How To Fix Your Vacuum Cleaner When It Stops Working

When it comes to having a clean home, nothing is as convenient as an electric-powered machine with suction to eliminate dust and dirt for you, a vacuum cleaner. But what happens when your vacuum stops working? How do you fix vacuum cleaner? In a market where there is an ever-increasing number of flashy new appliances, it can be tempting to replace your hardy vacuum with something new, but sometimes that isn’t the best choice. Fortunately, there are some basic steps you can take to clean your vacuum cleaner, given that your problem isn’t too bad or irreparable.

fix vacuum cleaner
Sometimes you can repair your vacuum and save a bundle, but if the engine is broken beyond repair, buy a new vacuum cleaner rather than fit a new engine.

What Type of Vacuum Do You Own?

Since the introduction of the first carpet cleaner, vacuums have evolved into several different types, some for general cleaning and some specialized for specific floors and environmental settings. The two main types are uprights and canisters, and they both work a little differently.

A standard upright fan is a single unit, where the motor, fan, dust bag/canister and controls are mounted on a type of shaft/ body. The head of the upright has a rotating brush, or a beater bar, that loosens dirt from carpet for better removal. The entire unit is pushed around for convenient cleaning. Uprights are best for open spaces and carpeted floors.

A standard canister is two units that work together as one appliance. The canister of the vacuum carries most of the weight and machinery, including the vacuum motor, fan, bag, filters and sometimes, a cord winder. The power head of the canister is attached via a long hose. It has a beater bar feature powered by a smaller motor, which sucks up dirt that is then pulled into the bag in the canister body via the main motor. The canister of the vacuum often remains stationary while the light powerhead is pushed around. This design allows for more powerful motors and less damage to the insulated vacuum fan and is better for tight spaces and bare floors.

The main differences in the two types of vacuums also affect the steps required to repair them.

How to Fix an Upright Vacuum

Although some fixes can’t be done at home, many of them can be. Here are the steps to servicing your own upright at home, whenever it is possible.

The On/Off Switch: Damages are usually due to repetitive use, which is unavoidable. Yours may be screwed in place, or fastened with rivets. With your vacuum unplugged, locate and remove the cover plate to expose the back end of the switch, either on the handle or housing of your vac.

Check that the wires are fully attached to the switch and test it with a continuity tester to ensure there is an open circuit when the vac is off and a closed circuit when on. You can use a multitester as well. If you find problems here, replace the switch with the appropriate piece.

The Rotating Brush or Beater Bar: Usually the first thing to go when your vac gets run down. Sometimes the brushes wear down, the roller gets damaged, the drive belt comes loose or the end cap falls off. Turn the vacuum upside to inspect the beater bar, which should be found at the front end of the vacuum head housing.

To lift the beater bar from the housing, remove the clips on the ends and the drive belt. You can disassemble it by removing the end cap and flange, then pull it from the casing. A worn brush should be replaced. If it’s broken, replace the case, cap or flange, and maybe even the whole thing if necessary.

The Drive Belt: Can become loose from use after a while, as power from the motor is transferred to the beater bar via the drive belt. Some vacuum models have beater bar adjustments that let you tighten or even loosen the belt. If not, you may have to replace yours when it’s time.

To remove and replace the drive belt, first remove the beater bar, as described above. You can then remove the drive belt from the beater bar by loosening it from the motor pulley, first. To place a new one, the replacement drive belt should slip over the beater bar and back around the motor pulley. You can then put the beater bar back in place and adjust the drive belt accordingly.

The Dirt Fan: Most often requires periodic maintenance rather than repair or replacement. If damaged, it is caused by vacuuming up solid objects. Found underneath the motor, first remove the motor cover and remove it from the vacuum frame to expose the fan on the underside.

Use a moist cloth to clean the fan blades and base, while inspecting them for damages. To clean and inspect the back side of the fan, unbolt or unscrew it from the motor shaft. Check to see if the motor shaft needs to be lubricated. If it is damaged, replace it with an identical fan.

The Motor: Your vacuum really only lasts as long as your motor does. If it stops working suddenly, check the power cord, the switch and the fan. You can find out if the motor is defective by using a continuity tester or multitester for the motor’s brushes. Rotate the beater bar or shaft manually by hand. If the motor works, it should maintain continuity. If it doesn’t, you should take the vacuum to an appliance repair shop to have the brushes replaced or to find out if the motor is irreparable. If it is, you should consider buying a new upright, because the price of a new motor can be quite hefty.

How to Fix a Canister Vacuum

The On/Off Switch: Same as repairing the switch in an upright.

The Power-Head Wire Connection: A main source of canister vacuum problems as it is comprised of four sections: from the canister to the hose, one hose end to the other, one powerhead tube end to the other, and inside the powerhead. Each section is connected to the other with a connector. Ensure the connectors are intact and tight; you may tighten them as needed.

Connectors that make a poor connection likely need to be cleaned. Clean the connections with some emery paper and compressed air from a can. If the wires are broken or the insulators are worn out, you may be able to get by with reconnecting and wrapping electric tape around the wires. If the wire is inside of a hose, you may have to replace the hose.

The Beater Bar: Same as fixing the beater bar in an upright.

The Motor: Easy to access on most models, the canister design insulates and well protects the motor from damage, much more than with an upright. Expose the motor by removing the canisters top cover and then removing the motor cover. Use the continuity tester or multitester to connect to the two wires leading to the motor from the on/off switch. You can try rotating the motor shaft by hand – it should give some resistance if its working; no resistance or infinite resistance means that the motor is damaged. Check the motor brushes the same way, if it is possible, and replace if necessary. For other motor repairs, you must take the vacuum to an appliance repair vendor or shop, and should the motor need replacing, you may want to consider buying a new vacuum. Motors can be quite costly in comparison.


When it’s all said and done, a vacuum cleaner can last you a mighty long time if you give it regular maintenance and care. If you’re the type that relies heavily on the use of a vacuum cleaner to clean your home, you may want to consider investing in a good vacuum cleaner, like a Dyson or a Miele, that will last you a long time. Even though they may cost more in the beginning, they will cost you less in replacements and repairs later on down the line.