Why Do Vacuum Cleaners Lose Suction?

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Have you ever replaced a vacuum cleaner with a new one, because it lost suction? We’ve found many complaints online from people having issues with their vacuum cleaners. It seems like loss of suction is one of the main issues of a vacuum cleaner, and perhaps one of the main reasons why they’re being replaced. We asked ourselves why vacuum cleaners lose suction over time, and we discovered that hundreds of buyers mentioned the same reasons over and over again.

While all vacuum cleaners wear out at some point, loss of suction doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s time to buy a new one. There are a number a common causes of vacuums losing suction, such as the bag or dirt bin reaching capacity, clogged filters, cracks or holes, or a malfunctioning rotating brush.

Common causes of vacuums losing suction

Based on our analysis and knowledge, there are a few common causes of vacuums losing suction. More often than not you can fix these issues yourself, and it doesn’t necessarily require any special tools nor spare parts.

#1 The bag or dirt bin is full

Not all vacuum cleaners have an indicator that turns on if the bag or dirt bin reaches capacity. And even if your vacuum cleaner is equipped with one, it isn’t necessarily accurate. Some vacuum cleaners reach capacity before the warning light turns on, and you won’t know if the suction is reduced because of a full bag or bin.

If your vacuum only loses suction occasionally, this is very likely the cause.

Quick fix – If your vacuum cleaner uses disposable bags, you may have to change them more often than you’re used to. If it’s a bagless model, all you have to do is empty the bin more often.

#2 Clogged filters

Most vacuum cleaners utilize a number of filters to reduce the emission of dust particles during use, but these filters need cleaning and/or replacement from time to time. Clogged filters could not only cause loss of suction, but they may also smell bad if you keep your vacuum in a hot/humid environment.

Quick fix – Carefully read the user’s manual in order to identify each filter in your vacuum cleaner. Remove the filters and clean them regularly, at least once every third month, unless the manual states otherwise. Make sure the filters are intact with no damage at any given time, in order to maintain the suction.

#3 Obstructions in the airflow

Sometimes debris may get caught inside the attachment, the hose, or in between the connectors. If you don’t remove the item causing the trouble, loss of suction may occur. Once the airflow is obstructed by an unidentified object, other things may get caught at the same spot and start building up. Eventually you’ll have a completely clogged vacuum, with significant loss of suction.

Quick fix – A tell-tale sign of an obstructed airflow is if your vacuum cleaner sounds odd. For example, a “whistling” sound could indicate that a piece of plastic has been caught inside the hose. Detach the hose and see if you can spot the culprit, and inspect the attachment as well. You may want someone to assist you with this, as it’s easier to spot an offending item inside the hose if it’s stretched enough to see all the way through. Remove unwanted items with a stick, or shake it out if possible.

#4 Cracks, holes or a kinked hose

If your vacuum cleaner was bumped into something, there’s a chance that it’s casing is damaged. Cracks and holes could cause a significant loss of suction, but something that most people may not consider is the fact that a kinked hose could also cause trouble. Some hoses are so soft that they’ll kink if you pull it the wrong way, and even when it isn’t completely bent it could still cause a partial loss of suction.

Quick fix – Turn on your vacuum cleaner. Listen for any odd sounds. If it sounds like air is being sucked in from a crack or hole somewhere, try gliding your hand across the suspected area. Once your hand covers the area, the sounds may stop. Try covering any cracks or holes with regular duct tape. It may sound strange, but it’s actually a great fix that doesn’t require much effort. A kinked hose could sometimes cause so much trouble that it needs to be replaced, especially if it’s severely bent in a particular area. Call your manufacturer or search Amazon for a replacement hose.

#5 Malfunctioning rotating brush

Most people don’t look under their vacuum cleaners regularly, let alone inspect the attachment during use. Sometimes the rotating brush is malfunctioning due to lack of maintenance, or if hair/debris got caught in the brushes. This could cause a severe loss of suction, as the rotating brush would either be unable to move or slower than usual. This is particularly common if you have a long-haired pet that roams freely inside your house, for example a dog or a cat, as their fur could sometimes get caught in the brushes.

