Kenmore Sewing Machine Won't Run?

September 2, 2015

I have a Kenmore sewing machine, model 385.19150090. I turned it on and the machine light flashed and went out. I replaced two fuses because one fuse was blown. What else in there?


September 3, 20150 found this helpful
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It sounds as though you have a broken wire somewhere along the wiring of the machine.


If you're handy electrically you can probably repair this yourself - open the machine by carefully unscrewing the head cover (be sure to take before, during, and after digital photos to assist in putting the machine back together after!) and see if you can visually locate any burnt, bent, or broken wires. Use a muffin tin to collect and safely store the teeny tiny little screws.

The wiring for the machine model you have isn't one I'm familiar with (I do vintage Singer repairs for my Sewing 101 students here in Scotland) and it's been years since I've seen a Kenmore (decades really, I had a Kenmore back in the late 70s and early 80s whilst living in the US), but I seem to recall the wiring on a Kenmore runs under the machine head - that should make finding and repairing a broken wire easier.


If the wiring runs along the inside, you'll need to be sure to take photos of everything first as you may have to take a part off to get to the broken wire and again, those photos will be very important to restoring the machine to a working condition after the repairs are made.

If you're not electrically handy, any Sears Service Center will be able to do the repairs. Not sure of the costs, should be under $100USD (but likely not far under, especially if you agree to a 'full servicing' which will include cleaning, oiling, and a full check-over).

Be sure to get an estimate up front, and also be sure to get the estimate AND the instruction to ring you before doing anything that will raise the estimated repairs cost in writing.

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September 3, 20150 found this helpful
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If I am correct, that machine is a 150 stitch computerized machine. You don't want to open the insides because it will be a lot of electronics and computer chips.


Try unplugging the machine for an hour or so and letting it reset. If that doesn't work, take the bobbin case apart and cleaning underneath it. That machine is designed to stop working of there is anything that jambs or gets stuck so as not to damage the machine. DO NOT oil the machine except for a minute drop of oil in the little hole under the bobbin!
Your machine was made by Janome ( I used to work at Sears selling sewing machines and vacuums). Sears no longer makes or sells Kenmore machines and there are no longer Sears Service Centers. They have all been shut down except for a few select cities. To get your machine fixed by Sears, you would have to ship it to TN.
Your best bet if my suggestions don't work, is to take it to a sewing machine place who specializes in computerized machines. The going price for servicing a computerized machine is around $125. If you need any extensive repairs, it will probably cost around $175-$250. That was a good machine and would be well worth getting the repairs done.


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4 More Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

November 28, 2019

The light works, but the machine will not run.


November 29, 20190 found this helpful
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If the machine is turning on but won't sew when you push on the foot peddle there is an issue with the connection here. You could have a bad foot peddle that needs to be replaced. First off look at the connection to the foot peddle and make sure there is nothing wrong with it. Then check the machine where it attaches and make sure you have a good connection.

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September 12, 2018

I was recently given my grandmother's sewing machine and I have never sewed before. I have it set up in my room and am trying to learn this new skill however, it won't actually start.


The light comes on when I flip the switch, but the needle doesn't move when I push the foot pedal. Is there an on/off switch somewhere I am missing?


September 12, 20180 found this helpful

Those old Kenmore machines do seize up frequently.

Did you tighten and untighten the wheel? Did you check that the bobbin is in right (they can fit backward but don't least mine is like that)?

Did you check that the feed dog is in the upright position?

Is it all clean in the undercarriage and in all the doors that open in the front? NEVER use canned air...just an old toothbrush or if you were luckly enough to have the original cleaning kit the little brush that came with it.

There are some decent YouTube videos on the old Kenmores. Most are very similar so you may find some helpful hints to get it going. These are workhorses....just a little finicky!


Be wary of using oil other than sewing machine oil if they tell you about oiling. I say that and I will tell you that I NEVER, EVER oiled my Kenmore (bad experience with oiling a Singer that ruined a project when the oil got all over it).

I had it in for service once many years ago and they may have oiled it... back to Sears (when we still had a Sears), but keeping it clean has always worked for me and my machine is...hmmmm...50 years old...maybe older.

There used to be manuals online for free. Maybe someone else on the site can point you to those. I can only find the pay version, which I wouldn't do unless it was a last resort:

Hope it is an easy fix! Happy stitching!!

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September 12, 20180 found this helpful

It sounds like there is a loose or broken wire in the foot pedal. You may have to take it in for servicing

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September 15, 20180 found this helpful

Now, I am going to say something about your machine and learning to use it.

