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No matter how long you’ve had your Roomba, you may have noticed that it likes running around in circles on occasion. Sometimes it’s stuck behind a piece of furniture, but typically it’s detected a significant amount of dirt on a spot. It then kicks up the power and effort and goes out of its way to make that dirty spot significantly cleaner.
It’s one of the reasons that Roombas remain so popular even though their power levels aren’t quite up to par with much of the competition. The Roomba 671, arguably the most popular Roomba around at the time of writing for the cost/performance/connectivity ratio, packs in a relatively paltry 600 Pa of suction power. Compare that to the current leader on our list of the best robot vacuums, the Eufy RoboVac 15C MAX and its 2,000 Pa suction, and you’ll see why there’s some catching up to do.
That spinning motion is a common sight, especially when your Roomba reaches the more afflicted parts of your floor. However, there may come the point where the machine seems to spin continuously. There are three key scenarios:
Roomba Going in Circles Under Furniture
The bumper on the front of your Roomba isn’t just there to ensure it doesn’t leave a big dent when it crashes into your furniture. It also hides away sensors that let it work out its path. Some Roombas are more intelligent than others and can better avoid sticky situations. However, if you find that your Roomba has trouble getting in and out from under furniture like tables and chairs, and more so than it used to, it may be a sensor issue.
They’re persistent little things, and most Roombas will keep on trying to escape until the battery runs out rather than giving up. If you haven’t moved furniture in such a way that it’s trickier to escape from, you may need to clean your sensors.
It’s possible to remove the front bumper, but I’d advise you to save that for proper vacuum repair specialists, as it can be hard to get the bumper off and even more challenging to get it back on. The chances are that any dirt interfering with these sensors is loose rather than coated on, leaving you with two main approaches.
First, you can try firmly pushing the bumper in and out repeatedly. Five or six firm presses should be enough to dislodge anything that’s potentially getting in the way.
Alternatively, you can get hold of a can of compressed air like people use to clean keyboards. It’s cheap, cheerful and can do the same for your Roomba as it can for your keyboard. Find the most significant gap between the bumper and the central unit – usually on the underside of your device – and blow along the gap to dislodge anything too stubborn for the previous method.
Roomba Going in Circles in Open Space
If your Roomba isn’t trapped, but still pirouettes like a ballet dancer, then you also have a sensor issue. Fortunately, this one’s a lot easier to get at.
As I mentioned earlier, Roombas go into a deep-clean mode when they sense a vast quantity of dirt or dust underneath. If the sensor itself is dirty, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see the Roomba detecting more dirt than there really is.
The position of this sensor, and indeed whether it’s visible to the naked eye, varies between models. Fortunately, you don’t have to do anything too special. Simply wipe over the bottom of your unit, paying particular attention to anything that looks like a sensor. Given the task at hand, dirt and grime will build up, and it’s vital to give your Roomba some occasional TLC. I personally use Dettol wipes for this, but if you clean it in the same way as any other surface, you should quickly get the job done.
Your Roomba Goes in Circles Due to Stuck or Damaged Wheels
The third possibility is the trickiest to solve. It’s easy to imagine – if something has two parallel wheels and one moves while the other remains stationary, there’s every chance that the object in question will start spinning. That applies to robot vacuums too.
See if you can turn both wheels manually without excessive force. If not, there may be a blockage. Please don’t force the wheel too hard unless you’re sure it’s unsalvageable as it could result in more damage than is already present.
That handy can of compressed air mentioned earlier can come in handy here – do the same as with the bumper, but where the wheel meets the unit. This is often sufficient to dislodge anything preventing your wheels from moving at optimum efficiency.
If that doesn’t work and you still have a stuck wheel, we have a fairly big problem. The first port of call would be a repair shop. Spare wheels for Roombas aren’t exactly readily available in the same way as brushes and batteries. By consulting a professional, you’ll find someone with significantly more experience in repairing vacuums of all descriptions than you, while also standing a chance of having spares on site.
If it’s a lost cause, it may be time for a replacement. I’d definitely suggest trying all the methods above beforehand, as Roombas, in particular, are more robust than they might appear. However, if all else fails, I’d point you in the direction of our regularly updated feature on the best robot vacuums, where Roomba and other brands vie for top spot based on price, performance and many other factors.
If you have had success with other methods or have any further questions, please let us know in the comments!
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