Each Roomba robot vacuum model has slightly different ways of telling you an error number it encounters. Some more advanced Roomba’s can even notify you with a push notification in the mobile app if they’re connected to a WiFi network.
Regardless of whether your unit vocalizes an error or just shows it on a screen, the error numbers are the same for almost all the Roomba robot vacuum models.
Engineers from iRobot built so many different failsafes into Roomba that you’d think Murphy’s Law doesn’t apply to robotic vacuum cleaners.
No matter how well they built it and how well you maintain it, you’ll eventually run into problems. Fortunately, it might be much easier to fix these issues when they do arise then you might think.
You won’t need special tools in most cases either, so you can feel free to put away your Torx wrench and your voltmeter. Whenever a Roomba asks for help, you can usually get it back on its wheels with just your fingers and maybe a regular screwdriver.
Common Roomba Error Codes
Whenever a Roomba gets indigestion, it stops moving and makes an unmistakable two-tone error sound. It sounds like it came out of an old cartoon or video game, so you won’t have to worry about mistaking it for anything else. Once the tone plays, you might hear a synthesized voice followed by a flashing indicator on the display screen.
Different Roomba models have slightly different ways of telling you an error number. Some can even notify you with a push box in the mobile app if they’re connected to a network. Regardless of whether your unit vocalizes an error or just shows it on a screen, the error numbers are the same for almost all models. You can hit the clean button or the bumper if you want to see an error message get repeated. In this video you can see how Roomba notifies about error 9:
Keep in mind that some of the more primitive Roomba designs will simply issue a series of noises that equal the number of the error code in question.
Error 1: Roomba is Stuck
Error code number one has to be the most common issue, and that’s probably why iRobot made it the first error. If you have a 900 series Roomba, then it might instruct you verbally to place your unit on a flat surface then restart it. Other models might just beep and show the numeral 1 on the display screen. This error message doesn’t tell you what’s really going on, but it’s easy enough to fix.
Roomba units throw out this error message whenever the side wheel gets stuck or fails to touch the ground. Make sure that all the wheels are nicely on the unit and that nothing got stuck in them. Place your Roomba back in the middle of the room and start the cleaning process again. You don’t have to do anything else.
Roomba 400 and Discovery models reserve the special video game-inspired noise for this error alone, perhaps because it tends to be more of an issue then any other problem.
Error 2: The Extractors Cannot Turn
Something must be stuck in the rollers if you’ve getting this error message. Take a moment to clean them out and check to make sure there’s no hair or pet fur wrapped around them. You might also find bits of thread from your carpet caught up in the rollers if it tends to loose this when you vacuum it.
Throw any debris in the trash before you restart the cleaning process.
Error 6: The Cliff Sensors Are Dirty
Make sure to help your little vacuum out as soon as possible when you see this error, because you might find it teetering on the edge of the stairs. If your unit is in the middle of the room and doesn’t need to be rescued, then wipe the cliff sensors with a very gentle motion before returning it to service.
Error 7: Side Wheel is Stuck
You’ll receive this error code if the side wheels get something jammed in them. Clear any obstruction you find. If dirt got piled up between the wheels and the chassis, then you might want to use a regular vacuum cleaner to suck out whatever got jammed in there. Some users have reported the compressed air will also do the job of cleaning out the wheels.
Error 9: Bumper is Compressed
Head over to your robot vacuum and check to make sure that it didn’t get itself pinned against the wall. In most cases, this happens if it tried to go behind a piece of furniture and now needs to be rescued. If the bumper got stuck, then you can usually free the mechanism with a bit of gentle motion.
You’ll also get this error code if the bumper sensor got dirty. In that case, use the same procedure you use to clean the wheels out. Some users keep a cleaning cloth near their Roomba charging dock for situations when this happens.
Error 10: A Side Wheel is Stuck…Again?
Technically, iRobot defines error code 10 as referring to a situation where “a side wheel is stuck or the bumper is not registering obstacles”, but you can usually treat it the way you treat code five errors. On some models, this error can also come up if your bumper got jammed.
Go through the usual motions of cleaning both the wheels and bumpers to make sure they can move freely. If this error keeps coming up no matter what you do, then it could indicate that the wheel or bumper sensors have worn out and need to be replaced.
Error 11: Roomba has not Encountered Obstacles
This error might seem rather strange, because not encountering obstacles sounds like a good thing to a human. Robots get confused if they don’t eventually find a wall, so a Roomba will freeze up and throw this error message if your home is massive and you don’t have much furniture in the middle of rooms.
You can use the included Virtual Wall tape to create a smaller cleaning area, which is a good idea if you’re using Roomba in a place like a dance hall or gym that has a ton of floor space. Otherwise, you might want to check to make sure the bumper is working properly.
Wireless Roomba 800 series units use this error message to notify you that they want you to look at the app for more information. In this case, the problem doesn’t necessarily involve a lack of obstacles.
Error 14: The Bin has a Bad Connection
This error is more common than most people would like, but it might be the easiest to fix. Simply adjust the bin so that it fits flush on the robot and then restart the cleaning process.
Error 18: Roomba Cannot Return to the Home Base
Make sure that your Home Base is correctly configured and working properly. You’ll often see this if the transponder beacon stopped transmitting for some reason. If you’re using a wireless-enabled Roomba, then you can open the iRobot App for more information about the reason your Roomba got lost.
As embarrassing as it can be, this error code sometimes comes up because the robot vacuum simply wandered far away from where the cleaning area was and got lost as a result.
