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Red, green, flashing: What do my Shark vacuum’s lights mean?

Modern high-tech vacuum cleaners like those from Shark are not only better at picking up dust than their older counterparts, but they are also better at conveying when thy have an issue and indicating that you need to do something to fix it. Shark vacuums are favored for their ability to efficiently clean all areas of your home, whether it has carpet or solid flooring, and are able to get into all the tight corners and nooks where dust likes to accumulate. And they also come in a range of sizes and styles, including cordless or robot options, to make cleaning your space a breeze.

However, like any technology, your Shark vacuum can go wrong. It might not suck properly and require some cleaning, or a cordless version might be not charging correctly.To help figure out what the problem is, Shark vacuums come with indicators lights which light up in different colors and sequences to give you information about how they are performing and if they are experiencing any issues.

Your Shark vacuum has a health monitor

Woman using the Shark NV752 to vacuum under furniture.

If you’re using a traditional Shark vacuum (upright or cordless), you’ll find a handy LED indicator light somewhere on the main vacuum head. While the exact location of this indicator varies by model, it shouldn’t be too hard to locate.

Think of this light as a health monitor for your Shark vacuum. Sure, you don’t need to be a trained physician or vacuum repair pro to understand what these different lights mean, but if you’ve noticed your Shark vac hasn’t been functioning properly of late, there’s a good chance that LED light is going to be lit or flashing a certain color.

Let’s unpack what all of these different LED light colors mean and how to deal with whatever issue the indicator is pointing toward.

A solid red light

Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed (NV681)
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Have you noticed that your Shark vac isn’t picking up dirt and crumbs as efficiently? If this has been an ongoing issue for at least a few cleaning cycles, there’s a good chance your vacuum’s LED indicator is a solid red color. Typically, this refers to one or two different maladies.

Most of the time, a solid red light means there’s something wrong with your vacuum’s main brush roll, meaning the brush isn’t spinning correctly. In many cases, a bogged-down brush roll simply won’t spin at all. The problem could be occurring because it’s jammed up with hair, loose string, plastic bag bits, or some other kind of binding obstacle.

To address these lassoing foes, go ahead and unplug your Shark vac from whatever power outlet you’re connected to (if it’s a corded model), then flip the vacuum over to expose the bottom of the vacuum head. If you can manage to remove whatever stringy pests are binding up the brush roll with your fingers, this may be all that’s needed. Sometimes, though, it’s easier to just chop or slice away at hairs and string with a pair of scissors or a utility knife.

Once you’ve eliminated the buildup, flip the vac back over, reconnect to power, and give it a spin. If the LED isn’t red anymore and your brush roll seems to be spinning normally, you’ve solved the problem.

A flashing red light

The Shark Rocket Cordless Stick Vacuum.

On many Shark vacuums, that same red light may flash intermittently instead of remaining solid. While this could be an indication that the brush roll is jammed up, a flashing red light usually means that your Shark vac is overheating. This issue is often caused by a compromised brush roll or some other kind of blockage on the vacuum.

An overheated vacuum is a major cause of motor burnout, so you’ll want to get to the bottom of things quickly. Fortunately, Shark vacuums have a temperature sensor that will automatically kill power to the vac if the operating temperature gets too toasty.

Oftentimes, an overheated vac will also sound different. If your Shark is emitting some strained higher frequencies (the kind of noise that hurts your ears), there’s a good chance it’s clogged and on its way to overheating.

Here’s how to fix it: Disconnect your Shark vac from the wall outlet and give it about 30 minutes to an hour to physically cool down. After you give the vac its much-needed break, the first thing we recommend is flipping it over and checking the brush roll for any hairs or string. If everything seems OK, there might be a blockage somewhere else.

Disconnect all hoses and attachments to check for any buildups. Clean as needed, empty the dust tank, and check your vacuum’s filters, too. Once you’ve serviced all the parts, reattach all the peripherals and reconnect the Shark vac for power (if needed). If you’ve fired it up and the flashing red light is gone, you’ve thwarted another trouble.

Flashing headlights

Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Speed (NV681)
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

A number of Shark vacuums have LED headlights on the front of the vacuum head. These work lamps make it easier to see dirt and dust that hides away in the nooks and crannies of your home, but they also function as a secondary health indicator.

If your Shark’s LED headlights are flashing, nine times out of 10 it means that your brush roll is clogged up. Follow the above steps (under the “solid red light” section) to get that brush roll spinning the way it should once more.

A solid green light

Green means go, right? Well, pretty much.

If your Shark’s LED indicator is lit up solid green, this is just to say that the brush roll, motor, and other vacuum components are all operating correctly.

Why does my Shark vacuum keep getting clogged?

If you find yourself dealing with the dreaded red light regularly, you might be facing a frequent clogging of your vacuum cleaner. This can by annoying — and gross! — to fix as you might have to dig your fingers into whatever is clogging up the vacuum to get it going again. If you’re running into this issue more than very occasionally, you might have to adjust the way you’re using your Shark vacuum.

One common mistake that people make with vacuum cleaners is trying to use them to clean up wet or damp spills. While there are special vacuum cleaners on the market that are designed to handle this, most vacuum cleaners can’t and you risk damaging your vacuum by trying to use it to suck up water or spilled drinks. Instead you should blot up any liquid with a paper towel or rag, and then let the carpet fully dry before trying to vacuum it. This is especially true if you have a shaggy surface, as this can hold onto a lot of moisture and is an enemy to your vacuum.

Another reason that your Shark vacuum could be getting clogged is if you aren’t diligent about emptying the dust tank and cleaning out the filters. We know, we know, no one likes having to empty the vacuum, but if you don’t do so regularly then your vacuum won’t work well as blockages can form. The job of the filters is to catch any large particles while still allowing air to pass through, so if they are gunked up then air can’t move through easily and your vacuum won’t be able to suck up dirt effectively.

It’s worth taking the time to make sure your Shark vacuum is clean inside and its tank is empty so it can work well and last a longer time. Typically you should expect to clear about the filters around once per month, but you might need to do this more often if you vacuum a lot or if you have pets which shed a lot of hair.

Need some more assistance with your Shark vacuum? Check out our Shark vacuum troubleshooting and repair guide, covering every type of vacuum that Shark makes — including robotic models!

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Michael Bizzaco
Michael Bizzaco has been writing about and working with consumer tech for well over a decade, writing about everything from…
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