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April 10, 2005

Fixing the Circle Dance on the Roomba Discovery SE

After three months of frequent use, my Roomba Discovery SE became unusable due to the "Circle Dance." My Roomba would start up, immediately begin circling backwards, then stop. The usual brush and cliff sensor cleaning routine did not help.

Posts on various Roomba user websites indicate that this is a common and serious problem. Several users have posted possible solutions.

I used their posts to partially disassemble my Roomba and fix my Roomba Discovery SE's "Circle Dance" problem. I took many pictures and created some illustrated instructions. I have tried my best to be thorough and detailed.

Please note that disassembling your Roomba like this will probably void the warranty. However I cannot bear any responsibility if you break your Roomba by following my instructions. You are on your own!

My instructions are specific to the Roomba Discovery SE, although I would expect they would also work for any Discovery Series Roomba with separate fenders. The Roomba Red which has an integral fender would require some physical cutting of plastic to create an opening in the fender in order to follow my instructions.

To see my instructions, look on the left sidebar under Roomba Therapy or click here.

April 10, 2005 | Permalink


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Thanks for the throrough explanation. I used it to fix my SE (been behaving strangely since some 8 days, occasionally giving 4 beeps (and status led warning), spinning in circles, shutting off, starting up again).

Some pointers.

There are 2 more screws you can remove (in the SE version I have). One upper left in the hole where the brushes and beater are, and one upper right. If you remove those as well then you can easily reach the screws you need to loosen before you can disassemble the wheel assy's.

Also: The bottom left and right screw (each closest to the rimm (sp) of the device) are some 2mm shorter than the other screws (in the unit I have at least).

IMO the wheel most affected is the one where the rotating brush is. It looks like it's sweeping quite a bit of dust towards the wheel assy. This assy (assembly) has a few holes in it. I plugged 2 holes (one where they eye is, one where the center pin of the motor is) with carefully cutted Scotch tape. Let's hope it helps.

Problem occured after some 2 months of use. Have to say we really push this Roomba to it's limits. It's almost always working when it's not on the charger (cleaning the house AND the warehouse of our company). All in all it has to clean some 700 square meters. That's why I decided to get an extra one so they can share the work ;-)

Despite having to clean it throroughly (sp) every week (which is something I actually like to do (at least considerably more than vacuuming)) and now problably having to clean the wheel assy's every 2-3 months, I'm still very pleased with the unit.

Posted by: A. Huisman | Apr 16, 2005 5:49:46 AM

The fix worked great for me! Rosie (my wife's name, not mine) was "dancing" backwards and then shutting down with 4 beeps. I followed the instructions above, except that I did not remove the fenders. I was able to get at the 4th screw for each wheel cover by carefully separating (as indicated in the instructions above), and removnig it. This allowed me to move the wheel cover aside and expose the sensor. I cleaned the sensor with a pipe cleaner (both wheels). After reassembly, it woorks perfectly! Best of all, I didn't have to deal with the fender screw. Hope this helps.

Posted by: Scotty | Apr 29, 2005 11:05:34 AM

Thanks for the info. My little cleaning monster crawls again.

Something I noticed:

You don't need to remove any screws to access the 4th wheel screw. There is a plastic pin on the wheel shroud that limits the wheel travel when the wheel is dropping down. If you twist the wheel you can clear the pin and pull the wheel down far enough to expose all 4 screws.


Posted by: brian | May 13, 2005 5:28:14 PM

Thank you so very much for the information, I appreciate you taking the time to put together such a comprehensive description on how to repair! My roomba has not worked in months and I decided today I missed it too much to let it go anymore. My husband took on the fix and it was really full of dust. In no time it was dancing around doing its job again and I was delighted. Thank you again for your time and effort.

Posted by: Barb | Jan 2, 2006 3:36:26 PM

Worked like a champ with my original model Roomba. I *DID* have to clean off the lens on the IR diode and sensor though due to the high dust here (the dust in Qatar is literally the primary ingredient in portland cement).
Next, to get a newer model for downstairs. AND a Scooba... :)
Of course I then had to run the Roomba to clean up the mess created from cleaning the Roomba. ;)

Thanks for the excellent solution. I didn't think they used photo interrupters in the wheels until I found this page!

Posted by: Steve | May 28, 2006 7:14:18 AM

Thanks so much for your pics and explaination. I have the original silver roomba. This circle dance has happened several times in the past to me. Roomba replaced the unit once. After that the warrantee period was up and I was out of luck. I had some luck in the past banging on the bumber and blowing air through all the accessible parts of the wheel and got it to correct itself but this time no matter what I did it wouldn't work. I got brave and removed the screws to the wheel as you suggested and blew out that area and viola! FYI on the original silver roomba that screw can be left permanently out. It doesn't hold the fender on, it seems to be holding the same thing the other 3 screws on the wheel are holding so I replaced those and left the difficult one off. I had gotten to the point of writing the machine off so I am very grateful to you for providing a solution.

