Many vacuums are working below capacity and you can often fix the problem. This Fix-It Guide on vacuum cleaner repair tells how a corded vacuum cleaner works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a vacuum cleaner problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to disassemble an upright vacuum, how to disassemble a canister vacuum, how to service a beater bar, how to replace a drive belt, how to clear a clogged vacuum hose, and how to replace a hose. This Fix-It Guide also refers to electrical receptacle repair, electrical cord repair, motor repair, fan repair, and other repairs as needed to fix a vacuum cleaner. Many of these instructions also apply to carpet shampooer repair, central vacuum system repair, and electric broon repair.
How Does a Vacuum Cleaner Work?
A vacuum cleaner is an electrical appliance for cleaning surfaces by suction. It doesn’t really produce a vacuum (absence of air), but a pressure differential (reduced air pressure in an enclosed chamber) that causes the suction. The air pressure outside of the chamber is greater than that inside. That difference in pressure causes the outside air to try to get into the machine, pulling any debris it picks up along the way. Once inside, the debris is trapped in a bag or container while the air passes through the container and back outside. Both upright and canister vacuums work about the same way. An electric motor drives a fan that draws the air — and dirt — into the chamber.
Vacuum bags aren’t cheap, but they are cheaper than taking a damaged vacuum to a service center. We recommend that you empty or change the vacuum bag when it is three-quarters full. Also, write the change date either on the bag or on a piece of masking tape fastened to the outside of the vacuum.
The primary difference between an upright and canister vacuum is what you have to push around. Uprights have everything (motor, controls, bag) in a single unit that is pushed and pulled over the surface to be cleaned. A canister vacuum cleaner places the majority of its weight (vacuum motor, filters, bag, and cord winder) in a separate unit to make the power head lighter. With a long hose, the canister can be placed in the middle of the room and the power head moved around more easily. The advantage to this design is that larger and more powerful motors can be used. Both upright and canister vacuums typically have a spinning brush in the head that grabs debris and flings it toward the vacuum hose. If you really need vacuuming horsepower — short of a 360 Ford engine — your home may have a built-in vacuum system with a wall-mounted unit in the garage and plastic pipes that run through interior walls. You simply plug in a special hose in the wall unit and start vacuuming. If the vacuum has a beater head the connection must have electric power and wiring in the hose to get the power to the head.
Don’t try to vacuum up glass or other objects that can cut the bag. Instead, sweep them up in to a dust pan or use a shop vacuum that’s designed to handle rough stuff.
What Can Go Wrong With a Vacuum Cleaner?
The most common problem with a vacuum cleaner is also the easiest to remedy: clogs in the hose or attachments. Also the electrical cord, motor, switch, fan, brushes, and motor bearings can all need repair or replacement. The drive belt may need replacing; and the attachments, hoses, and filters may need unclogging. Most of these problems you can fix yourself.
How Can I Identify a Vacuum Cleaner Problem?
- If the vacuum motor does not run, make sure power is on at the Electrical Receptacle and test the Electrical Cord; test the universal motor and the switch and repair or replace any component that tests faulty.
- If the motor seems sluggish, look for and remove debris, caked dirt, or other obstructions and replace the fan if damaged; replace worn brushes and apply oil or light grease to dry motor bearings or replace worn bearings.
- If the motor stops and starts, test the electrical cord, the switch, the motor, and the fan and service or replace as needed.
- If the motor is noisy, open the vacuum housing and clean out dirt and debris from around the motor, and clean or replace filters; remove and replace a faulty drive belt; inspect the motor fan for damage and replace it if needed, and tighten the fan connection to the motor shaft.
- If the vacuum suction is insufficient, empty or replace a full dust bag, look for and remove obstructions in attachments, clear a clogged hose, clean or replace a clogged filter and check the motor fan.
- If the brush leaves lint on the carpet, check and replace a loose belt and inspect roller brushes and clean, adjust, or replace them; clean air passages inside the cleaner and hoses.
What Do I Need for Vacuum Cleaner Repair?
You can find many replacement parts (hoses, filters, bags) at hardware stores and home centers. Replacement parts such as the motor, special hoses, seals, etc.) are available from the manufacturer and FixItClubParts.com. The tools you will need to fix a vacuum cleaner include:
What Are the Steps to Vacuum Cleaner Repair?
Disassemble an upright vacuum cleaner:
- Unplug the vacuum. Remove the lower handle screw and the handle. Unscrew the accessory hose, if included, and remove it.
- Turn the vacuum over and remove the top cover screws. Turn the unit right side up, move the height adjustment out of the way, and lift off the cover.
- To remove the motor, first remove the brush roller and the drive belt (see below). Remove the screw securing the motor clamp. Be careful not to damage the gasket at the other end of the motor during re-installation.
Disassemble a canister vacuum cleaner:
- Unplug the vacuum. Remove hoses, dust bag, and filter. Remove cover screws and lift off the cover to access the motor and electrical components.
- To service the Motor brushes or canister motor, remove any screws that secure the motor cover plate and lift out the motor. Make sure you find and replace sealing gaskets.
- To service the brush roller, turn the power nozzle over and clean out dust and debris. Remove screws securing the top cover. Turn the unit right side up and lift off the top cover.
Service a vacuum cleaner beater bar (upright or canister vacuum):
- Turn the vacuum or vacuum head upside down to inspect the beater bar. It will be at the front edge of the housing.
- Remove the clips at each end, remove the drive belt, and lift the beater bar from the housing.
- Disassemble the beater bar, if necessary, by removing the end cap and flange, then pulling the brush from the casing.
- If the brush is worn, replace it. As needed, replace a broken cap, flange, or case, or replace the entire beater bar.
Replace a vacuum cleaner drive belt:
- Remove one end of the beater bar from the vacuum housing (see above).
- Loosen the drive belt from the motor pulley and remove it from around the beater bar.
- Slip the replacement drive belt over the beater bar and around the motor pulley. Note: The new belt will be smaller in circumference (but not wider or narrower) that the old one that has been stretched by use.
- Reinstall the beater bar and adjust the drive belt as necessary.
Clear a clogged vacuum cleaner hose:
- Attach the hose to the exhaust and attach the nozzle to the intake, using duct tape or a rag to seal around the intake.
- Turn the vacuum on. If exhaust air doesn’t force debris into the dust bag, disconnect the hose. Carefully feed a clean, dry garden hose or similar item through the hose to jar the clog loose.
Repair a vacuum cleaner hose:
If the vacuum hose has an electrical connection, check continuity with a multimeter (see Electrical Tests). If it fails the test, replace the cord (if not built-in) or the entire powered hose. Don’t cut into a powered hose.
- If the hose is glued into its fitting, cut it near the fitting using a knife and wire cutter. Twist and pull out the remaining wire and hose and scrape out any glue.
- Brush rubber cement onto the end of the hose and inside the fitting; then press the hose into the fitting.
- If the hose has a button collar, press the buttons and pull to release the hose from the fitting. Glue the hose to the insert, cover it with the collar, and slide it into the fitting to engage the buttons.
- If you are replacing an entire hose, you can use a special reverse-threaded hose and a universal cuff that glues over the end fitting.
Pets are the natural enemy of vacuum cleaners. Pet hair can easily wrap itself around the brush roller and clog the vacuum hose. If you have pets, be especially vigilant about keep the brush roller and hose free of debris.