Check those filters
If your vac seems to be losing power, you may not need a repair.
Before you call a pro, check your filter. Reusable vacuum filters need to be cleaned with water roughly every three to six months, depending on use.
Check your head, too
Still losing suction? Flip the vac upside-down and you're looking at the head, the home of the beater bar and brushes.
If they don't look as clean as the ones in this photo, that might be your problem: they need to be de-clogged regularly. By you. And by hand.
Show some patience
Be sure to let your clean filter dry at least 24 hours before starting in on this kind of action again.
Do. Not. Use. Soap.
There are some places where dish soap just isn't any help -- say, public fountains...and vacuum cleaner parts.
If you've been using anything other than water on parts such as filters, you might want to reconsider. You may be attracting unnecessary dirt and courting a date with a repair shop.
Whip out that screwdriver
Often, there's a flat plate on the bottom of your vac. Use a screwdriver to remove it and get up close and personal with the roller and its cavity.
Many vacuums let you simply pop the roller out, allowing you to fish around in the cavity for offending dust bunnies that could be jamming your system.
Save a buck
Can't figure out how to pop out your roller brush? DIYers often clean their vacuum heads with bent wire hangers or $2 plastic drain augers. Follow the route of your suction hose (if you have one) into the cleaner head.
Use the auger or hanger to root around near the area where that hose meets the head, and...ta-da! Paper wads and other offending cloggers are gone, without a visit to a repair shop.
Look for an evil twin
Still losing suction after you've cleaned your filter? Your vac may have a second filter, and it may also be choked with hair or dust. (Our guess is that this guy's vacuum is actually clogged with shark teeth and the smell of fear.)
Know your limits
Word of caution: if you're not sure where the suction hose is in the head of your vacuum, you're risking the health of your vacuum's motor, and it's best to call a pro for backup.
Buy right the first time
Sometimes your vacuum isn't broken. It's just the wrong appliance for the job. Some vacuum repair experts insist, for example, that uprights, such as this one from Panasonic, do a better job on thick carpets than other constructs.
Watch out for powder
Ever spill something powdery on your rug -- say, a carpet freshener or odor-fighting baking soda? Might want to leave your vacuum cleaner out of the cleanup.
Yes, really: some powdery substances can actually hurt your vacuum cleaner and clog its HEPA filter or even the motor.
Listen to your nose
If your vac smells like burning rubber, it's time to eyeball its drive belt, that little loop of black rubber that keeps the beater bar spinning.
Care for your belt
Once a year, replace that belt. Do it yourself and you'll save yourself the hassle of visiting a repair shop when the belt inevitably gets too stretchy and breaks.