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How To: Diagnosing Common Vacuum Ailments 101

Woman's hands cleaning vacuum cleaner and taking apart

It happens to the best of us: you’ve budgeted 30 minutes of your busy Saturday to vacuum a few rooms in the house. If all goes well, you’ll be done with 10 minutes to spare. That’s 10 whole minutes of downtime.

You put on your slippers, ready your vacuum cleaner, and prepare to bring peak cleanliness to your home– but then, the unimaginable happens. Your vacuum cleaner doesn’t turn on. Or it just isn’t sucking the way it used to.

You’re short on time, so you quickly unplug the vacuum cleaner, cradle it in your arms like a broken baby robot, heave it into the trash like a sack of rocks, and cancel your plans to visit the Oregon coast. You need to fit a new vacuum cleaner into the budget somehow, right?

Wrong.

In reality, you just need to diagnose the problem and fix it. You can fix most common vacuum cleaner problems yourself and, if by some chance you can’t fix it, a team of friendly professionals (hint, hint) is waiting at your local vacuum store to help you.

Without further ado, here’s a list of common problems, how to diagnose them, and how to fix them. Let’s get you back on track to 10 minutes of blissful downtime and a trip to the Oregon coast.

My Vacuum Cleaner Won’t Turn On!

Oh no!

  • Is it plugged in? Of course it’s plugged in. You’re not stupid. Sometimes an outlet in your house just stops working, though. And even if all of your outlets work, sometimes they require a lightswitch to be flipped on in order to deliver power. That’s frustrating, but we’ve all been there.
  • Test your on-off switch with an ohmmeter, multimeter, or other continuity checker. They’re super cheap. You should invest in one to keep around the house, anyway. Here’s a great guide on how to use an ohmmeter.
  • If it’s getting power, but the motor doesn’t run, the problem probably lies with the motor itself. If the motor can get power, make sure the motor shaft can turn freely without obstruction. Here’s a quick refresher on how your vacuum cleaner works and what various parts of the motor look like.
  • If the motor is getting power, turning freely, and still not running, you probably need to visit a professional (hello there) or find a replacement motor.

Upset housewife with broken vacuum cleanerMy Vacuum Cleaner Won’t Stay On!

Yuck. That’s the worst. There’s nothing like getting your hopes up with that loud, glorious vacuum cleaner sound and then having your good mood annihilated as the vacuum’s bold roar reduces itself to a whimper.

  • It’s probably overheating. If it turns on, but won’t stay on, chances are your vacuum cleaner is getting too hot. Unplug your vacuum, wait for a little while (consult your manual if you’re not sure how long,) and then check for obstructions. If it still dies out, you might need to replace a small thermal fuse. Your local vacuum store can sell you the fuse (they’re cheap!) and help you replace it.

My Vacuum Cleaner Doesn’t Suck Like it Used to.

That’s no good! This is probably the most common vacuum cleaner ailment. When your vacuum cleaner can’t achieve proper suction, the solution is generally easy.

  • Empty the bag or chamber. This is the first step and you’ve probably already done it. Next.
  • Your height setting might be wrong. If your vacuum’s height setting is too high for the floor you’re trying to vacuum, it won’t do a great job. Use the bare floor setting for tile or wood, and adjust upwards accordingly. A deep carpet setting won’t help you much with a hardwood floor.
  • Check the filters. If your vacuum’s air or exhaust filter is clogged, it probably won’t do much sucking. Clean or replace your air and/or exhaust filter. Viola!
  • Check your hose. If your vacuum cleaner’s hose is plugged up, it can’t do its only job. If you think something is obstructing your hose, remove it from the vacuum. Then straighten it out, shine a flashlight through one end and see if any light shines through the other side. If not, use a blunt object to try to dislodge whatever is blocking the airflow, just be careful so you don’t damage or tear your hose.
  • Check your brush roll. Is it spinning? If it’s not, it might just be over-encumbered by hair. Anyone who has pets or children and spouses with long hair will encounter this, eventually. Fortunately, we’ve already compiled a list of vacuum hacks, including an easy way to clean your brush roll.
  • If your brush roll is clean, but still isn’t spinning, you probably have a belt problem. Don’t panic. It happens all the time. It’s probably the most common problem we see with vacuum cleaners. Belts aren’t too expensive and they usually aren’t too hard to replace. This video demonstrates the process:

 

If this video doesn’t work for your belt replacement needs, you probably need to see a professional. Luckily, there are professionals waiting at your local vacuum store (hi!) and we can fix it in a jiffy.

My Vacuum is Leaving Debris Behind!

Well, that’s annoying. This is a less severe symptom of most of the problems in the previous section. It just means your vacuum is producing some suction, but something’s stopping it from doing its best possible sucking.

  • Your bag or canister might be full.
  • Check your brush. Clean your brushroll and its bearings. If your brush is just a lumbering cylinder of lint and hair, it’s not going to do a great job.
  • If it’s not a brush problem, it’s possibly a belt problem. Belts might be broken or too stretched out. They also tend to fall off from time to time. Check the video above and either replace the belt or consult a professional.

My Vacuum Cleaner is Extra Noisy.

Most vacuum cleaners are loud enough to make their presence known. We like to think of it as a boisterous hello. When your vacuum cleaner makes extra noise, though, that usually indicates trouble in paradise.

  • Electric motor for vacuum cleanerCheck your hose for obstructions. When an object can’t quite make it through the noise, it can make some weird noises once the suction starts. If this is your problem, it’s an easy fix.
  • Check your belts. Again, belt problems are the most common problems. When belts aren’t attached or are on their way out, they can cry out for attention with some truly heinous noises.
  • If it’s not your hose or belts, your motor is probably on the way out. Motors get extra noisy before they give up for good. If you think this is the case, contact your local vacuum store (that’s us.)

My Vacuum Cleaner Smells Really Bad

Have you ever used an old vacuum cleaner that just stinks up a room when you turn it on? It’s pretty gross, right? No one wants that.

  • Empty the bag or canister, you silly goose!
  • Check your air and exhaust filters. Clean or replace them.

If your vacuum cleaner is still producing an odor after you’ve thoroughly checked your vacuum bag, filters, and brushroll, take it to a professional.

Hopefully you’ve found your vacuum problem on this list and you’ve been able to repair it. Remember, YouTube is always a good resource for making quick and dirty repairs. As a rule, always be careful around running motors, belts, and brushes. You don’t want to get your hair, clothing, or jewelry stuck in them– though we’ve heard of stranger ways of losing wedding rings.

If you can’t easily fix the problem, talk to us before you buy a new vacuum cleaner. We might be able to fix your current appliance, which will keep you right on track for that vacation to the Oregon coast.

For the Love of Vacuums!
Jones Sew & Vac Team

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