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Disappearing Inc

Learning the ropes with an old Vendo V312. Got some questions for the experts!

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Hello everyone, I'm very grateful for the existence of this site and for all the people taking time to fill it full of information. I've just entered into the world of vending machines and have a lot to learn about them. But my goal is a small one, just a single machine in a business I'm in the process of starting. I'm setting up a trial-sized computer museum and have decided to add an appropriately vintage Vendo V-312 that I picked up off of Craigslist. Just $150 Canadian!

Now I've already had a couple people tell me the 312 is too old and troublesome. And while I appreciate the advice, I'm not one to shy away from maintaining old, obsolete equipment without the assistance of vendor support. After all, everything else in this building is just as old and outdated and I keep it running. And I figure that even if this machine turns out to be a lemon, it will at least have taught me $150 worth of vending machine repair skills. Speaking of which, I'm coming into this without a clue what I'm doing. That's where I'm hoping you guys can point me in the right direction. 

 

Let's start with the good news. I've already done the following:

The 30 year old machine had 30 years worth of grime inside. To top it off the previous owners had a few cans rupture while trying to figure out how to load this thing. So the first thing I did after getting it unloaded was remove all the parts and wash down the cabinet inside and out. No longer is it sticky, and there are no musty smells.

Half the flavour strips were broken, and I don't want to put modern ones in their place. I was able to carefully tape the original 1980s Pepsi and Diet Pepsi labels back together and they look pretty good. lacanteen kindly mailed me an envelope of new-old-stock flavour strips as well. These will replace things like the sun faded cutout of a Canada Dry box. Thanks again, lacanteen! If anyone else knows a place to find 1980s era Magnum labels, I'd love to hear it. 

The original fluorescent lightbulb connectors were broken. I've temporarily screwed some 4-foot fixtures that were left over from another project into their place just to see the machine lit up, but they're pretty uneven. The next step will be LED.

 

Next up are the parts I know, or at least think I know how to do:

The breach latch is broken. I'm seeing what looks like the same one on eBay listed as a Dixie-Narco part. Unless you guys know they're different I'll go ahead and order one.

The foam insulation around the coolant pipes has fallen apart. Gotta pick up a roll of the stuff on my way down to the shop this week.

The unit sure rattled a lot when running, which I mostly attribute to all the missing screws around the evaporator. Gotta fix that.

The carriage bolts are rusty and spoil the appearance of the outside of the unit. They're leaving rust trails down the otherwise nice black paint. I'll stop by the hardware store to get some shiny new ones soon as well.

I don't think anything has seen any grease in the last decade, so I'd better bust out a tube and make sure the mechanism moves freely.

 

And now we get to the parts I need help with:

The most obvious thing is that something is wrong with the door. When closed and screwed shut, there's a gap of almost 2 inches between the top right corner of the outer door and the frame. The bottom gap and hinge gap are both far smaller. Looking inside, I can see that the rubber bumpers on the inside of the outer door are pressing hard against the inner door. As a test I removed them and the outer door then closes with much less of a gap. Does this mean my inner door is catching on something and not shutting all the way, or could this be an issue of the outer door being mis-aligned in some way? I'll grab some photos in the next couple days to make this clearer.

Possibly related, the door latch plate was mis-adjusted for some time and the floating latch nut has lost a few threads from someone cranking on the t-handle anyway. Would anyone happen to have a spare?

The plastic bottom of the refrigerated section has a number of cracks in it. I wonder if someone climbed in the machine at some point for how many there are. I'm betting they'll let condensed water into the insulation where mold is sure to follow. Anyone have advise for sealing them up? Some silicone sealant, perhaps? Or should I buy one of those liner repair kits I've seen advertised for refrigerators?

The evap and condenser fans are a bit noisy. Is it okay to oil/grease them, or do they just get replaced when they age?

And lastly (Ha!) I need a coin acceptor. I'm up in Canadaland so it needs to accept Canadian money, including the revised $1 and $2 coins that came out in 2014. Would anyone here be able to sell me one, or is there a preferred place to buy used ones up here?

