Why Does My Kirby Vacuum Smell Like It's Burning?

Feb 24, 2023

Why Does My Kirby Vacuum Smell Like It's Burning?


Does your Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning? Do you feel like a speedster has just done a burnout in your house when the Kirby vacuum is plugged in? You will agree with me that a burning smell from your vacuum is a scare.

But don't fret, as there is a solution.

In most cases when the Kirby vacuum smells like it's burning, the belt needs to be changed. Check out the latest Kirby belt deals on our website. It will be a clever idea to snap the 5-pack so you won't have to pay for shipping fees everytime you need to replace the belt.

For the record, it's not just the belt that needs to be changed when the vacuum smells like it's burning. There could be other issues as we will discuss in this article.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Kirby vacuums are among the most reliable vacuum cleaners on the market. They are very reliable cleaners that make floor cleaning a buzz, and boast excellent craftsmanship guaranteeing durability.

Kirby vacuum brand

However, there are times they will produce a burning smell, something that is not unusual in vacuums, and many other appliances.

If your vacuum has that burning smell, this Kirby troubleshooting guide will come in handy.

Find out why the vacuum has suddenly started to smell like it's burning and what to do about it.

But just before that, check out this Kirby Sentria deal that saves you a cool $900 just in case you want to go for a new Kirby. The reconditioned vacuum comes with a 5-year warranty and a 60-day moneyback guarantee.


Why Does My Kirby Vacuum Smell Like It's Burning?

More than a dozen times, customers have been popping up in our showroom complaining of a burning smell when they plug in their vacuum cleaners. Well, no one likes anything to do with the foul smell of burning rubber or plastic, leave alone the fire itself. 

Many factors could cause your vacuum to smell like it's burning. Some are minor issues, while others should send chills down your spine. It might be time to get a new cleaner. 


1. A Worn Out Belt, Get a Replacement 

If your Kirby vacuum smells of burning rubber, it's most likely a broken belt that needs replacement. Technically speaking, the belt is slipping now that the knurled inner surface is worn out. The knurlings are designed to grip the brushroll. But when worn out, the belt slips and gets heated by the motor's RPMs, causing a burning smell. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

So, what next? Well, the only option is getting a new belt. 

What Kind of Belt Does Kirby Take?

One great thing about Kirby vacuums is that they all use the same belt. There are several variants of these belts, with the Kirby 301291 as the latest variant. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

When sourcing for belts, make sure to go for genuine ones. There are many fake Kirby parts out there. While they may be cheaper, they are not durable. In fact, many Kirby owners have complained of their new belts snapping within days. Fake belts also don't offer optimal performance and will often slip, leading to that burning smell.

Luckily, at GreatVacs.com, you can find a high-quality Kirby vacuum belt substitute at an affordable price. 

Considering you need to replace your belt often, at least in 3-4 months, for optimal performance, we have a bundle of 5 belts, so you won't have to pay for shipping now and then. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning


Our belts are made from quality parts, guaranteeing longer service. You also get to enjoy fast shipping.

How to Replace Kirby Belt

Replacing a new belt is pretty easy, and the procedure is almost standard for all models. But if you are not sure whether you have what it takes to replace the belt, we suggest you get expert help. You don't want to risk damaging your vacuum when replacing the belt. 

Among the options you have is contacting us via service@greatvacs.com or telephone line. We have a team of experts who will advise you along the way or even do the heavy lifting by replacing the belt.


  • A new Kirby vacuum belt 
  • Some technical skills
Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Important Safety Tips 

  • Make sure the Kirby vacuum is unplugged 
  • Dry your hands 
  • Wear gloves

First things first…

Before going into the step-by-step guide, you need to know a little about the components you will deal with.

There's a sticker on top of the cleaning head with a "belt on" green arrow and a "belt off "red arrow.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Just below the sticker is the belt lifter, which varies in shape and design but serves the same purpose across all Kirby models - lifting the belt.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Another component is the release lever which secures the power head to the cleaner's main unit.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Also, note the hook inside the head that hooks and unhooks the belt.

Changing Kirby Belt: Step By Step Guide

Here is a detailed guide on how to replace your Kirby belt in just a few steps. 

