How to Fix a Vacuum



We've put together some useful vacuum cleaner troubleshooting tips that should help you fix some of the more common problems you may run into.  But remember - before performing any maintenance please turn the vacuum off AND unplug it!


firmly plugged in
Ensure firmly plugged in

Vacuum doesn't turn on
- Check that the plug on the end of the power cord is pushed firmly into the wall socket.

- The thermal protector in the vacuum may have activated.  This can happen if the motor gets too hot.  In this case you have to unplug the vacuum, wait about 30 minutes, then plug it in and turn it on again.

- Some vacuums have an in-line thermal fuse (often located between the switch lead and the motor coil).  If the fuse is blown it will need to be replaced.

- Check your home circuit breaker - it may have tripped.




brushroll on off controls
Brushroll on/off control

Brushroll isn't spinning
- Some vacuums have a brushroll on/off control.  Make sure the control is in the "on" position.

- Some vacuums automatically disengage the brushroll when the vacuum is in the upright position.  The brushroll will only begin to spin when the handle is dropped from the vertical.

- Some vacuums have an automated brushroll shutoff to protect the motor if the brushroll is obstructed.  This may have engaged.  Check and remove any obstruction. If there is a brushroll on/off control try turning it off then on again.  You may also want to turn the vacuum power on and off again.

-  The belt may be stretched or broken.  In this case you have to replace the belt (see "Belt keeps breaking" section below).  You can sometimes smell burning rubber or plastic if the belt is stretched and slipping.  If you have a new belt handy you may want to check the diameter of the old belt with the new - you should be able to see if the old belt is stretched.

- The belt may also have slipped off the driveshaft.  This is likely the result of a stretched belt.  You can replace the belt or simply try to put it back on the driveshaft and see if that solves the problem.

- Some vacuums (like many Dysons) have a clutch assembly that is used to engage and disengage the brushroll (engage it for cleaning carpet and disengage it for cleaning bare surfaces).  This clutch can be worn to the extent that the brushroll experiences little to no spinning.  In this case you may have to replace the clutch - see video below.

Video: Replacing clutch assembly

- Brushroll assembly is jammed.  Remove the brushroll from the machine and clean the bearings (you may have to remove hair, string or lint).  You may also want to lubricate the bearings (see “Belt keeps breaking” section below).  If this doesn't help you may have to replace the bearings or the entire brushroll.

Changing out the brushroll is quite easy as shown in the following video, although you don’t always have to change the sole plate.

Video: Changing the brushroll

If your brushroll is like the one on my LG LuV250C with the belt wrapped around the brushroll such that it will not easily slip on/off then check out the following video (this is also common with Dyson vacuums).

Video: Changing the brushroll 2

You can actually get a Dyson belt change toolon Amazon that helps lift and hold the belt while you remove the brushroll.




Belt keeps breaking
If the brushroll is not spinning freely it may put too much strain on the belt and result in it breaking.

- The belt may snap if something quickly stops the brushroll from spinning (like vacuuming over a shoe for example).

- If the belt is breaking frequently (and you aren't getting objects stuck in the brushroll) you may have a problem with the brushroll bearings.  Remove the brushroll from the machine and clean the bearings of hair, string or lint.  The bearings are usually found under a cap on either end of the brushroll.  We would also suggest lubricating the bearings while you have the brushroll out.  After cleaning/lubricating ensure that the brushroll spins freely.  If it still doesn't move freely then you may have to replace the bearings or the entire brushroll.  See video below.

Video: Checking brushroll bearings

- A belt may break if the vacuum nozzle height setting is too low and you are vacuuming medium to high pile carpet.  The carpet is working against the brushbar attempting to slow it down while the motor is working to speed it up.  Sometime the belt will give (often after being heated, stretched and ultimately burnt through or snapped).

Following is a short video on how to replace the belt on an Oreck upright vacuum cleaner.  The vacuum nozzle/head may not look exactly the same on all vacuums but for the most part this should apply to most uprights.

Video: Replacing vacuum belt




Vacuum doesn't pick up and/or has poor suction
- If you have a bagged vacuum make sure the vacuum bag isn't full - vacuum bags usually require replacement when they are between 1/3 and 1/2 full.  Also if you have recently vacuumed fine dust or powder this can clog the pores of a dust bag - check for this.