Posted by: RV | Oct 10, 2006 9:40:03 PM

just to agree with Brian - gentrly twist the wheel and you can expose the 4th screw. no further dissasembly required. The wheel on the other side from the rotating brush had very dirty sensor. From above, this is the left wheel, and the roomba was circlng to the right, so you may be able to tell which whell is dirty by the direction it turns.

Posted by: Steve ives | Oct 11, 2006 1:19:07 PM

Ok - twisting the wheel has it's own problems - on my Roomba, I didn't notice that 2 of the thin wires (black & grey) were pulled too taut and when I put the wheel cover back on, they were trapped under the cover and rubbing against the drive pulley, instead of being safely routed around the outside of the wheel cover.

When the circle dance happened again, I followed the same procedure but noticed the wires this time - they had some damage to their protective covering. I realised that due to the way the wires were pulled taut and the confined space I was working in, I would never get them back where they were supposed to be and the wheel cover on. Faced with completely dismantling the Roomba, I simply cut about an inch of the dark grey cover away so I could retract the wheel to give some slack in the wires. I could then route them round the outside of the wheel cover as I put it back on.

This may not affect you, if you have some slack in the wires.

Posted by: Steve Ives | Nov 3, 2006 4:34:17 PM

Thanks so much for the fix. I was too impatient to remove the cover as recommended...I had left "spot" unplugged for the past six months because it stopped working. I was ready to throw it away when I found your site. I drilled a 5/16 hole through the housing to get access to where the 4th screw is located. It was a little tight working in the space that remained, but a little rubbing alcohol on a swab did the trick. All of this while the unit was plugged in. Took me about 20 minutes to clean both sensors. By the time I was finished, "spot" had turned green and I was able to put him on the floor again. Cheers arose from the family room, as I heard my wife and kids scream "Spot's alive". Thanks so much...wish I would have read your whole thread before drilling...oh well two small hole is better than throwing it away!

Posted by: Greg | Nov 22, 2006 9:44:38 PM

Thanks for the great post with nice pictures! It's always great to find a "how to" by another consumer. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. I've had my Schedule for about 8 months when the "circle of death" began about 2 days ago. I was about the pick up the phone and call iRobot (only to hear, as I was sure, that I'd have to mail it to them for repair) when I found your site. This was much easier than having to mail it! I, like others, didn't remove the fender. However, I did leave the 4th screw on both wheel covers out instead of putting them back. I suspect this will happen again in the future. I'm sure the problem will be resolved in later versions of Roomba -- I hope, although the MacGyver in all of us would rather do it this way! :)

Posted by: Eric | Dec 18, 2006 9:24:10 PM

I followed the instructions completely and the circle
dance continues! That is how my luck goes, and I
knew the outcome when I started. Thanks anyway,
great instuctions!

Posted by: Dion | Mar 19, 2007 11:14:46 PM

I tried disassembling ad cleaning my Discovery and my Original -- no luck. Still dancin'. Tried it a couple of times.

I'm not techy enough to reprogram -- any other ideas?

Posted by: Maximumken | Nov 16, 2007 7:50:07 AM

never thought such a small doghair could have blocked the optic eye. I first disassembled it and tried to no avail get it fixed. Was not specific enough to get to the eye. Then I read on and noticed I could pry the wheel down and open the cover and voila, now a thorough cleaning got it done.
vacuuming right now.

Posted by: heh | Dec 16, 2007 7:54:12 PM

thanks for the fix!
i actually went with the lazyman's cleaning - didn't remove the problem fender screw, just pulled the 4 screws out of each hub cover and swabbed 'til clean.
By the way, I reached the 4th hub screw not by twisting the wheel, but by prying the fender away from the body (the same move you'd make to access the fender screw). Once pried open, you can push the wheel up into the body, exposing the 4th screw through the opening. thanks again! can't tell you how grateful i am to have my discovery back on track.

Posted by: wordboydan | Feb 3, 2008 11:12:22 PM

I am trying to repair a Silver Roomba, v2.1. It makes a great job of filtering dust, but the dustbin has never seen any dirt. The nside is as new, with no dirt to sweep away. I took the screws out just to see what's going one inside, and I have put them back. I have a long and a short screw leftover. This does not bother me, except that I could not find anything to fix under the lid. I have tried to use different Roomba batteries, dustbin, brush assembly and filters. It makes no difference.
I am a bit confused as to how to get to the 4th screw without removing the lid. No amount of pushing or twisting gets me to the screw.

