Nelco Sewing Machine Troubleshooting (How to Oil and Thread)

Design is the key. If the sewing machine used metal parts, it stood a good chance of surviving for more than 10 years. It is a good thing that many Nelco sewing machines were made from metal parts. Many of their models are still sewing after 40, 50 years of continued service. Fixing them should be a snap.

Fixing old Nelco sewing machines may take a little ingenuity. If your stitch length dial is stuck, grab a plumber’s wrench, some protective material, and gently turn it. When it comes to oiling the Nelco sewing machine go to your manual as it has the locations for all the oiling points. Just make sure to use sewing machine oil.

To find out more details on how to troubleshoot your Nelco sewing machine just continue to read our article. It gives you the basic information so you do not have to go to a vintage sewing machine repairman to get the job done

Nelco Sewing Machine Troubleshooting


One of the first steps in troubleshooting your Nelco sewing machine is to unplug it first. You would be surprised at the number of people who forget this cardinal rule and give themselves a surprise. The second step is to look for the simplest sources for any problem you have.

Most often sewing machine troubles start with the most common problems and these are the simplest to fix. If you have trouble sewing or skipping a stitch check your needle. If it is bent, dull, or broken you need to replace the needle with a new one.

Or your timing may be off and you will have to remove the different parts around your feed dogs to get access to the adjustment screw. Next, you should keep a schedule of your oiling and cleaning times. That makes it easy to see if cleaning is needed to fix the current problem.

After that, you should check your bobbin, bobbin winder switch, and bobbin case. Sometimes the machine will stop working when the switch is in the wrong place, the bobbin case and bobbin are not put incorrectly, and so on.

Finally, check how you threaded the machine. It is possible that even after years of threading a sewing machine you made a mistake somewhere and the machine will not budge until you admit you made a mistake and correct it.

How to Repair a Nelco Sewing Machine

A lot of repairs just take common sense and are very easy to do. After cleaning and oiling, some repairs get a lot easier. One of the biggest origins of sewing machine problems is the needle. If it is the wrong one, inserted incorrectly, or bent, broken, or dull, then all you need to do is replace the needle with the right one.

Then when the bobbin is the trouble, sometimes you need to simply rewind it, check the tension, and see if the weight of the thread matches the upper thread’s weight. Or if you put the wrong bobbin inside, take it out and replace it with the right one. Never put a metal bobbin in for a plastic one and vice versa.

Other simple problems turn up in your threading or your tension settings. To correct the first issue just simply rethread the machine and for the latter one, adjust your tension dials. You may need to change the thread if it is the wrong weight or thickness for the machine’s different parts.

Finally, if your sewing machine doesn’t sew, first check the power switch, the plug making sure it is in the outlet, and then see if the foot pedal is plugged in. After that, check your cleaning schedule as old threads and lint can stop a sewing machine from working correctly.

For more difficult repairs and ones that involve broken parts, it is best to take it to a qualified repairman to get them fixed. These men and women have the knowledge, the tools, and the parts (usually) to make any repair a simple task for them.

Also, go through your owner’s manual as those books have a long list of possible problems and how to fix them. If you do not have a manual just read the next section to know where to find one.

Finding a Manual for Nelco Sewing Machine


If you are in a hurry you may check this link out. It has one manual and we did not stop to check to see if there were more. There is an alphabetized list on the left which you could use to see if other Nelco manuals pop up.

Next is this link, one of our go-to manual locations, and it has a few Nelco models listed. We counted 19 different Nelco models at this company. The cost is between $8 and $10. Our other go-to companies for manuals did not have any on hand. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find any in the future.

Finally, this company has a couple on hand, and if they are not the ones you need you can always ask and see if they can give you more leads to follow up.

How to Thread Nelco Sewing Machines

For the JA 38 model, the directions are very simple. Put your spool of thread on the spool holder and gently pull the end of the thread out from the spool. Next, put the thread take-up lever at its highest point by turning the handwheel toward you. After that, thread the needle left to right.

Those were the exact instructions we got from 2 different sources. One said to follow the diagram numerical order yet they forgot to put the diagram on their web page. Another website said the exact same thing but fortunately, they placed a diagram on their page next to the instructions.

Follow the diagram making sure you get the numerical order right. Here is the link to that diagram.

How to Oil a Nelco Sewing Machine


Like all sewing machines, you should use sewing machine oil only when lubricating a Nelco machine. It is the oil that is made for these precision devices and other oils can mess them up fairly quickly. When it is time to oil your Nelco get out your manual and find the diagrams that hold the location of all the oiling points.

Next, do a thorough cleaning of your machine before adding any oil. You will only need about 1 or 2 drops of the sewing machine oil so be careful not to over oil. Make sure your sewing machine oil container has a long nose on it. This makes hitting the oiling spots easier.

You should oil all the moving parts including the hook race. Oiling that part lubricates the shuttle hook. Try to manually move all the moving parts to help the oil seep into the right spots and get everything lubricated.

Have a dry cloth on hand to soak up any excess oil you placed on those parts by mistake.

Nelco Sewing Machine Needle Not Moving

The first thing you do is to check the power supplies. Is the power cord plugged into the right outlet? Is the power button turned on? Is the foot pedal connected to the sewing machine correctly? If your answer is yes to all 3 questions then move on to find the actual source.

Another easy [problem to solve is to check the threading. If the sewing machine needle is not moving it is probably because the machine wasn’t threaded correctly. Next check the bobbin winder switch. If it is not in the sew position the machine won’t work.

Nelco Tension Problems


If you are having tension problems, you can solve most of them by turning the tension dials higher or lower. It will depend on the type of fabric you are sewing at the moment in which direction you will turn. Usually think light fabrics need a loose tension to sew properly

Sometimes instead of a dial, the early machines had a little tension adjustment screw. You would need a screwdriver to make the adjustment. Turning right meant tighter and turning left meant looser tension. Also, check the weight of your thread and how you threaded the machine. In these cases, you either replace the thread or rethread the machine.

How to Use a Nelco Sewing Machine

The key to using a Nelco sewing machine is like any other machine you have used. Make sure it is threaded correctly with the right weight of thread. Make sure the bobbin winder switch is in the sewing position and also double check to make sure the needle is new, straight, and not dull or broken.

Then check your power controls and supplies. Make sure everything is plugged in and ready to go.

Some Final Words

Since many Nelco sewing machines were copies of Necchi and Elna models, you might find help searching out how to fix those machines when your Nelco stops working. It never hurts to try.

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