Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Idiot's guide to vacuum maintenance

Like many people, I use an upright, bagless vacuum cleaner. We bought it when we were first married, and paid several hundred dollars for it, so we expect it to just work all the time, right? I dump out the filter when it is full, and that's about it for "routine maintenance". Well, in the past few weeks, I have learned a lot about vacuums, and here are some basic tips everyone should know.
- every vacuum has a beater bar on the bottom that sweeps up the dirt into a suction hole. The beater bar should be cleaned regularly, especially if anyone in your house has long hair. When hairs get wrapped around the bar, you should pull or cut them off. You should also check that your beater bar spins easily with your hands when it is unplugged. If the ends wear or get damaged, it will not turn and can break your machine. The beater bar should be replaced every 2 years (and you can order a replacement online for about $40).
- every beater bar is turned by a belt. If your vacuum dis not picking up dirt, check if the bar is spinning. If not, it's probably a belt problem--especially if you see smoke or smell something burning! The belt is made of rubber and wears out. It should be replaced every 1 year (and can be ordered online for about $4.) It's easy to replace on your own if you open up the bottom of your vacuum. It will loop first over the small bar in the back, then over the beater bar.
- if the vacuum isn't picking up, but the bar turns easily, you may have a clog. Check the hole just behind the beater bar, before the main part of the engine. Debris can accumulate there, right where the pipe makes a sharp turn toward the main filter.
- many vacuums have more than 1 filter. You empty out the main filter when you see it is full of debris, but also check for pre-engine and post engine filters that may be located on the side or bottom of your machine. Sponge filters can be rinsed out and reused once dry. Paper filters (such as the anti-alergen kind) can be shaken out, but should be replaced every 1 year. Filter replacements cost around $10 online.
- finally, if your vacuum has a height adjustment for different floors or carpets, you are using the proper setting if the machine travels easily over the surface. If it is hard to push or you feel any resistance, use a higher setting to save wear and tear on your machine.
I hope this helps someone keep their machine running cleanly! I have had mine for 3 years, and just had to replace all these parts at once. Oops! But now I know, so I hope someone else benefits from my experience. :-)

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