 

I'll be taking more pictures of my progress as I get this old beast ready to run again, and I'm sure I'll be adding a lot more questions along the way. So let me say thank you to everyone in advance for the help.

 

Oh, one last thing. I've read that older Vendos sometimes had the troublesome "Lowering deck" mechanism. But the pictures I've seen of it don't look like my unit. Can someone confirm from this picture if that's what this machine has?

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Edited by Disappearing Inc

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Whether you believe your own photos or not you have a lowering shelf machine.  Look down in the wide columns and you'll see metal 1" wide bars that rise and fall as the cans are dispensed - lowering shelves.  The narrow columns have rotors.

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Oh, interesting, this unit has both types? I hadn't noticed until you pointed it out that the wide and narrow columns had different mechanisms. That makes a lot more sense now.

While I'm asking dumb questions, maybe you can tell me why these units have both wide and narrow columns in the first place. Is it just for fitting one more column into a narrow machine? Or is it to give less space to less desirable flavours?

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Both. It’s to give more space to popular flavors and to give more selections of flavors.

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I spent a little more time tidying the machine today. Got the temporary lights aligned better and removed the old dead ballast from the bottom. Realized the plastic face of the coin return is broken though, so I'll be adding one of those to the shopping list.

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I also swapped out a few of the flavour strips with the ones lacanteen sent. From normal height you don't notice that the Pepsi and Diet Pepsi labels are held together with tape, but up close they show their flaws. Ahh well, they're 30 years old.

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I forgot to take a picture but the door is closing better than before. It still sticks out a little more at the top than at the bottom, but now it's about a half an inch. Don't quite know how I fixed it though, so I might need some help with it in future!

Edited by Disappearing Inc

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It's been a busy few weeks, but I've found a few more days to work on the Pepsi machine. I'm happy to report it is currently running and dispensing! Ahh, but it wasn't easy getting it here. My goal was to have the machine running by the 28th for a shop party, that way the guests could test it out and hopefully reveal any problems with it. I only got the machine ready at 2 AM the night before.

 

To start with, the rusty carriage bolts have been replaced, the one seized adjustment foot has been loosened up, the door has been re-aligned, and more junk has been cleaned out of every nook and cranny.

I cleaned the evaporator fan and shroud. The thermostat tube looked like it had been given to a gorilla to play with, so I carefully straightened it out and re-shaped it as seen here. I couldn't find any photo of the original shape so I hope this is more or less how it's supposed to look. It seems to be working at least. Cans are consistently very cold without getting slushy.

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I asked a few more people about sealing the cracked plastic bottom of the fridge section without getting any concrete suggestions, so in the end I decided to do an experiment. The bottom of my machine is now coated in everybody's favourite late-night infomercial product, flex seal!

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It took an entire can, but water is no longer getting into the bottom insulation. 

 

At this point I finally got around to reinstalling the vending mechanism. How the hell do you guys move these things? I spent the better part of an hour figuring out how to get it in by myself and woke up the next day with a very sore back. And mine's not even very big!

The first tests revealed that stacks 1 and 2 were both noisier than the rest, and that 2 would sometimes stop half way through a vend cycle. So I pulled out the lowering shelves and the bails for a thorough cleaning. To my surprise they're all in very good condition. There's corrosion, sure, but the contact surfaces and bearings are all perfectly smooth and even. I don't see any unusual wear or slop. All they needed was to have the old sticky grease cleaned off and fresh applied, then both stacks were running smooth and quiet again. 

 

Now for the bad news. While replacing the rotted foam pipe insulation on the cooling deck I aggravated an already damaged section and caused a pinhole leak. The problem was at a spot where the capillary tube had been yanked upward, causing a crack in the solder that held it to the tube below. The force ripped a tiny opening in the thin walled capillary tube. 

