Miele C3 Vacuum Fundemental Design Failure

I will try to keep this as brief as possible. We unfortunately had our Nilfisk GM200 vacuum cleaner die last year after thirty years of service and braced ourselves for the consumer lottery of finding a replacement. I read the Choice reviews on vacuum cleaners and opted for a Miele Complete C3 Family All-Rounder which we bought online from Betta Electrical for $599 plus the $79 Back-up Repair Plan for a total of $616. We have owned a Miele H5240BP wall oven for 13 years and found it to be a quality product and hoped the vacuum cleaner would be an equally good buy. We deliberately chose the C3 over a C1 machine because the C3 is still made in Germany (the C1 is made in China).

My major issue is that the design of the dust compartment lid and bag holder can lead to catastrophic dust contamination in the machine itself.

Before using the machine for the first time we duly read the manual, fitted the bags/filters correctly and observed Miele’s recommendations in every respect. We vacuumed the house for a short period, stopped the machine and checked the dust compartment as the red ‘full’ indicator had flicked on and off. Another twenty minutes or so vacuuming and then the red indicator came on and stayed on. We stopped the machine, opened the dust compartment lid and were horrified to find that it was completely choked with debris as were both the internal and exhaust filters.

The bag was found to have dislodged from its holder, everything hoovered up had been sucked directly into the machine and bypassed the bag itself. What I discovered is that every time the dust compartment lid is opened the bag is unseated from the holder by the intake port on the lid. It is very hard to detect this visually and despite Miele’s assertion that “A safety device prevents the lid closing without a dust bag in place” it will close with the bag dislodged…

I then went through a world of pain trying to find a “Service Partner” in the Hobart region after reporting the issue, there are only two listed by Miele, one was so incompetent that they nearly broke the bag holder trying to force it into a position that Miele itself warns against: Don't Do This To Your Miele Vacuum Cleaner - Vacuum Warehouse - YouTube

After months of phone calls to Miele and the service agent Miele agreed to pay the agent to do a complete clean of the machine ex gratia. The machine was duly picked up and finally we were able to do a proper clean of the house.

All good it would seem. A short vacuum of the living room and the compartment lid was opened just to check everything was operating correctly and again dust and debris was present! The (new, genuine) bag had been inserted correctly and clicked into place but after further careful investigation I discovered that the seal on the dust bag (soft rubber membrane) was visible below the intake tube.


The photo is blurry but the white lip of the seal can be seen in the centre of the image. I was a technician at Utas before retiring a couple of years ago and being technically-minded I checked the aperture and intake tube with a digital vernier caliper and steel rule and discovered that on the high side of the intake tube it has an increment of error of 3mm. In layman’s terms that mean that the difference between the tube inserting correctly or incorrectly into the seal is miniscule. The consequence of this is that the incoming debris from the vacuum hose bypasses the bag and instead enters the dust chamber. After a bit of fiddling around I was able to manually seat the seal properly, clean the compartment out (again) and finish vacuuming.

I mentioned the woes with our C3 to a friend visiting from Sydney recently and she was full of interest as she had had the same model and after repeatedly choking it with dust had given it away and bought a Dyson. I have read other reviews online with buyers experiencing the same issues, I think it has probably occurred with countless owners both here and overseas. The service agent here in Hobart that serviced the machine and was quite rude towards me told me that “Miele have designed the machine for the consumer so that the the bag is dislodged when the lid is opned in order to facilitate removal of the bag for replacement” I asked him whether any other machines in the store from any other manufacturer had this “feature” and he replied in a somewhat embarrassed tone “errm, no”. They have since ceased trading.

My final word? Here’s a hypothetical: I have vehicle whose dipstick is pulled out of its tube (just marginally so it’s difficult to discern) every time you lift the bonnet. This is apparently to make it easier for you to check the oil. The vehicle manufacturer doesn’t tell you this anywhere in the manual that comes with the car. You close the bonnet and drive away only to notice that the oil light has come on. You pull over and discover that oil has spewed from the dipstick tube all over the engine compartment, sound familiar? I think Miele have designed this machine with a design flaw and have papered over it by placing the onus on the consumer. The C3 range of vacuums have dropped in price in a little over a year to below $499 and their range has reduced internationally from nine models to just two in Australia… Caveat emptor my friends.

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Hi @Porckchop, welcome to the community.

