Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting and Repair Guide

Vintage Kenmore sewing machines often last forever, given proper care. Learning how to troubleshoot your machine will keep it running for many decades to come! To get help, check out this Kenmore sewing machine troubleshooting and repair guide.

Kenmore sewing machine troubleshooting involves applying oil and untangling the thread path. Other common issues include a machine that won’t sew or will only sew in reverse. Kenmore machines may also encounter feed dog issues, zigzag trouble, or tension problems.

In this article, you will learn to troubleshoot ten issues on your Kenmore sewing machine. You will also find out how to get a Kenmore manual. Finally, you will find tips to keep your sewing machine from jamming.

Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

What to Know About Kenmore Sewing Machines

Kenmore sewing machines had many different manufacturers but were all sold by Sears Roebuck, the iconic American company that introduced the mail-order catalog to the nation. Sears applied the Kenmore brand to many “badged” appliances that it bought pre-made from various manufacturers around the world.

American consumers knew and trusted Sears and valued the Kenmore brand because of that. That said, Kenmore sewing machines have varied in quality over the years, depending on what manufacturer produced a given model. Sears introduced sewing machines to its catalog way back in 1913 and continued to sell Kenmore-branded sewing machines until 2013!

In general, vintage Kenmore models have a decent reputation as budget sewing machines that run pretty well and last a long time. Any models made after 1970 may contain plastic or computerized parts that often do not hold up as well over time, though.

Though it’s difficult to find a complete inventory of every Kenmore model ever made, you can easily find information on the general timeline of manufacturers.

A company called White made most of the earliest Kenmore models. Then from 1950 through the 60s, Sears purchased machines made in Japan.

In the 1970s, Singer made a few badged Kenmore models. From that point on, a prominent Japanese company called Janome took over and manufactured Kenmore machines until 2013.

Sadly, Sears went bankrupt after 2013 and ended its sewing machine sales entirely. You can find many vintage Kenmore machines for sale today, but you will no longer see any new Kenmore sewing machines on store shelves!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Troubleshooting: 10 Easy Fixes

Because most Kenmore sewing machines fall into the vintage category today, you will need to focus on vintage sewing machine troubleshooting techniques to keep these classics up and running.

Of course, Kenmore machines made by Janome between 1970 and 2013 may have more modern features as well. However, most sewers tend to gravitate to the solid-metal vintage Kenmores that still have a decent reputation as durable machines.

Though not all Kenmore machines have the same level of quality, it is true that most of the time, you can make simple fixes yourself! These vintage machines will not have that many big mechanical or electrical issues. That said, if you do open up your old Kenmore to find dilapidated wiring, you should probably take that as a sign that it’s time to seek professional help.

One more thing to keep in mind as you poke around inside your Kenmore machine is that, by and large, these models do not cost a lot. For that reason, you may feel safer risking making repairs yourself. If you break something, at least you did not ruin an expensive machine!

Nine times out of ten, though, you can apply one of these ten easy fixes yourself to solve the problem!

1. Sewing Machine Not Sewing

Your Kenmore sewing machine could refuse to sew for several different reasons. Go down this handy checklist and you can cross off possible causes one by one!

  • Check the power cord. Maybe a fuse blew in your house, or perhaps the power cord wiggled free from the sewing machine! Try plugging your machine into a different outlet and firmly inserting the cord into the machine.
  • Check the foot pedal. Some of the older Kenmore machines tend to rattle and vibrate a lot while sewing, and this can easily jiggle the foot pedal cord loose as you sew!
  • You can also easily purchase a replacement power cord or foot pedal if you suspect an old cord has gone bad.
  • If your sewing machine turns on but will not sew, you may need to replace the needle or deal with a thread jam. For more info on that, see the next section!
  • This final option does not happen as often, but you may have a wiring issue or a blown motor inside your machine. In this case, you probably want to visit a vintage sewing machine repair shop unless you have a background in electrical work.

2. Tangled Thread

Incorrect threading will often cause the thread to tangle up beneath the fabric as you sew. This issue sometimes referred to as jamming or bird’s-nesting, will stall out your sewing machine!

This happens to all sewing machines and all sewers on occasion and is not an issue unique to Kenmore machines. The good news is, you can easily resolve the issue following these steps!

  • Snip through the thread close to the spool. Then snip again above the needle, and pull down on the thread tail to remove it from the tension discs and thread paths.
  • Use your fingers, a seam ripper, or sharp scissors to remove the tangle and the fabric from beneath the presser foot.
  • You need to clean out any lint that may have crammed itself into the bobbin area or the upper thread path. If a small brush came with your machine, use that. Otherwise, you can use a clean makeup brush to dust with.
  • At this point, you can safely re-thread your machine. Not every Kenmore model looks the same, of course, but you can generally follow the clear markings that lead from one hook to another between the spool of thread and the needle!
  • Do make sure you raise the presser foot before threading, though. This opens the tensions discs, allowing the upper thread to insert itself correctly.
  • Finally, thread the needle! Some models may have an automatic needle threader. To make sure that works correctly, raise the needle as far as it will go using the handwheel before you try to thread it.

3. Broken Thread

Thread can break while you sew for multiple different reasons. You will find the most likely causes listed at the top of this checklist. If the common cures don’t work, keep reading down the list to the less likely but still possible options!