Step 1: Pull the metal belt lifter tab, and turn the belt lifter to align the two belt-off red arrows

Step 2: Fold back the metal belt lifter tab and remove the cleaning head by turning the release lever

Step 3: Remove the plate by turning the two lock tabs to the unlock position

Step 4: Now that you have access to the brushroll, detach it and remove the worn-out belt

Step 5: Slide in the new belt and put back the brushroll

Step 6: Pull the metal belt lifter tab and turn the belt lifter to align the belt on the green arrows

Step 7: Stick the belt up to the hook by turning the belt lifter to align it with the belt off green arrows. 

Step 8: Attach the bottom plate and lock it in place using the lock/unlock levers

Step 9: Fix the cleaning head back to the main unit

Note 1

Adjust the brushroll settings accordingly. If you check the brushroll, you will notice some markings labeled 1-3. These settings determine your brush's contact with the surface you are cleaning. 

The table below will advise you where your brushroll fine adjustment should be depending on the surface you clean often.


Fine Adjustment Setting

Bare Floors


Low Pile Carpets


High Pile Carpets


Note 2

When returning the cleaning head after brush replacement, adjust the cleaner to a higher position. This way, you can easily attach the head to the main unit. 

Kirby Belt Replacement Video

For a more detailed brushroll replacement procedure, check out the video below by one of our staff. 

How Do You Know It's Time To Change Your Belt?

Many people have been asking, how do you know it's time to change your belt? Well, as discussed above, a burning rubber smell indicates that it's time to replace the belt. But besides a burning smell, there are other cases when you should change your belt. Below are some other indications you need a new belt;

  • The vacuum is extra noisy 
  • There's sudden suction loss
  • Vacuum leaves a trail of dirt

The good thing is that when the belt wears out and does not produce a burning smell, you can always know it's time to change it when the green belt light starts flickering.


2. Jammed Brushroll

Another reason your Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning is a jammed brushroll. For proper functioning, the brushroll should work in tandem with the belt.

But at times, you find that the brushroll is not moving for one reason or another. This creates some drag, making the belt slip and causing that burning smell. The drag also means the motor will work overtime producing a burning smell.

So, why is your brushroll not spinning as it's supposed to? What can you do about it?

Keep Hair Tangling at Bay

The most likely culprit here is hair tangling. If you have long-haired furry friends, check the belt often and remove any hair tangles. To prevent the brush from slipping, make sure there are no hair tangles.

Unplug the vacuum from the power source and use the same drill of replacing the belt. But this time, you don't have to remove the entire brush if there is no need to. Most hairs and dirt can be removed while the brush is still in the cleaning head compartment.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

To be on the safe side, consider getting a brush that picks up those long hairs with minimal tangling. The Kirby Miracle Pet Hair Brush Roll is a perfect choice. It has been designed to pick up all kinds of pet hair and is versatile enough to work with all Kirby vacuums.

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

It's not just hair tangles that could leave you with a stuck belt. Lodged debris or other entanglements could also be why your brushroll is not spinning, leading to belt slippage and, consequently, a burning smell.


3. Check The Height Adjuster

Another possible cause for Kirby vacuum producing a burnt smell is inappropriate height adjustment. If the power nozzle is too low or too high, the belt can slip and cause that dreaded burnt smell.

So, what's the solution?

It's pretty simple. Raise the height adjuster to ensure sufficient contact with the surface you are cleaning, whether a hardwood floor or a high-pile carpet. 

How Do You Adjust the Height on a Kirby? 

Below are the steps for adjusting your Kirby vacuum. 

Step 1: Locate the toe-touch control, which is over the front wheel  

Kirby vacuum smell like it's burning

Step 2: Turn on the vacuum

Step 3: Lower the nozzle by pressing the toe-touch upper control pedal continuously

Step 4: Once the nozzle is down, start pressing the toe-touch lower control pedal one click at a time until the power head is at your desired height.

Below is a video on Kirby height adjustment.

Important: The settings for carpets and hard floors are denoted by numbers, while settings for accessories are marked by dots. 

Toe-Touch Control Pedal is Jammed

At times, you might find the control pedal has jammed. You try pressing any of the two pedals, but there is no response. In this case, there is definitely some debris somewhere that is creating the jam. 

The solution is to unscrew the axle and inspect if there is any debris. You will have to clear away the debris to solve the malfunction. But before opening the unit, check if you can locate and remove the debris to save your precious cleaning time.

Kirby vacuum smell burning

Remember to lubricate the mechanism from time to time using WD40.


4. Your Kirby Has Overheating Issues

That burned smell your Kirby is producing could also be due to overheating. Now, how do you know that the smell is caused by overheating, not a broken or stuck belt? Well, the litmus test is the smell. While a problem with the belt has a burned rubber smell, overheating comes with a burned plastic smell. 

