I ran my Ridgid to **** up dry dirt and construction leftovers, then used it when my basement flooded. It worked fine, until the water backed out of the nozzle and leaked out of the back hose hole. I tried to use it again and it started up, then quickly lost all suction and water came out of the hose. I cleaned the filter (yes, it was filthy) and still nothing. Have I damaged the unit beyond repair. I noticed that the filter is torn, so is it just a filter issue?
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The best thing for a basement that is vulnerable to flooding is a small sump with a permanently wired automatic submersible pump in it. Such pumps are relatively cheap and available in many qualities.
While such an installation will not keep a basement dry it will ensure the water level rises only enough for the majority to flow into the sump and be pumped away without you needing to do anything.
Wet vacs of my experience either have a float valve to prevent water ingress into the motor or a switch to cut off the power if the level rises too high.
Many such vacs have a powerful motor generating much heat and are only suitable for fairly short duty cycles. When used continuously the internal heat build up can distort plastic and melt thermal safety fuses.
It is impossible to guess what the trouble might be and that will only be revealed by checking. With vacs the first suspect is the power cord and the second is the switch...
You should remove the filter that is inside the vac. This should allow for the vac to **** up the water. But just in case that doesn't do it, here is a link to a site that may contain a free download of your manual: www.shopvac.com/parts_pdfs.asp?p=%25&Submit=Search
I was unable to find the model WD16500 instruction manual anywhere online. In fact I did even find a link to that products owners manual, but when I clicked through the page no longer exists on Ridgid's site. I was able to find the parts diagram for the WD16500, and the instruction manual for the WD16600 which is also a 16 Gallon Detach Wet/Dry Vac, also with a detachable blower, and the model that even replaced the WD16500.
I also left you the number to Ridgid if you'd like to contact them, they may be able to mail you a paper copy of the instruction booklet.
Parts Diagram: http://www.ridgidparts.com/cgi-bin/etcTable?showTable=1&table=WD16500-Figure1&image=Vac
Phone Number for the Ridgid Company: 1-800-4-RIDGID
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