  • The most likely culprit for a broken thread is incorrect threading. As a first step, turn off your machine, remove the old thread correctly, and then rethread the upper thread path! Please take care to clean out any thread fragments from the tension discs, as this could cause the thread to jam up and snap as you sew as well.
  • Too-tight tension could cause the upper thread to snap as you sew. To find out how to adjust the tension on your Kenmore machine, check out the “tension trouble” section later in this article!
  • Rough areas on the needle plate or bobbin case could tear the thread as you sew. Carefully inspect your sewing machine for any scratches or damages, just in case!
  • A bent needle might strike metal as it comes down, possibly also breaking the thread. Replace your needle often to avoid this issue.
  • If you notice the bobbin thread breaking repeatedly, you may need to adjust the tension on the bobbin case. You can do this by loosening the small screw on the case. You may also need to thoroughly clean the bobbin area, as lint or old oil could have jammed the works down there!
  • A cheap or old thread will often snap as you sew. Likewise, a thread that does not fit well with your fabric–such as polyester thread sewn into silk fabric–may snap or break as you sew.

4. Troubleshooting Bobbin Thread

Once again, you may find a variety of different causes for trouble with your bobbin thread.

  • First, did you just wind the bobbin ? Many Kenmore models have an external bobbin-winding spindle that can slide between winding and “off” positions. You need to push the spindle back to “off,” or your machine will not move the needle to take up the bobbin thread!
  • How long has it been since you cleaned the whole bobbin area well? You should even use a screwdriver to remove the needle plate and make sure you get at any lingering lint! The bobbin collects more dirt and dust than any other part of the sewing machine, and the accumulated mess will eventually keep it from working correctly.
  • Once in a while, you might forget to put the presser foot down before you start to sew! This often causes the bobbin thread to tangle up. To fix this, remove the tangle, re-insert the bobbin, and start over again with the presser foot down.
  • Another common issue with vintage sewing machines is using the wrong size or shape of the bobbin. Your manual will tell you what type of bobbin your particular Kenmore uses. Many vintage Kenmore models will take a class 15 bobbin.

5. Tension Repair

Learning how to adjust tension settings on a vintage sewing machine may seem scary, but actually, it’s often easier than fixing tension on a modern machine! That said, zeroing in on just the right tension for each project often takes a bit of trial and error.

First of all, what exactly is sewing machine tension?

In simple terms, tension is the amount of pressure placed on the upper thread as it moves from the spool to the needle. Your sewing machine uses discs inside the arm of the machine to exert this force.

Higher tension adds more pressure on the thread and allows less thread through, creating tighter stitches. Lower tension allows the thread to flow more freely and makes looser stitches.

If you’re wondering what number should the tension be on your Kenmore sewing machine, there is no one right answer! The middle numbers–typically four and five–offer the average tension setting that usually works on cotton and midweight material.

That said, your machine will handle every type of fabric and thread in a slightly different manner. This means you may need a tighter or looser upper thread for each project you sew!

To narrow in on that number as you start a project, follow these simple steps:

  • Sew a few inches of a straight stitch on a scrap of fabric.
  • Remove the fabric from the machine and look at the top of the fabric. Do you see any loose, skipped, or skewed stitches?
  • If you see puckered stitches or notice loops of thread on this side of the material, you need to lower the tension. Try one number lower, and stitch again!
  • Flip the fabric over and look at the underside of the stitching. Once again, do you see a tangled thread, skipped stitches, or baggy stitches?
  • If you see the tangled thread, you either have an incorrectly threaded machine, or you need to tighten the tension to a higher number. This is true if you see the upper thread poking through onto the underside of the material as well.
  • Try adjusting the tension setting one number at a time. Each time, sew a few inches of stitching again and inspect it.
  • When the top and bottom thread looks perfectly blanched and you see neat, even stitches on both sides, you have found the correct tension setting!

As a pro tip, you should also thoroughly clean the thread path and tensions discs by running a clean piece of thread through to make sure a bit of old thread or dust is not causing your tension trouble!

6. Feed Dog Troubleshooting

If you bought an old Kenmore sewing machine, you will very likely need to clean up the feed dogs to get them moving correctly. Feed dogs look like small metal teeth that slide the fabric beneath the needle.

You may encounter several different feed dog problems.

  • If the feed dogs seem frozen and do not move, you should first give your machine a thorough cleaning and oiling. If you have a newer model with varying stitch lengths, make sure the length is not set to zero.
  • If you’re working with silky or sheer fabric, the old feed dogs may have trouble gripping it. In this case, use your hand to gently guide the material through. Or you can use many different kinds of fabric stabilizers to help this sewing process along.
  • Finally, in rare instances, you may find that the timing of the feed dogs does not match the timing of the needle as it rises and falls. This is a mechanical problem that you could potentially fix yourself, but it’s so complex that you probably prefer to take your machine to a shop for this one!

7. Reverse Problems

Even quite old Kenmore sewing machines usually have a reverse function. In some instances, your machine may refuse to stitch in reverse. You could also find that the reverse lever or button gets stuck, and your machine will only sew backward!

This is an issue you mostly see in vintage machines, and even then, it tends to happen in machines that have not received proper care and maintenance rather than well-oiled, carefully cleaned models.

