A broken vacuum sucks, just not literally. From the growing dust mite population that it promotes to the overwhelming collection of unidentifiable crud that not-so-mysteriously accumulates, a broken vacuum really blows.
Back in simpler and more innocent times, a vacuum that doesn't work was readily repaired by filter changes, brush cleans, and/or adjusting height settings. But with the advent of increasingly complex cleaning machinery (robotic vacuums, anyone?), the idea of fixing your own vacuum gets intimidating.
But worry not! Or at least, worry not yet. I asked my go-to vacuum repair pro, Mo from Dynamic Vacuums, and he says a lot of vacuum cleaner repairs are actually easy jobs. Clearly some won't be, but if your vacuum isn't sucking like it ought to then keep reading for Mo's simple solutions before dropping a dime into debugging your Dirt Devil.
• Empty the bag completely.
This falls under the "low hanging fruit" category, but people think the vacuum's bag or canister is empty when it just ain't. Mo says the clog is usually in the bag/canister intake area, just where the bag meets the hose.
When you remove the bag or canister, be sure to examine the area where bag and hose meet so that there isn't a Hot Wheels truck or avocado seed stopping your vacuum from doing its dirty work.
• Height matters.
Again, low hanging fruit, but if your machine doesn't make full contact with the floor it's meant to clean then it won't work nearly as well. Check that the vacuum and carpet (or whatever surface) are fully in contact and no gap is present.
Useful hint: Most vacuums let you adjust them to the appropriate height. It'll look like a dial with numbers, or some sort of option for "carpet" or "bare floor", but the option is there. Tinker with these settings to help you find the right height.
• Is your hose messed up?
Virtually all vacuums out there have a hose and those pesky things are destination #1 for dirt and debris to deposit. Sometimes debris deposits near the hose's exit or entry, making them easy to see and fix... But not always.
Mo advises detaching the hose and taking a look through it to see if you can spot where the clog is. If it's in the middle (and Murphy's Law tells us it will be), then try taking a broom or something else with a longer handle and carefully push it through to remove the obstruction.
• Is the vacuum airtight?
It's a vacuum, which by definition suggests it should be airtight. But sometimes it isn't airtight, which by definition means it's broken.
Common spots where vacuums lose their vacuum are
- Where the hose is attached to the canister
- Where the bag meets the hose
- The bag itself... As in, there's a rip in the bag (tip: Try duct taping the rip)
• The beater bar took 1 too many beatings...
Some vacuums will stop working if/when their spinning brushes, or "beater bars", stop spinning. It's pretty simple finding out it's stuck (turn the machine over and try spinning the brush with your hands). Unfortunately it's not always as easy to get it rolling again.
Regular reasons for rollers not rotating include stringy materials winding tightly around the beater bar while they're getting sucked into the vacuum. These turn that beater bar into an anchor that they can tether themselves to, stopping them from getting sucked into the vacuous void of your machine's inner recesses.
Fixing this requires a good cutting tool and a whole lot of saintly patience. You can cut the pesky strings/threads/hairs to release the roller from its bindings, but if it's a nasty mess or your beater bar ends up looking even more beat up, you should just replace it with a better one.
• Check the drive belt.
The drive belt is what makes the beater bar function when the vacuum is being used. If that beater bar is spinning freely then the next move is taking a good look at the vacuum's drive belt, which involves taking out the beater bar.
Flip the vacuum to get access to the beater bar. Take a close look to see if there are any clips or hinges that are securing the bar. If there are, undo them and take out the brush.
Sometimes the drive belt will pop out with the beater bar, sometimes you'll have to reach in and get it. Either way, once it's out you should check it to see if it's busted or beat up. Even if it's not broken or looking beat up, you should really clean it up a bit because by doing so you'll be stopping further problems in the future.
Sometimes all your poor vacuum needs is a little tender loving care and attention. Dust it off, clean it up, and make sure its vital parts are in good shape. Moe says his biggest surprise is how dirty and neglected some people let their vacuums get.
Next time your vacuum is having operational problems, try these tips to see if you can fix it yourself. It will save you money and be an empowering exercise in getting to know (if not totally mastering) your vacuum cleaner.