Vacuum Troubleshooting Tips

Vacuum Troubleshooting Tips

And 6 Things You Should Never Ever Vacuum
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Vacuums are an amazing piece of equipment to have at your disposal. From quickly tackling dirt on the floor to pet hair in the couch, it seems like they can handle anything you throw at them. But did you know there are some messes that just shouldn’t be vacuumed away? We’re sharing six different items you should avoid vacuuming and providing some alternative methods to clean them up. Then we’ll take apart a vacuum and help you troubleshoot some issues!

Vacuum Troubleshooting Tips

Broken Glass

The number one item we avoid cleaning up with a vacuum cleaner is broken glass. Regardless of the size of the chips or shards, glass pieces will be very sharp and standard household vacuums aren’t designed to clean them up. Modern vacuums, especially those with a rotating powerhead, actually have an electrical circuit in the hose. Any glass sucked up through there can cause damage to the wires and can be an electric shock hazard. Replacing this type of hose can be very expensive. Once you have the larger pieces of glass swept or carefully picked up, a trick to collecting the small fragments is with a slice of soft bread or a damp paper towel! The tiny fragments will stick to these surfaces, so you don’t end up stepping on them later.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Broken Glass

Sharp Metal Objects

Thumbtacks, pushpins, small nails, staples, or paperclips – any of these small, sharp, metal objects can cause damage to your vacuum. If your vacuum has a beater-bar type of head attachment, these metal objects can be especially harmful to the bar. Stick with the broom and dustpan to clean these up!

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Sharp Metal Objects


Another small metal object you should avoid vacuuming is coins. Coins can cause damage to the rotating brush on the powerhead of your vacuum cleaner. We don’t have any hacks to share here, you’ll just need to bend down to pick up any dropped coins – that’s probably easier than sifting through a dusty canister anyways!

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Coins

Fine Dust

Unless your vacuum has a HEPA filter, fine dust is just going to pass right through the filter and circulate back into your room. Avoid vacuuming up drywall dust, sawdust, and even flour. We do have a trick to avoid drywall dust when hanging items on the wall. Simply fold up a sticky note and place it where you intend to drill a hole, and the paper will catch the drywall dust as it falls.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: HEPA Filter

Fire Ash

Ash from your woodstove or fireplace is another item that should not go into your vacuum. First, it can pose a fire hazard if some parts are still hot, and secondly, the ash is also too fine for most vacuum filters. You’re better off using a dustpan and shovel to remove this.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Ash


Unless you have a vacuum specifically designed for wet use, you should never clean up liquids with your vacuum. The liquid will coat the inside of the hoses, the filter, and the canister. Since these parts are not designed to get wet, they could eventually become moldy which then becomes a health hazard.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Liquids

If you’ve mistakenly used your vacuum on one of these messes before, don’t fret! Just make sure it’s not a regular habit and your vacuum will thank you. If something has gone wrong, we’re next going to show you how to disassemble a vacuum and inspect it.

Vacuum Troubleshooting

We generally do DIY repairs on major appliances, but we wanted to see if we could salvage this vacuum and keep it out of the landfills. This particular vacuum we’re demonstrating with never worked, even right out of the box, so we wanted to try out some different troubleshooting techniques to see if we could get it operational.

Vacuum Troubleshooting Tips

Visual Inspection and Testing

The first thing we’re going to do is a visual inspection of the vacuum. Take a look for any cracks, dents, or other signs of damage. Looking closely, we can confirm that this machine has never been run, as the canister and filters are clean. Our power cord looks to be in good shape as well, with no cracks or frays. Since we found nothing physically wrong with the vacuum, we’re next going to plug it in and turn it on. When we press the start button, nothing happens. Listen carefully when pressing the start button, to see if there is any mechanical action happening – we can determine that the button is making contact with the switch.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Inspect and Test

Test the Voltage

Next is to determine if the power cord is actually conducting electricity. We are going to use a tool called a proximity voltage tester. This device can be found at most hardware stores, and unlike a multimeter, it doesn’t need to make physical contact with a wire. However, all it is going to tell you is if there is live voltage, it doesn’t give you a reading like a multimeter would. To use this tool, just hold it nearby, or in proximity, and the device will have a flashing light if the wire is live. Using this tool, we can see that the power cord on this vacuum has voltage, but we aren’t getting any signal from the switch. We can determine that a connection is lost between the switch and the power cord, and will need to disassemble the vacuum to confirm this.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Test the Voltage

Take the Vacuum Apart

The first step in disassembling the vacuum is removing the canister and filter assembly. With that piece out of the way, we have access to several screws that hold the appliance together, along with a seam that indicates the vacuum separates into two parts. Remove all the screws, including those found near the power cord, the back filter, and underneath the power button. You may need to use a putty knife or flat blade screwdriver to get the button popped off. With all the screws removed, you can then use the putty knife to gently pry the vacuum open at the seam.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Disassemble the Vaccuum

Inspect the Wires

With the vacuum now opened up, we can see that the wires connected to the switch are securely attached to the terminals. We then follow the wires back to see where they connect to on the other end. There is an assembly on the opposite side of the vacuum, where the power cord would fit in. We can see that one of the two wires that connect to the power switch is not attached to its terminal. We’re going to connect the loose wire to the terminal with the locking tab, and then we’ll check if this resolved our problem.

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Inspect the Wires

Test Your Work

Now that we have the wire reconnected, we are cautiously optimistic that was the cause of the vacuum not powering on. Next, we’re going to carefully test it out. Since we still have the vacuum disassembled that means there are exposed circuits, so we’re going to be careful plugging it in and pressing the switch. Success - the vacuum now powers on!

Vacuum Troubleshooting: Test Your Work

By inspecting all elements of the vacuum, both external and internal, we were able to troubleshoot and resolve the lack-of-power issue and save this vacuum from the landfill. If you want to DIY your own home appliance repairs, we have all the parts and guides to help you out. Simply search for your model number on our site. Be sure to follow our YouTube Channel so you don’t miss any of our troubleshooting tips!

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Content Team
The PartSelect Content Team has a passion for DIY and we pride ourselves on being a resource for quality, expert content to help you accomplish any DIY project. Alongside our expert repair technicians, our team of experienced technical writers works to provide safe and reliable information on all tasks and jobs around your home. We spend time learning about the problems and projects that our customers are working on, and we make it our job to answer key questions and provide resources for every step along the way. Repairs and DIY projects are what we do, and the PartSelect Content Team wants to help you do them, too.
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PUBLISHED ON January 24, 2022
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