If this happens to your Kenmore, you can try a couple of fixes before taking it into a shop.

First, remove the reverse button or lever and find the spring behind it. If the spring looks jammed down so that the coils all contract, see if you can wiggle it loose or reposition it.

Second, take off the cover of the machine and clean the gears behind the reverse lever. Sometimes old grease or gunk gets in there and solidifies, freezing all the moving parts!

8. ZigZag Trouble

You may also run into trouble when trying to zigzag stitch on your Kenmore machine.

Not all vintage Kenmore models will have a zigzag stitch option. Midcentury models will probably have zigzag and other stitching options but may require you to insert plastic discs called cams to make these stitches. Of course, more modern machines have automated zigzag stitches!

But what do you do if the machine will not zigzag?

  • Read the manual. You need to determine what settings or special devices you may need to tell your machine to make a zigzag stitch.
  • Clean and oil your machine in case one of the hooks that lift the thread just needs lubrication. Check out the section later on in this article about oil!
  • If your Kenmore has seen heavy use over the years, a worn-down gear inside might prevent the zigzag operation. If the teeth on a gear get too worn down, you will need to replace it.
  • Finally, timing issues can also impact zigzag stitching, as well as other stitching patterns. In this case, you may want to seek professional help.

9. Loose Stitches

Several issues can lead to loose stitches as you use your Kenmore sewing machine.

  • As always, your first port of call should be to check the thread path! Simply rethread the machine and see if that corrects the issue. If the thread slipped free of a hook or came out of the tension discs, it will not have enough tension on it to form tight, precise stitching.
  • You should also check the bobbin thread. Your Kenmore might have either a front-loading or drop-in bobbin. Front-loading bobbins can sometimes sit loosely in the bobbin case and cause problems.
  • Make sure you match the type and weight of thread to the type and weight of the fabric. Thick cotton thread probably will not sew well in fine silk, for example!
  • Finally, tension trouble can also cause loose stitching. See the section earlier in this article on how to adjust your upper tension to correct this issue!

10. Oil Issues

Most vintage Kenmore sewing machines have lots of moving metal parts inside that require regular lubrication.

As a word of caution, please read your sewing machine manual before embarking on this mission! The manual will tell you exactly what to oil. Also, make sure you always use sewing machine oil, not any other kind of lubricant!

Sometimes you will also need to read your owner’s manual to figure out how to get to the insides of the machine. For example, many Japanese-made 385 models have a hinge that opens up the casing on the end of the arm. This allows you to oil the gears and the tension disc area.

As a general rule of thumb, you will need to regularly apply a tiny drop of sewing machine oil to any moving part in your vintage machine!

Why Does My Kenmore Sewing Machine Keep Jamming?

The most common cause for jamming in a Kenmore sewing machine is incorrect threading. After that, the second most likely culprit is incorrect upper tension settings.

In some rare instances, you might find that the motor has died or stalled and that is why your machine seems jammed. Or you might have an issue with the handwheel. Sometimes old grease will solidify inside the handwheel gears, preventing it from turning.

Then again, really simple issues such as a bent needle or the wrong type of needle can also make your sewing machine jam up and refuse to sew!

Anytime you hear a loud noise or a grinding sound, stop sewing. Remove any stuck fabric or thread tangles from beneath the presser foot.

Then turn off your machine, rethread it, and replace the needle for good measure. Quite often, that will take care of the jam!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 385 Troubleshooting

You can use many basic sewing machine troubleshooting techniques on a Kenmore 385 model.

Kenmore sewing machines that have a model number starting with “385” were made by Janome anytime between 1965 and 2013. The famous 12 stitch model probably came from the 1990s.

Some of these models have a great reputation, especially the earlier ones that still contain solid metal parts! Later models made in the 1980s and 90s tend to use cheap plastic parts or computer components that we now consider antiquated.

All of that goes to say that troubleshooting a Kenmore 385 model can vary wildly depending on when the machine was made. As explained earlier in this article, most 385 models will experience the occasional problem with threading, tension, or bobbins.

If you do find an earlier computerized Kenmore, you may want to pass on it. These models will not hold up as well over time and will require expert knowledge of wiring and old computer boards to keep them running!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Repair Manual Free

Your Kenmore sewing machine originally came with an owner’s manual that offered setup and repair tips for the user. Since many Kenmore machines have reached a ripe old age, they might not all have that original document! There’s good news and bad news on finding a manual for your Kenmore sewing machine.

First, Sears does not offer them for free through the company website. You can find this limited “repair guide” for free , though!

However, if you specifically need, say, a Kenmore 385 sewing machine manual, you can try two different tactics.

First, you can purchase pretty much any sewing machine manual online these days. Try Etsy or You can also purchase some booklets from Sears here .

Second, if you want to track down a free manual, try joining an online sewing forum. The sewers who join to discuss old sewing machines often post manuals they come across. Sewers love to help each other out!

Kenmore Sewing Machine Parts

Finding replacement parts and accessories for vintage Kenmore models grows more difficult each year. You can still often find parts online through Etsy and eBay. Sometimes a vintage sewing machine repair shop near you might have the parts in stock, as well.

That said, when Sears stopped selling Kenmore sewing machines, they started to fade away. Some sewing enthusiasts make it a habit to snatch up old Kenmore sewing machines found at yard sales or flea markets just to get the parts out of them!

