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If your Roomba won’t dock, your cleaning schedule could grind to a halt. If like me, you supplement a full clean every couple of weeks with running your robot vacuum around every couple of days, a Roomba that won’t dock could lead to significant issues.
At first, it can feel like an inconvenience – you’ll find your Roomba stuck somewhere in the middle of a room with no plans to head back to base. If you don’t follow it around to ensure it gets to where it needs to be, the battery will start to drain. No power means no cleaning, for obvious reasons.
There are several things to try when your Roomba won’t dock and prefers to keep going until the battery dies. Like most electronic equipment, there are plenty of things that can go wrong at any given moment, and I’ll go through the most common issues below.
1. Check the Power to the Dock
Power for your Roomba comes through the dock itself, but it’s not just there to charge. Many Roombas have an idea of where they are in relation to their base unit, but if there’s no power to that unit, it’s just a nondescript lump of plastic. If your power cable is failing, the chances are you’ll already have identified it as your Roomba won’t charge. However, it’s a viable cause for your robot vacuum being unable to return to its base, so it’s worth a quick look.
If it turns out to be the cable, it’s best to avoid trying to fix it yourself unless you’re highly experienced. Replacements are relatively cheap and get the job done, with this model from Woli perfectly suited to replacing the stock cable on the Roomba 400, 500, 600 and 700 series.
2. Ensure that Virtual Walls and Magnetic Strips Aren’t Preventing Your Roomba from Getting Home
Whether you have access to virtual walls and magnetic boundary strips depends on the Roomba you have. Generally speaking, midrange models like the Roomba 671 don’t offer such support, but higher-end models like the Roomba 981 do.
Honestly, it would take some pretty bad luck to find that your Roomba won’t dock because virtual walls are getting in the way – perhaps an errant finger in the app or forgetting to remove a magnetic boundary strip. While the chances are small, it does happen, so ensure you’re not accidentally blocking your robot vacuum from getting home.
3. If Your Roomba Won’t Dock, Check the Contact Points
Some people underestimate just how dirty a Roomba can get. Any device tasked with keeping your home clean and tidy should be cleaned regularly itself, even if only to reward it for its hard work! I once had an issue where the Roomba would head back to the dock, but the Roomba itself wouldn’t charge. I’m not sure whether the fault lay with the connection points on the vacuum or the dock, but something wasn’t right.
As covered in the linked article, wire wool was all it took to get things up and running again. A typical wire wool cleaning pad will remove both the visible and invisible dirt and debris that may be at the centre of your issues with getting the robovac back to its base.
4. Check Whether Your Roomba has Enough Space to Dock
Once you’ve had your Roomba for a while, you’ll start to forget it’s there. When you first get it, you might diligently pore through the manual and follow all the setup instructions – including attempting to leave clear space in front of and beside the charging unit.
However, you soon forget these crucial details, and things move around. Even the most sophisticated robot vacuums can require more than just a straight, clear run to the charging station to land back on their dock successfully.
Clear furniture and anything else on the floor to give the charging station around a metre or so either side and see whether that helps with your Roomba docking issue. If it does, think about whether you can permanently make that space available, or if there’s somewhere else you can position the base where it’s more likely to have that room available.
5. If Your Roomba Won’t Dock, Try a Reset
Problems with getting your Roomba to dock may simply come down to a software issue. At the time of writing at least, you can’t just connect your Roomba to your computer via USB and mess around with the software yourself. What you can do, however, is revert the onboard software back to its factory settings. We covered the Roomba reset process in its own article earlier this year. It’s straightforward and involves pressing the ‘dock’ and ‘spot’ buttons at the same time.
6. If Nothing Works, It Might be Time for a Replacement
If you’re still having issues after trying all these methods, you might need a replacement. If your Roomba is still under warranty, it’s worth getting in touch with their excellent support team here in the UK and here in the US. Indeed, even out of warranty, they may be able to provide more information specific to your circumstances.
If it’s time for a change or an upgrade, check out our regularly updated feature on the best robot vacuums, covering the top Roombas and the best options from all other brands to suit every price point.
Questions and Answers – Roomba Won’t Dock
Can a Roomba Dock on Carpet?
Yes, Roombas should have no trouble docking on the carpet. They’re usually not recommended for thick rugs or high-pile carpets. However, as long as it can move freely across your carpet, it should be able to dock on carpets just as well as on hard floors.
Does a Roomba Dock Automatically?
Assuming your Roomba is working as usual, either using the troubleshooting tips above or with it working correctly already, it will dock automatically. This will happen when it has finished cleaning, the battery is low, or the bin is full – so if it has docked earlier than expected, check the battery life and bin capacity before you turn it on again.
Can I Dock Roomba from the App?
Even with the simpler Roombas, as long as you have the app, it’s easy to start and stop a clean. The app doesn’t have a specific button to stop your robot vacuum. However, hitting the ‘Clean’ button while a clean is already in progress will alert your Roomba that its work is done and it’s time to head back to the base.
The Roomba Dock Button is Blinking While Cleaning – What Do I Do?
If the ‘dock’ button on your Roomba is blinking, that means that your Roomba is on its way home. It will continue to clean in the process, and how quickly it makes it back depends on the model. If you have a Roomba without intelligent navigation, it will continue to cover the floor until it notices the dock nearby. If it has smart navigation built-in, it will make a beeline for the base unit.
If you have a Roomba without intelligent navigation, such as the 606 or 671 and would like to upgrade, we recommend the iRobot Roomba 981 as the ideal upgrade.
Can Roombas Dock Under Furniture?
Technically yes, but I wouldn’t always advise it. As outlined in the article above, one of the main reasons why your Roomba won’t dock, if that’s the case, is that there isn’t enough clearance either side of the docking unit. You won’t have any issues vertically – Roombas aren’t interested in what’s above them as long as they can fit under something. However, you’d need a pretty big piece of furniture like a bed or a large table to provide the recommended clearance. If you can meet that requirement, you’ll have no issues.
Can I Get a Roomba Dock Replacement?
I mentioned changing the charging cable above, but you may want to replace the dock entirely. First party spares are hard to come by, but Color Tree is a trusted third party for replacement Roomba docks. Roomba does sell its own replacement dock through its website, but it is listed as ‘currently unavailable’ at the time of publishing and has been every time we’ve checked.
If you have any further questions on encouraging your Roomba to get back to its dock or have a trick up the sleeve that has worked for you and I haven’t covered it, do let us know in the comments!
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