Sewing Machine Troubleshooting: How to fix a Sewing Machine?

Last Updated: March 13, 2023 by Philip Williams

Sewing machines have so many different parts that when they start to fail, you rarely know what to look for. Luckily, you can always read our sewing machine troubleshooting and find precisely the problem you want to fix and learn how to do so.

We are going over several typical problems sewing machines tend to suffer from – and we’re also explaining how to get rid of them. So, if your sewing machine is having a problem and you want to find what it is and how to fix it – then read up!

Sewing Machine troubleshooting

First, we’re going to go over general things you should do to keep your sewing machine working neatly. Among them, you’ll find:

  • Cleaning and maintaining it dust-free.
  • Making sure the bobbin is clean and in pristine condition.
  • Lubricating the internal mechanism (cranks & motor).
  • Adjusting the tension on the bobbin to prevent thread issues.
  • Ensuring there’s no faulty wiring & electrical system.
  • Tuning the timing consistently to prevent unwanted stitches.

If you do all these things, there’s a lower chance your sewing machine will suffer any problem. But even then, many things can still happen.

Sewing Machine common problems

Here are some of the most common sew machine problems you may experience:

  • Bunched up thread (birdnesting).
  • Thread breaks.
  • Thread tangles or loosens up.
  • Broken and bent needles.
  • Feed-dog fails (fabric doesn’t move).
  • Some stitches get skipped.
  • Wavy stitches.
  • The sewing machine doesn’t sew.
  • Weird noise comes out of the machine.
  • The machine runs, but the needle won’t move.
  • Stitching settings don’t work.
  • The machine stays in reverse.

These are just some of the problems you may experience with a sewing machine. And while fixing each one would be ideal – they usually happen when other parts start to fail. Below, you’ll find out how to fix those parts.

How to fix a Sewing Machine problems?

Because you want to learn how to find sewing machine problems and remedies to each one – we decided to make a comprehensive guide to follow. Below, you’ll find primary sewing machines issues and their solutions:

Fix sewing machine tension knob

  • Look for the regulator dial. It is usually small and goes just over the needle mechanism. Make sure it is adjusted to the right tension level (4 or 5 by default).
  • If it isn’t adjusted correctly, then you should do so. Be sure to follow the machine’s manual if you don’t know the default tension. Now test it.
  • In case the tension doesn’t adjust, then you may need to look for bent or broken pieces.  If it has any, then it’s time to replace it or fix it.

Here’s a more detailed video to follow:

Fix the reverse button on a sewing machine

Among common sewing machine problems you may experience, include a reverse button that gets stuck. To fix that, you will have to proceed this way:

  • Start by reattaching the button spring. You may need to open up the machine (where the button is located) and look for the spring that activates the system. If it is out of place, reattaching may fix the problem.
  • If you open the machine and see that the spring is broken, then you’ll have to find a new one. Be sure it is the exact same spring that your machine uses.
  • Sometimes it is not the spring that fails, but all other components around it. To fix that, you can always open the machine, clean the parts that surround the button, and apply a few drops of oil to release it.

These three tips should be enough to fix any problem with the sewing machine reverse button. 

Fix sewing machine handwheel

The handwheel may fail depending on the different type of sewing machine you have. Whatever breaks, however, the most common is when it gets stuck or turns too slowly. Here are some tips to fix that:

  • Old sewing machines connect the handwheel to a pulley mechanism. Check that the pulleys are correctly adjusted. Fix if needed.
  • Another common issue with old models is the inner knob on the handwheel. When it gets locked, the handwheel won’t turn. To fix it, you’ll have to access the handwheel mechanism and loosen up the locking knob. This should free up the handwheel.
  • The bobbin case may be dirty. This may get the machine stuck, causing the handwheel to fail when you use it. Clean or replace it as necessary.
  • If the previous steps don’t work, you need to re-thread the entire machine. This should get rid of any tension and/or improperly adjusted bobbin.

These tips should be enough to fix a problematic sewing machine handwheel.

Fix sewing machine bobbin

A bobbin sometimes doesn’t want to feed sufficient thread to the needle.  Luckily, this is typically a solvable problem. Follow these tips:

  • Start by re-threading the machine. Sometimes it is not the bobbing in fault, but the rest of the threading mechanism. If you re-thread the machine, the problem may go away.
  • Check that the needle is in pristine condition. If the needle is bent or broken, it will feel as if the bobbin isn’t feeding enough thread. Similarly, if you have the wrong needle for the machine, fabric, or job you’re doing – then it may have the same problem. Change and adjust as necessary.
  • If previous tips don’t work, check that the bobbin isn’t broken or loosened up. Make sure it sits on the bobbin case properly. Also, check that the thread is not tangled or knotted inside the bobbin. Fix as needed.
  • Lastly, clean up the bobbin and the case. Be sure nothing is blocking or slowing down its operation. Even the smallest

If after following these tips you still feel like the machine is not working correctly, then your problem is something else.

