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Vacuum cleaners are one of those things you may not think much about until yours goes

on the
blink. Fortunately, they're fairly simple machines and often quite easy to service yourself. Check
the basic items first, then make your way inside.

Steps
1. 1
Examine the vacuum cleaner and determine what sort of thing is wrong. Is it
not turning on? Is it not staying on? Is it vacuuming weakly or unevenly? Is it
leaving fuzz or other debris behind? Is it tripping a circuit breaker? Is it producing a
noise or an odor as it runs?

2.
2

Verify that your vacuum cleaner is plugged in and turned on, and that the
electrical outlet has power flowing to it. If you don't have a circuit tester, try
plugging in a lamp or radio that you know works. Yes, it's obvious, but without
electricity, your vacuum cleaner isn't going to get any work done.

3.
3
Check for an over-temperature feature. Some vacuum cleaners have a device that
stops the machine if it overheats. If your vacuum cleaner cuts out, unplug it, check
your manual and wait for a period of time (perhaps 20 or 30 minutes). Then, check
for obstructions or other problems, and carefully turn it on again.
o

Note that vacuums sometimes have a small in-line thermal fuse that's almost
hidden between the switch lead and the coil of the motor. It's not easily
noticed and has tape covering it. A common type is a SEFuse SF109e
available for about $1-2 (US) each on line.

4. 4
Make sure you have done everything in Maintain a Vacuum Cleaner. If the
machine operates but functions weakly (poor suction), or if the vacuum cleaner is
leaving debris behind, or if you smell dust or a general burning sort of odor. Then

check the vacuum cleaner again. If it functions satisfactorily, there is no need to


proceed past this level.

Replace the bag and clean all filters.

Make sure the airways are clean. Clear any clogs in the hose using a broom
handle or a bent coat hanger wire. Be careful not to pack clogs further in or
punch through the hose with the wire.

The belt connects the drive shaft and the brush roll.
Replace the belt(s). Make sure the belts are engaging the brush roll, the drive
shaft, and any other moving parts, such as power-drive rollers. A slipping
belt may produce a distinct odor, that of hot rubber and/or plastic.

Clean the brush roll and make sure it is spinning freely. Lubricate the
bearings. Replace the bearings or the entire brush roll, if necessary. Brush
rolls may be made out of wood, especially in older models, or out of plastic
in newer models.
5. 5
Check to make sure that the brush roll is actually spinning when it should be.
One way is to turn on the vacuum cleaner and carefully look underneath. Never
touch the spinning brush roll, and be sure to keep loose clothing, hair, etc. clear.

Some vacuum cleaners have an idler or switch that disengages the brush roll
when the handle is up or when a switch is set for hard floors. Make sure that
the switch is set for carpeting and that the idler engages when the handle is
down.

6. 6
Follow the electrical path, especially if the vacuum doesn't turn on at all. Use a
multimeter to check continuity. You are looking for open circuits. Clean the
contacts and replace any segment of this path that lacks continuity. Be certain to use
the correct fuse. Reset the breaker(s).
o

From the plug to just before the switch.

Testing continuity across a switch.


Across the switch when the switch is closed (in the 'on' position).

Two types of fuse you may find in a vacuum cleaner.


Across any fuses or breakers built in to the vacuum.
o
o

From the switch to the motor.


Back along the other wire from the motor to the outlet. Remember that
electricity must travel in a full circuit.

This hose connection powers the brush accessory on a canister vacuum.


Across any electrical connections made on the hose.
o

The connection between the cord and the rest of the unit if there is a springloaded cord re-winder. Because it moves, this can be a point of failure.

7. 7
Look for reasons that any fuses you replace or breakers you reset have gone
out. Is there a short circuit somewhere? Is the motor going out? Correct any
problems you find.
8. 8
Inspect the motor for proper operation. It may not be economical to replace the
entire motor (it can cost as much as a new vacuum cleaner), but you may be able to
service certain parts of it.

9.
9
Inspect the brushes. If they are worn, replace them.

Pry open the brush housing.


Pry open the brush housing.

The motor brushes.


Remove and replace the brushes, making sure to reconnect the electrical
wires as you found them and re-close the brush housing.

10.
10
Replace the bearings or apply fresh lubrication. There are bearings for the motor
and blower (often connected). There may also be bearings for the drive shaft and
any powered drive wheels. Look anywhere that something is spinning (or should
be).
o

Before dismantling the motor or removing the blower, see if there is any
side-to-side play in the shaft. If there is, it is a pretty good clue that the
bearings are shot.

11.
11
Inspect the blower for bent or broken fins. Replace it if you find any. The blower
is generally attached directly to the motor. Any unevenness could cause an
imbalance, which could, in turn, damage the motor or bearings.
o

This is one place where you might find a left-handed screw thread,
depending on the vacuum cleaner design.

12. 12
Replace any broken wheels. Replacing wheels is not a big deal, but broken wheels
can sure slow you down. Here are wheels on two different vacuum cleaners. You
may have to remove caps or covers to access the wheel attachment points.
o

This wheel has an E-clip holding it on. Remove the metal E-clip with pliers.
Replace the wheel, then the clip.

