VPI HW-17 - Questions and Expectations

I bought a used VPI HW-17 RCM this week that had been really put to work over the years in the backroom of a used record shop; it was filthy, was missing the lid, but it worked, has a new vacuum felt tube (the dispenser brush is still old though) and the price was a steal.

I got it home, cleaned it thoroughly, opened it up mainly to check that there were no roaches inside (they share a wall with a take-out place), cleaned the inside which looked awful, replaced the moldy tubing, and so forth. Went to the one hifi shop around that sells VPI's own fluid because I didn't want to play around with homebrews (I'm no chemist), so now I was all set.

I cleaned a few records, basically learned how to use it, and so far, it's a disappointment. Maybe it's working just as it's supposed to, or maybe it's not working at 100% because it's used, or maybe I have unreasonable expectations of what an RCM can do.

I'd love to get some perspective from other VPI owners so I can figure out if the machine's working right or if I need to make adjustments.

Practical Questions:
-The dispenser brush seems to really dig into the record, enough so that you hear it "zip" across the dry grooves when you first swing it into place. Is it supposed to be that low?
-Could/will it scratch the record?
-How hard or soft is the dispenser brush when you get it new? The bristles on mine seem pretty hard, but they might be like that from lots of use.
-Also the bristles above the outer rim of the record seem to barely make contact--is that typical?

-The records look shiny and clean when done, but don't appear to sound any better. Sometimes they sound slightly worse (at least I'm pretty sure). I didn't run any dogbutt filthy records through it, just relatively clean if slightly dusty ones, so the visual difference wasn't dramatic either. Am I expecting too much of the RCM?

-On newly cleaned records, there's often low-level pops and noise in quiet passages that weren't there before. That was a huge bummer and was unexpected. Is this typical? A trade off for an overall cleaner record? Am I just pushing the dirt around in the cleaning fluid perhaps? I don't want to lay out another $100 at this point on a static gun on the hope that it *might* be static, so any other possibilities or solutions?

-I've taken pretty good care of my records over the years and generally get a little crazy with the Hunt carbon fiber dry brushes, going over the vinyl again and again, making tiny mountains of dust particles. Even on a brand-new LP, using a freshly vacuumed Hunt brush (to make sure I'm not bringing particles from another record), I'll still wind up getting these small piles of dust. My main hope for buying the VPI was to get rid of these particles, but even just after a wash and dry, the carbon fiber brushes can bring that dust up pretty easily (not as much, but I'd expected no dust at all, given the time between drying and using the brush). Again, are my expectations too high for what it can do?

Thanks for any insights you can give me!
First, your expectations are not unrealistic... even for a Dolt! I have 3,000+ LP's and the vast majority have only a handful of clicks or pops. Most have virtually none. That said, my cleaning regimen is more complex, slow and costly than what you've tried. Still, I guarantee you can meet or exceed your expectations if you're willing to work at it.

IME, there are two root causes of clicks and pops when playing LPs:

1. Hard-edged contaminants in the grooves which cause the stylus to make sudden transients.

2. Vinyl damage caused by a poorly tracking stylus and/or the stylus dragging stuff against the groovewalls.

There's no cure for #2 except to replace the record (and clean it thoroughly before playing it).

#1 is what you bought a RCM for but in my opinion you're using an ineffective solution. You don't need to be a chemist. You need to pay companies which have employed chemists to produce solutions that work.

IME, the most effective solutions for reducing clicks/pops are based on enzymes. No non-enzymatic solution I've tried (and there are many) can match a good enzyme solution in this respect. I've tried enzyme-based solutions from Buggtussel (least effective), MoFi and AIVS (most effective). Haven't tried the Walker.

You also need to rinse with very pure water, preferably more than once, vacuuming after each step of course.

You'll get other suggestions (including steaming, which is a farce IME). My recommendation is to contact AIVS and try some of their solutions.

Good luck!

P.S. Many users have reported mold buildup in stored VPI record cleaning solution. That alone is enough to convince me it's not something I want to use.

P.P.S. I didn't mention static as a cause of clicks and pops. IME static is a VERY distant third (at most) as a cause.

P.P.P.S. Despite what you may think, if you played your records over the years without having the grooves perfectly clean beforehand (via effective fluids and vacuuming) then you didn't take good care of them. Harsh, but true. See #2 above.
I agree with the insight that Mr. Deacon has shared above. Doug has always been an excellent source of knowledge and experience on vinyl in many forums. A few years ago I purchased a used VPI 16.5 that came with three vacuum wands and three brushes. Initially I ignored the obvious suggestion from the seller (the wands were even labeled) and only pursued using the single VPI cleaning solution and the results were fair to good. Unfortunately there were a number of albums I had purchased new in the 70s with very few play cycles, I had cleaned with the above one step method, but continued to have a lot of surface noise I did not believe should be present. The VPI solution one step treatment was replaced with the more rigorous AIVS three step (enzyme, cleaner, pure water rinse) for a good deep cleaning of the albums. The surface noise in my well cared for records mostly disappeared. There are some used acquisitions that have damage that is always going to be present, but if the noise issue is due to intragroove mold or particulate matter an enzyme cleaner needs to be included in my protocol based on this experience. I use the fairly stiff VPI brush with the enzyme and then let is stand for a short period. I then use MoFi bushes for the cleaner and water rinse vacuuming between each step. The 3 solutions can be purchased as a kit. I do treat for static after the final rinse with a zero stat, but it is more to prevent the instant attraction of new dust to the surface than to treat possible surface noise IMHO. After an album is well cleaned and in a new inner sleeve the regiment is not needed for every play cycle, though some may disagree with that idea.
Best to wait for my new to market RCM, it will feature all the processes of the VPI and Keith Monks machines but will add steam and ultra sonic technology. Will be operational at Rocky Mountain in 2013. Price point is $1000 retail. For now, use steam and elbow grease.
I think you need a new brush and new vacuum tube. I use a different tube for the last rinse. I get great results with my 17. I also use the AIVS very good stuff.