Fix timing on Singer sewing machine

Fixing a sewing machine with a timing problem is not easy, even less so when it is a Singer model. But it’s still possible. Here are a few things you can do for that:

  • Start by collecting the tools. You will need a flat-head screwdriver (small one), a flashlight/lamp, a ruler/tape measure, a marker, and a bottle of sewing machine oil.
  • Then you need to adjust the height of the sewing machine. Loosen up the needle bar following the machine’s manual. Then align it with the lower height mark (these are on the needle bar).
  • If you don’t need any marks, then lower the needle using the handwheel. Lower it to the lowest setting possible. Then set it up at about 2.4 millimeters from the hook.
  • Another way to fix it is to open the throat plate and adjust the needle until you see it coming close to the hook. Verify that they meet at the proper distance for the threading process to happen (usually between 0.04 and 0.1 millimeters). Measure and fix if they are farther or closer than that.
  • To check if the timing problem is fixed, thread up the machine and use it. If you still feel the machine doesn’t work correctly, you will have to contact an expert.

Timing issues are mostly related to the needle and shutter mechanism. So be sure to check those thoroughly.

Fix a Singer sewing machine bobbin case

Bobbin cases also fail from time to time, causing the thread to be fed inconsistently to the machine, as well as causing tension issues, and more. Here’s how to fix it:

  • First, check that the bobbin case is appropriately installed. For that, move the needle to the highest level (using the handwheel). Then check that the case latch is locked in place. If it isn’t, just take it off and insert it – the case should make a clicking noise when it gets into place.
  • If that doesn’t work, then check that the case is the right one for the machine. Other reasons may include a bent piece or broken case. Change it if this happens.
  • Lastly, you can experience bobbin problems if the case is dirty or stuck with debris. If there’s a piece of fabric or needle on the case, it may also cause problems. In any case, there’s no better way to fix it than cleaning it.

This should be enough to fix most bobbin problems.

Fix tension on Brother sewing machine

When a Brother sewing machine has tension problems, the stitches are either too loose or too tight. And when that happens, your stitching won’t be as good. There are two main ways to fix this:

  • The first way is by adjusting the tension on the upper thread. This is done with a little wheel located on top. Just turn the wheel up or down and get the pressure you prefer. Test the machine and see whether the stitches are loose or tight. If they are correct, then adjusting the thread was enough.
  • If the problem persists, then adjust the tension on the bobbin. This is all about looking for a small screw on the bobbin case. Use a flat-head screwdriver to tighten the screw at different levels, and test the machine as you do. This should fix the issue.

These two methods should be enough to fix a tension issue in a Brother sewing machine. If they don’t, then take it to an expert.

Fix zig-zag on sewing machine

When you’re trying to make zig-zag patterns on fabric, but the stitches look like everything but a zig-zag, then you have a needle or thread problem. Here’s how to fix them:

  • Start by re-threading the machine. There’s a high chance you didn’t thread it correctly for the zig-zag operation, which causes such a horrible pattern instead. Test the machine and see how it works.
  • If re-threading the machine doesn’t fix the zig-zag, then it can be a tension problem with the thread. You can do this by turning the tension knob as needed. Most of the time, you will have to tighten it up. Test the machine.
  • And lastly, if adjusting the tension doesn’t work, then check that the needle is not bent or adjusted at the wrong height. If this happens, then fix it as necessary. And if it is bent, replace it.

After doing all these things, you should experience a fix on the zig-zag pattern.

Fix stitch length on sewing machine

All sewing machines let you adjust the length of the stitch. But in some cases, this length can also get out of hand (either longer or shorter than expected). Luckily, it can be fixed. Here’s how to fix a sewing machine with a stitch length issue:

  • The length is usually adjusted on a knob/dial on the side of the machine. Look for it. Be sure it is adjusted to the desired stitch length you want (3 or 4 is the standard).
  • If adjusting the length doesn’t work, then you can always change the tension. Do this by turning the tension knob as needed. A high number means higher thread tension in case the stitches are too long. Bring the tension down if the stitches are too short.
  • If adjusting the length or tension doesn’t work, then you can proceed to re-thread the machine and replace or re-install the needle. This should fix the problem.

In case the stitch length problem doesn’t get fixed after doing this, then you must take it to an expert as it could be a more complex mechanical issue.

Fix bobbin winder on Brother sewing machine

The bobbin winder on a Brother sewing machine may fail due to many reasons. Here we explain the many ways you can fix it:

  • If the bobbin winder gets stuck, there’s probably some thread on the winding pin. To fix it, you need to open the machine and use some tweezers to the thread out. Now it should work smoothly.
  • When the thread tangles up when you wind the bobbin, it probably means you don’t have proper tension. Adjust the thread around the tension disc, and it should get fixed.
  • Is the bobbin not releasing enough thread as you press the pedal? Then you’re probably suffering from an unengaged bobbin. To fix this, push and loosen up the winder until it tightens and engages.
  • The rubber ring on the winding pin may wear out over time. When this happens, the bobbin winds inconsistently. Fix it by replacing the rubber ring.
  • If none of the previous tips work, then you’re likely suffering from a defective bobbin. In that case, check the bobbin instead and look for any burr, nick, bent, or broken part. If you see something, then replace the bobbin instead, and the winder should work smoothly.