Replace this wheel by squeezing these tabs together until the whole wheel
pops off. The new wheel should snap right in.

13. 13
Repair any leaks. If something has punctured the hose, remove it with pliers and
cover the opening with electrical tape. Silicone sealant is another good choice.

How Upright Vacuum Cleaners Work


An upright vacuum cleaner uses a motor and fan to pull dirt from a surface and deposit it in
a bag. Dirt is loosened and swept into the vacuum with a rotating brush called the beater
bar. The upright vacuum cleaner is guided by the operator using the handle on which the
bag and controls are mounted. Operation is simple. Maintenance and repairs are easy to
perform.

How Canister Vacuum Cleaners Work


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 more easily. This design allows larger and more powerful motors to be used.
As with the upright, the canister vacuum cleaner loosens dirt with the beater bar, located in
the power head and driven by a smaller motor. Dirt is pulled through the hose by the main
motor in the canister. Wheels on the canister make it easily portable. Because the fan in a
canister vacuum is more isolated than the fan in an upright vacuum, it is generally less
susceptible to damage.

2006 Publications International, Ltd. A cross section of a canister vacuum.

How to Repair an Upright Vacuum Cleaner


The following tips offer easy instructions for servicing an upright vacuum cleaner's on/off
switch, beater bar, drive belt, dirt fan, and motor. You'll also learn how to repair an on/off
switch, a power-head wire connection, a beater bar, a motor, and a cord reel for a canister
vacuum.
Servicing an On/Off Switch: Because of its repeated use, a vacuum cleaner's on/off switch
can malfunction. Fortunately, on most models the switch is easy to access and test. Some
are fastened in place with rivets, but most use screws. To test and replace the switch:
Step 1: Make sure the vacuum is unplugged, then remove the cover plate to expose the
back side of the switch. The switch may be on the handle or on the housing.

Step 2: Check the wires to make sure they are completely attached to the switch.
Step 3: Use a continuity tester or multitester to make sure that there is an open circuit when
the switch is off and a closed circuit when it is on.
Step 4: If there is a problem with the circuit, or if the switch doesn't test correctly, remove
and replace the switch with one designed to be a replacement.
Servicing a Beater Bar: The beater bar in an upright vacuum cleaner is the first contact
your upright vacuum has with dirt. It's also one of the first components to need servicing.
The beater bar is a round roller with an offset row of brush fibers. The brushes can wear
down, the roller can be damaged, the end cap can come off and be lost, or the drive belt can
come loose. To remove and replace the beater bar:
Step 1: To inspect the beater bar, turn the vacuum upside down. The beater bar will be at
the front edge of the housing.
Step 2: Remove the clips at each end, remove the drive belt, and lift the beater bar from the
housing.
Step 3: To disassemble the beater bar, remove the end cap and flange; pull the brush from
the casing.
Step 4: If worn, replace the brush. If broken, replace the cap, flange, or case. If necessary,
replace the entire beater bar.
Servicing a Drive Belt: The drive belt in an upright vacuum cleaner passes power from the
motor to the beater bar. The drive belt should be checked once a month to ensure that it is
in good condition. Some beater bars have an adjustment that allows the drive belt to be
tightened or loosened. To replace the drive belt:
Step 1: Remove one end of the beater bar (see "Servicing a Beater Bar") from the vacuum
housing.
Step 2: Loosen the drive belt from the motor pulley and remove it from around the beater
bar.
Step 3: Slip the replacement drive belt over the beater bar and around the motor pulley.
Step 4: Reinstall the beater bar and adjust the drive belt as necessary.
Servicing a Dirt Fan: The dirt fan in an upright vacuum cleaner is located underneath the
motor. It pulls dirt swept back by the beater bar up into the vacuum bag. In most cases, the
dirt fan doesn't need replacement, only periodic maintenance. Here's what you need to do:

Step 1: Remove the motor cover and dismount the motor from the vacuum frame. The fan
will be on the underside of the motor.

2006 Publications International, Ltd. Servicing an upright vacuum's motor and dirt fan

Step 2: Clean the fan's blades and base with a moist cloth. Inspect the blades for damage
caused by vacuuming solid objects.
Step 3: Unscrew or unbolt the dirt fan from the motor shaft to inspect and clean the back
side.
Step 4: Check whether the motor shaft needs lubrication.
Step 5: If the dirt fan needs replacement, make sure the new part is an identical
replacement. Take the old unit to an appliance-parts store to verify the replacement.
Servicing a Motor: Most upright vacuum cleaners are designed for reasonably long life.
However, some will last longer than others. Much depends on the quality of the motor. If a
vacuum's motor stops working unexpectedly, check the power cord, the fan (for jams), and
the on/off switch. It's also possible that you have a defective motor. Here's how to find out:
Step 1: If you suspect that the motor is defective, first test the motor's brushes with a
continuity tester or multitester.

2006 Publications International, Ltd. Test the upright vacuum's motor brushes with a continuity
tester or multitester if you suspect a defective motor.

