Guess whose vacuum cleaner broke? Our first thought was that we ‘d just earned a vacation from cleaning. Our second thought was that we had a dog, and we couldn’t live with the futility of trying to sweep the hair off our tile floors at least twice a week. So here’s what we learned while getting ready to buy a new vacuum cleaner.
First of all, it turns out the vast majority of problems people experience with their vacuum cleaners are easily preventable. But if you don’t consider yourself to be mechanically inclined, it may seem like a daunting task performing the upkeep and maintenance yourself. The problem is that it’s easy to over-spend the value of the vacuum paying for maintenance and dealing with the problems that arise from improper maintenance.
The good news is that it is easier than you think to keep your vacuum working well and most models are very similar in their components and construction. The following steps should apply to most brands and models.
- Unplug the vacuum and check the bag. Never attempt to work on a vacuum cleaner that is still connected to a power source. Unplug it before you do ANYTHING. Once it is unplugged, check the bag, if your model uses one. Most vacuums will begin losing suction, and it will force the motor to work harder, if the bag is too full. If it is more than two-thirds full, replace it. If your model is bagless, empty the bin.
- Clean the beater bar. This is the brush-like part the does the sweeping. Remove the bottom plate (there are usually two to four clasps or small screws holding it on). The beater bar should release easily from a notch on the side opposite the belt. Using scissors or your fingernails, loosen and remove any hair, threads or other debris that may have wrapped around the beater.
- Clean and lubricate the wheel bearings on the beater. These are located at the ends. Hold the bar by the center and spin the wheel bearings. If they stick, you may need to spray the inside with a petroleum or graphite-based spray lubricant.
- Check the beater belt. If there is a cover plate protecting the belt, remove it like you did the bottom plate. Check the belt for signs of wear. If it is cracked or frayed, you will want to replace it. Your owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website can tell you the size of the belt you need
- Remove dust and debris from the air passages and beater bar housing. You can usually do this with your fingers but an old toothbrush works well, too. Once you clear any blockages, shake the vacuum to dislodge any remaining debris.
- Replace the beater bar being careful to properly align the belt and seat the bar properly in its compartment. Reseat the clasps or replace the screws to affix the bottom plate.
- Check and replace the air filter. Again, the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s web site can give you the size and part number. Bear in mind that there are generic versions of both the filter and the belt or belts that will work just as well and cost less. Not all models have a removable filter so check the maintenance section of your owner’s manual for a list of parts that will need to be replaced and do so at the appropriate intervals.