Why is my vacuum cleaner not working?

Cleaning the house isn’t fun at the best of times, so the last thing you’ll want is for your vacuum to pack up before the work is done. It may seem like you’ve been saved from doing the dreaded chore, but the job still needs doing, so (in the immortal words of Bob the Builder): “Can we fix it?”. Well, yes we (maybe) can! We bring you a guide to common problems and solutions on why your vacuum has stopped working – and you can get it working again.

Why is my vacuum not turning on?

Vacuum not starting

If your vacuum isn’t turning on, there could be one of several reasons, including a faulty motor, defective on/off switch, dead battery or simply the unit has been unplugged from the wall socket. Possible solutions are:

  • Replacing the motor: the fuse may have blown for both the drive and fan motor, which can be replaced.
  • Replacing the on/off switch: the button might be defective, which can be repaired.
  • Checking the battery: for battery powered vacuums, check the battery status. If necessary, re-charge it. However, most batteries experience memory loss over time and you might actually need to replace it. Another issue might be if your vacuum loses connection with the battery, which may require a repair.
  • Checking the wall socket: ensure the vacuum is plugged in and hasn’t accidently unplugged itself while you were moving the barrel around.

Why has my vacuum lost suction?

If your vacuum is turning on but isn’t picking up dirt, there are a few possible explanations to this, including the bag or canister being full, filters needing a clean, or there’s a blockage to be cleared.

Empty the vacuum

Vacuum not sucking

If your vacuum has lost suction, it might be because the vacuum bag or canister is full and needs emptying.

  • For bagged vacuums: replace the vacuum bag and check that there are no holes. If there’s a hole, debris and dust will build up inside the vacuuming compartment.
  • For bagless vacuums: empty the dust bin and check that all seals are intact and not dried out or cracked, otherwise these elements will need replacing.

Clean filters

Most vacuums are fitted with filters that become clogged from dust over time. If your filters are blocked, it may cause your vacuum to lose suction power. Most filters are washable, but it’s important to check your manual to ensure this is the case. You can usually find an online copy via the brands website. To wash your filters:

  1. Ensure to unplug and switch ‘OFF’ the vacuum
  2. Remove the filters from the unit
  3. Run the filters under a tap with cold water until the water goes clear (cleaners or chemical solutions are not recommended)
  4. Dry out the filters (it’s important that the filters are completely dry before refitting them into the unit as this could damage the motor)
  5. Refit the filters into the vacuum

HEPA filters are usually not washable and are required to be replaced instead.

Check for clogs

If you’ve washed your filters or replaced them but you’re still experiencing loss of suction, there might be a clog in the hose. To clear the clog:

  1. Ensure the vacuum is ‘OFF’ and unplugged
  2. Remove the hose from the vacuum and look through it
  3. Inspect the condition of the hose and check if there is any dust build-up or holes
  4. Shake the hose to remove any blockages, you might need a long wand such as a broom to push out any objects
  5. Check any other openings or nozzles for dust build-up and use a clean cloth to wipe away any dust

Why is my vacuum blowing out dust?

Vacuum dust

If you’re vacuum has lost suction, it might also cause dirt to blow back out. Three common places where dust gets clogged in the unit include:

  • Hose: too much dust build-up in the hose might be causing the dirt to run through and out of the vacuum
  • Dust bin air duct: if it’s dirty and overfilled, it might also release the dust out of the unit
  • Filters: if the filters are blocked it prevents the air from blowing out and instead it’s replaced with dust

All of the above should be thoroughly cleaned out to help stop dust blowing out of the vacuum.

Why does my vacuum have a bad smell?

If there is a strange smell, or a burning smell, it might be because of:

  • Broken belt: this can usually be replaced. However, you should consider the costs of replacing it over buying a new vacuum.
  • Clog: if there is an item that has lodged in between the brush roller and belt, it’s important to switch off the unit and dislodge the item.
  • Dirty brush roller: if the brush roller isn’t turning, replace it or inspect it for any tangled hair or other debris. If this is the case, remove the brush roller and cut away tangled hair with scissors and pull off any debris.
  • Faulty motor: motors can typically be serviced by a professional.

Why did my vacuum shut off during use?

Vacuum turning off

It’s common for vacuums to have a high-temperature protection system that switches the unit off to ensure the vacuum doesn’t overheat. Otherwise if it does, it can burn out the motor. Problems that trigger the sensor include:

  • Limited airflow: if there is a dust blockage, it limits the airflow out of the unit and in turn, the internal safety switch will be triggered.
  • Low settings: the setting being used for a particular surface such as a high rug might be too low. This might overwork the vacuum and trigger the internal safety switch.
  • Fine dust: vacuuming fine dust such as construction dust from a renovated kitchen, can be dangerous because it can get into the motor and burn it out. Newer models, however, are boasted to pick up dust as small as 0.3 microns.
  • Blockages: if there is partial blockage in the tube that the dust travels through, it can build up and cause the motor to shut down. The motor will need time to cool and reset before it can start again. Make sure to clear out the blockages, plus check the filters and dust bin canister.

The automatic system is there to help protect your home from fires and most vacuums are equipped with this type of technology. It’s important to let the vacuum cool down before inspecting it.

How long should a vacuum cleaner last for?

Replacment vacuum

Before spending money on a service, it’s important to consider how long you’ve had the vacuum for. In Canstar Blue’s customer surveys, we’ve asked thousands of Australian households about how long they owned their appliances before replacing them. Based on these findings, the average life expectancy of vacuum cleaners was found to be 7 years. Keep in mind that when it comes to appliances, you typically get what you pay for, so if it’s a cheaper model, it might not last you as long. If your vacuum is nearing its end, perhaps a new vacuum is the solution.

The bottom line on vacuum maintenance

Vacuums are fairly simple machines so it’s important to conduct regular maintenance to increase their longevity. Ensure you clear out any dust build-up, wash filters regularly and empty the dust bin to help prolong the life of your vacuum. While this doesn’t seem fun, it might help ensure that you don’t find yourself halfway through vacuuming a room when the unit decides to switch off. Ultimately, a happy and clean vacuum is likely to perform better than one that’s not taking care of. You might also like to check the warranty period as your unit might be able to be replaced.

Vacuum Cleaner Reviews & Ratings

Picture credits: Axel Bueckert/shutterstock.com, ra3rn/shutterstock.com, Nor Gal/shutterstock.com, Kzenon/shutterstock.com, Dusan Petkovic/shutterstock.com

Share this article