Thread Number: 71542  /  Tag: Vintage Automatic Washers
POD 7/4/2017
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Post# 946631   7/4/2017 at 04:27 (294 days old) by brucelucenta ()        

This agitator was one of the biggest innovations in automatic washers. Although patented by Whirlpool, it was used exclusively in Kenmore washers until after the direct drive replaced the belt drive models. Then Whirlpool had a similar agitator until the patent ran out and most other washing machine companies made similar agitators. These agitators were very good at turning over the clothes and washing them more uniformly when the machine was overloaded. It somewhat increased the capacity of the machine somewhat. The only other machine that circulated the clothes of an overloaded washer any quicker or better was Frigidaire, which they proved with their television ad comparing their washer to a Kenmore of that vintage. Frigidaire actually washed better with at least a slightly overstuffed load.

Post# 946643 , Reply# 1   7/4/2017 at 06:26 (294 days old) by tolivac (greenville nc)        

The BD version of this agitator worked quite well.The DD version for me when I tried it-was like putting your clothes in a blender!The DD would have been GREAT if the transmission had a gearbox to SLOW the motor speed down-like the belt and pulley(small pulley motor-large pulley transmission) in the BD.

Post# 946668 , Reply# 2   7/4/2017 at 09:57 (293 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        
I just noticed something...

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The sketch of the agitator has the helix of the spiral backward. The top half of the sketched agitator would have to rotate counter-clockwise while in reality the real ones rotate clockwise.

Post# 946682 , Reply# 3   7/4/2017 at 12:10 (293 days old) by realvanman (Southern California)        
When were these introduced?

The ad looks ~'70's?

We had a machine with one of these- a Kenmore, I believe- that I would have called modern. This would have been less than ten years ago, though I don't know how old the machine was when we got it. At the time I *assumed* that it was a fairly new idea. The ratchet mechanism sounded cheap, and indeed sometimes it would skip.

I honestly cannot remember if it was direct or belt drive, or even long or short stroke! I didn't know about those distinctions at the time, having not yet found this site. :) I'm guessing that it must have been short stroke, based on the fact that it was "modern".


Post# 946684 , Reply# 4   7/4/2017 at 12:38 (293 days old) by brucelucenta ()        

From what I remember they were a product of the mid to late 70's when they first came out.

Post# 946685 , Reply# 5   7/4/2017 at 12:41 (293 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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This agitator was introduced in the late '70s to replace the under-performing PentaSwirl in KM large capacity BD (Belt Drive) machines. The machine you had was likely a DD (Direct Drive) Kenmore with short stroke agitation. From your description, it sounds like the agitator-dogs (ratchet mechanism) were worn in your machine.

Post# 946687 , Reply# 6   7/4/2017 at 12:44 (293 days old) by speedqueen (Harrison Twp, Michigan)        

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Sorry Bruce, I was still typing when you posted!

Post# 946714 , Reply# 7   7/4/2017 at 18:29 (293 days old) by brucelucenta ()        

No problem man

Post# 946725 , Reply# 8   7/4/2017 at 20:04 (293 days old) by gansky1 (Omaha, The Home of the TV Dinner!)        

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I remember when this agitator was first introduced at Sears and one of the kinder salesmen in the white-goods department gave me a demonstration. He had a load of towels that he wrapped into a ball, one-by-one and then dropped the ball into the washer. When he started the Dual-Action on high speed, it unwrapped the ball and continued washing as normal. My demo was over when I told him I'd done a similar trick with our GE Filter-Flo at home. Go away kid.

Post# 946747 , Reply# 9   7/5/2017 at 01:04 (293 days old) by 70series ( Connecticut.)        

The Dual Action made its debut in 1976. One of my aunts and uncles bought the Kenmore 80 model with this agitator.

Post# 946751 , Reply# 10   7/5/2017 at 01:36 (293 days old) by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

"This agitator was introduced in the late '70s to replace the under-performing PentaSwirl in KM large capacity BD (Belt Drive) machines."

I have always wondered why Kenmore produced so many agitators in their machines when Whirlpool, and other competitors, stuck with their own designs for many, many years. It came across, at times, like they couldn't decide which was better. Just off the top of my head I can count 8 designs. I guess they finally decided the DualAction was the better. Maybe someone in the know can list the different types and why they were replaced. I thought the PentaSwirl was better than the PentaVane that they came up with a couple of years later. Someone?

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Post# 946833 , Reply# 11   7/5/2017 at 19:21 (292 days old) by Kenmoreguy64 (Charlotte, NC)        
Kenmore agitators...

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Since the Roto-Swirl came out in the 50s, Kenmore always offered more than one agitator. Agitators got better, according to Sears anyway, as you progressed upward in the model specs. The "better" agitators were advertised as reasons to spring for pricier models. By the time the Dual Action debuted in several 1976 models, the line up of agitators was:

Standard capacity

Entry to MOL - Straight vane

MOL to almost TOL - Super Roto Swirl

TOL - Standard cap DA

Large / Super capacity

Entry to MOL - Penta Vane

MOL - Penta Swirl

High-end 90 series and TOL - DA

Before the advent of the DA, some high end agitators were the Roto-Flex (1965-1969 ish) and the Vari-Flex 1968-1974). Both were for standard capacity models.

Another reason Kenmore seems to have had so many agitators is in part due to their effort to find a really good agitator for the large tub models. The large cap roto-swirl was huge, and I suspect it may not have been gentle enough. In 1973 and 1974 the two Pentas came out. The 'Swirl is wonderfully gentle but effective, but on large loads it can get bogged down. In a full load of jeans, etc, it is just beginning to turn a load when the two minute rinse ends. I am using a machine with one in it right now, it is great in medium and medium-large loads.

The Penta Vane is great, a bit more effective at turn over than the Penta Swirl, but in less than full loads it could be seen I think as too aggressive. It doesn't look like it, but this agitator is much more brutish than you would think. I will sometimes do most of the wash agitation on delicate speed when using this agitator on a less than full load.

The DA offers delicate agitation when needed, yet effective load handling on large loads. Kenmore did not develop new agitators for the BD after the DA, and not for the DD either, except several innovations/improvements were made to DD Dual Action versions.

Overall, Kenmore wanted to give buyers reasons to progress up the model line to the more profitable higher priced models. I think my favorite of all the KM agitators is the standard capacity Striaght Vane (the plastic version, not the earlier bakelite). It is tremendously effective, very vintage in appearance, and dramatic. The DA though is surely the best agitator of the bunch for the majority of consumers.


Post# 947082 , Reply# 12   7/7/2017 at 23:23 (290 days old) by mrsalvo (New Braunfels Texas)        

Gordon, thank-you for your reply. Interesting, didn't know the PentaVane came out that year, and that it was a very good agitator. I had not heard anyone's speculation on it.
It's interesting that the RotoFlex sort of came and went, I remember as a kid it came onto the scene in a big way then it just disappeared! Meanwhile, the StraightVanes were still offered and Vari-Flex took over. Oh, okay, I'll stop for now.

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