Sewing Machine Repair

This Fix-It Guide on sewing machine repair tells how a sewing machine works, what often goes wrong, how to identify a sewing machine problem, and what parts and tools you will need to fix it. It then gives simple step-by-step instructions for how to lubricate a sewing machine, how to service mechanical parts, and how to service the drive belt. This Fix-It Guide also refers to electrical cord repair, switch repair, and motor repair.

How Does a Sewing Machine Work?

Sewing Machine Repair

Components of a typical electric sewing machine.

A sewing machine is a small appliance that unites or fastens things by stitching. All sewing machines produce a stitch by hooking the needle thread around a second or bobbin thread. Fabric is pulled through the machine using metal feet called feed dogs. Speed is controlled by a foot or knee pedal. Numerous other adjustments or settings can be made to produce various stitches and patterns.

What Can Go Wrong with a Sewing Machine?

Sewing machines are reliable appliances that can give many years of good service with minimal care. Routine lubrication is the key to a long sewing machine life if called for in the owner’s manual (see below). The electrical cord and on-off switch can fail. The bobbin or take-up lever may be jammed. The drive belt may be faulty or loose. The bobbin, bobbin case, hook, and tension spring may be corroded or rough. The motor may be faulty.

Fix-It Tip

The most common–and most easily fixed–problem with sewing machines is caused by a bent, broken, loose, or incorrect sewing needle. Always buy quality needles and check their condition before starting a sewing project.

How Can I Identify a Sewing Machine Problem?

 Sewing Machine Repair

If your sewing machine has a working light but it isn’t working, open the head, then remove and test the bulb. Check electrical connections as needed.

  • If the machine doesn’t turn on, make sure power is on at ther lectrical Receptacle and test the electrical cord. Test the on-off switch.
  • If the machine runs or hums, but doesn’t sew, check the bobbin assembly for jammed thread (see below). Also lubricate a dry machine, tighten the clutch knob, and check the drive belt (see below).
  • If the needle or the bobbin thread breaks, see the sewing machine owner’s manual for correct settings and check for jammed thread.
  • If the fabric feeds poorly, clean lint from the feed dogs.

Any other repairs to a sewing machine should be done by an experienced technician who has access to replacement parts.

What Do I Need for Sewing Machine Repair?

Replacement parts are available from the manufacturer and aftermarket suppliers and from local sewing machine shops. The tools you will need to fix a sewing machine may include these:

  • Screwdrivers
  • Sewing machine oil
  • Tweezers
  • Emery cloth
  • Small brush

What Are the Steps to Sewing Machine Repair?

 Sewing Machine Repair

Carefully tip or lift the sewing machine from the cabinet to expose components for lubrication.

Lubricate a sewing machine:

  1. Unplug the sewing machine.
  2. Apply one drop of high-quality sewing machine oil to any parts that move unless your owner’s manual tells you differently, being especially careful not to oil electrical parts.

Fix-It Tip

Sewing machine oil may seem expensive for just a few drops needed each year. However, sewing machine oil is a good lightweight oil for lubricating many other smaller household devices, motor shafts, and things that squeak.

Sewing Machine Repair

The bobbin assembly is located under the needle plate.

Service mechanical sewing machine parts:

  1. Unplug the sewing machine.
  2. Clean the thread tension assembly using tweezers to remove tangles of thread around the disks.
  3. Use a fine emery cloth to sand off burrs or rust from the bobbin thread tension assembly. Replace any damaged parts.
  4. As needed, adjust the presser bar screw until the foot is straight.
  5. As needed, clean the feed assembly: Raise the presser foot, needle, and needle plate. Then unfasten and remove the feed assembly. Remove any obstructions such as thread and lint.

Service a sewing machine drive belt:

  1. Unplug the sewing machine.
  2. Remove the top cover and the hand wheel cover, held in place by screws or other fasteners.
  3. Remove the belt and inspect it for damage and wear, replacing as needed.
  4. Reinstall the belt and tighten the motor mounting bolts. Check the belt tension by pushing on the side of the belt.