Central Vacuum Not Turning On -What Could Be Wrong?

Central vacuums have long been a prized feature in any home. A central vacuum offers many benefits, regarding both health and practicality. Unfortunately, central vacuums are basically a permanent fixture, and the vacuum system is somewhat complicated. In fact, the piping for central vacuums can run all throughout the house. So, when something goes wrong, the entire house is in trouble. Fortunately, we have carefully researched why your central vacuum isn’t working or turning on.

Central vacuum systems are complex because they work through a combination of individual features. As such, a failure to turn on can be caused by a number of issues. The most likely issues can range from simple to serious problems, such as:

  1. The motor has burnt out and needs to be replaced
  2. There is a clog, either in the pipes or elsewhere
  3. Piping or inlets are damaged or broken
  4. Wiring has been damaged somewhere
  5. There was an electrical failure in the house or system

Central vacuums are a complex system with many separate parts that must work. If just one part causes unnecessary trouble, then the entire system can be disrupted. Fortunately, you may not always need an electrician. Keep reading to learn about the most likely problems stopping your central vacuum from turning on.

Beautiful bamboo hardwood floor and wool rug with a central vacuum cleaner attached to the wall

Five Reasons A Central Vacuum Isn't Turning On

1. The Motor Has Burnt Out 

The majority of the time, it is the motor that will turn out to be the cause of your problem. Specialists like Central Vacuum Online agree that a motor is the first item to inspect.

How Do I Know If My Vacuum Motor Is Bad?

There are a number of ways to tell if the motor is the prime suspect. You’ve probably already tried to hit the motor’s reset button, so you can move on to the following suggestions.

Firstly, you can check to see if the vacuum unit itself only makes a click when you try to turn it on. This telltale click signals that the motor is already dead.

Secondly, you can check to see if the motor or its connected wires are securely connected. None of this should be loose. If one of the wires isn’t properly connected, the issue was much simpler than you probably expected.

Also, you can try to keep a nose out for some kind of bad smell. When a vacuum motor burns out, it affects the shellac that coats the copper coil. Shellac is alcohol-based. This means that shellac fumes will create a powerful smell of alcohol. If you detect alcohol, then the motor has burned out.

The motor brushes may sometimes be an issue, causing large blue sparks instead of one small spark. However, you typically only replace brushes to add more lifespan to your motor.

2. There Is A Clog

The first thing you need to do is determine that the attachments or hose are not clogged.

How Do I Know If My Central Vacuum Is Clogged?

Connect the hose into the dirt canister itself and check for suction. If everything works, then you have a clog in the system’s piping. 

Now, you need to isolate the potential clog in your vacuum tubing. It probably sounds pretty challenging to detect a clog that runs throughout the entire house. But there are simple, DIY solutions.

The most popular answer is to run soft materials like tissue or paper towels through each tube. You can attempt this test one by one until one of the tubes fails to deliver the material where it should be.

You can also save your amount of footwork by using your test materials all at once. Number some paper towels, or even styrofoam balls, to match each inlet on your walls. Run them all through, and review which numbers were unable to make it through the tubing. If all of the material was able to make it through, then you do not have a clog. If you have a clog, you can read this post to learn how to unclog a central vacuum system.

Click here to find these styrofoam balls on Amazon.

How Often Do You Empty A Central Vacuum?

Losing your suction power is the first signal that your central vacuum needs to be emptied. It is generally advised that you should empty your central vacuum every six months. However, this is the bare minimum. You may need to empty the vacuum after only three months. The renowned Vacuum District also suggests that you may need to empty your vacuum multiple times, even within six months.

3. Piping Or Inlets Are Damaged Or Broken

Damaged piping can actually be one of the most common problems with failed central vacuums. This is because there are a variety of activities that can cause damage to your vacuum tubing or inlet doors.

Central vacuum piping isn’t all that different from ordinary PVC piping. But specially made central vacuum pipes are also generally thinner than PVC tubes. So, simple things can have a surprising impact, causing leaks or worse. You can read this post to learn how to find a leak in your central vacuum system.

For example, some inlets are installed on the floor. If your central vacuum tubes have become loosened by any kind of housework, then the piping can literally fall out of place. Even a loose pipe can be the source of your problems. Even worse, some central vacuum pipes are run underground. This subjects the pipes to stress from groundwork, like certain gardening.

A damaged inlet door can also be a problem. The “door” simply refers to the covering. Basic construction or new paneling can easily require you to replace an inlet door.

Click here to find this central vacuum inlet door on Amazon.

4. Wiring Has Been Damaged Somewhere

Damaged wires can be challenging to determine. That’s because the wiring system is so extensive. Even worse, wiring can be damaged quite easily by recent construction or simple housework. However, this would probably be noticeable activity that you already suspect.

You may not have considered that certain pests could have chewed through your wires. This is common for homes with attics or basements, which don’t see much traffic and might provide a perfect environment for pests like rodents. If you can determine that your house has pests, then there may be an issue somewhere in the wiring system.

Then again, maybe there is simply a bad wire connection somewhere. You can check the most convenient wires, like those on the primary unit. You need to determine if your wires were installed correctly. Also, they might have become loose over time.

5. There Was An Electrical Failure

To begin with, you should bear in mind that any electrical work can always be dangerous. Remember to turn off the power before inspecting anything electrical. It’s probably best to leave certain issues to the professionals. For dangerous problems, central vacuum specialists like M.D. Manufacturing have suggested that you refer to professional electricians.

Electrical failure is easily the most complicated problem. There may have been a short at the power unit, at one of the inlets, or even in the brushes. You should take steps that begin with the easiest answers first.

Check the Basics

Don't feel embarrassed to check if your power cord is plugged in. Sometimes it is surprisingly easy to overlook the simple things. For example, the vacuum's power cord may have been damaged. You might just have to replace the power cord.

Check the Circuit Breakers

Next, you can check to see if a circuit breaker has been tripped. The central vacuum sometimes has its own circuit breaker to check, but this isn’t true for all models. Either way, you should check the house’s circuit breaker. If the central vacuum is to blame, it will actually continue to trip your home’s circuit breaker.

This means that you can easily double-check if the central vacuum is indeed the culprit. Reset the breaker and see if running the vacuum breaks it again. Alternatively, if using another outlet works, then you know the house is definitely to blame instead of the vacuum.

Check the Inlets or Wiring

You should also check for an inlet short. This is possible by testing if your power brush will work after plugging it directly into each inlet. If the inlets use a GFI outlet, then try resetting it. You can actually remove the inlet doors while the vacuum is running, remove the screws that support the low voltage wires, and see if the unit stops. But remember, it’s best to avoid checking the inlet wiring yourself.

Some central vacuums have a manual switch. You should check to see if the manual switch has shorted out. You can remove the switch’s leads to check if the unit stops running.

If these don’t fix the issue, then you might end up having to review your entire home for burnt or damaged wiring.

How Do I Reset My Central Vacuum?

A long hose for a central vacuum system laid out on the floor, 5 Best Central Vacuum Cleaners

Resetting a central vacuum refers to the circuit breaker that is available with some models. This is usually as easy as pushing a reset button. If you can’t find a reset button, you can always refer to the manufacturer’s manual of your individual central vacuum model. But you cannot reset models without a circuit breaker this way.


Central vacuums are popular because they are useful, and remove all of the filth from your home into a remote place. But it is also difficult to diagnose and repair problems with a central vacuum. Now you know the most likely issues that are keeping your central vacuum from getting a move on. You can also make an informed decision about hiring a professional to address the issues.

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