutral (off) position Switch trigger to either "Forward" or "Reverse"
Motor turns in one direction but not the other Reverse switch failure Replace the reverse switch

Cable Application Chart

Cable Size Pipe Size Typical Application
1/4" 1-1/4" to 2" Small lines, tubs, and shower drains
5/16" 1-1/2" to 2" Sinks, basins, and small drains
3/8" 2" to 3" Stacks, toilets, small drains (NO ROOTS)
NOTE: The 1/4" and 5/16" diameter cables with EL Basin Plug heads can be spun through most strainer crossbars and work well in lines blocked by soft stoppages such as hair, soap, fats, etc.


Safety Notes

Use with leather gloves only. Never use with any other type of glove, such as rubber, cloth or coated gloves. Never try to grasp a rotating cable with a rag. These types of products could get wrapped around the cable and cause serious injury.

If the power cord provided with any of these machines is not long enough, be sure to use a 16 gauge heavy duty electrical extension cord, no more than 50 feet long and in good condition. Using lighter gauge extension cords can result in severe power loss and motor overheating.

Never take hold of a rotating cable. Pull the cable out or push it back into the container by hand only, when the motor is stopped. When the motor is turning, always have one hand controlling the trigger switch and the other hand around the grip shield. Operator's hand could be caught in the moving parts resulting in serious injury.

Be careful when cleaning drains where cleaning chemicals have been used. Avoid any direct contact with corrosive drain cleaners. Drain cleaning chemicals can cause serious burns, as well as damage the cable. Neutralize or remove corrosive drain cleaners in the drain before starting the job.


Helpful Tips

It is sometimes helpful to run a small stream of water into the drain line to help wash the cuttings away while the machine is in operation.

To keep your machine operating smoothly, it is essential that all bearings and bushings be lubricated. Oiling moving parts is particularly important where the machine comes in contact with sand, grit and other abrasive materials.

Cleaning the cable is very important for long life of the cable. Many times, heavily advertised liquid drain cleaners are used to try to remove a stoppage before a cable cleaner is used. Once the cable has been subjected to these liquid cleaners, it is imperative to clean the cable. We believe the best way to clean the cable is to remove the cable from the canister or cartridge and stretch it out in a place you can hose it completely off with water. Once it has been cleaned with water the manufacturer strongly suggests the use of snake oil. In addition to this method of cleaning, the manufacturer also suggests periodically pouring a small amount of oil in the drum. Then, as the drum turns, the cables get complete lubrication. Snake oil has a special rust inhibitor that cuts through moisture and replaces it with a rust-resistant coating. In addition, snake oil gives your equipment a fresh, clean smell.

Cable cleaners are normally seen as the last resort, but we believe they should really be seen as the first and only resort.


Related Items & Information



Please note the information provided here is intended to give a basic knowledge of plumbing related repairs. This information is general, and may not suit all applications. If you are at all unsure of your abilities to complete one of these projects, please consult a professional. Always check with local code regulations and the proper authorities before beginning a project.



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