Upgrading an old vacuum cleaner into a robot vacuum can be a fun and affordable weekend project. With just a few simple modifications and add-ons, I can revive my outdated upright or canister vacuum and turn it into a automated cleaning machine.

The main benefits of doing this are:

In this guide, I'll walk through the full process I used to hack together my own budget robot vacuum.

Assessing the Base Vacuum

The first step is choosing the right vacuum to upgrade. The best candidates are old but still operational uprights or canisters.

Ideally, the base vacuum should have:

Some good models to look for are old Hoovers, Bissells or Eurekas from the 90s or early 2000s. Avoid very heavy or bulky vacuums.

I had success using an old 5 lb Hoover upright from 1998. I confirmed the motor and suction were still good by testing it out thoroughly beforehand.

Adding Wheels and Motors

Once I had the base vacuum, it was time to add in motors for the wheels so it can drive itself.

I purchased a pair of cheap DC motors on Amazon for $15 each. Make sure to get motors with an appropriate voltage rating to match the vacuum.

I disassembled each wheel module and mounted the motors in place of the original wheels using brackets. I reattached the wheels onto the motor's drive shafts. This allows the motors to power the wheels directly.

Next, I wired up the motors and added a simple DPDT switch to control power to each motor independently. This allows me to steer the vacuum by controlling each wheel's motor.

Rigging the Automated Driving

Now for the automation! I added an Arduino microcontroller which can be programmed to drive the motors automatically.

I connected the Arduino to the motor control switches I installed earlier. I uploaded code to the Arduino that does the following:

This simple logic allows the vacuum to roam around and clean autonomously without crashing into objects.

Adding the Bumper Bars

To detect obstacles, I installed simple bumper bars on the front and sides made from light metal tubing.

I connected each bar to a switch that triggers when the bar is physically pressed in. I wired these back to digital input pins on the Arduino.

Now when the vacuum bumps into something, the Arduino code can stop the motors and back up to redirect it.

Final Touches

To finish up my upgraded robot vacuum, I:

Now my total cost was under $100 - much less than a real robotic vacuum! And I had a great time slowly piecing it together over a few weekends.

Tips for Success

If you want to try this DIY robot vacuum project yourself, here are some tips:

Let me know if you have any other questions! I'm happy to provide guidance from my experience. Good luck and have fun with your new robot vacuum.