Step 2: Turn the motor shaft or beater bar by hand. The motor should maintain continuity.
Step 3: If not, replace the brushes or take the vacuum to an appliance-repair shop to have it
done. If the motor is unrepairable, consider replacing the entire upright vacuum, as the cost
of a new motor is a major investment.
How to Repair a Canister Vacuum Cleaner
A canister vacuum cleaner has its own set of repair procedures. Here they are:
Servicing an On/Off Switch: Like the switches on most small appliances, the on/off switch
on a canister vacuum cleaner gets a lot of use. Considering the ease of repair and its low
replacement cost, this switch is one of the first components to check if a vacuum doesn't
turn on or off correctly. To test and replace the switch:
Step 1: Open or remove the canister housing to access the back side of the switch.
Step 2: Use a continuity tester or multitester to ensure that there is an open circuit when the
switch is in the OFF position and a closed circuit when the switch is in the ON position.
Step 3: Also check the wiring and terminals to ensure that they are connected properly.
Step 4: If the switch doesn't test correctly, remove it and replace it. Some switches are
fastened to the housing with screws, others with clips or friction snaps. A few are riveted in
place.
Servicing a Power-Head Wire Connection: An advantage of the canister vacuum is that
the part that is pushed and pulled across the floor is lighter than with a single-unit upright

vacuum. A disadvantage is that power must be delivered first to the canister, then to the
separate power head.
The wire connection between the two units is often a source of problems, even in betterquality canister vacuum cleaners. The reason is that there are four sections to the
connecting wire: from canister to hose, from one end of the hose to the other, from one end
of the power-head tube to the other, and within the power head itself. The end of each
section of wire has a connector. If the connection is not made sufficiently, the power head
doesn't operate or operates intermittently.
In most cases, servicing the power-head wire connection simply requires that each
connector be checked and tightened as needed. If a specific connector frequently makes a
poor connection, you can clean the male and female connections with a small piece of
emery paper and a can of compressed air.
Broken wires or worn insulators can sometimes be reconnected and wrapped with electrical
tape. However, the wire may be located inside the hose, requiring that the hose be replaced
as well.
Servicing a Beater Bar: The beater bar on a canister vacuum cleaner is serviced in almost
the same manner as one on an upright unit. Here's how:
Step 1: Remove the clips at each end of the beater bar, and pull it and the drive belt from
the power-head case. In many cases, all you have to do is clean the brush and the two ends.
Remove any excess pet hair or carpet fibers that get wound into them.
Step 2: If needed, remove the beater bar end cap and flange to remove the brush from the
shaft and clean or replace it.
Step 3: Also check the drive belt and replace it if it is worn or damaged.
Step 4: When reinstalling the beater bar, make sure there is sufficient tension on the drive
belt to rotate the bar by pulling on the belt. If the belt is loose, adjust it following the
instructions in the owner's manual.
Servicing a Motor: The motor for a canister vacuum cleaner is easy to access on most
models. To test and replace the motor's brushes:
Step 1: Open the canister's top cover and remove the motor cover to expose the motor
itself.

2006 Publications International, Ltd. Open the canister's top cover to access the motor.

Step 2: Place the probes of a continuity tester or multitester on the two wires that lead to
the motor from the on/off switch.
Step 3: Rotate the motor shaft a few revolutions by hand. The motor should test as a closed
circuit with some resistance. If an ohmmeter indicates no resistance or infinite resistance,
the motor is probably damaged.
Step 4: Check the motor's brushes in the same manner, if they are accessible. Replace the
brushes if needed.
For other motor repairs, take the appliance to an appliance-repair service or motor-repair
shop. If the motor needs replacing, evaluate the overall condition of the vacuum and
consider replacing the entire appliance.
Servicing a Cord Reel: The cord reel on a canister vacuum cleaner is a gadget that simply
makes storage of the cord easier. It doesn't clean anything. The cord reel unit is usually
located at the rear of the canister.
An internal spring offers sufficient tension to retract the cord onto the reel. The cord reel
winds the cord in a circle, so the internal end of the cord must also move in a circle. At the
same time, it must be electrically connected to the motor.
To make this work, the cord is attached to a rotating contact called a commutator block. It
is a circular conductor of electricity that passes current from the internal end of the cord to

a stationary block. If the blocks become dirty or corroded, they will not pass current to the
motor. To remove and clean or replace the cord reel:
Step 1: Open the top cover of the canister. Another sealing cover will protect the cord reel - and probably the motor as well -- from the vacuum chamber.
Step 2: Depending on whether you're cleaning or replacing the cord reel, you may need to
remove it from the housing. To do so, find the clips or fasteners holding it into place and
undo them. If necessary, cut the two wires leading from the cord reel to the motor. In some
cases, you may be able to make adjustments and repairs without cutting the motor wires.
Step 3: Clean the cord reel of dirt, then clean the commutator and stationary block with
some isopropyl alcohol on a soft rag. If pitted, the blocks should be lightly sanded and
wiped clean.
Step 4: Adjust the spring as needed and reinstall the unit in reverse order, replacing any cut
wires.
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