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Your robot vacuum needs a place to rest up after a long cleaning spree. When Roomba can’t find home or won’t dock with its base, it never has a chance to rest up for the next go.
In this guide, you’ll learn how to deal with a Roomba that won’t dock and how to get your robo-buddy charging again.
1. Make Sure Roomba’s Base Is Getting Power
Your Roomba communicates with the base to find its home and manage the docking process. If that base isn’t online, your Roomba will wander around looking for it until its battery dies.
Your charging base has a light on it. That light should turn on when you first plug in the base or when Roomba docks with it. If it doesn’t, the base isn’t receiving power.
You can try moving your Roomba to a different outlet. You can also test your power outlet with an outlet tester or any portable electric device with an obvious on/off state (like a lamp).
If the outlet is working and your docking station isn’t, you can always buy a replacement dock. They’re a lot cheaper than replacing your Roomba itself. You can find the 500, 600, 700, 800, and 900-series dock here, the i-series dock here, and the s-series dock here.
2. Don’t Move Roomba’s Home Base
Roomba remembers the position of its home base. Older Roombas expect to start by their home base and return to the same place, and new Roombas place their charging dock on their smart maps.
When it’s ready to dock, Roomba goes to the last known location of its base. If the base isn’t there, it will search nearby.
When the base is still in the same room, Roomba has a chance of finding it. If you plan on moving the base further away, though, you’ll need to manually place Roomba on the base.
Once Roomba knows the new location of the base, it will remember it and, for new Roombas, update its map accordingly.
3. Clean Roomba’s Sensors and Charging Contacts
At this point, we know that the outlet and the charging dock are working. The next step is to check the connection between the dock and the vacuum.
In order to dock properly, your robot vacuum needs two things:
- The charging contacts need to form a clean connection with the contacts on the charging dock.
- The infrared lights and proximity sensors have to detect and align with the docking station.
The charging contacts are easier to get to, so we’ll start there. Flip your Roomba over and look for the two metallic rectangles just in front of the battery compartment. Use a dry microfiber cloth to gently wipe any dirt off the contacts. If they still look grimy, you can further clean them with alcohol wipes.
To get to the lights and sensors, you’ll need to open the front bumper of your vacuum. Wipe them off gently with a dry microfiber cloth and use a compressed air can to remove any dust that you can’t get to with the cloth.
4. Remove Obstacles Near the Base
Any physical objects near your home base can get in Roomba’s way when it’s trying to get home. Don’t place any furniture, boxes, or other objects within a few feet of the base.
The base also needs to be on a flat surface away from the edge of rugs or carpets. While Roomba can handle transitions in most cases, they can be problematic during the docking process. And make sure that the base is placed flat against a wall, so it doesn’t move around during the docking process.
Lastly, verify that Roomba’s home base is not getting direct light from a window. Roomba’s infrared sensors can be finicky around sunlight.
5. Move Virtual Walls Away From the Dock
Infrared signals are a crucial part of how Roomba finds and docks with its home base. Roomba’s virtual walls can interfere with that signal, causing Roomba to lose track of the base.
Virtual walls aren’t as useful since the introduction of no-go zones. But for older Roombas, make sure that your Virtual Walls are at least 8 feet away from the home base.
6. Clean the Charging Dock
Your charging dock isn’t going around picking up dirt, so it shouldn’t need to be cleaned nearly as often as the vacuum. That being said, it will still gather dust over time, and that dust can block the sensor window.
There’s a shiny window that extends as a stripe around your charging dock. That’s where the dock’s sensors are, and it needs to be clean of dirt for your robot vacuum to properly locate and align with the dock.
You don’t need to expose the sensors during this cleaning process. Just take your microfiber cloth and wipe off the sensor window. You can use alcohol wipes if the cloth isn’t picking up all of the dirt.
7. Start Roomba Near Its Home
Older Roombas need to start near their home because that’s how they know where to find it later. This isn’t important for newer Roombas unless you’ve recently moved the dock.
Try placing your Roomba right in front of its home base and telling it to dock. If it docks properly, wait for it to charge. Then try starting a cleaning run right from the base. After the steps we’ve tried above, that should fix any remaining problems.
8. Reboot Your Roomba
So far, we’ve tried fixing your Roomba’s hardware or accessories. But the problem could be with the software instead.
Fortunately, rebooting a Roomba is quick, easy, and relatively painless. You won’t even lose your device settings.
Follow the instructions below for your Roomba model. Once it’s done, you’ll need to go through the pairing and Wi-Fi setup process again. After that’s done, try charging your Roomba as normal.
Reboot newer Roombas (s series and i series)
- Press and hold the clean button for 20 seconds.
- Release the button once you see a clockwise swirl appear on your Roomba’s indicator light. This light indicates that the reboot process has started.
- Wait for the swirling light to stop, indicating that the reboot process has finished.
Reboot older Roombas (700 series, 800 series, 900 series)
- Press and hold the clean button for 10 seconds.
- Release the button when you hear a tone playing. This tone indicates that the reboot process has started.
- Wait for the tone to finish, indicating that the reboot process is done.
You may have to factory reset your Roomba if that doesn’t work. But before you do that, I’d suggest trying the next step.
9. Contact Roomba Support
Before you get out your wallet, you should contact Roomba to see whether you can get your vacuum serviced or replaced under warranty. Make sure you have the receipt ready, as they will ask for it.
Unless your vacuum is relatively new and well-maintained, you probably won’t be getting a free replacement. Still, it’s worth the quick phone call to try. Worst case, the cost of a new Roomba is lower than it used to be.
When you’re dealing with problems with newer Roombas, the app is also a lifesaver. Along with allowing for Alexa Roomba voice commands and other conveniences, it highlights errors and offers troubleshooting steps. The only problem is that the app isn’t always helpful when Roomba loses its Wi-Fi connection.
Zak has spent 12 hears in the tech industry focusing on automation, analytics, and cybersecurity. His passion is tech education; he uses his industry expertise and STEM PhD to break down complicated concepts into simple step-by-step guides. When he’s not writing or coding, you can find him binging anything Star Trek or Marvel or reading far too many sci-fi novels.