Whether you’re a professional barber or cut your own hair at home, learning how to fix hair clippers that won’t cut is a skill that can save you a lot of money.
What’s Wrong With Your Hair Clippers?
Before we launch into how to fix hair clippers that won’t cut, let’s figure out what’s wrong with your clippers. Choose one of the problems below, and we’ll let you know what you need to do, then you can skip down to the section that explains the solution in detail.
- My Hair Clippers Won’t Cut
So your hair clippers are running just fine, but they’re not cutting your hair? It’s probably because the blades are dull. Dull blades tug your hair instead of cutting it.
Solution #2: Sharpen your hair clipper blades.
In rarer cases, your clippers might not be working at full power, so they’re not cutting efficiently.
Solution #5: Adjust the power screw on your hair clippers (it’s a lot easier than it sounds).
Even less frequently, your clipper drive might be worn down to the point that it’s not driving the blades anymore.
Solution #7: Replace your hair clipper drive.
- My Hair Clippers Are Dirty
If you’re noticing hair, lint, and grime built up between your clipper blades, all that debris could be causing problems with your clipper efficiency. Letting dirt go unchecked can also dull your blades.
Solution #1: Clean your hair clippers.
- My Hair Clippers Are Pinching My Skin
Hair clippers should never cut or pinch your skin. That means something is wrong with the way your blades are lined up.
Solution #3: Realign your hair clipper blades.
- My Hair Clippers Are Overheating
Barbers who use the same pair of clippers for multiple cuts every day might start to notice the clippers overheating. That means you’re putting too much strain on one pair of clippers.
Solution #8: Rotate your hair clippers.
On the other hand, if you don’t use your clippers that frequently, but you notice overheating, it’s likely that there’s hair built up in the machinery, or the blades aren’t moving nicely against each other.
Solution #1, #3 and #4: Clean your hair clippers, realign your hair clipper blades AND/OR oil your hair clippers.
- My Hair Clippers Are Noisy
Your hair clippers should make a noticeable humming noise, but if it sounds like they’re screaming, something is probably wrong.
Solution #5: Adjust the power screw on your hair clippers.
- My Hair Clippers Are Missing Teeth
Clippers that are missing teeth won’t cut as efficiently or safely. But you don’t necessarily need to go buy a whole new set of clippers.
Solution #6: Replace your clipper blades.
- My Hair Clippers Aren’t Running
If your hair clipper blades simply aren’t running, you should go through the whole checklist below. Clean, sharpen and oil the clippers to see if something was just jamming the blades.
While you’re at it, realign the blades, adjust the power screw, and replace a blade if necessary. Check your batteries or the outlet you plugged your clippers into. If none of that works, it’s probably time to replace your clippers.
How To Fix Hair Clippers That Won’t Cut
Here’s the list of solutions for how to fix hair clippers that won’t cut. If you’re still not sure what’s wrong with your clippers, you can take this list of solutions step by step and try each.
It’s always a good idea to start with cleaning, sharpening, and oiling your clippers – those are some basic maintenance steps that always help improve clipper performance.
- Clean Your Hair Clippers
You can deep clean your hair clippers without detaching the blades or opening up the front – and it’s super easy, too.
Pour some liquid hair clipper cleaner into a small bowl, and submerge the clipper blades (not the body of the clippers, just the blades). You should notice hair and grime leaking out from between the blades while they sit in the cleaning solution. Leave the blades submerged for 10 seconds.
Take the blades out of the cleaning solution and run them for a few seconds. Then turn the clippers off and repeat the process once. After submerging and running the blades two times, hopefully you see a noticeable improvement.
If your clippers still aren’t working, they’re probably in need of a deeper clean near the mechanical components.
Use a screwdriver to take the front or top panel off the clippers (this will look different depending on your clipper brand.
Once you’ve opened up the clippers, you should be able to see some of the inner workings, like the belt. You’ll probably notice a lot of hair too. Use a toothbrush or paintbrush to gently wipe away the hair, then reattach the panel.
You can also remove the clipper blades to clean those if the initial soak didn’t do as much as you’d hoped. Unscrew the blades from the bottom, taking note of how they fit together before you remove them. Use clipper cleaner or alcohol to wipe down the blades. It’s a good idea to oil your blades while you’re at it (skip down to solution #3 for that how-to).
Some hair clippers are self-sharpening – read your user’s manual before you try to sharpen them on your own.
If you do need to sharpen your blades, all you need is sandpaper.
Detach the blades, and run the flat sides against 150 grit sandpaper for 5-10 strokes. Don’t apply too much pressure, and use a backward motion. Then, brush off any shavings, and run the blades along 220 grit sandpaper for a finer finish. Use double the number of strokes that you used on the 150 grit sandpaper.
It’s as easy as that. Don’t forget to brush off any shavings and oil your hair clipper blades before you reattach them, or they’ll get dull again very soon.
