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When it comes down to it, most of us just want a vacuum cleaner that works, each and every time we pull it out to use it. We don’t want to keep throwing them away and buying another machine that we have to throw away. We want reliability in our vacuum cleaner.

How do you evaluate whether a vacuum cleaner will be reliable? There are several key things to look for when you are shopping for a new vacuum cleaner.

Look for durable materials. Metal is necessary at any friction point. Not every part needs to be metal though. Wherever metal is not used, most manufacturers have chosen a plastic or plastic composite, some of them have even chosen Lexan, a high quality polycarbonate, to remain durable. When better materials are used it generally means that the initial cost is higher than when cheaper materials are used. However, over time the more durable materials will outlast and outperform the cheaper materials. This means you have less problems and you get closer to your goal of having the machine work each and every time you pull it out to use it.

Whether you are looking at an upright style vacuum cleaner or a canister style vacuum cleaner, if you are going to clean any type of carpet, you will need a rotating brush roll. When it comes to carpet, eighty percent of your cleaning happens at the brush roll. If the brush roll isn’t of good quality, your carpet will not get clean.

The brush roll in the vacuum may be made of metal, wood, or plastic. The brushes in the brush roll may be nylon, natural boar bristles, horse hair, or a composite material. Some brushes may scratch certain bare floor surfaces, therefore most machines with a brush roll are designed specifically for use on carpet only. There are some machines that can easily handle both, however, they are generally only available at your independent vacuum shop.

In most cases, the brushroll is driven by a belt. The belts in most machines are flat and made of a stretchy rubber material. This type of belt stretches over time and begins to loose tension. The lost tension means that it no longer spins when it meets the carpet. The tension becomes insufficient for proper cleaning after about ninety days, whether the machine is being used or not. Most repair specialist will tell you to replace this type of belt every three months. You can use the seasons to remember when, changing the belt each Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

Some machines use a cogged style belt. These belts have some metal strands threaded through them and they do not stretch. They will, over time wear down, removing some teeth. This can happen after as little as one year's use.

We now have a machine that uses a different style belt than the two common styles listed about. The new style belt is similar to the cogged belt in that it uses metal strands threaded through them, but instead of teeth, it has grooves that run the length of the belt. The machines that use this type of belt come with a lifetime warranty on the belt. That means the manufacturer has tested and found these belts not to wear down with use or time.

Most manufacturers, however, will not warranty the belt at all. It is considered a wear item and it is usually an inexpensive maintenance item. Many people have broken the belt in their machine by catching something, like the edge of a rug or a bedskirt, in the brushroll. When this happens the brushroll stops turning while the motor shaft continues to spin at a high speed. This causes the rubber belt to burn, leaving bits of black rubber and sometimes a bit of smoke. Even a stick or a large nail can get jammed into the brushroll housing and prevent the brushroll from turning, creating the same problem of a burned up belt. One of the benefits of checking your brushroll each season is that it reminds you to remove string and hair that has wound its way around the brushroll, which is another reason that a brushroll may stop turning and may cause the belt to break.