Troubleshooting Kenmore Sewing Machine (Fix & Repair Guide)

Things break down. If this was a perfect world nothing would go wrong. Sadly, it isn’t a perfect world and even top Sears appliances and machinery do break down. Learning how to fix your may save you a lot of money by avoiding high repair bills.

The good thing about sewing machines is that many of the repairs can be done by you. If you take care of the little things chances are your machine will last you a lot longer. Just don’t forget to take it in for annual servicing to watch out for any major problems that may be starting.

To learn all about fixing your Kenmore sewing machine just continue reading our article. The good thing about sewing machines is that many repairs you can do yourself. Just a little time is all you deed.

How To Take a Kenmore Sewing Machine Apart


Taking apart is a couple of words that may lead to some confusion. You do not want to completely take apart any sewing machine, let alone a Kenmore, because the pats may not fit that well together when you put everything back. Gears tend to grow together and that bond will be broken if you take them apart.

If you are not a mechanic or good with your hands, you should avoid taking apart your Kenmore sewing machine. With that said, a couple of screwdrivers will be all that you need to open up the top and get you inside to the inner works.

Instead of taking every part off of the assembly just focus on the ones that need repairing. It saves you time and a lot of trouble, especially if you forget where the part went.

Taking apart a Kenmore involves step by step one at a time work and placing the parts in an order that reminds you where they go when it is time to put them back together.

Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting Manual

Kenmore sewing machines were generally very good machines. They were made for a very popular department store that carried some good warranties for its products. They also have a good supply of manuals to help you repair your machines.

The model numbers for Kenmores always start with a 3 digit number. For example, you will have 117, 148, and 385. Some manuals are listed as model 12 or model 95 and they are for sewing machine models starting with the 3 digits 158.

A good internet search should help you find the manual that you need to troubleshoot your Kenmore sewing machine. To get you started you can click here for one, here for another, and here for a third

Kenmore Machine Bobbin Not Spinning


There could be any number of reasons why this is taking place. To start with the simple solution first, try cleaning the bobbin area to see if that clears up the problem. If that doesn’t do it, check to see if you have the right bobbin in place and that it was installed correctly.

Another cause for this problem is that some Kenmores like their bobbins to wind perfectly. That means if the thread is not winding correctly it may stop the bobbin from spinning.

Sometimes the problem is not with your bobbin or the bobbin case. It could be a bad threading issue or you may need to change your needle. But if your bobbin case is loose all you may need to do is tighten it up.

Bobbin Not Catching

Some of the same culprits may be at fault here as well. The first thing to do is to clean the area and your sewing machine. This is usually the most common issue you have to deal with as bobbins are rarely at fault for many of the issues that keep them from working just right.

Next, you should check to make sure you wound and threaded the bobbin correctly. Bad threading can stop the bobbin from catching. Also, this is a good time to check to see if you have the bobbin in right. It is very simple to put it in backward and stop the bobbin from functioning.

Then another place to try would be the bobbing winding spindle. This device needs to be installed right and pushed into the correct position before the bobbin thread will catch. You may have to go to a repair shop to fix this problem.

Kenmore Sewing Machine Won't Turn On


The very first thing you need to do is make sure the sewing machine is plugged in. If it is and the power cord is not frayed at the outlet, check where the power cord joins the machine. You will have to open the machine up and see if the power cord wires are loose. If so, tighten them up and try again.

Next, check your on and off switch to see if there are any loose connections or if it is making a connection. You should use a multimeter here to check for power flow. If there is a problem with the switch you should replace it. The same if the power cord is frayed.

Then the next area to check would be the wires inside the machine. If they are loose or not connected then tighten them up or reconnect the wires. Look for burnt-out or broken wires and replace them if they are found.

If the Kenmore you own is computerized try shutting it off for about an hour and letting the machine reset itself.

Kenmore Won't Zig-zag

This is a problem that may come by wear and tear. The gear inside may have worn out and no longer moves the arm that moves the needle. To test it move the handwheel by hand and see if the mechanism is doing what it is supposed to do. If so then it may be a different problem.

