Troubleshooting Tips for Your Canister Vac

In the grand scheme of things, vacuums are very simple machines that perform a very simple task. But as you dig a bit deeper, especially into more modern units, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. On the plus side, it’s all pretty straight forward and easy to learn, most of it is self-explanatory once you know where to look.

Here are some tips to troubleshoot your vacuum cleaner to help solve a number of common issues. Furthermore, we’ll tell you where to go for help if none of these things do the job.


The good news is that it’s often worth repairing your vacuum cleaner rather than just throwing it out and buying a new one, unless you went with a very inexpensive unit. We always recommend going with higher-quality vacuums and spending a bit more, since they’ll save you a lot of money in the long run.

In any case, even if you didn’t start off with a great vacuum, these troubleshooting tips can help you bring it back to how it used to work when it was new.

Does your vacuum power on at all?

If it doesn’t power on at all, there could be an issue with the cord. Check to make sure that there aren’t any cuts or holes along the power cable. Also, check your outlet. If you plug something else into the same outlet, does that device work or not? If not, the problem is likely with the power source, and not with your vacuum.

If the power cord is exposed beyond the rubber, you run the risk of a short. The vacuum might not be working simply because it’s not getting enough power. If you know a thing or two about electronics, replacing the power cord is an easy fix for you to do, but if you know a thing or two about electronics – you’ve probably already tried that. If you aren’t comfortable doing it yourself, it’s an easy fix for the shop to repair.


This one might have you rolling your eyes, since you can’t go back in time to perform proper maintenance. None the less, it’s not too late to give your vacuum a proper cleaning and basic maintenance, sometimes that’ll do the trick. Cleaning the hose, emptying out the vacuum and cleaning inside, these are parts of basic maintenance but chances are they won’t fix whatever problem you’re having.

However, things like cutting out excess hairs from the roller brush, and ensuring there aren’t any cuts or holes in the hose, can help a great deal when it comes to suction power and overall efficiency of your vacuum.

Does anyone smell rubber?

If it smells like burning rubber when you’re using your vacuum, it’s likely because the roller isn’t spinning as fast as the motor wants it to. This causes the belt to struggle, and for friction to build up between the belt and the roller, ultimately causing smoke and, in the worst cases, fire. As mentioned previously, cutting out all of the little strands of carpet and hairs that can get stuck in the roller can make a huge difference. If the problem persists, it’s time to take it into the shop because it could be dangerous.

The bearings may also need to be replaced, cleaned out, or re-lubricated. There are plenty of other things you can try out, as outlined here, but a lot of them require disassembling the vacuum and looking at the motor, or testing the electrical circuits, and we always recommend leaving that up to the pros unless you’re very familiar with what you’re doing (In which case, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article anyways…), because there are serious risks of being shocked and electrocuted, and plenty of other ways that you can hurt yourself by trying to repair a vacuum if you aren’t absolutely sure how. Even after you’ve got it all put back together, if you missed something while it was open, it can be very dangerous.

Wiring and electrical problems are among the most common, but physical things that can be avoided with proper maintenance will also occur if you aren’t taking proper care of your vacuum. It’s something we try to stress as often as possible, especially because a lot of people just don’t think about it until it’s too late.

What to do if nothing else works

If none of these tips solved your issue, take a look at the instruction manual for your vacuum. It will likely have a section filled with more troubleshooting tips that are specific to your vacuum. Some units are a bit different than others, and have their own little tricks and nuances, so the manual is the best place to look.

If you didn’t save your manual, you can almost definitely find it online, on the manufacturer’s website or through Google. Just do a quick search for the name of your vacuum, and “instructions”, “booklet”, or “manual” and you should be golden.

When all else fails, take it in to your local vacuum repair shop. It’s a noble profession, but unfortunately these days people are quick to scrap their old vacuums instead of getting them repaired. Most repairs aren’t too extensive, and the replacement parts (if they’re even necessary) are a lot less expensive than buying a new vacuum. Once you get whatever’s wrong fixed, you’ll be good to go, and you’ll save a lot of money. You’re much, much better off getting a great vacuum and repairing it whenever necessary, rather than going through a revolving door of low quality vacuum cleaners that take longer to do the job and don’t even work as well.

The people at your local repair shop are passionate about vacuums, you don’t get into this business without loving vacuums. It might sound weird if you only ever think about vacuums for cleaning your floor, but people who love vacuums are always happy to have the opportunity to repair them instead of scrapping them.