Otherwise, the Roomba works fine, it does a good job of collecting dust.

Posted by: Rosita | Mar 21, 2008 7:27:47 PM

Okay, it may only work for a time, but before you tear into your Roomba, blow into the cracks and crevices of the wheels. It worked on mine!

Posted by: Ken | Aug 28, 2008 10:26:33 PM

Thanks so much for posting this, I just spent an evening disassembling and reassembling my Roomba Red, and cleaning the sensors is what finally fixed mine. They didn't even look dirty, but I scrubbed them good and it worked.

Also, I didn't have to cut the fender; you might want to update your album page so as not to scare away other Red owners. I just removed two screws that hold the wheel assembly in place so that the assembly lifts out. It is still connected by wires and a spring but easy to remove the plate on the side of the wheels. The details are explained on other sites.

Posted by: Benjamin Ragheb | Sep 4, 2008 9:39:48 PM

You're right about that difficult screw being a bear to put back... but you're also right about how to end the circle dance!


Thanks for posting this--it was a great help!

Posted by: Dawn | Oct 29, 2008 10:29:55 PM

I've had about four or five roombas and eventually they just went crazy.

I'd clean them, do everything I could for it, and just buy a new one, The Roomba folks were no help.

Then my latest red roomba started getting nuts after a couple of years, and the power switch was hard to turn on and I saw a little carpet fuzz sticking out from the undercarriage, and figured this thing must be stuffed with all kinds of junk, so I brought out my gasoline powered yard blower, and started it up and turned it on my precious roomba. With 200 mph blowing through it, the dust blowing out of it looked like one of those airshow stunt planes with the smoke trailing out of it!

I flipped it over and everywhere I poked that blower, more stuff came out! I took out the refuse bin, did the filter, and put it back together.

Guess what, the power button worked like new, and roomba was cured!!!

I thought maybe I just got lucky and then as a test, went to one of my old roombas that had gone nuts years before and I had been saved only as an alternate charging source. Gave it Vern's 200 mph tune up. Guess what, same thing! Healed! How embarrassing that I threw the other ones away.

So give it a try!

Posted by: Vern Scharf | Nov 3, 2008 2:42:40 PM

Hey yeah Vern!!! You betcha that the yard blower did the trick!!! I blasted the "optical tachometers" first with my trusty can of air but to no avail. Before committing the "has been" to the dumpster, I opted for "Vern's Tool Time" and it worked as he said: dust akin to the exhaust plume of a stunt plane! Now, at least, the figure 8's my Roomba's doing are of the "forward roll"!!!! Thanks!

Posted by: J.Paiva | Nov 23, 2008 12:53:07 PM

Vern - you are a star - same problem as everyone else with the roomba - just used our garden leaf vac blower and she has started working again! didn't have to unscrew anything - fantastic! Only thing is clean button still sticks but she works on max which is fine. Thanks again!

Posted by: richard | Dec 13, 2008 5:09:11 AM

I arrived at the same conclusion as one of the posts above, just drill a hole and remove the fourth screw, rather than dis-assembling the thing.

I'll try following the suggestion that the fourth screw can be removed by simply rotating the wheel.

Posted by: Oleg | Dec 30, 2008 7:10:38 PM

Thank you so much for letting me know what the cause of the 'dance' was. I wasn't inclined to take it all apart so I turned it upside down, got
out the most powerful blow dryer I had and turned
each wheel while blowing on it. Lint started to fly
out and when I turned it back on it worked like a charm. I have the newer version the 510 which has
always just been more trouble to run than not. I'm
so happy to have my Discovery SE running again!
Thank you!!!!!!!

Posted by: PK | Mar 23, 2009 11:04:08 AM

Thanks for good info.
However, for me it didn't work. Instead I found a good link for diagnosing the Discovery model.


It turned out that right cliff sensor and right bumper sensor didn't work.
I ordered a new 530 model because they discount $100. I still don't know if it was better to have it fixed or upgrade to a newer model.

Posted by: JongAm Park | Nov 24, 2009 1:10:52 PM

I had a cliff sensor failure, and so after disassembled my Roomba Discovery 3 times, I finally found a severed wire. It was a refurb, so i guess the wire had been cut and soldered in a previous life.

Well, my Roomba works like a champ, but iRobot has some work to do with their wiring and sensor design. The sensors should be built inside of clear plastic cubes that pop in and out for cleaning. Likewise there wires should be a bus that is inside plastic framework of shell. What I saw when i opened the machine was spaghetti. There's no way someone should have to take it apart for routine cleaning. Some effort in this area would save lots of time of their support people.

Posted by: MP | Apr 27, 2010 6:39:02 AM

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