Repairing a Kenmore Sewing Machine

Kenmore sewing machines, made for Sears, are found in numerous households. When your machine begins to preform badly or stops sewing altogether it is time for repairs. Some can be done by the owner and others may require the services of a professional repair person. This is a page about repairing a Kenmore sewing machine.
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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.

October 13, 2012

I have been using my great-grandmother's sewing machine for years, and it is just now giving me a problem. When I begin sewing by pushing the foot pedal, it will sometimes start and it will sometimes not. If it does, I have to have the pedal to the floor to keep it going, so I can only sew very fast. If I let it slow down, the machine gets stuck. When it is stuck, turning the hand wheel toward me while pushing the foot pedal gets it going again. When I turn the hand wheel or when it does stop on me, it is always stiff or stuck in the same spot in its rotation. Every time I push the pedal, the motor does run, but I can't always get the needle to move.

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I have tried everything from cleaning it, disassembling what I can to check for problems, oiling it, and more. Am I most likely looking at a problem with the foot pedal, the motor, an internal belt or gear, or a timing issue?

By Jessica B.

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October 15, 20120 found this helpful
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It does sound like a problem with the foot pedal (timing problems usually show up as the needle hitting the plate or bobbin-you'll hear a little clunk every time the needle goes down into the bobbin area).

It could be as simple as a worn wire in the pedal, or it could be something more serious. You can try opening the foot pedal housing and giving the interior a look over-take clear photos first and be sure to check the photos before you disassemble anything-you may see the trouble straight off.

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If you can't see any obvious problems, put the housing back on, check the voltage (should be printed on the bottom of the pedal), and try a different foot pedal in the same voltage to see if that sorts the problem. Foot pedals do go bad over time so that may be the problem.

You can find a replacement either at the Sears parts site:

searspartsdirect.com

You can also check eBay for vintage Kenmore parts.

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May 30, 20130 found this helpful
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There is a pressure plate right below the knob that u twist to unlock to wind your bobbin, this is your problem. U can get more life out of your machine without spending money. That that small plate and slighly bend it so it won't sit on there flush and it will work. I spent 285 $ fo get mine fixed

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May 12, 2016

I have a Sears Kenmore 1410 and the stitch selector knobs are frozen. Is there a way I can fix that myself?

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August 16, 20170 found this helpful
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When changing the stitch selection on your sewing machine your needle needs to be in the up position. If you are still having issues the knob is jammed and needs servicing. You can take this to your local Sears store for repair.

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August 16, 20170 found this helpful
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Try to oil the machine. If that doesn't work you could have a broken lever or gear and will need it serviced.

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November 5, 2019

My Kenmore model 52 sewing machine does not feed forward, only in reverse. The grips below the presser foot move, but don't "rotate" when feeding forward, but do correctly "rotate" when backstitching.

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It is not the pressure on the presser foot. I have adjusted it, and no change. I looked underneath, and nothing apparent seems to present itself.

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November 7, 20190 found this helpful
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This is an engagement problem in the feeder of the machine. The machine seems to be stuck in reverse and will no longer go forward. There could be an issue with your belt or a blockage in the area that will not allow the foot to engage correctly.

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November 1, 2019

I have a vintage Kenmore sewing machine model #1703. Can I re-adjust the feed and or the needle position? It sews for a a few stitches and then the needle hits the feed. I've never had a Kenmore, but I worked on my all metal Singer and other machines. It had been in a garage for a while, but in its table so it was somewhat protected, and I know it needs to be oiled. If you can help me without taking it to a repair shop, I can follow your instructions easily. But if you think it needs to go in to a shop please lmk that too.

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November 2, 20190 found this helpful
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I have a vintage Kenmore, not sure the model, it is from 1970-72 time fram.

When mine does this, I flip it so I can get to the underside and I take a stiff bristle toothbrush (clean and dry) and I carefully clean the entire underside (every nook and cranny). I also take out the bobbin and the bobbin case and clean it up good. Make sure the screw in the case is tight also.

When I clean the feeddog and needle area I set it first on straight stitch, then move it to zig zag (UNPLUGGED OF COURSE) so I can get into each nook and cranny.

I also unscrew the top and do the same thing.

Be sure when brushing to scrape up and out so as not to push the dust in deeper.

Also it may pay to change the needle when you are doing this.