We have a Miele vacuum of different model which has a similar bag clipping bracket mechanism and haven’t had any problems with the bracket being depressed below the lugs on the side of the dust bag are or the dust bag not seating well such that a poor seal has been created. We do however look down the hose connector when closing the lid to ensure that everything is lined up as the bag can slide forward in the holder if it isn’t pushed has far back into the holder as possible. At times (not very frequently) we have had to reopen the lid and reset the position of the bags.

Was your bracket below the lugs as shown in the video/user guide and was this what lead to the leakage?

If it was, Miele could have possibly the brackets could have been designed so they stick out more or labelling on the bracket warning that the bracket needs to be above/open side of the lugs. The way the lugs are they do look like the bracket may need to be positioned below them if one doesn’t read the user guide in relation to replacement of a bag.

The only negative we have with the Miele is when the dust bag is near full (indicator showing such), we always check to see that the bag is fully expanded and not creased reducing its capacity. When closing the lid, sometimes the action pushes dust out of the hose connection point. While this is a minor issue, it is something caused by our own action to maximise the filling of the bag.

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Hi @phb thanks for your warm response,

My post might have sounded misleading in that the bracket mechanism for the bag holder wasn’t an issue until a Service Agent for Miele curtly opened the dust compartment lid and wrestled the bracket so the lugs were forced under the edge of the compartment from their factory position and then stood back in triumph whilst I looked on in horror. It was obvious that he had never dealt with one of these machines before. I would love to be able to name the agent because their operation was so shonky and in fact looked like a backyarder, terrible customer interface for a manufacturer of prestigous (and expensive) products like Miele. Obviously I drove the hour and a half back home and placed the mechanism back into its correct position.

If you have a different model unless it’s in the C3 range then it may not present with the same issue as ours. This a quick sketch I made just as an attempt to demonstrate the increment of error that can allow the seal to not set correctly:

This shows the bag holder bracket viewed from the side and the intake tube with the lid fully closed and the bag correctly fitted. What frustrates me more is that Miele have designed this product in such a way that the one of the most critical areas of concern i.e. creating a seal once the lid is closed, is tenuous to say the least. I’m rather surprised that more people haven’t come forward that own this model to tell of their experiences :confused: Actually just revisited Product Review and looked for consumer’s experiences of this problem and despite the 4.4 Star rating a number of people have indeed had problems. I honestly believe that those who haven’t have been either lucky or fortunate as nowhere in the manual does Miele state that the bag dislodges when opening the lid, instead they say this:
Damage due to contamination in the dust compartment.
Large quantities of dust may enter the dust compartment and damage components if the dustbag has not been clicked into position.
Before closing the dust compartment lid, make sure that the dustbag has been inserted so that it has clicked into position

I don’t know of any other domestic vacuum cleaner that has this feature, once you have clicked a bag into position it should remain locked in position until it is removed for disposal. It has nothing to do with ease of use, it requires no more effort to unlock the bag than it does to lock it in the first place.

Sucks - not in a good way

Complete C3 PowerLine Family All Rounder

“Bag broke, dust though motor, no protection to stop this design fault. Service agent declined fix under warranty, saying it was user issue. It was a Miele bag, not copy. This appears to be a common problem with this vac, with a number of youtube videos on how to fix/replace motor. So a $600 vac, lasted only 3 mths, works out at $200 a mth, $50 a vac - cheaper to hire someone to vac house.”

Stay away from Miele.

Complete C3 PowerLine Turbo (SGDA3)

“Owned 2. Both lasted about 7 years. Very pleased. Bought a 3rd. Broke down after 20 months. Motor seized and chord retractor broken. Miele refuses to fix. Says it’s my fault because there’s dirt in the motor. I replaced the filters every time I bought a box of bags. I was told by the tech if I wanted to fight the decision that I “didn’t have a leg to stand on.” Needless to say, I recommend not buying anything Miele.”

“Do a little research if you are considering one of these vacuums, as it seems from what I’ve found, you must use genuine Miele bags and filters. The third party bags aren’t the same quality and end up letting dust through and damaging the motor. I found many reports of motor failures online apparently due to this. Similarly, when you open the bag compartment, the bag unseats so make sure you reseat it before closing - it’s stated in the manual but easily missed. If the bag isn’t seated properly, you risk damaging the motor as dust will miss the bag opening and be sucked into the motor.”

Miele don’t in fact state that the bag unseats in the manual per se.

