Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

Sewing machine troubleshooting text with a woman at a machine

So you’ve cleaned and maintained your sewing machine, but you’re still having trouble? There are times when cleaning simply does not fix the problem and you will need to take your machine into your dealer or a certified service shop. Before you do that, though, make sure to ask yourself these 5 questions to help troubleshoot the problem and hopefully save yourself some money with the repairs.

1. Is your machine threaded properly? It never hurts to double check.
2. Is your bobbin in the correct way? Are there threads hanging out on your bobbin case? Is your bobbin overfull? A good rule of thumb is to wind the bobbin thread at the same speed you plan to sew at. Another hint: never wind two different threads on one bobbin because this doesn’t allow the top thread to wind properly.
3. Is your needle inserted properly? Is it a new needle? Needles are inexpensive; when they get dull they do not pick up bobbin thread properly.
4. Is your tension off? You need to adjust your tension depending on the weight of thread you are using. If you have multiple layers you are sewing, it can even change depending on the weight of your fabric or type of fabric (jersey, denim, minky, flannel, silk, cotton, etc.). All will use different feet and possibly different tension. It is always a great idea to first sew a sample piece to be sure the tension is right for your project. (Your manual will be a great resource for tension adjustment.)
5. Is there any corrosion on your machine? If you see any corrosion or rust, machine oil or gentle steel wool will be helpful in removing this imperfection. If it is not able to be removed, you will want to take your machine into your service center. They will likely replace the part.

If all else fails, check in your manual and look up the troubleshooting section. You will likely have a good indication if the issue is something small that you overlooked or a problem that a certified service person needs to look at.

The most important factor is to get to know your machine. Is it a computerized machine? Is it mechanical? Knowing the ins and outs will also help you more easily identify when something goes wonky. When I’ve had issues in the past, I’ve actually called my dealer and had them walk me through the situation, which is very helpful. (Though usually it turns out it’s just something silly that my old brain simply overlooked!)

Good luck!

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Related Links: Cleaning and Maintaining Your Sewing Machine Choosing the Right Sewing Machine Needles Sewing Machine Maintenance Tips links to National Sewing Circle website Tips for Cleaning Your Sewing Machine links to National Sewing Circle website Tips for Managing Bulky Fabrics links to National Sewing Circle website Tricky Fabric Stitching Techniques links to National Sewing Circle website Sewing with Minky links to National Sewing Circle website   Get in touch! Leave a comment or email  
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10 Responses to “Sewing Machine Troubleshooting”

  1. Denisa

    Thread tension and bobbin tension are by far the most common problems I have to deal with...I find it easier to just buy the same thread "weight" instead of readjusting the tension

  2. dani

    Is it possible for me to print a second copy of the How to Troubleshoot a Sewing Machine I just purchased and printed? I sew for needy children and need a copy to help us sewers in our volunteer sewing group. I am the one who helps with the sewing problems now but need to teach the other ladies for I am already 60 years old and could not always be around.

  3. Julia

    presser foot will not have enough pressure

  4. Peter

    Great Work

  5. merle

    I have a Singer 500a and it has been in for servicing recently. It was sewing fine and now seems to be locked up and won’t move

  6. Marg Pritchard

    pressure foot will does not have enough pressure

  7. Kim

    I’m having problems of free motion quilting off of my xr9550prw brother quilting Machine as I start the new thread in the needle keeps coming on done breaking off plus it doesn’t pick up the bottom at all What am I doing wrong ? My machine is clean ready to go , I’ve just about tryed everything and nothing working , please help me

  8. Judith Ferro


  9. Alison Russell

    Those are good suggestions. And of course it helps to have the owner's manual.

  10. Connie

    Thanks for the info on cleaning the inside of my Sewing machine. Connie