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I also look the foot petal over and make sure there are no pins stuck in it and no dust bunnies living in the pedal. This happens all the time and doesn't cause the issue you describe, but when I do the cleaning, I do it all.

These machines are very forgiving and usually a good tune up like this gets it working again. I have never used oil on my machine as when I took the class at Sears when the machine was new the teacher said never to use oil as it can stay in the machine and ruin fabrics. She said a good brush cleaning should be all you need.

There are YouTube videos on this and a few websites that show you step by step. I found it interesting that I learned this technique from my class in the 1970s and trial and error and now people make videos and websites on how to do it...oh to be young and digitally apt right!

Post back with an update!

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My Kenmore sewing machine 158 14300, selector knob for stitches and also the feed dog lever to lower them is stuck. I just got it at a thrift store. It seems like it is brand new, but from the 1970s? It sews a straight stitch very well now. I don't think the person who had it used it much? I've oiled it in a lot of areas even around the selector knob area. I guess its been sitting too long not being used? What can I do?

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March 25, 20160 found this helpful
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If it is sewing a good straight stitch but has these other issues, you got a real bargain - now take this vintage sewing machine to a qualified repair tech and have the machine checked over for worn gears (what I suspect is causing your issues) and a general servicing.

Kenmore machines (like Singers) were built to last even in the 70s when parts began to be milled from plastics (including silicone) - it would be well worth the cost of the servicing and check-over as most of the Kenmore parts for these vintage machines are still being 'new milled' and the repair tech won't have to use salvage parts to get your machine fully functional.

I live in the UK now but spent many happy years sewing on Kenmores whilst living in the US. I do repair-refurb on vintage machines and teach sewing 101 here in Scotland. Unfortunately many of the Singer parts are no longer new milled so I try to steer my students towards new machines to avoid constant breakdown disappointment, but that parts sourcing isn't a problem for the Kenmore machines.

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I need help with a Sears Kenmore 156-18031. I am unable to remove the mechanism that attaches the feet. As I try to remove the thumb screw, it becomes tighter. If I turn the other way, it it becomes tighter, too. I want to remove it so I can use a different set of feet on it because I do not have the specialized snap on feet for that mechanism. Please help.

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April 9, 20100 found this helpful
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Hello Suem 1009,

Thanks for the feedback. I thought about mentioning that I had used a hefty screwdriver to loosen that thumbscrew but chose to be brief. The screw wouldn't budge, turned either "lefty loosey" OR, "righty tighty" This was a very proprietary system for attaching feet on that Kenmore sewing machine. The shaft upon which the feet were attached had 2 holes in it. One to which the foot was attached, and another holding a stout pin. I finally was able to knock that pin out, allowing me to remove the mechanism and change the foot. However, the hole and thumbscrew are specific to that shaft . If I should lose that screw, other screws made for foot attaching will not work in it's place. Again thanks for trying to help me with your "lefty loosey, righty tighty" advice.

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December 15, 2019

I need to find the place where I adjust the needle position on the Kenmore sewing machine model 38519233400.

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December 15, 20190 found this helpful
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I have located the manual for the machine that tells you how to do this. You can follow these instructions and it seem rather easy to follow. Here is the site where you can get the manual and see how to do this. www.manualslib.com/.../Kenmore-385-16231400.html?page=36

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February 20, 2014

My Kenmore sewing machine model 158.16800 freezes. I will help it along with the hand wheel, and it goes for a little bit, then freezes again in the down position. You can hear it humming when it's stuck. It is stitching fine when it does move. I don't have a manual so, any help is grateful. Thank you.

By Toni H.

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February 24, 20141 found this helpful
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First of all, it sounds as though the belt is worn, or there is a clump of lint/fluff caught up in there somewhere - but your problem could be a worn gear, too.

Best to take it to Sears to have it gone over by a qualified, factory trained repair tech. For under $100USD they will get your machine running smoothly and do a complete servicing with a heads-up to you should there be a looming part fail too.

And they'll be able to hook you up with a new manual as well, either as a free PDF download you can then print at home, or as a hard copy (usually spiral bound, win-win!) at a reasonable price.

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November 17, 2019

I am looking for a Kenmore 52 1a cam. They are double-sided. I was told they were type E cams. I would appreciate any leads on the cam. I have been checking eBay, etc.

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November 18, 20190 found this helpful
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You may need to buy the complete box in order to get the one you are looking for. You can find the complete set here www.amazon.com/.../B01M0DU00G (Affiliate Link)

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November 17, 2019

The presser foot on my Kenmore 385 19157100 sewing machine won't go up or down. The lever moves, but the foot does not budge. Does anyone know how to repair this?