Since Kenmore machines never became collectible and didn’t usually rank as high-end models, they sell cheaply. You can often find vintage Kenmore sewing machines for sale for under $100.

Sears sold sewing machines under the Kenmore brand for many years but no longer offers new Kenmore models. Because most Kenmore models are now quite old, you will have to use vintage sewing machine techniques to troubleshoot them. These techniques include knowing how to oil your machine and finding appropriate parts and bobbins.

Using any sewing machine also means troubleshooting common issues such as tension settings and thread tangles. You may also need to adjust the feed dogs or fix the bobbin thread.

Do you have an old Kenmore sewing machine? What kind of sewing have you done on it? Leave a comment below to let us know!

(1) Shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Monday 15th of May 2023

Thank you for your in depth tips and tricks. They are well explained. I will review again as I move along with the issues I’m having on this vintage 148-121. It’s probably more me, than the machine.

Kenmore sewing machine instruction and service manuals

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Sewing Machine Troubleshooting

Below are some of the main problems that can happen while using your Kenmore sewing machine. It is rare the cause is a major mechanical problem. Check the headings below to find the problem you are having.

Thread looping on the bottom of your fabric:

Thread looping on the bottom of your fabric is usually caused by little or no top tension or too much bobbin tension. Another cause is thread or lint caught in the top tension

Make sure the thread is between the tension discs and that no thread or lint is caught.

Check that your top tension is set to a medium number.

The thread should pull from the bobbin tension evenly. You should not have to pull too hard.

Make sure the thread is in the take-up lever.

Top thread breaking:

There are a few reasons the top thread may break.

Check the needle plate for damage around the needle hole. You can polish any burrs with fine sand paper or a needle file.

Check the hook for damage. If the hook is damaged it can cause the thread to break as it comes off the tip. Be very careful if you must remove burrs from the hook. Changing the shape of the hook tip will cause skipping problems.

Check that the top tension is not too high. The top tension should be set at a medium number for regular sewing.

Needle breaking:

Check that the top tension is not too tight. The top tension should be set at a medium number for regular sewing.

Check needle size for the thickness of your fabric. Using a needle that is too small for the type and thickness of fabric you are using will cause the needle to bend and hit the hook.

The hook timing may be out. Insert a new needle and carefully turn the hand wheel towards you. Check that the needle is not going to hit the hook.

Bobbin thread will not pick up :

The main reason could be the way the needle is inserted.

Check if the needle is inserted correctly for your machine. The flat of the needle must be inserted toward the hook tip. The thread sits in the grove in the front of the needle and is picked up by the hook in the scarf on the back of the needle. Also check that the needle is not blunt or bent as this will cause the hook to miss the thread.

Make sure the take-up lever is threaded

The hook timing may be out. The hook tip and needle scarf must meet at the right point for the thread to be picked up and create the stitch.

Fabric will not feed:

Check that the feed dogs are up. Some machines have a feed drop feature for darning. Make sure the machine is set for sewing and not darning. Also check that lint is not clogging up the grooves in the feed dogs. Lint can build up over time and push the feed dogs down below the needle plate.

Check the pressure on the pressure bar. You require pressure on the foot to feed the fabric. No pressure and the fabric will just sit in one spot.

Check that the pressure foot is installed properly. If the foot is not installed right the fabric may not feed.

Check for ruff spots on the needle plate as fabric can get caught.

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Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 158 Problems

Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 158 Problems & Solutions

Sewing machines break down all the time and Kenmore sewing machine model 158 isn’t free from this either. It doesn’t matter how reliable the brand may be, things often go haywire with the machinery. The smart thing to do as a sewist is to learn some handy quick fixes to make your way through these difficult times. 

One of the great things about sewing machines is the user-friendly aspect because you can easily troubleshoot many issues all by yourself. In this article, we are going to share some of the common problems that your Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 158 can run into and some quick solutions to navigate through them. 

  • 1. Kenmore Model 158 Stitch Problem

2. Issues with Bobbin Spinning

3. bobbin not catching up, 4. kenmore machine not turning on, 5. unable to get a perfect zig-zag, 6. unable to reverse or stuck there, 7. the foot pedal isn’t working appropriately, 8. the machine isn’t advancing fabric, 9. kenmore sewing machine getting jammed, the bottom line.

Perhaps you have purchased a Kenmore 158 recently and are excited to get going on a new sewing project, but as we mentioned earlier, problems lurk on the way. One of the common problems, especially with novices, is of bobbin getting tangled, and soon after they change and reload the bobbin, the machine won’t work properly. Some users report being able to sew merely 6 or 8 stitches and then ending up with a huge knot-type stitch (under the plate) and the machine would simply jam again. 

Although you may be feeling exhausted and stumped after trying everything in the manual, there is hope! It is usually an issue with how you have inserted the needle in the machine shank or the placement of the bobbin. So, try to place a new needle and make sure that the flat side is correctly in place. Once you have done this, go ahead and rethread the machine, then reinsert the bobbin as per the instructions in the manual. 

This is another problem that often troubles sweists, especially the ones who are just starting out in this field. Interestingly, there may be several different reasons for issues with bobbin spinning. 

The simplest way to resolve this issue is to clean the bobbin and surrounding area. Once you are done with cleaning, check the machine to see if the problem persists. If the issue remains, then double-check if you are using the right type of bobbin and whether it is installed correctly or not. 

