Common Vacuum Cleaner Problems and Their Solutions

Vacuum cleaners are appliances that if well-maintained, can last its user up to 7 or 8 years. A good, high-end vacuum may last even longer than that, stretching up to 12-15 years of use if the machine is properly cared for. Most vacuums come with some kind of warranty, some are as short and with minimal coverage, like a limited warranty for one year, and some come with warranties that last up to 5 years and sometimes more; but not all common vacuum cleaner problems require involvement from the manufacturer, warranty or not. There are many vacuum cleaner problems that you can learn to quick-fix for yourself, which in turn can save you money, and even a bit of hassle.

common vacuum cleaner problems
Sometimes simple fixes are all that’s needed to keep your wallet in your pocket and get your vacuum going again.

Here are some common vacuum cleaner problems and how you can troubleshoot and fix them yourself at home.

The Vacuum Cleaner Is Not Turning On

Is the vacuum plugged in properly?

This first (and obvious) thing you have to do is make sure you have electricity. If it is a cordless vac, like a handheld or stick vacuum, you’ll need to try charging up the battery.

Does the power outlet where you plug your vacuum have electricity flowing into it?

If no circuit tester is available, you can test the outlet by plugging in a small appliance like a lamp or hair dryer to see if it works. This will help you quickly figure out if the problem is with your vacuum cleaner at all, or with something else in your house.

If the vacuum still isn’t working, unplug it immediately before attempting any other maintenance/repairs. Take a look at the appliance’s power cord for any severe damage that could be the cause.

Open up the vac and check the electrical paths. You can use a continuity tester or multimeter to check for continuity. Some connector contacts may need to be cleaned, and others may have to be replaced where the connections are weak or not successfully being established.

Inspect the motor

In the event that your motor is damaged or defective, you will have to repair it. Should you find that you need to replace the motor, you may want to consider buying another vacuum altogether, as vacuum motors can easily be equally as expensive.

Vacuum Is Not Staying On

Does the vacuum have an over-temperature feature?

Some vacuum cleaners have a protective feature that shuts it down once the machine has overheated and become too hot. If your vacuum cleaner is cutting off on you suddenly, unplug it and wait. You can check the appliance’s manual while you wait about 20-30 minutes for the internal motor and vacuum parts to cool down. Then, you can inspect the vacuum for any other obstructions that might be causing it to shut down before you plug it back in and see if it will resume working.

Vacuuming Weakly Or Unevenly, Leaving Fuzz Or Other Debris Behind

Have you performed vacuum cleaner maintenance lately?

Vacuums don’t need much attention to work well, and a little maintenance can go a long way to keep your vac for a long time, saving you the cost of expensive repairs or a replacement. Many of the common vacuum cleaner problems are caused by the lack of maintenance.

Has your vacuum been emptied recently?

Part of regular maintenance is to check your dirt canister to make sure it isn’t too full to clean, and emptying the cup regularly/replacing the bag when needed. Vacuums with full dust cups often lose suction power.

Has the bag been replaced?

Again, vacuum cleaners don’t work well when full. It’s best to replace your vacuum bag – if you’re using a bagged vacuum cleaner – whenever it’s about two thirds full. Be sure to use the correct bag size and type for the vacuum you have, and that the bag is completely on and secured with all or any clips and holders in securely in place.

Do the filters need to be cleaned or replaced?

When it comes to filters, a lot of vacuums come with washable ones. Make sure your filters are clean. If they are not clean and they’re made of foam or plastic, you can rinse them out. Let them dry before you put them back in. Dirty filters block air flow and play a huge role in a suction decrease, as well as the quality of air your vacuum blows back out.

If your filters aren’t the washable type, they may have to be thrown out and replaced.

In the event that your vacuum has paper or fabric filters, you might be able to shake or beat the debris out between replacements.

Are the airways clean?

Vacuums are all about suction and airflow, so optimal airflow is required for optimal performance. Clear the hose from any clogs with a broom handle or a bent wire coat hanger. Take care not to make the clogs denser and harder to remove, or damage the hose.

Is the drive belt tight and intact?

The drive belt passes power from the motor to the beater bar. If it has come loose or is broken, you will likely have to replace it. To do that, first remove the beater bar, then loosen the drive belt from the motor pulley. You should then be able to remove the belt from the beater bar. To install a new drive belt, simply slip the replacement one over the beater bar and adjust it accordingly. A belt that is slipping or has come loose is also the reason for the distinct odor of hot rubber or plastic, should your vacuum be giving off any strange odors.

Is the brush roll/beater bar spinning freely?

Necessary to loosen dirt and dust from carpet, the brush roll can become tangled or jammed, or the bearings may be in need of lubrication. Flip the vacuum upside down to inspect the beater bar to assess if it needs to be replaced. If it is simply worn out, you can replace the brush. If it is broken, you may have to replace the whole part, including the cap, flange and/or case. Also, make sure that the brush is spinning when it is supposed to be engaged. Some vacs have a switch to turn the brush roll on and off, and some turn the brush roll off when the handle is in a certain position.

Is the hose intact?

Many vacuum cleaners come with hoses that can seem rather flimsy and can be easily punctured by vacuuming small, sharp objects or even during the process of unclogging it. Inspect your hose for holes. If there is something still in the punctured hole, remove it with pliers before you use electric tape to cover the opening.

Trouble Moving The Vacuum Cleaner Around

Are the wheels broken?

Another common vacuum cleaner problem is that vacuum wheels can crack and eventually break from misuse or use on harsh surfaces. In the event that a wheel has been broken, it isn’t a big deal but it may limit your mobility, especially if you have an upright. To replace the wheels, remove caps or the wheel covers to expose the points where the wheels attach.


With regular maintenance and care, your vacuum cleaner may last you up to 8 to 12 years, despite the 1-5-year warranty that most vacuums come with. Sure, you may have to replace a few small parts here and there over the course of a decade of vacuum ownership, but if you invest into the right vacuum, those replacements will be infrequent and small prices to pay. There is a lot you can do to keep your vacuum cleaner running without having to take it to the repair shop, it just depends on how well you know and take care of your vac.