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Why is My Vacuum Cleaner Difficult to Push?

Written by James Hall |

Why is my vacuum difficult to push?

Is your vacuum cleaner difficult to move on plush carpeting or other surfaces? Don’t despair! Here are some quick-fixes for this common problem.

Everyone wants a vacuum with strong suction. But sometimes a vacuum cleaner can be too powerful and become hard to push. In the worst cases, this can make the vacuum almost impossible to move!

Fortunately, there’s often a simple fix for a vacuum that’s hard to push. Here’s an overview of some of the most common reasons.

5 Reasons Your Vacuum Might be Hard to Push

1. You Need to Open the Air Inlet Valve

Many vacuum cleaners have inlet valves. When open, these temporarily reduce suction power by providing another route for air to take, making them useful for cleaning rugs and thick carpets (or if you’ve accidentally vacuumed up a sock!)

Air inlet valves are most common on cylinder vacuums, such as the Miele C3 Pure Red, although they are typically not included with cordless vacuums.

Try opening the valve the next time you’re struggling on a high pile carpet or shag rug. You might be surprised at how much difference the inlet valve makes.

2. You Need to Change Suction Power Settings

One of the most common reasons for a vacuum that’s hard to push is using the incorrect suction setting. Most people want to use the maximum suction setting all the time, when in some cases this isn’t necessary.

If your vacuum has multiple suction modes, then simply reducing the suction on certain surfaces may solve the issue. Some models, like many Miele vacuums, even provide a guide to which mode should be used for specific types of cleaning.

The downside to reducing suction power is that it’s also likely to reduce the vacuum’s effectiveness. However, if the vacuum is impossible to push, then this is a worthwhile trade-off.

3. You Need to Change Your Floorhead Height Adjustment

Many vacuums have a height setting for the brush bar. This is sometimes adjusted through a dial or foot control, although some models have digital buttons for adjusting height.

The wrong height setting can make a vacuum much more difficult to push. For example, if you’re on a bare floor mode, then there probably won’t be enough clearance to push the vacuum across a high pile carpet. There will also be less space for airflow to circulate, causing the vacuum to get “stuck” to the floor.

On the flip side, setting the brush bar too high can reduce your vacuum’s effectiveness. Make sure you check the manual to find out which each setting is used for, although you’ll probably need to experiment to find the best height for each floor type in your home.

4. The Brush Belt May be Broken

The belt driving a vacuum’s brush is often a weak point. If broken, the brush bar won’t turn, which means the vacuum won’t function as it should.

To check for this issue, turn on the vacuum and tilt it back so you can see the brush roll. Make sure you’re careful not to touch any of the vacuum’s moving parts! If the bar isn’t turning, then the belt may need to be replaced.

The good news is that replacing a vacuum’s brush belt is usually a straightforward process. You’ll need to purchase the correct belt for your vacuum, however, and then follow the instruction manual.

5. The Brush Bar or Wheels Are Stuck

Even if the belt is still functioning, it’s common for a vacuum’s brush bar to become stuck. This typically happens when thread or hair gets wound around the bar. The result is that the vacuum is less effective and feels more difficult to push.

To fix this issue, unplug the vacuum and turn it over. Look for string, thread, hair, or other objects that might be caught around the brush bar. You may be able to use scissors to cut small amounts of material out, but most vacuums allow you to remove the bar for easier cleaning.

While checking the brush bar, it’s also a good idea to inspect the wheels. Look for anything that might stop them turning freely, as this can have a big impact on how smoothly the vacuum moves over surfaces.

Other Potential Issues

The five reasons above are the most common causes of a vacuum that’s difficult to push, but here are a few others:

  • Small wheels may make an upright vacuum difficult to push on thick carpet. This is because the wheels sink into the pile, meaning you need to force the front of the floorhead through the fibres. There’s unfortunately no solution to this other than to buy a different vacuum with larger wheels.
  • Heavy vacuums are more difficult to push than lightweight models. Again, there’s not much you can do about this, other than looking for a lightweight vacuum cleaner. If your vacuum has a handheld mode, then you may be able to use this to reduce the weight.
  • Damage to the base plate can increase friction with the floor, making a vacuum harder to push. This is less common than some of the other issues, but is worth checking when inspecting the wheels and brush bar.

If none of these problems seem to apply to your vacuum, then it’s a good idea to contact the manufacturer, such as Dyson or Hoover. They may be able to advise on customisations to your specific vacuum model to make it easier to push.

Unfortunately, a vacuum being hard to push isn’t always a fixable issue. Some vacuums are difficult to move due to a poorly designed floorhead or lack of suction settings.

If your vacuum has always required a lot of force to move across carpet, and there’s no air inlet valve, height adjustor, or suction setting, then it may be time to switch to a different model. Take a look at our list of the best vacuum cleaners if you’re not sure which to choose.


It can be frustrating if your vacuum is difficult to push. Vacuuming shouldn’t require Olympic strength, after all!

Luckily, excessive suction can often be solved. The simplest solutions are to open the air inlet valve, lower the suction setting, or increase the height of the brush bar. But it’s also important to check that the belt is functioning and that the brush roll isn’t stuck.

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