Two faulty machines in two years

Complete C3 PowerLine Cat & Dog (SGEA0)

"We purchased this model vacuum in July 2018 and it worked great for a while. Then one day, out of the blue, the barrel popped open during use and spewed dust everywhere, and stopped sucking. I turned the machine off and had a look inside to find that the canister was full of dirt and dust, which had clogged the filter. It was clear that not all of the dirt had been going into the bag. Gave it a good clean out and started vacuuming again. Worked for about 10 minutes and then the cover pops up again. Same issue: the canister is full of dust and the filter is totally clogged.

I spoke to Miele who replaced the machine with a brand new one. Within 10 minutes of the first vacuum, the same issue happened again and it wouldn’t suck. I might add here that my house is not extremely dirty! It’s your average family home with short-pile carpets and no indoor pets.

This time they collected it and sent it to get inspected. After a week, they called me back and told me nothing was wrong with it. I told them to check again. Three weeks later, I get a call to say that there was a problem with it; it needed a new filter. Of course, this was definitely not the case because it was a brand new machine with a brand new filter. Anyway, I was charged $110 for that piece of wisdom, and they then tried to charge me another $40 or so for another filter, so when I got the machine back I took it straight in to JB Hi-Fi for a refund.

In the store, I had a look at the Miele vacuum models, including the Cat and Dog, and straight away I could see the design flaw that was causing the issue in my machine – the hole in the canister that the suction tube attaches to does not sit flush against the opening of the bag inside. So, there is a huge gap, which you can put your fingers into, that would allow dirt to enter the canister and bypass the bag. Don’t know why the experts weren’t able to figure this out.

Anyway, Miele were fairly helpful with all these issues, even though it takes forever to get through on the phone. They did say they would reimburse me the $110 service fee, but I emailed them over a week ago and have had no response.

It is clearly a faulty product, and after this saga, I won’t be buying Miele again.

  • NOTE: All the filters and bags I used were official Miele branded, and the second brand-new machine came pre-fitted with all its filters and bags."

Worst vacuum I have purchased in my lifetime

Complete C3 PowerLine Comfort TotalCare (SGME0)

"First use - telescope suction tube did not work; phoned Miele & they replaced it (how long will it last before the same issue will re-appear? Lifetime warranty? This suction tube is made on the cheap compared to the older Miele vacuums I have kept in my collection of the past.)

Second use - suction tube seems ok (for now). The dust bag inside the Miele (that is the one that came with the original vacuum when purchased) released a large amount of excess dust into the cavity it sits in. It is the first time in my life I have had to clean inside the cavity of a Miele vacuum cleaner so much dust. The motor protection filter was clogged jam of dust (how will that impact the motor). The Miele TotalCare 5000 I have owned and used for 28 years is extremely clean and no dust inside the cavity where the dust bag sits. My brand new Miele is full of dust I had to clean out after first use!

Third use - replaced the dust bag for the first time. About half way through the filling of the dust bag, the motor made a very strange and loud squealing/groaning sound (never heard in my life in a vacuum). I turned the appliance off at the wall. Opened to check, all seemed OK. Started it up again, no noise.

General comment: The instruction manual says: “Airflow indicator: change the dust bag when the colour marker in the airflow indicator turns red.” Well, as soon as you turn on the vacuum cleaner at the power it turns red, so that is no help!" And based on the event of second use above I am now checking the dust bag frequently to ensure another dust catastrophe does not arise. My older Miele’s simply reduced their suction capacity when the bag got full - this one explodes the dust into the bag cavity!! Very poor."

Extremely disappointed.

Complete C3 PowerLine Comfort TotalCare (SGME0)

"Extremely disappointing. After owning a Miele vacuum for nearly 14 years I decided again to purchase this highly rated brand. Unfortunately in under 2 years this new machine has now completely stopped working. It gradually started working less effectively, less suction and having to remove fluff and hair stuck in the head multiple times while using. Then the bags stated not staying in position? and it the compartment filed up with what I had vacuumed and then a horrible burning smell and then a loud Pop sound. Something major has gone wrong. I have been told that this sounds like a burnt out motor and will be too expensive to fix! I bought Miele because I thought it would last, might as well have bought a budget vacuum from Kmart.

So in July 2019 I spent another $500 (on special at bing lee) to purchase another C3. As I said previously I had done this because I was under the assumption that it was quality. That the problem with my first machine was an anomaly.

