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How to Repair Your Sewing Machine

There are three types of sewers when it comes to handling their machines. The first are the ones who baby the machine. They never run it too hard and always keep it well oiled. Then, some run their machine ragged, barely oil it, and frequently jam it. Finally, there are a surprisingly small handful of people that fall in the middle. Sewing machines can put up with quite a bit of abuse, but they do need occasional maintenance and repair like any other machine.

Safety Precautions 

Electricity and needles are serious concerns. Always take these precautions when making repairs or doing basic maintenance. 

When it comes to power, never take risks. Turn off the machine and unplug it from the wall. Don’t trust the power switch because many issues arise from the power cord itself.

Needles can be sneaky. Those who are hard on their sewing machine know that one good fabric jam and that needle can snap off, sending shrapnel throughout the room. There are also stories of those who have tried oiling or pulling fuzz out of the machine with the needle in the up position, and those stories almost always end with a terrible injury. Don’t trust needles. Remove them before working on the sewing machine. 

Troubleshooting and Health Checks 

Every issue with a sewing machine requires troubleshooting, but it’s also good to perform a basic health check when you’re oiling the machine. 

Give the Machine a Deep-Cleaning

Anytime there’s anything possibly wrong, it’s best to start with a cleaning. It will make you look at small parts of the sewing machine, and most of the time, it’ll solve common problems. Cleaning a sewing machine is like unplugging and restarting your computer when it’s acting up. Should it solve the problem? No, but it does. 

When you’re cleaning the machine:

  • Remove your top thread, bobbins, plastic bobbin cover, needle plate, and needle. If possible, pull out the bobbin case.
  • Brush out any lint and dust. 
  • Remove tiny threads

If you’re conducting a health check, then:

  1. Clean the machine
  2. Oil the machine
  3. Try to give the needle bar a little wiggle.
  4. Flip your feed dogs up and down
  5. Swap the needle for a new one

If you cleaned the machine and there are still problems, then move on to troubleshooting and  identify the specific issue:

  • Thread snapping 
  • Shaking
  • Losing power
  • Tangled thread in the bobbin
  • Jamming  
  • Bad or skipped stitches
  • Stuck fabric 

The idea of troubleshooting is that you’re focusing on the most present issue, understanding that it could be the only issue or a symptom of a larger problem. 

Cover the Basics First 

V8 ran an entire campaign on people not noticing simple or obvious solutions. You don’t want to take your machine in for an expensive diagnostic and think, “I could have had a V8.”  Always check these common solutions to common problems before taking your machine into a repair shop. Of course, use the suggestions that apply to your troubleshooting. 

Thread 

Snapping thread, missed stitches, puckered stitches, and more are often a problem with thread. Your thread may be the wrong thread for the fabric (puckering) or could be low-quality (snapping). A high-quality thread is always recommended. 

Needle 

We often go far too long without changing our needles. When deep cleaning your machine, you should have put in a new one. However, the problem might be the type of needle! Ensure you’re using the right needle for the fabric. 

Tension

Sewing machine tension can cause all manner of ridiculous problems, and not many sewers know how to adjust it properly. There isn’t one “good” or “safe” tension setting, but you need to set the tension according to the stitch, which means you must also know how to choose the right stitch.

Rethread the Machine 

Rethreading can solve a variety of issues, but you might have to do it a few times. It could be that something is catching or slipping, and you’re simply not noticing. 

Problems with Power 

Check your power cord for any fraying or indents. It’s possible that bending, twisting, or accidentally clipping the cord has caused internal damage even if the outside looks fine. If you have another cord on hand, try that one. If not, call your local sewing shop and see if they’ll let you plug in or purchase just the cord. 

Is the Sewing Machine Worth Fixing?

Sewers tend to form quite the connection with their sewing machines. Many would rather keep a trusty old sewing machine than go out and buy a new one. There’s research involved, the struggle to make the right decision, and determine how much you can or should invest. All that aside, sometimes, these older sewing machines are just not worth repairing. 

If the cost is even close to a new machine’s price, it may be time to retire the old gal and start looking for a new sewing machine. A typical rule of thumb is that a machine with metal parts is often worth repairing and machines with plastic parts generally are not worth it. 

Specific Repair Suggestions 

Everything in this list is a workable solution for some, but if you’re hesitant to make repairs yourself, contact a local sewing machine shop. There are many Singer and Vac, or Sewing Machine and Vacuum repair shops still around. Some shops will charge for a diagnostic assessment, and others will not so be sure to ask before you bring in your sewing machine. 

The Foot Pedal Doesn’t Do Anything

Foot pedals aren’t worth repairing, but the good news is that you can buy a generic foot pedal. If you replace the foot pedal and the machine is still unresponsive, then the connection may be bad and not something you can easily.

The Sewing Machine Isn’t Making Stitches

Isn’t this frustrating? You press down on the foot pedal, the needle moves, and then nothing happens. Check the following:

  • Bobbin hook area is turning properly - If not, then this needs repair or replacement.
  • Bobbin case - If there is damage, then it’s worth researching if it’s replaceable. 

The Bobbin Winder Isn’t Working 

If the thread isn’t winding or is piling up on one side, you can do a few things to fix the problem. 

  • Ensure the winder tension is set correctly and threaded properly. 
  • Check for debris in the bobbin winder spring and the tension spring. 
  • Twist the winder, or turn it by hand. If it turns, then it’s not stuck, and there’s another problem. 

If those steps don’t work, then consider taking it to a shop for diagnostics. 

The Handwheel Won’t Turn 

Careful with this one because trying to force the handwheel or continuing to try can break other things. If the handwheel doesn’t turn, then clean the machine. If cleaning the machine doesn’t work, it’s likely that something is stuck or broken under the needle plate and needs professional repair. 

The Light Bulb Doesn’t Come On

Similar to a car’s headlight going out, it seems like something big, but it’s very simple. Buy a sewing machine LED bulb, be sure to find the right one for your machine, and then open the top of the machine. Change out the bulbs, and you’re good! 

The Machine is Making Weird Sounds

This issue is usually in the bobbin area, and it could come from the needle hitting the bobbin or the hood. In some cases, this is a timing problem, but it could be that something in the bobbin case is rusty or stuck. 

The Thread Bunches on the Bottom of the Fabric 

In the best-case scenario, there’s trouble with your tension knob. In the worst-case scenario, the timing is off. 

To address this problem, you can:

  • Look for (and remove any) broken threads between tension discs. Use compressed air or a sheet of paper to get between the discs. 
  • Change the bobbin
  • Repair or replace the bobbin case
  • Change the tension with incremental adjustments on a piece of scrap fabric. 

If all else fails, you can take the machine in to see if the tension dial’s internal workings are broken. 

GoldStar Tool

GoldStar Tool is here for all your quick fixes, new parts, or even project inspiration. If you are finding that you can’t seem to get your sewing machine fixed, check out our amazing sewing machines on our site. Contact us today if you would like assistance purchasing a new sewing machine.