Why Does My Robot Vacuum Keep Going in Circles?

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Are you wondering why your robot vacuum keeps going in circles? Is it cleaning the same area over and over again? Don’t worry, this is something that most robot vacuum owners encounter every once in a while. Before solving the issue, however, it is a good idea to determine the cause of the problem. 

This guide should work for most robot vacuums including iRobot Roomba, Eufy, ECOVACS Deebot, and Shark robot vacuums. So why does your robot vacuum keep going in circles?

The most common reason why your robot vacuum keeps going in circles is because the bumper is stuck. When it's stuck, the robot vacuum may mistakenly think it's hitting an obstacle, so it backs away and goes the other way repeatedly in never-ending circles. Tapping the bumper gently often solves the issue. 

Moreover, important parts of the robot vacuum like cliff sensors and the wheels may need your attention. In this post, we will help you answer the question: why does my robot vacuum keep going in circles? By the end of this post, you should have your robot vacuum up and running in no time.

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Why Does My Robot Vacuum Keep Going in Circles?

There are four common reasons why a robot vacuum keeps going in circles and cleans the same area repeatedly. The most likely cause is a problem with the bumper. However, there are other possible causes. Read on to determine the likely cause of your robot vacuum’s “circle dance” problem:

1. Stuck Bumper

A robot vacuum that keeps going in circles is likely due to a stuck bumper, often caused by a collection of debris, causing it to become jammed or dislodged. Alternatively, the bumper sensor may be dirty, causing the robot vacuum to have trouble navigating properly. These two are very common causes.

Because both the bumper and bumper sensors are designed to protect a robot vacuum from accidents, it may mistakenly think it is approaching an obstacle when the bumper is jammed or the bumper sensors are dirty. Therefore, it backs away and goes the other way, repeatedly, going around in never-ending circles.

2. Malfunctioning Wheels

A problem with either the right or left wheel may cause a robot vacuum to keep going in circles. Often, this is due to loose debris trapped in one of the wheels, sometimes both. If one of the wheels is jammed, the robot vacuum will run around in circles because the stuck wheel will act as a pivot foot for the robot.

Alternatively, an uneven surface may also cause a robot vacuum to clean the same area repeatedly. A robot vacuum works best on a flat surface, therefore, use it only on a flat surface. If you encounter this problem, simply move the robot vacuum to a flat surface and then press CLEAN to restart the cleaning process.

3. Dirty Cliff Sensors

A robot vacuum may do the circle dance when the cliff sensors are dirty or when hanging over a cliff. It may have trouble recognizing stairs and edges because the cliff sensors are obstructed. It is a good habit to clean the cliff sensors regularly. You can simply wipe the cliff sensors with a clean, melamine foam.

Other times, robot vacuums may have trouble running on black or dark surfaces. The cliff sensors, which are designed to recognize stairs and edges, may see dark colors as a cliff and will not clean over it. This may cause the robot vacuum to back away and cause it to clean the same area repeatedly.

4. Software Issues

The last thing that may cause your Roomba to act drunk is a software issue. In fact, there was one time when an iRobot software update has been causing navigation issues for Roomba vacuums. Many Roomba owners said their Roomba was acting "drunk" after the update. However, software issues are considered very rare.

When a software issue happens, your robot vacuum may spin around and bump into furniture, even getting stuck in an empty area and not being able to go home to its charging station. Worse, all the maps may be wiped out. If this is the case, then there's nothing you can do but to wait for the next software update.

How to Fix Robot Vacuum Going in Circles

Once you have identified the cause of the problem, it is easy to apply the right treatment. While you can address the issue specifically, we recommend treating your robot vacuum thoroughly to prevent the same problem from happening in the future. Here’s the guide on how to fix a robot vacuum going in circles:

1. Tap the Bumpers Gently

The first step is to softly tap the bumper several times to dislodge any debris that may be trapped underneath, and then press CLEAN to restart. Often, this simple action is more than enough to clear any trapped debris inside the bumper and have your robot vacuum up and running as it should. 

2. Clean the Bumper Sensors

It is also possible that during cleaning runs, the bumper became dislodged from the robot vacuum. If so, you need to reinstall it back into place. Locate the area where the bumper is dislodged and remove the screws. Lift the bottom section of the bumper and align it into the allotted slots properly.

If the problem persists, you may need to clean the bumper sensors inside. Open the bumper by turning the robot upside down and unscrewing the cover. Once the cover is removed, check whether any of the bumper sensors is jammed or not. You can use a razor to cut any tangled debris from the sensors.

3. Clean the Wheels

Next, you need to clean the wheels. Start by pushing the wheels up and down several times and remove any loose debris that may be trapped in the wheels. After cleaning them, gently turn both wheels by hand, making sure they spin freely and that each wheel shows the same amount of resistance.

4. Wipe the Cliff Sensors

Last but not least, you need to make sure that the cliff sensors are as clean as they can be. To do this, simply wipe the cliff sensors with a pad of clean, lightly dampened melamine foam. You can also use an easy-to-use cleaning pad like this magic eraser  to keep it clean for a very long time.

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How Do You Fix a Roomba Going in Circles?

As one of the most popular robot vacuums in the world, we often get questions from Roomba owners on why their Roombas keep going in circles. Thankfully, the good folks at iRobot created a complete troubleshooting guide for you to follow along. If you are a Roomba owner, you can read it right here.

If your Roomba backs up or spins in circles, you need to run it in an open area for a minimum of two minutes. After letting the Roomba run for two minutes, it will stop and send an error message. The most common error is Error 9, which simply means the bumper is jammed with debris or dislodged.

To fix a Roomba’s jammed or dislodged bumper, simply tap it gently and clean any debris that may be stuck underneath its bumper, then press CLEAN to restart. This should fix a Roomba from going in circles. 

Bottom Line

And there you have it, the complete answer to the question: why does my robot vacuum keep going in circles? Both the bumper and bumper sensors are important parts of a robot vacuum and need to be properly maintained. By assessing them often, you should ensure the robot vacuum’s longevity for years to come.

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