Again it worked fine, but then we were having trouble with the filter and the bags I got seemed to come out too easily so I replaced the filter with a Miele filter after the first month. Every time I vacuum I have to get hair out of vacuum head. Start to notice that I’m filling bags up every time I vacuum. So much trouble this time the little annoyances the vacuum had were starting to be big grievances. Since July 2019 I’ve replaced the genuine filter not just the once but three more times. It seems to clog up after a week or two and the vacuum stops sucking and I have to get online and order a new filter every few months.

While vacuuming the bag pops out and the vacuum stops. Vacuuming becomes a constant challenge due to the stop /start issues."

Not to sound contradictory, but I actually think that the C3 is a great vacuum cleaner, the suction and overall design is phenomenal BUT the whole bag placement issue has not exactly endeared me to the brand to put it mildly…

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Our machine is a different model to a C3.

I see what you are saying. The tolerance between the hose spout on the lid and the elastic rubber seal is very small, meaning that if the bag isn’t perfectly positioned it may create a gap between the nose spout and the seal causing air to bypass the installed bag. It is also covered here:

I expect that the tolerance is less than ours - I haven’t measured as don’t easily have the ability to do such to see.

Online information tends to indicate that if the bag isn’t perfectly seated in the bracket, leaks can easily form. While ours is a different model with similar mechanism, we do always check the bag is seated properly by looking down the hose connector/spout. At time we have had to reposition ours as the elastic seal isn’t even around the hose spout indicating the bag is offset and gaps exist. Maybe this is something needed when you open the lid on the C3 and be more diligent. Bags in our own machine don’t ‘lock in’ but are pushed to the bottom of the bracket holding the bags. The bag can move slightly when the lid is closed if one isn’t careful as the bracket moves as well.

If the (blue GN) bag moves by itself with use even when seated perfectly when replaced/lid closed, then this is a different issue and could be seen as a fault under the Australian Consumer Law. Does the bag move around with use causing the seal to be broken?

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My cleaner seems quite to be quite ok. I’ve had it for a while now. Unless my one is not the , same version as yours. I was under the impression that bagged vacuum cleaner can omit the dust especially if it is overfull. I’ve used it weekly and the cord retracts really well. I wouldn’t be happy if it was like ypu guys have experience.

The vacuumland.org link is worth gold @phb, sorry if I have been come across as a complete pedant :slightly_smiling_face: Here’s a quote from the link for anyone else reading this topic:

There seems to be a design flaw with the blue bag holder in the latest generation of Miele C3 canister cleaners. My friend bought a new C3 a year ago and is also having problems with dust and dirt escaping into the bag compartment. She has a tendency to open and close the bag compartment to see if the bag needs changing at the end of a cleaning session and it seems that the blue collar can slide up out of position on its own even when you don’t touch the bag collar. If you don’t slide the collar back down into the proper position, you can still close the compartment cover completely - there is no mechanism to prevent you from closing the cover if the blue bag collar is not properly in position. When you start vacuuming again, dirt and dust leaks out around the hose port and into the bag compartment. I’ve had to bring over a second vacuum to help her clean out her Miele several times in the past year.

Someone else chimes in with:

The reason the bags pull out when you open it is intentional. When the collar design first came out and the bag wouldn’t halfway release consumers were prone to pulling out the entire bag dock, to prevent this Miele made it so that the bag would be halfway released so that when the customer grabs the bag to change it the bag comes out easy without ripping the entire dock off. This design was a big improvement I noticed a lot fewer machines coming in for being used without a bag and for the most part consumers noticed that the bag was popped out since the guide arrows no longer lined up on the machine.

So what Miele has done is to replace one problem with another. When I say the bag is “locked in” I actually mean “clicked” in, sorry if that was a bit obtuse.

I just checked our machine to see if it is possible to rip the blue-winged bag dock out by pulling the bag once clicked in and zero issues, it is perfectly easy to pull the bag out without wrenching the bag dock out of the machine. I’m quite sure that I can create a situation whereby our C3 doesn’t end up with dust contamination but I find it bizarre that a reputable manufacturer like Miele designs a product that has a feature that can cause massive dust intrusion into the machine but doesn’t inform consumers of one fundamental fact: bag dislodges when lid is opened.