With Kenmore machines, sometimes the bobbin would stop spinning if the thread isn’t winding as it’s supposed to. While at other times, it isn’t a problem with the bobbin at all and solely because of a threading issue or a worn-out needle. Moreover, if it’s something that’s happening because you forgot to tighten the bobbin case, then all you have to do is to tighten the case up!

Well, this is another issue that relates to the one we have discussed previously. So, the first obvious step that you need to take is to thoroughly clean the bobbin area and the whole machine. After this, you have to double-check if you threaded the bobbin in the right manner because bad threading happens to be the main cause of bobbin catching issues. 

Make sure that you have placed the bobbin in the right manner. You should also check the winding spindle because that needs to be correctly installed and pushed into the perfect position before the bobbin starts catching. 

So, the first thing that you have to do to resolve this issue is to check if you plugged it at all! Don’t feel bad because this is a common error and after hours of overwhelm and panicm, one finds out that it wasn’t a problem at all. If you can’t figure out where to join the power cord with the machine, consult the manual that must have been with the packaged product. 

If the power cord wires are all joined but your machine isn’t working, open it up and see it the wires are loose. In case of loose wires, simply tighten them a bit and check once again. However, if nothing obvious works, then the next thing you need to do is to find out any broken or burnt wires and then replacing them. With the computerized versions, make sure that you shutdown the machine for a while and then restart it. 

This problem usually happens because of frequent wear and tear. Your Kenmore machine must have been worn out enough that it no longer is giving you the perfect zig-zag pattern because of hindered needle movements. In order to test for this issue, try moving the machine wheel manually and then observe if the machine is functioning normally or not. 

It is also possible that this issue is happening because of the hook, that makes needle movements, isn’t catching up to the cam. However, you cannot fix this on your own and you need a professional here. Another reason for the loss of zig-zag movements could be the inappropriate timings. It is quite possible that the hooks are stuck and require WD 40 to get moving again. 

Usually, the most obvious reason for the absence of reverse stitch fluidity is that the gear has suffered some breakage or there may be something wrapped around it. This is another issue that you should not try fixing yourself. The smart thing to do is to leave this to a professional repairman. 

If your Kenmore machine is in reverse and stuck there, the first thing that you should do is to ensure whether there is a spring attached to the reverse button or not. If the spring seems to be misaligned then you should definitely be replacing it as soon as possible. 

In order to change the spring, you will have to remove the machine cover and press the reverse button to observe whether the gears have proper functioning or not. If you have some trapped grease in the cam or gears, you can use a hairdryer to blow out the lubricant. After that apply the lubricant again and check the gears function. 

It is quite possible that the foot pedal may not working properly because of an anomalous gap between the contact points. All you need to do is to shorten that gap, through a screw that’s present right on top of those contact points. 

It is also possible that the foot pedal malfunction is because of a damaged conductor. In this situation, you need to replace the old damaged conductor with a good one. Since foot pedal isn’t a complex part of this equipment, you would easily asses the problem and fixing it all by yourself shouldn’t be an issue either. 

If this is happening, you have to check the stitch length first. If the stitch length is fixed at ‘zero’, it may be the reason of this problem. All you need to do is to turn up the dial and check if the issue has been resolved or not. 

In case the issue persists, you have to now double check the feed dogs because it is quite possible that they are at an improper height and may be unable to manage the fabric. To resolve this issue, you can easily readjust the height and then test to see whether the issue resolves. In addition to this, check if the feed dogs are loose. If so, simply tighten them up a bit and you should be good to go. 

Well, if this is an issue that you are struggling with, you have to first switch off the device ad unplug it. Next, you should raise the presser foot with the lifter and then raise the needle via the handwheel. If you observe that the needle isn’t moving at all then you have to check by manually moving the machine wheel back and forth. If that doesn’t solve the problem, move on to the next step. 

The next step involves cutting the thread between the needle and the fabric that you are stitching. Then you have to pull the thread until you have enough of it. After this, open the Kenmore machine and find the place where your bobbin is. Now cut the tangled threads in front of that portion and remove the bobbin to ensure everything is in order. Now you have to place the bobbin back in its case and put everything back in place. You will need to rethread the needle and also re-adjust the tension but once you are done, everything should be working just fine. 

Kenmore 158 machines are not only heavy-duty sewing equipment but they are also very affordable. This line of sewing machines is in the market since the 1970s and has made its mark. If you are looking on how to troubleshoot this machine all by yourself, you definitely require a detailed user manual or get in touch with an experienced professional repairman. This machine is definitely a gem and if you can have the issues resolved, it’s worth the effort and time.

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Hello, I am Jessica Flores , and you are welcome to my website. I am a professional fashion designer and a seamstress. I always carried a passion for craftwork. My love for craft grew along with time. I have spent years researching and practicing in this field to gather colossal experience.

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Wayne Arthur Gallery

Sewing machine · September 29, 2022

Why Is My Kenmore Sewing Machine Not Stitching?

Incorrect thread tension can lead to a variety of problems with your sewing project, such as worn out bobbin case or gears, thread jamming and inaccurate stitch lengths.