So, the big question… what leads to overheating? There are 4 possible causes;

  • Clogged motor or exhaust filter
  • Clogged filter bag
  • Blockages
  • Bad motor

(a) Clogged Motor and Exhaust Filter

You might have that burning smell at times, but your belt and brushroll are in tip-top condition. If this is the extent of your struggles, check the motor filter to see if it is clogged.

You see, motors rely on air intake for cooling… the airflow should be unrestricted.

But to prevent dirt from accumulating in the motor, a premotor filter captures debris, dust, and other elements that may be headed to the motor. However, with time, the motor filter can be clogged, restricting airflow into the motor.

With airflow restricted due to clogging, cooling is compromised. Once the motor can't cool effectively, it will start overheating, causing that burning smell. So, the solution is unclogging the motor filter.

The exhaust motor, too, can be the reason your Kirby is overheating and producing that burning smell. The exhaust is also a fundamental component in the motor's cooling. If it is clogged, the air that is supposed to be vented out is restricted in the motor, compromising cooling.

Should you worry?

Yes. A clogged motor or exhaust filter will ultimately lead to motor burnout if left unchecked.

How to Unclog a Kirby Motor and Exhaust Filter

Unclogging a motor and exhaust filter is not easy. You have to access the motor and use a blower to blow away the dirt and dust. If you are not up to the task of disassembling the Kirby to access the motor, we recommend getting expert help. 

Another thing to note, you won't need to be unclogging the motor often. Once a year is okay as the motor does clean itself, and the blades spin.

(b) Clogged Filter Bag

You may have freaked out after discovering your vacuum has a burning smell, thinking it's the end of your vacuum, yet it's just a simple problem… a full or clogged filter bag. Kirby has a wide range of bagged vacuum cleaners that collect dirt inside a disposable bag. 

Part of the maintenance requirements is replacing the filter bag when full.

Kirby vacuum smell burning

Kirby filter bags are large and can hold quite a lot, but they need to be changed ASAP when full. A clogged filter is one of the reasons that could lead to overheating and that burning smell. This is because when the bag is full, the vacuum can no longer pick up debris, and the motor is still working. 

This ultimately jams the motor and leads to overheating. A full bag should also be taken care of in time to prevent dirt and dust from overflowing and making their way to other internal components.

How Do I Change My Kirby Bag?

Changing a Kirby filter bag is pretty easy. However, you need to understand that the replacement procedure varies depending on the type of bag. Genuine Kirby bags are easy to change compared to their generic counterparts. The bag attachment procedure also differs slightly depending on the model. But there is little difference.

Below is a step-by-step guide that applies to all models and bag types.

Step 1: Unzip the larger outer cloth bag and remove the disposable bag

Step 2: Detach the disposable bag from the filter and dispose of

Step 3: Attach the new bag to the vacuum's filter, and make sure it is locked in place

Step 4: Tuck the disposable bag in the outer cloth bag and zip it up

For a detailed procedure for changing Kirby bags, here is a video our team made to help you. It highlights how to change generic and genuine Kirby bags on different models.

When Should I Change My Kirby Bag?

A lot of people have been asking, when should you change your Kirby bag? Well, don't be the lazy folk and wait for the bag to fill and the vacuum to overheat. It's advisable to change the bag once it is 75% full. You don't want to wait for it to fill as it can lead to that burning smell and impede performance when dirt and dust find their way to internal components such as the motor. 

Now, how do you know it's time to change your Kirby bag? It's simple, check whether the dirt has reached the fill line.

Kirby Bag Falling Off

But at times your bag may start falling off for no reason. The video below has the solution for a Kirby bag that falls off often.

How Long Do Kirby Bags Last?

It's hard to say exactly how long Kirby bags last, as it all depends on how busy your home is. It might go for anything between 1 month and 6 months. If you have a busy home, expect to change the bags often, but a Kirby bag can go for months if you are a bachelor. However, it's better to change the bag at least once a month to avoid the buildup of odor.

Can You Reuse Kirby Vacuum Bags? 

Everyone wants to save some bucks. So, can you save some by reusing Kirby bags? Well, you can reuse a Kirby bag, but it is not worth the trouble, especially if you have allergies. The process of reusing a bag is tedious and can trigger allergies.

In any case, why should you reuse Kirby bags when their replacements are readily available? Here at GreatVacs.com, for example, we have plenty of Kirby replacement bags at affordable prices. Plus, we can ship them to you, so you won't have to hit the local store.