Apologies if my tone in this topic appears aggressive or confrontational I’m just very frustrated :neutral_face:

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Thanks for your reponse @passerbye123 I appreciate it, if you own a C3 (of recent manufacture) then it is highly likely that the bag dock is the same as the one on my machine. It is odd that some consumers have experienced this problem and not others. I’m not blowing my own horn but I am technically-minded person, I’ve rebuilt an auto transmission on our Saab, renovated countless houses, repaired appliances (that are still in use many years later) and so on, in short I’m a problem-solver. I very nearly modified the intake port/tube on the vacuum to prevent the situation we have been experiencing but decided against it as we would obviously void our warranty.
Our $600 German-made vacuum cleaner has been used exactly twice since purchasing it on the 27th of June last year as we didn’t want to continue operating it whilst the potential for dust intrusion remained coupled with the ongoing dialogue with Miele… Not a happy camper.

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20 years ago I ruined a MIele (model unknown) because the bag holder was not idiot proof enough. Neither prior to nor after have I owned a vac where the bag (when there was one) could be dislodged/misfit by this idiot in a similar way. For the others if the bag was not in right they would not close properly in an obvious way. Statistically there are probably others needing a more observant user.

Although due care obviates the problem for the careful it was an expensive lesson. At the time Miele considered it a user error (rather than a design fault) and I had to concur being much less worldly than I am now. ‘Good Design 101’ has a precept of job 1 being to protect the device (be it software or hardware) from the user. Some of us users may be more ingenious than others, but.

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After reading the story on the customer service the company receives id doubt i would be wanting to get anything repaired. And you mentioned bad service also. I suppose having a choice is more important than buying that brand again.

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Thanks @PhilT, I take your point, the Nilfisk vacuum we owned and operated successfully for over thirty years had a bagged system and fitting and removing the bag was straightforward and “idiot-proof”. I don’t mind that Miele found it necessary to arrive at such a design concept it’s just the fact that they need to alert consumers to its existence.
In terms of industrial design I actually think that the critical parameters of length of dust compartment lid, intake tube and bag holder have meant that in order to operate successfully it is only made possible by allowing the bag to be pulled free for the lid to hinge up at the required angle for opening the machine.

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There’s an old saying, well known in software development:
“There’s no such thing as foolproof, because fools are so ingenious”.

If a user can easily break something, there’s a design flaw right there.

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Amen…

I had that same C3

I also broken it within couple months, in my case though

the unit is supposed to have a 2nd filter between the compartment and the motor,
My case that Motor Protection secondary filter was not fitted correctly

Hi @carlos shame to hear that your Miele has bitten the dust. Reading between the lines it sounds like you had the same issue with dust bypassing the dust compartment but it entered the motor casing and damaged it because the internal (intake) filter wasn’t fitted properly, bugger. In “normal” use the filter only functions as a form of insurance as the compartment isn’t supposed to have any dust present whatsoever. Did Miele cover the damage under warranty?

nope

quote to repair was $250

considering a replacement was a similar price i went and bought a dyson instead
but the suction on the miele was significantly better

How do you believe the dust contamination occurred, at what point did you notice dust entering the compartment prior to motor failure (presuming that’s what occurred)?
I’ve got to say IMHO that Dyson are over designed and overpriced machines whose suction is relatively weak compared to other machines I’ve used, but I totally get the fact that you had no desire to continue on with Miele…

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Back when I was a software engineer, I had colleagues that said, “If you make the design foolproof, only fools will want to use it.” :sweat_smile:

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Strangely @ScottOKeefe I’ve just finished the massive Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and he would be turning over in his grave at such a notion :neutral_face: Not that I’m saying that you subscribe to such a view of course!

I have had a C3 Complete for around 7 years and added the small turbo head tool to it about a year later as we had a cat that shed a lot.

No issues with it; however, I would say fitting the bag is not the easiest of the vacuums I have used. Prior to the C3 I was using a Dyson DC19 which was an absolute piece of rubbish. They say the hose will never clog and that’s because it clogs in the head. I reverted to using a 25 year old Hitachi until the hose wore out and was mended so many times that it had lost about 1/2 metre.

As for the OP’s problem, yes, the dust lid catch could be more secure and the bag seating better, but in 7 years have not experienced the same sort of issue as described.

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I have had a C3 for two years and found the bags fill quickly and thus need to be replaced often and are expensive. They are not designed to be emptied and reused although I have tried. It is a little tedious. I have also sought alernative suppliers that are cheaper and work with no issues.
Soon after purchase I had issues with the brush not staying in the selected position. I tried to claim under warrentry however there was not stock and was never replaced. I ordered one recently cost $38, works ok a different design.
Would I buy another no.
I should have bought a Rainbow machine which which I had for over 25 years. Is much more expensive, uses less power and better for the environment.

Cheers

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