Common Vacuum Cleaner Problems

Vacuum cleaners make light work of keeping our floors clean and dust free.  Given the amount of work we put them through they are prone to the occasional breakdown but most vacuum cleaner problems are easy to fix.  Select your fault from the list below to see how to DIY repair you vacuum cleaner.


Vacuum cleaner has stopped working

A vacuum cleaner that won’t turn on or stay on is a common problem – but with a little expert advice, it’s often easy to fix. These trouble shooting tips should help you to get your appliance up and running again.

First Things First – Check the Power

It might sound simple, but lack of power is often the cause of a vacuum cleaner that won’t work. Check that the vacuum cleaner is plugged into a working power outlet and that fuses and breakers don’t need resetting.

Activated Thermal Cut-Out

An activated thermal cut-out due to a blockage is the next most likely cause of the problem. Check for blockages in the hose and filters, and remove any obstructions that you find.

You will also need to leave the machine switched off for the recommended cooling time, which will be stated in its user guide.

A Full Bag

In some cases, a full vacuum bag will prevent the appliance from being turned on. To fix the problem, simply replace the bag.

Damaged Vacuum Cleaner Cord

If all else fails, a damaged vacuum cleaner could be the cause of the issue. First, check that the cord is properly connected to the vacuum cleaner (again, this is surprisingly easy to overlook) and that there are no splits in the rubber. If the cord is damaged, it will need immediately repairing or replacing.

Faulty On/Off Switch

The on/off switch can break over time and need replacing.  Whilst different vacuum cleaners have different switches they are all very similar to replace.  Watch our video on how to replace the switch on a Henry vacuum cleaner.


If the motor is faulty the vacuum cleaner will appear to be dead.  Remember that a faulty motor is often caused by another issue such as blocked filters or over use of the same vacuum bag.  So when replacing the motor remember to check that there isn't an underlying problem that has cause the motor to fail.

If your vacuum cleaner isn’t working properly, take a look at our vacuum cleaner spare parts page – whatever the issue, we’ll have the spare part you need.

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Vacuum cleaner smells

Is your vacuum cleaner smelling? The issue has a number of common causes and can usually be easily fixed. These trouble shooting tips should help you to identify and solve the problem.

Smelly Vacuum Cleaner Bag

A smelly vacuum cleaner bag (in bagged vacuums) is the most likely cause of the problem – after all, everything from food to animal hair can end up in there!

To fix the problem, simply replace the bag. You can find out how to replace a Henry Hoover bag by watching this video.

Smelly Dust Canister

As with bagged vacuum cleaners, dust canisters in non-bagged appliances can end up smelling. To solve the issue, simply enter the dust canister.

Dirty Filters

Dirty filters are another likely culprit. Try cleaning the filters in a mixture of baking soda and water – if this doesn’t work, you’ll need to replace the filters.

Blocked Hose or Attachments

A blocked hose or attachment can cause you vacuum cleaner to smell. Remove the hose and check for any large blockages. If the hose is fully plastic, you can leave it to soak overnight in soapy water. You can also leave plastic attachments to soak overnight.

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Vacuum cleaner isn't sucking

Finding that your vacuum cleaner isn’t sucking up dirt properly? It’s a common problem, but one that’s usually easy to fix. The following tips should help you to solve the issue.

Full Bag

If your vacuum cleaner loses suction, the first thing you should check is whether the bag is full. If it is, the fix is easy – simply replace the bag!

Full Dust Canister

As with bagged vacuum cleaners, a full dust canister can affect the suction of your appliance. And, once again the fix is easy – simply empty the canister!

Dirty Filters

Dirty or blocked filters can also cause a loss of suction. Mix a baking soda and water solution to clean the filters in – if this doesn’t work, they will need replacing.


Blockages in your vacuum’s tubing will cause loss of suction. Switch off the vacuum, unplug it and check all the tubing for blockages. You should also check that there’s nothing in the brush roll area. If the brush rolls are damaged, they may need replacing.

Gaps in the Air Flows

Holes or rips in your vacuum cleaner’s hose can greatly reduce suction. If this is the case, the hose may need replacing. On uprights, you should also check the connection between the hose and the base unit isn’t loose.

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Vacuum cleaner has a burning smell

If your vacuum cleaner smells like burning, there are a number of likely causes. These troubleshooting tips will help you to identify and fix the problem.

First Things First - Immediately Turn off the Vacuum Cleaner

Vacuum cleaners don’t operate at high temperatures, so if you smell burning it could be dangerous. Make sure you immediately turn off the appliance.

Carefully Check the Vacuum Cleaner Cable, Plug and Wall Socket

Next, check the wall socket, vacuum plug and cable for signs of heat.  If you see any smoke, take the vacuum straight outside as a precaution.

Blocked Filters or an Overfull Bag

Blocked filters or an overfull bag can put extra pressure on the motor, causing it to overheat. To fix the problem, empty the bag and clean or replace the filters.

Hot Cable or Plug

A hot cable or plug can happen if the motor had to work too hard. Once you’ve emptied the bag and replaced the filters, run the vacuum cleaner again to see if the problem still occurs. If the problem continues to occur, consult an electrician.

Slipped or Jammed Drive Belt or Obstructed Rotary Brush

On upright vacuums, the drive belt may have slipped or become jammed, which can cause the burning smell. To fix the problem, replace the drive belt or remove the jam. You should also check that the rotary brush isn’t obstructed and can turn freely.

By Lee Gilbert

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