Poor sewing technique can cause threads to break, causing uneven stitches that are more noticeable than usual. If you experience issues with your machine’s threading and stitch length, it may be time for a new bobbin case or gears.

Checking the size of your fabric before beginning is one way to help avoid stitching problems down the road; mismatched seam allowances will also create difficulties during the sewing process.. Following proper precautions when handling fabrics – like using an edge guide – will also result in less frustration while completing your project.

Kenmore Sewing Machine

Check the thread tension. Check bobbin case or gears for wear and tear. Make sure stitch lengths are accurate and correct for your fabric type and sewing method(s).

Use a better technique when stitching to improve results.

What to do if the sewing machine is not stitching?

If your machine is skipping stitches , first make sure that the needle is installed correctly and that you’re using the right type of needle for your project.

If that doesn’t work, try adjusting the tension or changing to a different thread. If neither of those solutions help, it may be time for a new sewing machine.

Always keep an eye on your projects as they are being sewn in case of problems; having a backup plan ready can save you from frustration later on down the road.

Sewing machines vary greatly in their ability to sew properly – there’s no one perfect model that will always perform flawlessly.

Why is my Kenmore sewing machine skipping stitches?

If you are having trouble with your Kenmore sewing machine, it may be because the needle isn’t seated correctly. Try reinserting the needle if it’s skipping stitches and see if that fixes the problem.

Make sure to use the correct thread, fabric, and technique for your garment so you don’t have any issues when stitching. The sewing machine needs enough space between each stitch in order to work properly – make sure yours is set up accordingly before starting a project.

Keep an eye on your needles and make sure they’re inserted correctly; sometimes a minor adjustment can fix a skipped stitch.

What causes a sewing machine not to pick thread?

If your sewing machine is not picking up the thread, it may be due to a problem with the bobbin. To fix this issue, make sure that the bobbin is inserted properly and check your user manual for more specific instructions on how to use your sewing machine.

Sewing machines can vary in their requirements for thread direction, so keep this information in mind when choosing one. Other causes of a broken or jammed stitch can also occur if you don’t follow proper sewing techniques; always consult your user manual before starting any project.

Knowing these basics will help you get started on any sewing project successfully – good luck.

Why is my sewing machine making holes but not sewing?

One common problem with sewing machines is that the top thread may not be threaded correctly. You can check this by looking at the threading path of the top thread and rethreading your machine if necessary.

Another issue you might experience is that the needle thread may not be behind the needle bar thread guide on the needle bar. If either of these issues persists, it might be time for a new sewing machine or to take it into a repair shop for servicing/repairs.

Why is the stitching loose underneath?

If the stitching is loose underneath, it may be because of a faulty machine or incorrect threading. To fix this problem, you’ll need to tighten the tension on either the upper or lower thread by adjusting its length accordingly.

If neither of these solutions works, it could be that your machine isn’t threaded correctly and needs to be re-threaded. In some cases, however, the stitching can simply become loose over time as a result of wear and tear – in which case there’s not much you can do other than replace the curtains altogether.

Keep in mind that if any stitches start coming undone after a while (even with proper care), replacing them may be the best solution overall – even if they’re technically still “in good condition.”

What should the tension be on my sewing machine?

To make tension adjustments, turn the dial to the number that corresponds with your desired stitch length and press down firmly on the pedal. If you need to shorten a seam or remove some fabric from an area of a garment, start by loosening the needle’s eye from its bobbin thread before making any tension adjustments.

For more complicated projects or repairs where you’ll be removing great amounts of fabric, it may be necessary to adjust both thread tensions at once using your machine’s combing function (found on many models). Be sure not to over-tension fabrics; this can cause them to stretch out and look uneven when finished sewing projects.

Follow manufacturer guidelines for specific types of materials and stitches in order for your project(s)to come out correctly.

How will you solve the stitches loop problem of a sewing machine?

The most common way to fix a looped stitch is by adjusting the tension on either the upper or lower thread. If the loop is on the upper side, it may be corrected by loosening the top tension or by tightening the lower tension.

If the loop is on the underside, it is usually best corrected by adjusting the upper tension. Looped stitches are usually caused by improper tension and can be corrected in several ways-by adjusting tensions on both threads, changing needles, or replacing parts of your sewing machine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my sewing machine not sewing zig-zag stitches?

If your sewing machine is not stitching zigzag stitches, try these simple steps: Remove the bobbin plate using a screwdriver and then remove the bobbin. Clean out any lint that may be under the bobbin and which may cause your zigzag stitch to not work. Replace the bobbin and the Bobbin Plate If you still cannot sew zigzag stitches, please contact our customer service at 1-800-723-9243 for more assistance.

Is it worth repairing a sewing machine?

Yes, repairing a sewing machine is definitely worth it. It will save you money in the long run and can help you keep your machines running longer. There are plenty of things to check during a repair so make sure to take advantage of our helpful resources.

What could happen if there is too tight tension in the machine?

If there is too much tension in the machine, it may pucker or break easily when stretched. To reduce this risk, try to use a smaller seam width and/or stretch the fabric more slowly.

How do I know if my bobbin tension is correct?

If the thread unwinds without resistance and the case slips to the floor, your bobbin tension is too loose. If the bobbin case doesn’t budge, your bobbin tension is too tight.

How do you adjust the tension on a Kenmore sewing machine?