After trying all these tips, your bobbin winder problem should go away.

Fix presser foot lever on sewing machine

The part that presses the fabric into the stitching plate is called the presser foot. And when it fails, you’ll experience the sewing machine not sewing at all. How to fix this? Follow these tips:

  • Start by adjusting the tension. Locate the tension regulator around the needle and adjust it. This will fix the problem of fabric slipping away while stitching or if it gets stuck.
  • In some cases, it is thread or pieces of fabric clogging the foot mechanism. You can fix this by checking the internal parts and looking for any sign of debris. Clean if you find anything, and it should fix the foot lever.
  • Lastly, unscrew the whole mechanism and search for broken parts. If you see anything broken or bent, then replace it if possible. Otherwise, take it to a mechanic.

This should be enough to fix any foot presser lever issue.

Fix sewing machine needle

The needle on the sewing machine is a common issue – especially when it is bent, out of place, or simply broken. Here are a few ways to fix it:

  • First, consider whether you’re using the right needle for the machine, job, and fabric. In some cases, using the wrong needle may be the cause of the whole problem. Also, if it is broken or bent, it won’t work correctly. Change if necessary.
  • Check the thread pressure. As the thread is connected to the needle, it may be causing it to thread inconsistently. Here, you will have to turn the tension knob and check the bobbin as well. Be sure they’re properly adjusted.
  • If these two tips don’t work, then replace and/or remount the needle. Loosen up the needle set screw, pull the needle downward, and get it out. Then insert the new needle and screw in the set or clamp. Tighten up, and it should fix the problem.

Now your needle should work perfectly. If not, then your problem is somewhere else.

Fix sewing machine stuck in reverse

When a machine doesn’t want to stitch forward, then you may panic and damage entire stitching jobs. But don’t worry here are two easy fixes:

  • If you have a mechanical machine, then check that the button for the reverse is not in the down position. Push it down and fix it as necessary.
  • But if you have an electronic or computerized sewing machine, then turn it off and back up again. This should get rid of the problem.

If none of this solves the problem, then you’re looking at a stuck mechanism. Take it to an expert in that case.

Fix bird nesting on a sewing machine

When a sewing machine not working because the thread tangles up and creates knots while stitching, then you have a “birdnesting” issue. Here’s how to fix:

  • Start by re-threading from the top. Take the thread off entirely and start threading through the take-up lever and the rest of the mechanism.
  • Then re-thread into the needle. Do this by lifting the presser foot and threading as necessary. Be sure the tension levers are activated, so the thread tightens up.
  • Now reset the machine as necessary and check whether re-threading fixed the problem. If not, reset the tension and check once again.
  • The problem persists? Then check the bobbin case and reset it. Be sure it is properly located inside the machine.

This should fix more bird-nesting issues. Now you’re ready to use the machine smoothly.

Fix thread in sewing machine

If the sewing thread breaks, shreds, tangles, or jams too often while you’re sewing, then you must proceed this way:

  • Check the spool and look for any nick or notch. Small bumps may cause the thread to release inconsistently, causing tangles and jams.
  • Is the thread too thin or fragile? Then change it for a stronger or more resilient one. Low-quality threads are usually problematic.
  • Check that the needle doesn’t have any nick. Just like nicked spools, a needle may also cause the thread to work horribly.
  • Lastly, check everything from the bobbin to the tension discs. Check for irregularities and fix the mas needed.

If you still experience thread problems after following these tips, then your problem demands an expert.

Sewing Machine repair guide: Tips to consider

So, are you ready to handle the sewing machine repair by your own hands? Then you may want to consider our repair tips:

  • Never install a needle that is not compatible with the machine. This could cause severe problems and produce long-lasting damage.
  • Don’t use the machine if it is too dirty (dust and debris) or if it is not adjusted correctly (tension, length, height, etc.) for the job. This could cause it to get stuck and/or damage it.
  • Try using the highest-quality thread possible. Especially if you’re trying to fix something related to the needle or threading – you must have a proper thread.
  • If you’re having trouble troubleshooting the machine, then refer to the owner’s manual. It will help you with sewing machine problem solving by explaining its parts, mechanism, and so on.
  • Sewing machines tend to overheat if you use them consistently without letting them rest. When testing them, don’t let them run for more than 1 minute at once.
  • Always keep oil handy. A few drops of lubricant may help you release stuck parts and/or ensure the machine works smoothly. Sometimes, that’s enough to fix some issues.
  • Lastly, don’t try changing any mechanical part if you’re not familiar with the machine. This could cause serious damage, sometimes permanent to the machine.

Follow all these tips while trying to fix your sewing machine, and you should have no problem.


So, are you eager to start fixing your sewing machine? Then don’t hesitate and follow our advice in this article. Doing sewing machine troubleshooting is not a piece of cake. But if you consider our tips and recommendations, then it should be a lot easier.

Still, don’t hesitate to take your sewing machine to an expert in case you can’t fix the problem or get overwhelmed. That will be the perfect solution if you want to prevent further issues.

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