Fiona trying to dock
Fiona trying to dock

Long live the new Fiona

| Since Fiona first arrived in May 2014 I became dependent on her. She enabled my sloth and saved me from the ignominy of dirty floors and carpets.

Alas, after I came back from my SuperBowl trip, Fiona went all crazy. She could no longer mount the docking station to recharge her battery. She worked just as well, she was diligent as ever, she could find the docking station without a problem, but she just could not position herself to recharge.

Specifically she would approach the docking station and drive up on it. But instead of stopping to recharge, she would thrash back and forth as if trying to find the contacts. Failing that, she would back away and try again. And try again. After three attempts she would apparently give up and return to cleaning. Later I would find her somewhere far from the docking station with her battery depleted.

Like so many, I sought counsel on the internet; it's hard to think of a problem that someone hasn't addressed. While I could find many postings about the problem, no solutions were forthcoming, and condemnation of iRobot's support services was vociferous. Thus, when assured me five Roomba specialists were standing by to answer my question, I bit, even knowing that it was going to cost me $26. If it resulted in a solution, I would be happy to pay, and if it didn't, not so much lost that I would have to eat red beans and rice for a month.

I posed my question:

After being away for a long weekend (Roomba 595 was plugged directly into charger, not on home base), it can still find the home base and attempts to dock, but the contacts do not connect with the base, so it twists back and forth, banging the HB around, only to go away and try again ... and again... and again. Have tried everything I could find on net, but to no avail. Will not charge, even when I place it directly on home base.

Soon an answer from a good-looking "verified expert" arrived in my inbox:

Michael Hannigan, JustAnswers.comHello. My name is Michael. I can't help you with your question.

This almost always indicates that the battery has failed. This is expected to happen with rechargeable batteries over time and it would just be a coincidence that it happened at this time. If it went uncharged for any length of time , that can make a failing battery finally fail. Before replacing the battery though, you can make sure that the contacts are cleanable the battery in on the homebase. Just clean them thoroughly and make sure there's no film on them. If that checks out okay and you still have the problem , then I would suggest replacing the battery with the new one


"I can't help you with your question" is hardly a confidence-building way to start, but in fairness he later said that was a typo and should have been "can." Many of us have done the same thing. But there is a bit of schizophrenia in someone introducing himself as "my name is Michael" then signing his message "Mike." All that notwithstanding, the idea that I should replace the battery is a complete non sequitur.

I pointed out that "I can't imagine that this behavior has anything to do with the battery -- in fact: (1) the battery charges just fine when the charger is plugged directly into the Roomba - it will run for over an hour; (2) it has never been left uncharged." Nevertheless, Michael/Mike stuck to his guns, insisting that "The reason I said that it is often a failure of the battery is based on experience. I know it doesn't sound logical, but this is often the case. The battery will fail at some point - it is a characteristic of all rechargeable batteries." Can anyone explain how a device that can run for over an hour on a single charge of its battery can be said to suffer from "failure of the battery"? I didn't think so.

At this point I decided that I would have to gird my loins and engage iRobot support.

My Roomba finds the home base and lines itself up properly, but when it reaches it it does not make connection to begin charging. Instead it sweeps back and forth, knocking the home base around, and then goes away and repeats the approach, for same result.

This time I even attached a short video illustrating the behavior (see below).

The response I got was not encouraging.

First I was asked to verify that the contacts on the docking station were not deformed and that the contacts on the bottom of Fiona were not "sunken."

Neither was true and I submitted photographic evidence.

Next I was asked to test whether the sensor was at fault by driving it toward a "virtual wall", blowing any dust out of the charging port, and plugging the charger directly into the port on the Roomba.

Once again I replied saying, in essence, Pay attention to what I've already told you!

Good morning, Ruth –

I think you may have misunderstood the conditions of the problem, so let me summarize again.

I bought Fiona in May 2014 and immediately set it up on a daily cleaning schedule. She followed the schedule (except her clock loses time), obeyed the virtual walls, returned to home base, docked and re-charged without incident.

On January 30, 2015, I allowed her to run as usual. After she returned to home base, I removed Fiona from the base and plugged the charger directly into the DC port. I then left for the weekend.

On February 3, I returned and disconnected the charger from Fiona and reconnected the home base. Then I manually started Fiona for her daily cleaning, which ran successfully. She cleaned for about 1½ hours before returning to the base.

  • She responds to the virtual walls
  • She homes in on the home base in exactly the way expected (see attached QuickTime video)
  • When she runs into it she turns back and forth but apparently does not recognize the base as a source of power.
  • She backs up and tries again. And again. And again. At that point she seems to give up on docking (even though Dock is flashing) and goes back to cleaning.

Additional details:

  • I have cleaned the contact prongs and pads numerous times
  • I have blown out the DC port with compressed air at least twice
  • The base has power – the green light flashes intermittently
  • If I place her on the home base the power light does not light up; I’ve even tried pressing down on Fiona and lifting up on the dock. If the power light is on when I place her there, in a short time it goes out.

In short, the day I left she worked just fine. The day I came home, recharging on the base no longer worked. The only thing that happened in between is that she had spent  4 days directly connected to the charger. There were no power outages during that period (my clocks and microwave still have the correct time).

>> since Fiona is able to charge when manually placed on the home base

Not the case. She does NOT charge when manually placed on the home base

>> the unit may be undergoing issues with its sensor

I don't see how that can be, inasmuch as it obeys virtual walls and is able to locate the home base. The issue is that when it drive onto the home base it doesn't stop and charge as it used to; seems to know that it's supposed to dock (as opposed to just encountering an object) and repeatedly tries to do.

charger directly connected to roomba
Direct connect – charges as expected
Roomba manually placed on charging station
On dock – does not charge

See attached video for docking behavior. Note that this was the exact same video I had submitted with my original request!

Finally I had gotten through: "Thank you very much for the clarification. Based on what you are saying and the behavior displayed by Fiona in the video, we would like to proceed by having her replaced."

It's discouraging that one should have to go to such lengths and repetitions to get technical support people to actually read and pay attention to what you say. Of course they get a lot of requests. Of course they are under pressure to clear requests from the queue as fast as possible. But think how much time could have been saved if, instead of following their script, they had actually read what I said and looked at the video I sent.

Yesterday the replacement for Fiona arrived and she works just fine. I'll call her Fiona Jr.

Fiona failing to dock and charge

Last updated on Feb 14, 2017



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