Three Reasons Why Your Vacuum Cleaner’s Motor Isn’t Working

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A quick internet search will inform you that home cleaning authorities recommend vacuuming carpets and rugs at least twice a week and hard surface flooring weekly. If you own a pet (or two or three…), they say you should be pushing and pulling that vacuum cleaner across the floor daily to pick up all the extra hair, dander, and dirt that pet is depositing. Whether or not this makes you feel insecure about your own house-cleaning habits, you’ll probably agree that a fully functional vacuum cleaner is something you really can’t do without.

So, what should you do if your vacuum cleaner’s motor stops working? Start troubleshooting! In this article, Repair Clinic examines how a vacuum cleaner motor (or motors) works and the three reasons why that motor may not be working…

Dual-motor vacuum cleaners explained

There are numerous types of vacuum cleaners available, from classic upright and canister vacuums to wet/dry vacuums, central vacuum systems, and hand-held models. All of these products have a motor to create the negative pressure, or suction, necessary to draw in debris, but some upright vacuums will use a second motor to drive a brushroll. These dual-motor vacuums provide more power and are generally considered to be more efficient than single motor models.

How a vacuum cleaner works

When the vacuum cleaner’s start switch is activated, 120 volts of alternating current is sent to a motor that drives a fan or blower wheel to create an area of low pressure (behind that fan or blower wheel) to draw air through the intake port. The air will carry dust, lint, dirt, and other debris through a hose and into a porous bag or a canister before the clean air exits through an exhaust port. If the vacuum cleaner uses a bag to collect all this debris, that bag must allow the air to pass through it (but not the dust or dirt, of course) in order for the unit to continue to provide adequate suction. If the unit uses a canister, a particulate filter will allow air to travel through the system while trapping the debris. Before the air is exhausted on these models, it will travel through a fine air filter known as a HEPA filter to clean the air and prevent dust from recirculating back into the room.

Hard surface vacuuming vs. carpet vacuuming

When using a vacuum cleaner on a hard surface such as wood or tile, the vacuum suction alone should be enough to draw the debris into the bag or canister. But when vacuuming carpeting or rugs, a spinning brushroll will increase efficiency by helping to dislodge the debris particles from the material being vacuumed. On dual-motor units, the brushroll is usually driven by a belt that is looped on the shaft of its own drive motor. This second motor is powered by the same 120 volts of alternating current that powers the suction fan motor. Some models allow the user to switch from hard floor care to carpet care by activating a lever that applies tension to the belt. If applicable, the vacuum cleaner will then engage or disengage the brushroll using a tension pulley.

Troubleshooting a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner motor

Whether it’s the suction fan motor or the brushroll drive motor that is malfunctioning, there are steps you can take to troubleshoot the cause of that motor failure. Here are the top three causes you should consider:

1) Defective on-off switch – The vacuum cleaner’s on-off switch could be defective and unable to allow voltage to reach either the suction fan motor or the brushroll drive motor. You can use a multimeter to test the switch for electrical continuity – a continuous electrical path present in the switch. Make sure the multimeter is properly calibrated then set the meter’s selection dial to the lowest setting for ohms of resistance. Contact one of the meter probes to a switch terminal and the second probe to the other terminal. Now turn the switch on-and-off. If the meter display indicates zero ohms of resistance when the switch is in the “on” position, then the switch has continuity and should be functioning properly. However, if the switch tests “negative” for continuity in the “on” position, you’ll know the part is defective and should be replaced with a new one.

2) Burned-out motor – If the on-off switch tests positive for electrical continuity, you should next determine if the motor itself has burned out. For a suction fan motor, try rotating the fan blade or blower wheel by hand. If the blade or wheel does not turn freely, it’s likely the bearings in the suction fan motor have seized. If you suspect the brushroll motor has failed, unhook the brushroll drive belt from the motor shaft then try turning the brushroll by hand. Does the brushroll turn freely? Then, again, the bearings in the brushroll motor have probably seized. Since motor bearings cannot be repaired or replaced, you will need to install a new motor to repair your vacuum.

3) Damaged motor brush – However, what if that fan blade, blower wheel, or the brushroll drive motor’s shaft does turn freely? Then there’s one more thing you can check. Some vacuum cleaner motors will have two motor brushes that conduct the electrical current between a stator and rotor in the motor. One or both of these brushes could be damaged which will prevent the motor from running. Depending on the model, you may be able to replace the brushes instead of the entire motor to solve the problem. We recommend replacing both brushes at the same time so they will wear down evenly.

Repair Clinic solutions will help you fix your product fast

Want to know why your vacuum cleaner has lost its suction? Looking for a quick video demonstrating how to disassemble the classic Hoover Model UH70212 Upright Vacuum? Repair’s “Videos & Articles” library has the know-how you need to fix all of your home appliances, outdoor power equipment, and heating and cooling units. Just enter the full model number of the product you need to repair in the site’s library search bar to see troubleshooting and part replacement videos, guides, diagrams, articles, and more.

Repair Clinic has genuine OEM vacuum cleaner parts

When replacing your vacuum cleaner’s on-off switch, motor, or the motor brushes, you want to make sure you’re purchasing the exact switch, motor, or brush that works with your unit. Repair makes this part easy by stocking genuine OEM vacuum cleaner replacement parts that match the most popular models from Hoover, Eureka, Bissell, Electrolux, Dirt Devil, Oreck, and Panasonic, among others. Enter the full model number of the vacuum cleaner in Repair Clinic’s “Search Parts Online & Get Answers” search bar to see a complete list of compatible parts; not only switches and motors, but fan blades, blower wheels, brushrolls, drive belts, vacuum cleaner bags, air filters, and more. With Repair Clinic as your repair partner, your vacuum cleaner will soon be ready to hit the floor for your monthly, weekly, or daily cleaning routine.

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