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When was the last time you had your sewing machine serviced?
How Often Do Sewing Machines Need Servicing?
The question we get asked more than any other about sewing machine servicing is – ‘how often should i get my machine serviced?’ This is not as straightforward to answer as you might think. Of course, we would love everyone to bring their sewing machines into us every six months for a service (at a charge of course!) but this is simply not the case. How often you need a service depends on a number of factors:
How much do you use your machine – simply put, if you use your machine a lot (several times a week) you will create lint build up, wear out the lubricants used to keep your machine running smoothly, and wear out the parts of your machine that can need replacing. In this case getting your machine serviced once a year is probably a good idea.
If you rarely use your machine at all (with gaps of months or years between use), you run the risk of the lubricants congealing and seizing the machine. The next time you are planning to use the machine, it might not be a bad idea to get it serviced.
What are you using it for – If you are using your machine for patchwork quilting or for sewing heavy fabrics; your machine may need more frequent servicing due to the build up of lint and possible issues with tension and timing.
Do you do any maintenance on your machine at all – if you are someone who keeps your machine clean, changes your needle frequently, oils it where needed, and stores it in a warm dry place then you can wait longer between services. Be careful though, keeping your machine clean does not mean it will not need to be serviced at all. A good service goes beyond cleaning the machine, read our post on what you should expect from a sewing machine service here.
How old is your machine – the older your machine, the more looking after it may need. This may sound obvious, but it is true. Older machines need more lubrication to run well, they do have parts that wear out with time and use. I have had direct experience of a number of specific models that wear out faster than others and I see a lot of them with serious problems where regular servicing would have helped.
Listen to your machine – this is probably the most important point of all. Get to know how your machine sounds and how it handles. If it starts to sound more ‘clanky’ or squeaky, if the handwheel feels tighter when you turn it, if you are having trouble with your tension – it’s time for a service. If you are not planning to use the machine for a length of time – get it serviced, it will make it easier when you come to use the machine again.
How often do sewing machines need servicing?
There is no definitive answer. As a a general rule of thumb for most ‘normal’ sewing, your machine should be serviced every 12-18 months. Also consider a service if you notice a change in the tone of your machine or if the machine starts to become stiff or squeaks when sewing.
What Happens in a Sewing Machine Service?
When you take your sewing machine in for service, have you ever wondered what actually happens? Hopefully, if it is done properly, a sewing machine service should mean you notice a positive difference when you get your sewing machine back. The core elements of a service mean checking and fixing a number of issues.
Cleaning the Needle Bar and Presser Foot Mechanism
Cleaning the Sewing Machine
Not just a cosmetic clean to make the machine look its best but also cleaning out fluff, snapped thread, and congealed and excessive oil. This means opening the machine up, taking off most, if not all of the outer case and making sure the working parts of the machine are clean and oiled (if necessary). Compacted fluff and fibers can mean that the feed dogs and bobbin are not working effectively. Trapped threads can make the machine run ‘tight’ (or seize up completely in the worst cases). Lack of oil can also make the machine seize up, over oiling (or the wrong type of oil) can mean that oil gets onto the thread or fabric you are sewing with and can also start to degrade plastic parts of the machine over time.
Both the top and bottom threads need to be held under tension. The two tensions also need to be in balance. Most people know that the top thread tension can be adjusted with the tension wheel. What most people don’t know is there is also a tension setting on the bottom bobbin case.
Checking the timing on a sewing machine
A sewing machine is, at its core, designed to bring the sewing machine needle and the shuttle hook (this runs behind, or above the bobbin, depending on your machine) together at the same time and place. Any variance in this and there is every chance that the machine will either produce skipped stitches or not sew at all. Why does the timing change? The most likely reason is that the machine has been jarred in some way (for example, bending or breaking a needle, catching a pin with the needle (a big no-no, never sew over pins – it is just not worth the risk) and the vibration causes the gears, bed shaft or needle bar to move and suddenly the machine is out of time.
Checking the zig-zag function on a retro sewing machine.
Checking The Functions
This will include stitching off on a straight stitch and widest zig zag stitch. Why a zig zag stitch? Well that gives the best indication of tension and timing the two essential elements that have to be correctly set for your machine to produce the best stitch possible. Skipped stitches or a zig zag stitch that looks as if it has been pulled tight on the underside give an indication that something is wrong with the timing or tension (or both!). The effectiveness of the bobbin winder, feed dogs and foot pressure should also be checked. Other elements of a machine that would be checked include inspecting the bobbin case. If it is damaged or not fitted properly, the machine may not sew at all. Is the correct bobbin is being used? The wrong, or damaged, bobbin can cause issues with sewing. If the machine comes with thread, is it effective? Old or cheap thread can cause issues if they are too weak (or too strong).
Other things to consider
How long does a sewing machine service take? Done properly and thoroughly, a full service can take a few hours, older machines tend to be easier to take apart, some modern machines are very complicated, and it can take a long time just to take the case off!
You should always expect your machine to be returned to you with a fresh needle (a blunt needle can cause stitching issues) and a stitched example of straight and zig zag sewing to show you the machine is stitching effectively.
If you are local and want to know more about sewing machine servicing – check our page: Sewing Machine and Overlocker Repairs and Servicing
Enjoy More Sewing!
What Happens In A Sewing Machine Service?
When you take your sewing machine in to be serviced, a number of elements should be tested and adjusted if necessary. These include: cleaning and oiling the internal workings; setting the top and bottom thread tensions; needle and shuttle timing; checking the machine functions; creating a stitch sample with a fresh needle.
I hope this helps! Thank you for contacting us here at Just Answer to help you with your everyday questions! Please reply if the issue persists.