The issue you have to face with a Kenmore is that there may not be replacement parts for them anymore. If the problem is a broken cam then you are out of luck as that part is no longer available. Unless you are lucky enough to find a repairman with a spare part.

Also, it could be that the hook needed to make the needle move is not catching the cam. This repair job is best left up to a professional to do as they have the right tools to make the hook reconnect.

Finally, it could be that the timing is off and you need to fix that. If the hooks are stuck, they may only need some WD 40 to unstick them and get them moving properly again.

The Machine Won't Reverse Or Stuck in Reverse


When the machine won’t sew in reverse there may be something wrapped around the gear or the gear itself is broken. To fix this problem, you will need a qualified sewing machine repairman to fix it for you. It is not a do it yourself repair.

When your Kenmore is stuck in reverse, check the spring that is attached to the reverse button on your machine. If it is misaligned, needs repositioning, missing, or broken, you should replace the spring.

To do that and check the gears you need to remove the cover. Once that is done, press your reverse button and see if the gears are functioning correctly. If there is some oil stuck in the gears or cam use your hairdryer and blow hot air on the lubricant while pushing the reverse button at the same time.

Then re-lubricate the machine and see if that gets the function to work as it should.

Kenmore Foot Pedal Not Working

Again this could be the result of many problems. If the pedal is not making contact it could be that there is too big of a gap between contact points. You just need to shorten the gap down. There should be a screw-on top of the contact points to make that adjustment.

Or it may be that the cord has a broken conductor. If this is the case, you should replace it with one that has a good conductor in it. If the carbon disks are gone, you will need to replace them with suitable ones to help keep the connection running smoothly.

The foot pedal is not a complicated device so you should be able to see the problem without too much trouble. It is all about connections and making sure those connections work properly.

Kenmore Sewing Machine Not Advancing Fabric


The first place to look is your stitch length. If it is set to 0 then the fabric will not move through your sewing machine. Just turn the dial to a number above 0 and see if that solves your problem.

If not then you have to check your feed dogs. It is possible that they are not set at the proper height and cannot grab onto the fabric. If this is the problem then you should adjust the height and make another test to see if that adjustment solved the problem.

Finally, check for loose feed dog screws and tighten them up. The feed dogs do not normally work when they are not securely in place. When you see one feed dog with broken parts, replace it immediately

This may be one of your easier repairs when you have trouble with your sewing machine

Kenmore Sewing Machine Handwheel Stuck

Once again you have a multiple-choice issue as there may be many reasons why the sewing machine jammed. The first place to look is the handwheel. If it is not moving that well check the inner wheel. If it is locked, then disengage it.

Next, you should re-thread your machine as the thread tension may stop the sewing machine from working. Reset your tensions as well. Then if this is not the problem or solution check your bobbin case.

This may be dirty and will keep your sewing machine from functioning. After a good cleaning, try your machine again. If it still doesn't work, it might be time to take it to the repairman.

That is the solution if your hand wheel works when the bobbin case is removed but not when the bobbin case is in its proper place.

Sewing Machine Jammed


The first thing you do here is to turn the power off and unplug the sewing machine. The second thing you do is raise the presser foot with the presser foot lifter. Now raise the needle using the handwheel. If the needle doesn't move try moving the handwheel back and forth.

If that doesn’t lift the needle it is no big deal. The next step should help you. Here you cut the thread between the point of the needle and the material you are sewing. Pull the thread till you get enough slack

Next, open up your machine where the bobbin rests and cut any tangled thread in that area. Remove the bobbin if you need to get more tangled thread. Then place the bobbin and the bobbin case back where they belong.

Re-thread your needle, adjust the thread tension and you should be good to go

Some Final Words

Sears had some great appliances. Their Kenmore sewing machine was one of those great devices they sold in their heyday. Unfortunately, those machines are not perfect and they break down.

The way to troubleshoot is to get a hold of a service manual and see what it tells you to do. If the parts are available then you should have no trouble doing most of the repairs yourself.

Some repairs will require the skill of a qualified repairman. Do not hesitate to take your sewing machine to them as they can fix the problem faster than you can.

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