It does happen. You think it's plugged in and it isn't. You think there's power, and there isn't.
- Go to the outlet and make sure it's fully plugged in; push on it. If it is, try turning it on again. It runs! Problem solved (cheaply).
- Nothing? Try another outlet that you know works (like has a light plugged in to it that turns on). It runs now? Problem solved! But...
- You will want to check that first outlet. It might be bad or it could also be an outlet that is switched by a wall switch. Possibly the circuit breaker is tripped as well. It is a good idea to check the cause here.
- Rooms with no ceiling light fixture, often have a switched wall outlet so a table lamp can be switched on and off from the entrance to the room. Appliances plugged into that outlet won't work unless the switch is on. Frequently only one of the receptacles will be switched.
Some vacuums will not turn on if the bag is full. Change the bag and test it again.
Full Dirt Container
Your unit may not have a bag, but it might sense when its dirt container is full. Empty it and try again.
Most vacuums have a safety device that shuts off the motor if it overheats.
- If it has been used for an extended period, especially with limited airflow through the vacuum, like cleaning thick pile carpet, it can overheat after it shuts off.
- The internal parts of the motor can get hot, and since there's no fan blowing at all when it is stopped, the heat causes the thermal protection to trip. (Many motors do not tolerate stopping and starting again repeatedly, and need to be run for a time with no load to allow cooling after such duty)
- Let it cool for 15 minutes, then see if it starts again. If it doesn't, then go to the next step.
Vacuum cleaner cords are among the most abused appliance cords. They have to be both long and flexible and lightweight, which means that smaller gauge wire is used.
Vacuum cleaner cords run warm because they are often used near the current capacity limit of their small gauge wire. Vacuum motors are often quite powerful and draw a lot of current.
To check the cord:
- Lay out the whole cord either removing it from the cord storage wrap area, or if it has an internal cord reel, pull it all the way out.
- Inspect the whole length of the cord for cuts or bulges or cracks or kinks.
- it is fairly easy to damage the small gauge wire with abuse so look carefully for the cord being out of shape.
- If wires are stretched internally or have broken, the cord can have spots that look thin.
- Look for areas where the cord has been abraded, especially where the vacuum may have been allowed to rest on top of the cord while running. This often results in the need for a new cord.
- If you locate an abrasion, and it doesn't go through the inner insulation of the cord wires, you can repair it with tape temporarily, but get a replacement cord as soon as possible.
- Check the plug as well, see if any of the prongs are loose or missing. If they are, you should get a new cord.
- Sometimes the cord is just yanked to unplug it, and one of the prongs remains in the wall socket, but isn't noticed until the next time the vacuum is used and won't turn on.
- It is especially dangerous if the line voltage prong is still stuck in the outlet (in the USA it is the smaller flat prong) since someone could touch the prong and receive a shock.
- You should note if the plug looks burned or melted. If that's the case the plug is defective and is running hot. Replace the plug, or better yet, the whole cord.
- Another common problem is winding the cord up improperly by leaving it plugged in while wrapping the cord around the cord holders on the vacuum. This creates kinks and twists and can break the wires inside the cord. Note any areas like this to check with the next test.
- If you see no obvious damage to the cord jacket, go to the next step.
- Now plug in the vacuum and turn it on.
- Flex the cord starting especially at the plug end and near the plug itself.
- That is where abuse to the cord can most likely cause hidden damage.
- Also check any kinked areas you found above, they are candidates for hidden broken wires.
- If the vacuum starts turning off and on as you flex the cord, you have found the problem; replace the cord.
- If nothing is wrong with the cord, go to the next item.
Faulty Cord Winder Contacts
One other potential problem can occur with vacuums with internal cord reels; the contacts on the reel may fail and cause intermittent operation, much like a cord with broken wires.
- You can check this by plugging in the vacuum with only a short portion of cord from the reel.
- Then, with the unit turned on, try unreeling the rest of the cord slowly from the reel to see if the vacuum starts at all. It may also start and stop, both indicate time for a new cord reel/winder.
Clogged Hose or Air Passages
Some vacuums will shut off if they detect a blockage in the airflow. This is to protect the motor from overheating, especially on vacuums that use the air they pull in to cool the motor. Check for clogs. Our Vacuum Lost Suction Page can get you going on this.
Switch is Faulty
You may find that the switch is broken. This often happens gradually, with the switch failing to operate occasionally, and then more frequently. Often when it is getting very bad, it takes several switch cycles to turn on, and finally it just won't go.
You will want to text continuity on the switch as it is operated. A meter with a continuity beeper is helpful. Disconnect the switch and test it for continuity when turned on. it should indicate close to zero resistance. If it shows open replace it.
This is unlikely; if it happens, you may hear a humming noise from the machine, but it won't start.
- There may be something jammed in the blower/fan of the unit. Check and clear the obstructing item.
- There could also be something jamming the brush roll, which may keep the vacuum from starting. Check this as well and clear it away.
- Test the unit again.