- Designed for car cleaning
- Long cable, good reach
- Flexible hose
- Car specific tools
- Washable filters
- Good value
- Small bin
- Messy bin/filter emptying
- Poor pet hair cleaning
- Review Price: £35.00
- Compact, 12V car accessory socket powered bagless vacuum cleaner
- 5m cable
- Dedicated car tools
- 0.5l dust bin capacity
- Cyclonic suction action
What is the Black & Decker PAD1200 Flexi Auto?
We have moved outside the house for this test of the Black & Decker PAD1200 Dustbuster Flexi Auto car vacuum cleaner. Ideal if you can’t get mains power to your car, this compact bagless cleaner is powered from the car’s 12V accessory socket with a handy 5-metre cable.
Neat on board cable storage, a flexible hose and tools specifically designed to get into automotive nooks and crannies should offer easy cleaning from foot-wells to the boot. The small bin keeps this Dustbuster lightweight and a dual-layer filter system, with an innovative rotating drum, keeps the dust in the bin not in the air. With the sun shining, it’s time for a bit of car TLC.
Black & Decker PAD1200 Flexi Auto – Design and Accessories
While we have had very clean car interiors since we started testing battery powered handheld cleaners, Black & Decker still suggests that there is plenty of life left in dedicated car vacs. With tools specifically designed to get in foot wells and down the side of seats, and using the cars 12V accessory socket as power, they may well have a point too. After all, a lot of handheld household cleaners can be a little unwieldy in the cramped spaces inside a car and a vehicle’s 12V battery is going to offer a whole lot more power and cleaning time than a portable vacuum will muster.
Related: 5 Best cordless vacuum cleaners
Out of its colourful box the Dustbuster Flexi Auto is certainly compact and light, with its flexible hose and curved handle wrapping around the motor and dustbin for easy storage. These unclip with ease giving you well over 1m of tool reach from the main body and a little more with the dual purpose tool attached. This has a wide nozzle for carpets and a flip-over brush for upholstery and plastic surfaces. A good size crevice tool is also provided, ideal for those gaps between the seat and door-pillars, but there is no on board storage for this.
The robust cable is a healthy five metres long, allowing you to get around most cars with ease. This wraps around a cable tidy on the side to avoid the usual bird nest of cable that storing older style car cleaners would invariably result in. The 12v plug feels fairly solid and is designed with a cable-relief collar to protect the beefy cable from tugs and pulls.
At the core of this Dustbuster is a cyclone vacuum with a compact bin built into the centre of the machine. This means you will have to unplug and take the whole unit to the bin to empty. We estimate the bin is less than half a litre capacity, so if you are a bit of an automotive muck-monster, expect to have to empty the bin mid-clean. The two-part filter in the middle of the bin area is washable and B&D recommends replacement every 6-9motnhs – although that will depend on how often you clean your car.
The main central corrugated filter – a similar shape to after-market performance car air filters ironically – can be rotated using an external knob. This has the dual effect of shaking debris from folds in the filter and exposing a ‘cleaner’ side of the filter to the air flow. This proved well worth a twiddle during your car cleaning to keep suction performance up. Unloading the bin and removing the filter is not a very clean operation, so expect to get a hand full of dust in the process.
Black & Decker PAD1200 Flexi Auto – Cleaning
We forwent our standard carpet and hard floor tests for this Dustbuster and went straight out to the car. Having owned many asthmatic and ineffectual car vacuum cleaners over the years, hopes for this little Black & Decker were not high. Fifteen minutes and a clean car later, the Dustbuster had more than proven that car vacuum cleaners have moved on.
It plugs firmly into any 12V accessory socket and with the top mount handle is easy to hold while you clean with the other hand. The cable is plenty long enough to get around a family car and the size, shape and design of the tools clearly shows someone spent some time inside a car while designing them.
The main floor tool gets into a foot-well with ease and can be worked into floor mats and carpet to lift out stubborn dirt. While the Dustbuster hasn’t got anything like the suction power of a Dyson V6 cordless in high-power mode, there was plenty enough suction to remove most debris including small gravel stones stepped in from the drive. Moreover, the short, curved handle and hose allowed you to reach places you simply couldn’t with the Dyson.
With the brush flipped down, the cleaner happily removed dust from leather stitch lines in seats and worked well when running over dashboard plastics to remove laying dust. The crevice tool came in useful under seats, in door pockets and in cubby holes – proving particularly useful at removing small flakes of Polo mints from the bottom of drinks holders – still no idea how they get there, I don’t even like Polos!
On carpeted floors, a little elbow grease and a firm hand is required to help lift some of the debris, but a few passes over difficult areas like dried mud produced some good results.
The Dustbuster did struggle with our neighbour’s car, though, which has been described as a ‘mobile skip’ before now due to a regular cargo of kids, bikes and rubbish for the tip. Quite a lot of embedded and larger debris got left behind where a cordless cleaner with a rotating brush tool would have beaten it into submission. And with no suction release slider, the likes of stray crisp packets get properly stuck to the nozzle.
For really dirty vehicles used to lots of kids, dogs, bikes and family debris, the Dustbuster hasn’t got the sheer power or tools required. Yet for quick clean-ups and keeping your daily driver spick and span, it’s a great little tool.
Black & Decker PAD1200 Flexi Auto – Pet Hair
Pet hairs proved to be something of a canine Achilles’ heel of the Dustbuster. Longer Collie dog hairs trapped in the nylon carpet proved too much for the Dustbuster as very few hairs came free of the grabby nylon pile. Working the main tool back and forth did dislodge some of the hairs, but it was soon clear the rear of the car wasn’t going to be spotless any time soon without some heavier cleaning firepower.
So how long can you keep going over the area to clean these dog’s hairs? Black & Decker doesn’t offer any information on how much power the Dustbuster Flexi Auto is drawing and, combined with different car battery capacities, it is impossible to say how long the Dustbuster will run before you need jump leads to start the car. We ran it for well over half an hour in one new-ish vehicle with a good battery with no problems at all.
Should I buy the Black & Decker PAD1200 Flexi Auto?
If you can’t get mains power to your car, the Black & Decker Dustbuster Flexi Auto proves that 12V car vacuum cleaners have come of age.
While it doesn’t pack the vacuuming punch of a mains or a top-spec cordless cleaner, for your daily driver or Sunday best it is well designed, offers plenty of general cleaning power and a long enough reach to access all areas. At its very affordable asking price, every car should have one.
While it struggles with stubborn dirt and pet hair this is otherwise a well designed vac with good accessories for keeping your motor looking its best.