Roomba Charging Error Codes
One charging code is more common than all the others. If you hear a four-note piece of music or some kind of strange message, then this is your Roomba’s way of asking you to charge it right away. This happens if the battery got so low that it can’t do anything else.
As this video shows, you might hear this error message over and over again if you try to push any buttons on the Roomba’s discrete control panel:
Other charging errors come in the form of a blinking light on the unit. You might notice the battery, troubleshooting or cleaning indicator blinking a set number of times before it repeats. Some units will speak the error while others will simply display an error code.
In either case, you can always count the blinks and check this chart to see what the problem is:
1 blink: Battery needs to be reattached
2,3 or 5 blinks: This indicates an unspecified charging error. If you’re using a networked model, then you might be able to get more information by opening up the iRobot App. Otherwise, check to make sure the battery or the charging contacts haven’t worn out.
6 blinks: You’ll sometimes see this if you’re having very humid weather conditions or if your Roomba has been working itself to death. This indicates that the battery has heated up and needs some time to cool down.
7 blinks: This error might also indicate that the battery has gotten too warm, but it might be that the temperature inside of your home is too low for Roomba to operate. Some users have manually warmed the battery up, but this is technically an unsupported hack in this case. If the battery is hot to the touch, then check the little electrical leads that go to it. There might be a short somewhere.
8 blinks: This extremely rare error indicates that your Roomba can’t communicate with the battery pack’s circuitry. If you’re using an official battery, then this might mean it finally wore out and needs to be replaced. This can also be caused by temperature, so make sure that the Home Base isn’t located anywhere near HVAC vents.
On the other hand, this error could also indicate that you’ve tried to install an inexpensive third-party battery you found on Amazon or eBay. While there are some unofficial gems out there, you really need to use genuine iRobot batteries because Roomba’s onboard circuitry throws up this error if there’s anything unusual about the voltages the battery presents to it.
9 blinks: This indicates that there’s something irregular about the Li-on battery pack itself. Provided that you’re not using an unofficial battery you bought online, this error indicates there might be something seriously wrong with the unit. Wireless models will provide more instructions through the app if they throw this error code, but they’ll probably just tell to contact iRobot for assistance. You might want to try resetting the battery a few times before giving up hope and calling for help.
Roomba Doesn’t Clean the Entire Area
Your Roomba unit might end up returning to the Home Base before it finishes cleaning up. It should pulse a light around the cleaning button on the top to show you that it remembers where it left off and will finish as soon as it gets more juice.
If this happens far too often, then you can turn your unit completely off and try resetting the battery. Remember that this could reset all your configuration options, but it isn’t a difficult procedure to go through. Simply remove the battery compartment, take the battery out and line the contacts up before reassembling the compartment. The battery sometimes gets loose and causes this to happen more than it should.
Light Sensor Issues
If this doesn’t happen because of a battery issue, then make sure that your home is bright enough for the iAdapt camera on your Roomba. Unlike many robots, these vacuums see in visible light as opposed to infrared so they need ample amounts of light.
There’s a clear window on the top of the robot’s chassis that’s used to measure light levels. Clean it off with a soft cloth so it can see better. You’ll also want to clean the round floor tracking sensor on the bottom of the unit. Make sure to never spray cleaning solution on either of these electronic eyes. Please follow the procedure as demonstrated in this video:
You might want to try using iRobot’s Lighthouse technology, which does use infrared light to guide Roomba through rooms. You can set these units up around your home so that it can find the places you want cleaned.
Roomba Doesn’t Return to the Home Base
Lighthouses and other Virtual Wall guidance systems may be called for if your Roomba gets lost and you have to rescue it often. You might find that it refuses to return to the dock for other reasons. Make sure that all of the barrier accessories are located at least eight feet away from the dock to prevent interference.
Roomba units can also get tripped up if you put stickers or tape on the bumper of the dock itself. While you’re taking a look at the docking unit, wipe off the charging contacts on the Home Base as well as on the bottom of your Roomba. If these get dirty, then Roomba might try to dock and then later refuse out of confusion.
Roomba’s Secret Black Carpet Fix
Most robot vacuums don’t clean very well on black carpet or even does stop when detects black carpet patch. You can get your Roomba to track it a bit better than it probably does at the moment. This is a relatively dangerous hack, but do-it-yourself types might appreciate it.
Turn your Roomba over and find the step sensors. You can then put a piece of masking tape with very weak adhesive over each one so it will go over black carpet. Make sure to block off any areas that the unit might fall off while these are disabled. Some users have reported the lining up shoes helps to keep their Roombas from falling in this case.
Roomba vacuums can’t go over black carpet because they think that it’s a ledge. Technicians don’t recommend this because your Roomba won’t know where ledges are, but it could be safe if you’re not vacuuming any area that a unit might fall off of anyway.
If you ever hear anything grinding, then make sure to check the drive wheels right away. You might want to give your Roomba a good dusting each week to prevent error codes from coming up in the first place.
Keeping an air duster or a pump nearby will ensure you’re always able to clean out anything that jams it up. Always make sure to answer any error codes as soon as they come up and your Roomba should last for years to come.
For further reading please refer to the following sources:
- The Roomba 400/Discovery series error messages chart
- The Roomba 500 series error messages chart
- The Roomba 600 series error messages chart
- The Roomba 700 series error messages chart
- The Roomba 800 series error messages chart
- The Roomba 900 series error messages chart
- Overview of the Virtual Wall Lighthouse
- Roomba 900 series is not covering my whole home
- Roomba 900 will not return to Home Base
- Roomba 800 series will not return to its Home Base or runs past Virtual Walls
- Roomba 500, 600, 700 series will not return to its Home Base® or runs past Virtual Walls