Quick fix – Make it a habit to inspect the area beneath the vacuum once a month, and look for tangled hair and debris stuck around the rotating brushes. You may need a small Stanley knife or scissors to cut the hair off. Remove the brushes completely, and make sure no tangled hair is left behind.

#6 Motor going bad

If your vacuum cleaner gets very hot during use or the motor makes all kinds of odd sounds when it’s on, it could unfortunately be failing. This happens if the motor has been overloaded, but all motors wear out over time. Loss of suction could very well be caused by a dying motor.

Quick fix – Sometimes it’s possible to buy an identical vacuum on craigslist or similar marketplaces for cheap, especially if some pieces are defective. The motor may still be salvageable, and if you’re comfortable doing this yourself you can replace the motor and save a bit of money. Otherwise you’ll have to buy a new vacuum cleaner, as having the motor replaced by a professional would probably be too expensive.

How long should vacuums last?

According to Consumer Reports, vacuums last a median of eight years. However, as they also state in their response, the lifespan of vacuum cleaners varies greatly from brand to brand and model to model.

Some of the most reliable brands are Shark and Kirby, with Shark making some of the best upright vacuum cleaners on the market.

Whether your vacuum cleaner should last two years or eight years highly depends on the make and model, but it’s also a matter of opinion and how well you take care of it. If you keep it clean, empty the bag in time, and treat it well instead of bumping it across the floors during use, you may keep your vacuum alive for even longer than 8 years. Some vacuums are even said to last over a decade, but most affordable vacuum cleaners aren’t designed to last that long.

If you think your vacuum should last longer than the median of eight years, Consumer Reports gave these pieces of advice:

  • Don’t let your vacuum reach capacity to the brim, empty it in time to prevent the contents from overflowing and clogging the machine.
  • Clean/replace the filter regularly, if you want to prevent the motor from overloading.
  • Keep the motorized brush clean by removing tangled hair and debris once every few weeks, to prevent the motor from overloading.
  • Check the hose for clogs occasionally. Listen for any unfamiliar sounds, as they may be an indicator that something is stuck inside the hose.

Is it worth repairing a vacuum cleaner?

If your vacuum is damaged to an extent that it requires extensive repairing, you may have to replace it with a new one. Damaged parts, especially electrical parts, are quite expensive to buy and replace. Therefore, buying a new vacuum is often the cheapest solution.

Whether it’s worth repairing a vacuum cleaner or not depends on the extent of the damages and what needs to be replaced.

Below are a few things worth repairing/fixing.

#1 Vacuum cleaner is hard to push across a carpeted area.

This is a common issue, but easily solved. Most vacuum cleaners have a manual height-adjustment capable of raising the head a few notches, which is usually enough to make it glide across the carpet with less effort.

If your vacuum cleaner doesn’t have a height-adjustable lever, you could ask someone to stand in one corner of the carpet while you pull the head against you. By doing so, the head would most likely glide across the carpet and you’ll be able to suck up most dust and debris from the carpet while using less force.

#2 Brush roll turns slowly, or not at all.

You may be tempted to replace the brush roll, but detach it first and inspect the roller as well as the slot it sits in. Sometimes hair and debris manage to get tangled around the roller or in between the roller and the slot it sits in. Remove it, attach the roller, and see if it starts rotating. Sometimes, this could save you some money.

#3 Weak suction with a fully functional hose and attachment

Have you checked all the filters? Sometimes a vacuum cleaner has multiple filters attached in different locations, and maybe you’ve missed one of them. A filter will only last for a limited amount of time, before it gets clogged and requires maintenance.

#4 Items getting stuck in the hose

Sometimes things manage to get stuck deep inside the hose, with no chance of getting them out on your own. For this you could either get a stick or a broom handle, and run it through the hose. By doing so you’ll loosen the debris and push it out.

#5 Vacuum shuts itself off

Some vacuum cleaners have an overload protection switch that turns the motor off if it reaches a specific temperature. Allow it to cool down for a few minutes before switching it back on. If it turns on immediately with no issues, the vacuum was most likely overheated. Look at the steps above and see if you can identify the issue.