Ours are genuine Kirby bags that are easy to replace and efficient in capturing dirt. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it is burning

(c) Check the Hose and Suction Nozzle for Blockages

A blocked hose or suction nozzle is another cause for overheating and, consequently, that burning smell. When there is a clog in either the hose or nozzle, the motor will work harder to achieve maximum power. Hence the motor overheats and causes a burning smell. 

So, what's the fix?

I have some bad news. It's not something you want to do every day - unclogging the hose or power nozzle is tedious. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it is burning

How to Unclog Blockages in Kirby Vacuums

To start, how do you clean your Kirby surface nozzle? You will have to remove the head the same way you would when replacing the belt. Check for any dirt and debris and remove them. 

Kirby vacuum smell like it is burning

When it comes to the hoses, the process is a little bit tricky. You will need to use the back of a mop pole to try and push any dirt in the hose. 

If the clog is in the filter, get a pair of gloves, and try to reach the inner side of the filter to see if there's any debris you can get rid of.

Kirby vacuum smell like it is burning

There are times you will find your hose wholly clogged. In such cases, you can consider buying a hose replacement from us; we have them at fantastic prices. 

Here is a video on how to replace a Kirby vacuum hose.

What Causes Blockages in Kirby Hose and Nozzle?

Let's face it. Unclogging isn't something you want to do every day. So, it's essential to know what causes clogging to be on the safe side.

Most of the clogging on hoses is caused by moisture and dust. That said, avoid using your Kirby to tackle wet messes.

(d) Your Motor Could be Fried

If none of the above tips have resolved the overheating issue, chances are high that you have a bad motor. Vacuum motors get damaged due to wear and tear. In this case, you will need to seek the services of a professional to check it out and advise whether it can be repaired. 

But from our experience, repairs are not worth your time. Getting a new motor will give you peace of mind. At GreatVacs.com, we surely have Kirby replacement motors so you can fix your cleaner and forget about burnt smells and overheating. A new motor also rejuvenates your vacuum for optimal cleaning performance and energy efficiency in this hard economic times.

The best part…

You can also opt for a new vacuum. We have new models that do more than just cleaning. Some can be used as pumps for inflating mattresses and inflatable aboveground pools.

Here are 5 uses of a Kirby you probably never knew.

How Do You Know If Your Kirby Vacuum Motor is Burnt Out?

But before buying a new motor, you need to ask yourself, is the motor really burned out? You don't want to buy a new motor when it is not necessarily the motor causing that burning smell. 

So, how do you know that you have a burned motor?

  • Burned Smell - A dying motor will produce a burning smell. However, it's a different burning smell, a strong odor that emanates from the coating of the copper windings (shellac)
  • Lower Suction - If your vacuum is delivering lower suction than normal and there is no clogging, your motor could be on a slow death
  • Vacuum Powers On and Off - Another sign your motor is about to take a bow is if it powers on and off without operating steadily

If you think your motor has a problem, unplug it immediately from the mains to prevent hazards and further damage.

Still Need Help… Talk To Us

A Kirby vacuum that smells like it's burning can be a headache, but it's not a cause for alarm in most cases. The most common reason is a problem with the belt, especially if it smells like burned rubber. But at times, it could be clogging in the filters and accessories or a bad motor, which is highly unlikely, especially if the vacuum is still new. 

Suppose you still have trouble with your Kirby vacuum after exploring the above tips. Don't hesitate to call us today; we will gladly help. We have rebuilt and serviced over 100,000 units and fulfilled over 250,000 orders. You can also take advantage of our exclusive discounts and snap a new Kirby vacuum.

"Wishing you happy cleaning! GreatVacs.com

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Is a Kirby vacuum worth the price?

Yes. Kirby might be one of the most expensive vacuum brands, but it is worth every coin. The company boasts a line of reliable vacuum cleaners that offer exceptional floor cleaning and are very durable.

2. Are Kirby vacuums made in China?

No. Unlike most vacuum brands that outsource manufacturing from China, all Kirby vacuums are manufactured in the United States, either in Ohio or Texas, using high-quality, durable materials.

3. What is the lifespan of a Kirby vacuum?

It’s hard to say how long a Kirby vacuum will last precisely. The durability depends on maintenance. If you keep it in good shape, it could last you up to 30 years. But what would you do with a 30-year-old vacuum when newer models have the latest features?