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November 18, 20190 found this helpful
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If the lever is moving and he foot still stays in the same position then it means that it is not attached to the arm correctly. There is a screw at the back of the arm. Take off the screw and check the foot. On some machines you can change the foot around so check to see if the foot is on the arm correctly.

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February 5, 2016

I need a video on how to assemble the thread tension for a Kenmore Ultra Stitch 8. Does anyone know where I can find one?

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February 9, 20160 found this helpful
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Hello !
The threading diagram you can see on this page : www.sewusa.com/.../kenmore_ultra_stitch_6_8_12_threading_diagram...
includes instruction diagrams to adjust top thread tension and bobbin thread tension as well. Hope this helps !

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February 1, 2014

The spool pin on my Kenmore 24-stitch (I think it might be a 385, though I'm not sure) fell into the machine. I can't use the machine without thread, and I can't use the thread without the spool pin. How do I go about getting it out?

By Kelly M.

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February 3, 20140 found this helpful
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I'm afraid there is no safe way for you to use the machine until that spool pin is fetched out of the machine, and there is no safe way for you to remove it at home - you need to take your machine to a qualified sewing machine repair tech, the retrieval will cost you around £20GBP or $30+USD. Splash out for a servicing which will jump the price to mid-high double digits but is well worth it to keep your machine running well, and to inspect for any damage the dropping pin may have caused.

If the machine is under warranty you need to use the Sears authorised repair service techs - either telephone your local Sears, use the 'Net to find their local-to-you service centre, or carefully check all adverts for wording indicating the tech is an authorised service provider or you will void your warranty.

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August 7, 2019

My Sears Kenmore 158.17033 is not making even stitches and the bottom stitches are loose. What can the problem be?

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July 24, 2016

My Kenmore 13550 sewing machine is making a screeching sound in the hand wheel. We have cleaned the machine and oiled it, but the screech continues. Any ideas on fixing it?

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July 26, 20160 found this helpful
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If there is a belt driving the hand wheel it may be worn, loose or too tight. Perhaps it needs replacing.

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June 23, 2016

I have my mother's sewing machine. The motor doesn't seem to have power. I checked the connection; how do we test motor?

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August 14, 20170 found this helpful
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If you are having problem with your sewing machine I would suggest visiting the Sears Kenmore Sewing Machine repair site. They have step by stem instructions on what to do in such cases. Here is the website:
www.searspartsdirect.com/sewing-machine-repair.html

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My Kenmore 385 100 stitch will only stitch backwards, and makes teeny tiny little stitches. It has been "squealing" for a while, but only sometimes and it went to this backwards-only stitch when I tried to sew some words with it, fancy stitches. I bought it in 1997 for $500 and it was a couple years old then. Is it worth repairing? Can I open it up myself?

Thank you!

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June 18, 20150 found this helpful
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I teach total newbies Sewing 101 and do a bit of self-taught machine repair and refurbishment here in the UK where I've retired after 50+years in the US. I'm not familiar with Kenmore machines but my experience with Singers tells me what you're describing is very likely a belt failure. If not a belt, it might be a silicone-plastic-rubber part failure although I've never had a part make that sound you describe - that sound is 99.9% surely from a belt warning of failure. The only other possible is a wad of thread fluff/lint caught somewhere deep in the machine - bottom line is none of these are home repair possible unless you're a factory trained or very talented self-taught repair tech completely familiar with that particular model and in possession of the hideously expensive service manual (vastly different from the standard 'user guide/owner's manual that comes with a sewing machine. One of my Singer service manuals cost me $700USD in 2009, I believe Kenmore manuals are comparable in price).

Without proper training and access to tools specific to sewing machines, you are best advised to take this machine to the nearest Sears repair centre - they're factory trained on all models of Kenmore sewing machines including vintage machines like yours.

They have the knowledge and correct tool-bag to ensure they can repair your machine and then put it back together in a way that means the machine will still function once reassembled - don't laugh, countless 'basket-cases' have been brought to repair centres.

What is a 'basket-case'? Owners hoping to save money decide to open the machine, take the thing apart and then are not only unable to find and fix the problem, they have no clue how to put the machine back together! They finally give up, sling everything they can find into a box/bag/basket, and tote the container to the pro for rescue - hence the name 'basket-case'.

