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Restore your vacuum's suction

Filed Under: fix-it, preventative maintenance

I just spent $16 on a used upright vacuum cleaner. Right now it sucks up dirt about as fast as a baby sea turtle can drag itself to the ocean -- that is, painstakingly slowly. So why did I buy it? Answer: it's not broken. It just needs some TLC in the form of a new drive belt.

Replacing the drive belt on a vacuum cleaner is an easy DIY repair that anyone can do. The drive belt is just a big old rubber band. One end of the belt hooks around a shaft that's attached to the vacuum's motor. The other end hooks around the vacuum's rotating brush, which sweeps the floor and scoops up all the crumbs, hair and other crud you're trying to get rid of. Above is a photo of my "new-old" vacuum cleaner with the drive belt removed and displayed on top, so you can see what it looks like.

Is your vacuum short on suction? First eliminate other possible causes: check for blockages and leaks in the tubes, and obstructions or tangles in the rotating brush. This sort of thing comes under the category of regular maintenance that you should be doing every now and then anyway. If none of those things is the cause, then you should replace the drive belt.

First, you'll need a replacement belt. Carefully note down your vacuum's model number. If you're lucky, the manufacturer will have cut you a break and displayed the bag and belt type very clearly on the exterior casing of the vacuum. That way you won't have to go searching for the manual each time you need replacements. (Argh! Don't you hate that?) Parts can be ordered online at the manufacturer's site, at other spare parts sites, or in hardware and home goods stores. They don't cost much. A few bucks, tops.

Second, unplug your cleaner and flip it over so the rotating brush is exposed. With a screwdriver, remove the screws covering the plastic guard plate that surrounds the brush. When that's off, you should be able to see the belt. Here's how you'll know the belt needs replacing: 1) Test it with your finger. It should be nice and tight. If there's any slack, replace it. 2) How old is it? Manufacturers recommend that belts be replaced every few months.

The rest is pretty straightforward. Install the new belt. You may need to exert a little force to get it in the correct position. Then reattach the cover plate using your screwdriver. That's it! You're done! Congratulations, friend. You just extended the life of your vacuum cleaner.

Want more vacuum troubleshooting tips? Click here to visit's handy vacuum-related features.


  • Joe

    Suction does not clean you home's carpet, AIRFLOW DOES!!!!! Buy a Rainbow!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Dan

    Sorry to tell you this, but the beater bar has nothing to do with suction. The vacuum get's its suction from a fan, not from the brush that beats the carpet to stir up the dust. Replacing the belt WILL NOT improve "SUCTION".

  • Peter

    Dan - You're right that a new belt won't improve the actual suction, but it might improve the ability to get things off the floor if changing the belt causes the beater bar to do a better job.

  • 3 Comments / 1 Pages

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