  • Since this machine was a gift, do you know if your grandmother or someone else has used the machine anytime recently?
  • If you do not know or if it has not been used in a long time then I would highly suggest you have it professionally cleaned and serviced. Even if it has been used it would probably still be a good idea to have it serviced.
  • Since this is a Kenmore that means it was sold by Sears (probably Sears & Roebuck at the time this machine was made) I would suggest it best to take it to a local Sears Service Center and let them service it.
  • The main reason I suggest taking your machine to Sears is that they can tell you what brand of machine this one happens to be. Sears places Kenmore name on products they sell but other companies make the products and that company could change each year. In other words, your machine could actually be a Singer, White, Brothers or a generic machine made at that time but has a Kenmore label.
  • This could be very helpful in finding a manual or if you need a part or accessory in the future.
  • Sears may also have a free manual for this machine as I am like Pghgirl and did not find a free manual. It appears legal copies of this manual (158) have been pulled and it has been expressed that any manuals being sold are illegal copies. But that does not really matter if you can pay a few bucks and get a copy for your own personal use.
  • The next thing that I would suggest is for you to find a place to take actual sewing lessons - hands on is the very best way to start learning how to sew. In fact, if you really do plan to use this machine (excellent machine by the way) and have some goal in mind then I would suggest you go beyond basic lessons and take one or two advanced lessons.
  • You can Google sewing lessons with your zip code and probably find several sites to check out. I usually send people to their local Michael's or Jo Amm's craft stores as they usually have information on local sewing classes and may be able to help you find one near you. Be sure to tell them you have a vintage Kenmore just in case they know of a class that works with vintage machines.
  • You do not say if your machine is a portable or if it is in a cabinet so whatever type it is may make a difference in where you can take lessons. Some teachers will have spare machines for someone to borrow but others may not.
  • Of course, it is always best if you can do your lessons on your own machine but not absolutely necessary.
  • Why is this important? Mainly because most people start out really enthusiastic about sewing but soon become disillusioned as mending items may be "easy" but actually making something can get very frustrating for a beginner.
  • That is the main reason so many sewing machines are just sitting (taking up room) and not being used. Sewing can only be fun and enjoyable if you can see a nice finished product sometime - something you can proudly present to the world and say "I made it!".
  • A little bit of history about your machine:
  • Some people call this a "Model 16" but it does match the 158-162/163 and was probably made around 1975 so this is a true vintage machine.
  • One of the nice things about this age machine is they were built to last a life-time and also made so repairs could be done by the owner.
  • I hope you enjoy using your grandmother's machine, and, if she is still alive you can show her something nice you have made. If not, then you can do it in remembrance and display it proudly.
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April 12, 20200 found this helpful

how do you repair the foot pedal

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December 8, 2019

I accidentally pulled the electric cord connection out of my Kenmore sewing machine. After plugging it back in, there seems to be absolutely no power to the sewing machine. There is no noise whatsoever. The wall outlet is fine and the cords look okay. There is no off/on switch for this sewing machine. You just push on the pedal when ready to sew. Any suggestions?


December 9, 20190 found this helpful

You must have damaged the wiring. Take the cover off the machine and try to trace the wiring. If you can't figure it out, you will have to take it in for serving.

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December 9, 20190 found this helpful

Does the thick switch go in the other way? It may just be on upside down not making the correct connection.

Take a closer look at the black cord and make sure there are no kinks or lose wires, especially around the connectors (you said it is OK but carefully examine it from top to bottom as even a tiny bend or crease or kink can cause issues. If you see anything, you can try black electrical tape to secure or flatten.

Also, check the three little prongs to make sure they are not bent.

If they are, you can try to gently straighten.

Post back with an update!

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December 9, 20190 found this helpful

You have broken the connection to the foot peddle and the machine. If you know about wiring and can repair problems this one should be a simple fix. Other than this you will need to go to the repair shop and have them look at it for you. You will need to reconnect the wires on the machine and test the foot peddle to make sure it is not damaged.

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March 10, 2018

I am new to sewing machines. I have an older machine from my MIL. It is a Kenmore 385- 26. The home plate is missing, but it has other parts. I have threaded the top thread. The bobbin thread did not catch when I put it through the bottom, so I tried manually removing the bobbin case and feeding it through. I am not sure if that is correct.

When feeding fabric through the needle does not create a stitch into the fabric, as I move the fabric through. The needle does move up and down, but no stitch is made (just up and down motion like normal).

I have tried a few different fabrics to see if that mattered, with the same result. I have the tension set at 4, dials set at 3 for length and 4 for width.



March 11, 20180 found this helpful

Make sure the needle is new. Try to download a manual if you do not already have one. It will give diagrams that will tell you how to thread it correctly and how to put the bobbin in correctly. It will also have a troubleshooting section.

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