Our guide to how to sharpen hair clipper blades has more details and options, if you’d prefer to sharpen your blades with a stone or need some additional pointers with the sandpaper.
- Realign Your Hair Clipper Blades
Clipper blades that aren’t aligned properly won’t cut well, and they can even pinch your skin. If you haven’t already detached the blades from the clippers, you don’t need to take them off completely to realign them – just loosen the screws.
With the screws loose in their sockets, notice how you can wiggle the bottom clipper blade around. Make sure it’s perfectly parallel to the top blade, and the teeth along the blades are aligned to fit in each other’s gaps. Offset the front so that teeth on the bottom blade are farther forward. If the teeth of your clipper blades are lined up perfectly, they’ll pinch your skin. That’s why the bottom blade needs to be further forward than the top.
If you have a taper lever on the side of your clippers, push it forward so that the blades are closed. Make sure the blades are still aligned. Then, while you’re re-tightening the screws on the bottom of the blades, switch off between the two screws every few rotations. This ensures that you don’t tighten one screw more than the other.
For a visual demonstration of this, I recommend Wahl Professional Australia’s “Clipper Alignment” video on YouTube.
- Oil Your Hair Clipper Blades
Oiling your hair clipper blades is hands-down the easiest and most effective solution for most clipper problems. The only reason it’s not solution #1 on this list is because if you need to clean, sharpen and realign your blades, you should take those steps first.
With your clipper blades attached and facing up, run the clippers, and apply a few drops of clipper oil along the teeth. The running blades will spread the oil, doing the hard work for you. That’s all there is to it!
Our complete guide to lubricating electric razors has some pointers on choosing the right oil for your blades.
- Adjust The Power Screw On Your Hair Clippers
Not all hair clippers have a power screw. It’s the screw along the side of your clipper grip.
When that screw is too loose, your clippers won’t operate at full power. When that screw is too tight, your clippers will sound unusually loud and whiny.
To get your power screw in the perfect position, run your clipper blades, and tighten or loosen the screw until you hear the clipper noise change. It should be an abrupt, noticeable change in the way the clippers sound (from a hum to a loud whine, or vice versa).
At that threshold, give the screw one counterclockwise turn. The clippers should have that nice hum now, but they’ll be operating at full power.
If it helps to think of it in reverse – you’re one screw turn away from noisy, whining clippers. That’s right where you want to be. Full power without that awful sound.
- Replace Your Clipper Blades
When your clippers still won’t cut after cleanings, sharpenings, oiling, alignment, and power adjusting, you might need to replace your clipper blades.
Run your finger along the teeth of the clippers – they should feel pointy against your skin. If not, then you either didn’t sharpen them enough, or they’ve been sharpened down to the point that you need new blades. If a tooth or two has broken off, then it’s definitely time for new blades.
Most sets of clipper blades cost $5-20, depending on whether you’re replacing both blades, and the size of the blades you’re replacing.
- Replace Your Hair Clipper Drive
You’ll need to consult your owner’s manual to properly replace a hair clipper drive. This is a less frequent fix for barbers, and the process is slightly different depending on your clipper brand. People who work in the pet grooming industry are more likely to need to replace a clipper drive every few weeks because of how coarse pet hair is.
The clipper drive is a plastic or metal component that sits behind the blades and forces them to move against each other. Over time, all the striking it does wears it down.
In broad strokes, for most hair clippers, you’ll need to remove the front panel, or remove a panel near the blades, and unscrew the clipper drive to replace it. It’ll be U-shaped, with a little tooth coming down from the base to strike the blades.
- Rotate Your Hair Clippers
Most barbers are good about keeping multiple sets of clippers on-hand. If you’re new to the professional haircutting game, don’t forget to rotate your clippers between appointments. This keeps them from overheating or experiencing too much wear and tear, and it’s more sanitary for your clients.
It’s also a good idea to rotate your clippers for efficiency. You can clean your blades all at once at the end of the day, rather than cleaning the blades every time a new client walks through the door.
- Replace Your Hair Clipper Batteries
If your cordless hair clippers won’t turn on, they’re probably out of batteries. It’s a quick fix, but one that we all tend to forget about.
- Check Your Outlet
When your corded clippers won’t turn on, don’t necessarily blame the clippers. It might be the outlet you’ve plugged them into. I nearly threw out a hairdryer recently, before I realized that the bathroom outlet was actually fried.
- Get A New Pair Of Hair Clippers
Sometimes you can learn everything about how to fix hair clippers that don’t cut and nothing works. Truth is, clippers just give out too. Don’t feel guilty or sad – it happens to all mechanical things eventually.
There’s no shame in getting a new pair of clippers if you can’t figure out how to fix the pair that’s broken. Think of it this way: if you really can’t fix your clippers by yourself, then the diagnosis and repairs are likely to be almost as expensive as a new set of hair clippers.