Basket-cases are VERY expensive to have a qualified tech work on. Avoid being the owner of a basket-case. Take it to a pro.

Be sure to ask for an estimate before the repair tech does any work and ask him/her to include a 'repair worth' estimate - it may be a comparable replacement with a new machine (under warranty and with all kinds of accessories!) is a more cost-effective and sewing satisfaction option.

A new machine will have been built with the latest technology (not always a good thing, but more often than not, is), and will come with a warranty, training sessions from the sewing centre, and lots of shiny new accessories that do all kinds of really cool things you couldn't do with the old machine.

Sometimes sewers do choose to have the old machine repaired as there is a specific function on the old machine they feel cannot be replicated on a new machine. I have a mid-sixties Italian built Singer that I know is a 'money-pit' machine - finding repair parts for that old a machine means I often have to use salvage parts with sketchy lifespans so I'm not getting many sewing hours from it but I do love the straight stitch on this machine, it's the best I've ever-ever-ever got from a heavy duty machine - lol, it's a real money-pit but I keep it going just for that one stitch!

Your Kenmore may be the same sort of machine, in which case repair will be your call - just be aware eventually you will not be able to pour money into the machine because the parts simply will not be available. I solved this issue (somewhat, it's still temporary in the end) by forcing myself to buy a brand new comparable machine, reserving my beloved money-pit for when I need that one irreplaceable stitch. Doing so increases the longevity of the money-pit;)

Good luck, hope this helps!

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June 16, 2015

The stitch length knob fell off my Kenmore 158.901 sewing machine when I was adjusting the stitch length back and forth to start and stop my stitching with a very small stitch. I was able to get it back on my machine, but the stitch lengths are way off from what they should be. When I set it on 1 there is no length at all and I have to set it on 2 to get a very tiny stitch. I was setting it at about .5 to get a tiny stitch to lock my stitches. How can I recalibrate this knob back to where it should be?

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June 18, 20150 found this helpful
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Take this machine to the nearest Sears repair centre - they have the skills (they're all factory trained and have the right tools and knowledge) needed to do the recal. Please believe me this is NOT a home repair job.

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October 23, 2014

I was giving my aunt's Kenmore sewing machine. It's a 1800 model. I used it to make a dress and vest, but now the needle won't go up and down. I thought it was the motor belt and replaced that, but it still doesn't work. Could someone give me an idea?

By Donna

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October 30, 20140 found this helpful
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The best suggestion I can make (as a sewing teacher and self-taught sewing machine repair tech) is to take it to a qualified Singer sewing machine repair tech. Any sewing centre will be able to help you.

The trouble you're having with your vintage machine could have so many causes there isn't room here to go through the list, but the list begins with: when was the last time this machine had a full servicing including cleaning, oiling, and checking the workings for problems or potential problems?

Only a qualified tech can help you at this point, and you'll either have a machine in perfect working order, or the bad news the machine is past saving.

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October 20, 2014

My 7 year old Kenmore 385 stopped working yesterday. It won't let me turn the hand wheel or foot pedal, even though it's not jammed. I took it to a repair center and the man said it looked like it needed to have the bobbin casing cleaned and oiled as well as having a piece next to it oiled. Is this something I can do myself, cause they wanted to charge $100 for it?

By Megan

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October 30, 20140 found this helpful
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A seven year old Kenmore should be a fairly complex machine but $100USD seems a bit steep even with the complexity. $100 should cover a full servicing, not just oiling the bobbin casing and an adjacent bit.

Ring him/her back and ask if that $100 covers a full servicing. If no, get a second opinion - $100 is too much for just that wee bit.

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February 20, 2014

I have a Kenmore 24 stitch sewing machine that my grandma gave me. When I push the button for the backstitch to work it won't. I opened the bottom and tried unscrewing where the lever meets the 2 inch flat bar. The lever will move to the left, but the bar will not more. Is the spring supposed to move the bar away from the spinning mechanism?

By Jessie S.

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February 24, 20140 found this helpful
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Please take this machine to the nearest Sears service centre - it looks as though the silicone on at least one of the gears is failing, the belt may be worn, and the spring on a Kenmore has a specific direction it is to go. I'm not familiar enough with Kenmore machines to advise, I do vintage Singers (in the UK) and the 'innards' look just different enough to make me advise you to take your Kenmore to a qualified factory trained tech.

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