You’re zipping along with the vacuum, making short work of your weekend chores, when all of a sudden you feel the brush roller stop spinning. The vacuum motor revs into high gear.

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You’ve got a broken vacuum cleaner belt—the part of the machine that connects the brush roller to the motor shaft. (All full-sized machines, upright vacuums and canister vacuums, typically have a belt.) A vacuum will still create suction with a bum belt, but without a rotating brush roller, it won’t collect much in the way of dirt and debris, especially on carpets.

“Fortunately, replacing a vacuum cleaner belt takes minutes and costs next to nothing,” says Frank Rizzi, who tests vacuums at Consumer Reports. Here’s the how-to from CR’s experts.

Step 1: Buy a Replacement Belt

Manufacturers used to be better about including a spare vacuum cleaner belt with new vacuums, but that’s not so common these days. So you’ll need to contact the manufacturer or search for a replacement belt on Amazon or the manufacturer's website; prices are usually in the $5 range (they’re so cheap, you might as well buy two). Have your vacuum’s model number handy, since belts differ by size and thickness and they’re not interchangeable.

Step 2: Take Off the Bottom Plate

After unplugging the vacuum, lay the machine on the floor with its underside facing up. Next, remove the bottom plate to expose the brush and the vacuum cleaner belt. Some plates are held in place with screws, while others use some kind of quick-release latching mechanism.

Step 3: Remove the Old Belt

Slide one end of the vacuum cleaner belt off the brush roller and the other end off the motor shaft. With the belt and brush removed, take a moment to clean around the motor bearings, which can become tangled with hair and fibers over time.

Step 4: Install the New Belt

With the letters on the new belt facing out, hook one end onto the motor shaft and the other onto the brush roller. Then lock the brush back into its housing, and refasten the bottom plate.

In future, check the vacuum cleaner belt from time to time for signs of wear and tear or stretching. It’s not a bad idea to keep a spare belt handy in case of a break. And follow our advice in How to Make Your Vacuum Last to get the longest service out of your floor cleaner. 

Need a new vacuum? If your problem is something other than the vacuum cleaner belt and you need a new machine, check our full vacuum cleaner ratings and recommendations of canister, upright, stick, hand, and robotic vacuums.