I love my Roomba vacuum cleaner. Many think they must be a gimmick, but for the most part they actually work really well. I generally run mine on the hard wood floors downstairs and it does a great job of keeping things clean. It also means that the hair my cat sheds is kept to a minimum. You still need a real vacuum to go with it, but I only need to use that on odd occasions.

This is the little guy I speak of:


About a week ago, the vacuum started making a strange clicking/thumping sound and stopped picking up debris. After every attempt to run a cleaning cycle, it continued to stop with the error code: clean Roomba’s brushes. I cleaned them several times until they were spotless. The clicking continued each time I started the Roomba. After some research I’ve discovered that this clicking is the mechanism for Roomba to untangle itself if it gets stuck on something, but it was doing it constantly.

After much Googleing, nearly every other site talked about taking the yellow ends off the brushes and cleaning out any hair that may have become trapped. This is indeed to first thing to check if your Roomba is clicking, but with my cats ultra-fine hair I’ve had to deal with this many times before (in fact I do it roughly every second time I empty the vacuum’s bin).

Brush tip with bearing

Bearing removed

If you remove this (you may need need nose pliers) you may find hair wrapped around the axel. Removing this should allow more fluid rotation of the brush.

So this obviously wasn’t the issue. I tried running the Roomba without any rotating brushes to no effect. So, out of options, I decided to pull the thing apart…

I unscrewed the black base cover and cleaned everything I could see. This still didn’t fix the issue.

You can remove the back plate by first removing the spinning brush, the front wheel and then the main screws on the bottom.

There was some hair jammed in the place where the brushes fit. I was able to remove some, but not all of it. After some more Googleing, it turns out there is a gear system behind these brushes. This was indeed the problem. My cat’s fine hair had gotten into the gears, preventing them from moving and thus making the Roomba think it was caught on something, hence the clicking sound.

Apparently on some other models, this brush cage comes out easily, but on mine it seems to be fixed to a wire powering the gear motor. I was able to undo two tabs, and get the cage far enough out to expose the screws. There are lots of them. I undid these and found a gear system COMPLETELY clogged with hair. There are about 7 plastic gears which I removed one by one, cleaned, and then put back into the cage. This was a tricky process as I couldn’t lay the Roomba down due to the way the cage was literally hanging by a connecting wire. After I’d got everything cleaned, I screwed everything back together and gave it a test run. This had fixed the problem.

Brush sockets

Pull back on these tabs each side to release the brush cage

It can be a little tricky, but after pulling the tab out, you should be able to pull it up.

Gear enclosure

Gently pull the cage up, and you should be able to see the screws holding the enclosure together. Open this to find the gears (jammed full of hair!)

So a word of advice before you send your Roomba back for warranty; which from experience can take weeks. If the brush cleaning doesn’t work then the brush gears may be clogged and unable to move – especially if you have a pet.

This procedure is not part of the recommended cleaning regime, so proceed at your own risk!