On some Kenmore models, there is a little screw near the bobbin case that can be adjusted slightly to adjust the tension. On other Kenmore models, there is a screw on the bobbin case itself–not on the bobbin, but on the bobbin’s casing. This will also adjust the bottom thread tension.

There are a few possible causes for a Kenmore sewing machine not stitching, so it is important to troubleshoot the problem and fix it if necessary. If the stitch length or width is incorrect, then the machine will not sew properly.

Other issues that can cause a Kenmore Sewing Machine not to stitch include jammed needles, broken stitches, and incorrectly threaded machines. By taking some simple steps to diagnose and repair the issue, you should be able to get your Kenmore sewing machine back in action quickly.

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kenmore sewing machine problem solving

Repairing a Kenmore Sewing Machine

Close-up of Kenmore Sewing machine needle

82 Questions

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

Question: Repairing the Presser Foot on a Kenmore Machine?

kenmore sewing machine problem solving

The piece that came off the machine looks like it is broken and needs to be repaired. The presser foot is easy to put back on the arm. You normally just snap it back in place. The metal bar will be what the foot snaps onto when it is attached again. Advertisement However,k the round spring looking object is a piece that has broken on the machine therefore you need to buy a new one and replace it.

kenmore sewing machine problem solving .../ sears-service-center.htm

Question: Vintage Kenmore 158.1040 Wheel Slipping After Oiling?

kenmore sewing machine problem solving

This is the incident of a little to much oil. It is making your belt, shimmy and vibrate causing your machine to slip/spin without connection. Perhaps you could clean it up a little. Advertisement Also the belt can not have oil on it. It will keep spinning until it is dry enough and oil free for traction on the wheel!

When a sewing machine is sticking and not sewing correctly it is not the belt or the motor that is the issue. The issue is in the bobbin case and getting it all cleaned out and oiled correctly. Adding oil all over the machine is bad for the machine and will cause the issues you are experiencing now. You are going to need to really clean up the mess and get rid of as much oil as you possibly can. Then open the bobbin on the machine and remove the casing. Do a really deep cleaning in here and get rid of all the dust and buildup that is in this area. Advertisement You'll see that the bobbin has a back on it that has a spindle this is where the oil goes only on a sewing machine. You will need to take some tweezers and get the stuff out of this area and clean it really well. Now put it all back together and open the machine again and get rid of as much of the oil as possible. You should only apply one drop of oil when oiling a sewing machine and not more.

kenmore sewing machine problem solving

Clean the oil off the belt as well as the motor shaft and where the belt goes on your hand wheel. Also remove any thread or lint on those same spots. Once you have it all cleaned, it should be okay. Advertisement Thread and lint buildup on those two areas can cause the belt to slip too....not just too much oil. When oiling your machine, just a drop or two will be good. Good luck.

Question: Sewing Machine Won't Turn Off Bobbin Winding

kenmore sewing machine problem solving

I have a really old Kenmore sewing machine and I have it all threaded right. But when I went to start sewing, I noticed that it was set to bobbin winding. I tried to change it but it won't let me. No matter what I try and set it to, it just beeps at me.

Question: Repairing a Kenmore Sewing Machine Model 158.13201?

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.

kenmore sewing machine problem solving

You can also check eBay for vintage Kenmore parts.

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

Question: Sewing Thread Spool Pin Dropped Into Machine?

View of the location of pin.

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.

Question: Presser Foot on Kenmore Machine Won't Move?

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?

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.

Question: Repairing a Kenmore Sewing Machine?

I recently acquired a vintage Kenmore sewing machine, model 1251. It looks like new, and hasn't been used much. I cleaned and oiled it, and it sews like a dream! However, the clutch knob is stuck, so I can't disengage the needle arm for winding bobbins. Even when loosening the screw on the knob, it won't budge. Please help! Thanks!

A Kenmore sewing machine.

Question: Feed Dogs Button Stuck on Kenmore Machine?

I just found a beautiful Kenmore 158.523 machine, but the button on the machine bed will not turn to lower the feed dogs. Any idea how I can get this to turn? Thanks.

Question: Tension Issues with a Kenmore Sewing Machine?

Bought a Kenmore 385.16324 sewing machine new 16 yrs ago. It has been a work horse. I use it all the time. The tension is now a problem, see photos: #1 is top and #2 is bottom. I have cleaned the bobbin case, feed dogs, replaced the needle, rethreaded it numerous times, and worked on tension settings after each sample row. I am still getting the weird stitches on the back side. Any suggestion what to do next?

Tension Issues with a Kenmore Sewing Machine - top of fabric

Post back how it goes!

Question: Fixing A Sewing Machine's Stitch Selector Dial

The stitch selector dial of my Kenmore sewing machine 15358 will not turn in any direction. Kindly help.

Question: Reattaching Thread Tension Knob on a Kenmore Machine?

I'm trying to learn how to sew with my mom's Kenmore Ultra-Stitch 8 sewing machine. The first step was to set it up. However, the upper tension thread control knob/device is not attached to the machine and I cannot figure out how to reattach it. I have the manual, but it doesn't provide any info on this. Can anyone walk me through how to fix this?

Reattaching Thread Tension Knob on a Kenmore Machine - knob attachment spot

it is possible that this machine needs servicing because the knob broke off. If I were you I'd save myself some time and frustration and go to a machine repairman.

