Does Your Roomba Suffer From the Death Circle?

Robot vacuum cleaners have taken the drama out of home maintenance. At the very least, you no longer have to hear your kids arguing about whose turn it is to vacuum. However, it turns out that even a robotic vacuum cleaner can pitch a temper tantrum, and there’s only one way to stop it.

There’s nothing quite like a Roomba

A Roomba autonomous vacuum cleaner on a wooden floor
Roomba Vacuum Cleaner | James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

If you’re looking for a robot vacuum cleaner, the Roomba is hard to beat. Even though they’re some of the highest-priced cleaners on the market, Consumer Reports think that Roombas are worth the price.

The iRobot Roomba model managed to take up the majority of the top 10 slots on Consumer Reports‘ most recommended vacuum cleaners. Even though some of the models, such as the S9, are over $1000, many Roombas are still cheaper than competitors like the LG CordZero ThinQ R975GM, which received much lower scores. However, it appears there’s one problem not even the Roomba is immune to.

What is the Roomba ‘death circle’?

A Reddit user recently created a forum for “help diagnosing ‘circle of death'” problems. They included a YouTube video that showed a Roomba spinning in circles. It looked like it was stuck and wasn’t sure where to go. After watching the video, one thing quickly became clear. While it may be cute when your puppy spins in circles, a Roomba can’t quite pull it off.

Seeing as customers have paid a lot of money for a product that doesn’t work, this problem left the Roomba owner who made the video feeling more than a little frustrated. Other users were quick to jump online and offer some suggestions to help diagnose the problem. The consensus seems to be that a faulty wheel causes this, and one Reddit user even suggested that there’s a stripped gear inside. The ultimate recommendation was to replace the wheel module that spun easier. However, what do the iRobot experts have to say?

How to put a stop to the ‘death circle’

The experts at iRobot have a few suggestions. The first was, “If Roomba backs up or spins in circles, run Roomba in an open area with no obstacles present for 2 minutes to determine if the robot will stop with an error message. If it does, follow the troubleshooting steps for the appropriate error message.”

It seems simple enough, especially if the error message pops up. If that’s the case, you find your model number and follow the provided link for more instructions. So what do you do if there is no error message?

If that’s the case, then you briskly tap both sides of the bumper. The idea is to loosen any debris that may be trapped inside. Next, spin both wheels briskly. You need to make sure that both are spinning freely and exhibiting the same amount of pressure. 

After checking the wheels, wipe the cliff sensors. You’ll need a clean, melamine foam to do so. The Mr. Clean magic eraser is a good choice. Next, remove the front caster wheel. You’ll need to clean the axle, housing, and wheel. If you can’t turn the wheel by hand after cleaning, it might be time to replace it. iRobot Customer Care can be contacted for replacement parts. 

iRobot went on to explain, “Sometimes, Roomba® will not run on certain black or dark-colored surfaces. The cliff sensors that recognize an edge or a stair will view this color as an edge and will not clean over it. Because Roomba® believes that it is approaching an area that it cannot clean, it may back away from this area. Unfortunately, no adjustment can be made to correct this behavior. Please use a Virtual Wall® or Keep Out Zone in the iRobot® HOME App to block off the problem areas.”

If you continue to have problems with your Roomba after changing out the wheel, you need to contact customer service again and ask for further assistance.

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