- Make sure you are using the correct bag for the vacuum (check your manual) and make sure it is installed properly.

- If the machine is bagless it is possible that the dust canister is too full - empty it.

- Check to see if there are any obstructions (tools/nozzle/hose/wand) and clear them.  Do this carefully -try a broomstick if it fits.  Using anything jagged or sharp can tear or rip the hose.

- The belt may be stretched or broken.  It will need to be replaced.

- The filters may be very dirty.  Check them and clean/replace them as necessary.  Ensure you check ALL filters.

- The brushroll may not be turning.  See above section "Brushroll isn't spinning".

- Some vacuums allow you to switch suction between the hose and the floor.  If your machine has this kind of control check to ensure it is set correctly.

- Check that the nozzle height is adjusted properly.  Some uprights have the ability to change the height of the nozzle - usually via a dial on the top front of the nozzle (see image below).  If it is set too high pickup may be compromised.

Vacuum cleaner height adjustment control
Height adjustment control on nozzle

- If there is poor suction at the end of the hose make sure the hose is properly connected to the vacuum.  You may also want to check for cracks in the hose, or if there is an open airflow regulator.

- If there is no suction it is possible that the impeller fan is broken.  In this case you may need to take the machine in for repairs.

- Hair, string or other fibres may be wrapped around the brushroll and stopping it from spinning.  Clean the brushroll if this is the case (see video below).

The following video is brief but it shows how to clean a vacuum's brushroll.  Bear in mind that most vacuum nozzles will not detach like they do in this video – you will have to turn most vacuums over to access the brushroll.  Also, some vacuums have a groove in the brushroll to make cutting away hair and string easier, but not all have this feature.

Video: Cleaning the brushroll




How to wash a filter
- First make sure that the filter is "washable" (some cannot be washed and need to be replaced) - check the manual or talk to the manufacturer to be sure. 

- Then turn the vacuum off and unplug it.

- Remove the filter and hand wash with cold tap water.  It is usually best not to use detergent

- After washing leave the filter out to dry - do not put it back in the vacuum (it can take 24 hours or more to dry).

- When and ONLY when the filter is completely dry place it back in the vacuum cleaner.

washing a vacuum filter
Washing a sponge vacuum filter

Note: Many paper or fabric filters cannot be washed but it is often possible to remove these kinds of filters and tap or shake off any excess debris over a trash bin.  This sometimes helps – although at some point these generally need to be replaced.




How to disassemble an upright vacuum
We've added this video as it may prove useful to those who want to do more than just simple maintenance.  The video shows step-by-step instructions on how to disassemble an upright vacuum cleaner.




How does a vacuum cleaner work?
For those interested in vacuum cleaner basics this video is a great place to start.  It provides an overview on how a vacuum cleaner works and it also includes some good maintenance tips.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best vacuum for pet hair?

What is the best Shark Vacuum for pet hair?

Shark vs Dyson - Which is best?

How do you fix a vacuum cleaner?

What is the best cheap vacuum?

What is the best vacuum under $200

What is the best vacuum for hardwood floors?

Bagged vs bagless vacuums - which is best?

What is the best bagged vacuum?

What is the best bagless vacuum?

What is the difference between canister vacuums and uprights?

What is the best upright vacuum?

What is the best canister vacuum?

What is the best stick vacuum?

What is the best cordless vacuum?

What is HEPA filtration?

What is the best lightweight vacuum?

What is the best brand of vacuum?





Vacuum Cleaner Finder

Find the best vacuum cleaners fast! Use the Vacuum Cleaner Finder! It helps you quickly weed out the underperformers and shows you the top rated machines.

About Me


I'm Nigel Russco, a 50 year old professional engineer who loves to review vacuums, and I’ve been doing just that since 2008.  

I strive to write unbiased, intelligent vacuum cleaner reviews and I provide a score for each and every vacuum I investigate.  My goal is to help you find the best vacuum for your cleaning needs.

Also, watch my video reviews on the Vacuum Cleaner Advisor YouTube Channel.