Question: Stitch Selection Knob Not Working on a Kenmore?

The stitch selection knob on this will not move. I bought it at a thrift store; it looks great. It is a Kenmore, model 158-1792.

If the stitch knob is not working this normally is a spring that has broken so it can not change. You may need to order a new assembly and install this on your machine. Even if it loos great the assembly can be broken and not work correctly.

"If its frozen up...some have had success with warming up the sewing machine with a hair dryer set on medium...not cool but not too hot. But it takes about 20 minutes of warming to get things loose. Before sewing with it...clean it out in the areas that you can get to easily as indicated in its manual...and oil the two points the manual says to oil. Only add one or two...not more than two tiny drops of FRESH SEWING MACHINE that wad...wipe off any excess/drips from the bottom of the bobbin case. If you have very old sewing machine oil...please buy a small fresh bottle at Joanns or Walmart...etc. DO NOT use anything other than sewing machine oil. NOT household 3 in 1 nor WD40...nor anything like that. Just oil for sewing machines which looks crystal clear and light."

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  • Kenmore Manuals
  • Sewing Machine
  • 385.15008100
  • Owner's manual

Troubleshooting - Kenmore 385.15008100 Owner's Manual

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Table of Contents

  • Troubleshooting


  • Quick Links:
  • Names of Parts
  • Getting Ready to Sew
  • Removing Bobbin Case
  • Threading the Machine

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Sewing machine repair guides

These step-by-step repair guides and videos can help you get your sewing machine back in action. And Sears PartsDirect has more  DIY repair help  for you, including troubleshooting tips and solutions for common symptoms in Kenmore, Singer and Brother sewing machines.

Use our error code charts to find the cause of failures in electronic sewing machines. Find a complete list of replacement parts by searching for your model number, then order the part you need.


Repair guides common to all sewing machines

These step-by-step repair guides will help you safely fix what’s broken on your sewing machine.

How to replace a sewing machine on/off switch

How to replace a sewing machine on/off switch

If the sewing machine is completely dead, replace the On/Off switch using these 6 steps.

How to replace a sewing machine drive belt

How to replace a sewing machine drive belt

You can replace a broken sewing machine drive belt in about 15 minutes.

How to replace a sewing machine drive motor

How to replace a sewing machine drive motor

If the drive motor on your sewing machine runs roughly or doesn't run at all, you can replace it in about 30 minutes using these simple steps.


Symptoms common to all sewing machines

Choose a symptom to see related sewing machine repairs.

Why is my sewing machine running sluggishly?

Why won't my sewing machine needle move, why doesn't my sewing machine motor run, why won't my sewing machine turn on, why does the bobbin thread break in my sewing machine, why won't fabric move through my sewing machine, why does my sewing machine make a knocking sound, why does my sewing machine lock up, why is my sewing machine skipping stitches, articles and videos common to all sewing machines.

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your sewing machine.

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How to enjoy all the online benefits we offer on our Sears PartsDirect website

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How to Troubleshoot a Kenmore 12-Stitch Sewing Machine

Ruth O'Neil

If you are having problems with your Kenmore 12-stitch sewing machine, do not immediately take it to an expensive repair shop. By troubleshooting it yourself, you could potentially save both time and money. Many of the problems you might encounter with a Kenmore sewing machine are simple to fix, such as giving it a cleaning or oiling some of the mechanical parts. Problems with your sewing machine could include breaking threads, improper stitching, stitching that bunches up or skipped stitches. Use scrap fabric to test your sewing machine after troubleshooting.

Start by rethreading your Kenmore sewing machine. Pull out the spool thread and the bobbin thread and redo it all. Test the stitching on a piece of scrap fabric.

Clean your sewing machine. Use a flat-head screwdriver, which should have come with your Kenmore, to remove the needle plate, and then lift out the bobbin case. Use the lint brush, which also should have come with your Kenmore, or tweezers to remove all of the lint trapped under the bobbin casing. Replace everything and test the sewing machine again.

Oil the mechanical portions of the sewing machine, which on a Kenmore are located behind the face cover on the left side of the machine. Open the face cover and drop oil on the needle bar while you raise and lower it, using only the hand wheel. Check to see if the needle bar moves more smoothly.

Replace the needle if necessary, especially if the needle is broken or bent. Raise the needle to the highest possible position and loosen the screw clamp by turning it toward you. Pull out the old needle, replace it with a new needle and then tighten the screw clamp.

Adjust the tension if the thread seems to be sewing too tightly. Locate the tension dial to the right of your Kenmore sewing machine. Set the tension at "3" or "4," which is average for a Kenmore sewing machine. Test the stitching on a scrap piece of fabric, and adjust the tension a little more if necessary.

Check the feed dogs if the fabric is not being automatically pulled through when you are sewing. Remove the free arm to find the feed dog adjustment lever. Raise the feed dogs by moving the lever to the right, or lower the feed dogs by moving the lever to the left.

  • Sears; Kenmore Sewing Machine: Specifications
  • If you find that your thread keeps breaking when you try to sew, consider buying a different type of thread. Some cheaper threads are cheaper for a reason: they are not high-quality and break constantly.
  • Check the needle packaging to make sure that it is the proper type of needle for the fabric you are using or the type of sewing you are doing.

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