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Now, my cooling deck is a bit old and rough, and this was over Christmas, so paying a proper commercial refrigeration repair company to fix the leak was not practical. The one place that was open quoted $490 to replace the line and recharge the system. For that money I'd buy a new cooling deck. Instead I roamed the halls of Home Depot until I found a tube of JB Weld Waterweld putty. It's an epoxy material that's specifically built for copper pipes. And yes, it is an entirely redneck repair for a situation like this, but I have a plan to replace the whole cooling deck in future anyway. I just wanted to get this one running for a little while first. So I squished half the tube of putty over the break, let it set for 24 hours and added a little fresh refrigerant to the system. Then it was just a matter of crossing my fingers and plugging in the machine.

It worked! I'm happy to report that Water weld is able to withstand the pressures and temperatures of refrigeration, at least for a little while. The machine has run for 2 days with deliciously cold cans and plenty of use. I'll be monitoring the patch over the next few months to see how long it lasts.

 

So with the machine finally vending and cooling, I temporarily added a push button to insert credits with for the party and let my guests loose on it. We drank up a good 60 cans that night, and each one was perfectly cooled and vended. So far the old lowering shelf mechanism isn't giving a hint of trouble. Here it is after we ran it to empty.

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Now for the future. I still have a laundry list of parts and repairs needed for this machine, and I know the refrigeration deck will be a problem again one day. So I'm picking up an ugly but free Vendo machine off of Craigslist later in the week to use as a parts machine. With luck it will have most of the parts this one needs, like the coin acceptor. I'll post an update soon.

Edited by Disappearing Inc

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Nice.

Some will give you hard time over your methods but hey, if it works it works. If you were trying to make money off this it would not be advised to jerry rig stuff but at the end of the day this is just a hobby machine. 

Only thing I will say, we will typically never remove the vending mechanism/ racks from a machine. I’ve personally never done it and I don’t know anyone who has either. So I can’t help you on a better way to get it back in. Engine picker maybe?

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I'm well aware that any sane machine operator wouldn't let a fridge like mine go out in revenue service. But I've never claimed to posses a great deal of sanity, so this thing has been given a temporary stay of execution. With luck I'll have a spare deck ready to take its place the moment it fails. So until then it's mostly just a low-stakes experiment to find out whether a jerry-rigged repair like this can actually work for any length of time. Sometimes it's useful to know how long you can get away with doing something the wrong way for. Ever seen a mechanic's beater car? They're often a study in how long you can ignore certain problems for. So I'll let you guys know how far it goes.

I'm also just glad to have this machine temporarily running so I can learn more about the realities of having one. What kind of sales do I make, how often will I need to restock, etc. Hobby machine or not it's helpful to know these things so I can decide how much money to put into its upkeep.

With luck I'll never have to pull the vending mechanism again. Good news is that nearly everything can come out of the machine around it. Really this whole machine has been very nice to work on. I'm constantly being impressed by how straightforward it is to understand the inner workings and figure out how to get it apart. The designers clearly knew that they were putting something together that would need to come apart again. I'd never touched the inside of a vending machine before this one and there's no part of it I haven't been able to remove and work on so far. 

Edited by Disappearing Inc

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I should mention that I pulled the vending mechanism and door when I first picked up the machine so I could load all three separately into a pickup truck. Now that you say that most people just leave it in I have to ask. What is the normal way to move one of these? A large dolly and a box truck with a hydraulic lift gate?

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I use a Dutro dolly (heavy duty vending dolly, specially made with 2 extra wheels on a kick out leg for stability) or a pallet jack. As for trucks it’s either a hydraulic lift deck trailer (whole deck drops to ground level) from Sunbelt rentals behind my F150 or a Penske/Ryder lift gate truck if the trailer is not available. I prefer the rail lifts over tuck unders, but rail lifts are hard to find. In any case you want the full size dock height 24/26ft trucks like the Freightliners or Internationals, not the 16 ft Isuzu NPRs. (They have lift gates barely larger than the machine itself.)

 

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