How to fix sewing machine handwheel

An antique sewing machine handwheel with a rusted patina and a black bat on the wall. Learn how to fix it at

If you are a sewing enthusiast, you know how frustrating it can be when your sewing machine handwheel gets stuck or hard to turn. The handwheel is the part of the machine that controls the movement of the needle and the stitch length. When it is not working properly, you may not be able to sew at all or end up with uneven stitches.

Sewing machines are essential tools for sewing enthusiasts and professionals alike. However, like any mechanical device, sewing machines can encounter issues from time to time. One common problem users often face is a malfunctioning handwheel. The handwheel is a crucial component that allows you to manually adjust the needle’s position and control the fabric’s movement during sewing. When it becomes difficult to turn or gets stuck, it can be frustrating and halt your sewing projects. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the most common reasons for a malfunctioning handwheel and provide step-by-step solutions to fix it, ensuring your sewing machine is back in working order and helping you unleash your creativity without interruption.

Fortunately, there are some simple steps you can take to fix your sewing machine handwheel and get back to your sewing projects. In this article, we will show you how to diagnose the problem, what tools and materials you will need, and how to perform the repair yourself.

Before you start, make sure to unplug your sewing machine and wait for the needle to stop completely. You don’t want to risk injuring yourself or damaging your machine further.

1. Understanding the Handwheel

Before delving into the troubleshooting and fixing process, it’s essential to understand the handwheel’s role in a sewing machine. The handwheel is usually located on the right side of the machine, and its primary purpose is to raise and lower the needle as well as control the fabric’s movement. It works in conjunction with other components to make your sewing experience smooth and precise.

2. Identifying the Issue

When your sewing machine’s handwheel is not functioning correctly, the first step is to identify the problem accurately. Some common issues include a stiff handwheel, handwheel not turning, or a loose handwheel. By understanding the symptoms, you can better diagnose the root cause of the problem.

3. Causes of Handwheel Issues

Several factors can contribute to a malfunctioning handwheel. One of the most common reasons is the accumulation of lint, dust, or debris inside the handwheel mechanism. Additionally, worn-out parts, lack of lubrication or improper maintenance can also lead to difficulties with the handwheel’s movement.

4. Cleaning the Handwheel

The first troubleshooting step is to clean the handwheel thoroughly. Start by unplugging your sewing machine for safety purposes. Gently remove the handwheel’s outer cover, if possible, using a screwdriver. Use a soft brush or compressed air to remove any accumulated lint or debris. Once clean, check for any signs of damage or wear and tear on the handwheel.

5. Lubricating the Handwheel

Proper lubrication is crucial for the smooth functioning of the handwheel. Check your sewing machine’s manual to identify the recommended lubricant type. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the handwheel’s moving parts, ensuring not to over-grease. Turn the handwheel back and forth a few times to distribute the lubricant evenly.

6. Adjusting Tension and Belts

A loose handwheel may result from improper tension adjustments or loose belts. Consult your sewing machine’s manual to locate the tension adjustment knob and belts. Adjust the tension to the recommended setting and tighten any loose belts, making sure they are secure but not overly tight.

7. Checking for Broken Parts

Inspect the handwheel for any visible signs of damage or broken components. A cracked or broken handwheel may require replacement. Refer to your sewing machine’s manufacturer or authorized dealer to purchase the correct replacement part.

8. Seeking Professional Assistance

If the problem persists despite your efforts, it’s best to seek help from a professional sewing machine technician. They have the expertise to diagnose complex issues and fix them efficiently, ensuring your sewing machine functions optimally.

9. Preventive Maintenance

To avoid future handwheel issues, consider implementing a regular maintenance routine. Clean your sewing machine after every project, lubricate the moving parts, and store it in a dust-free environment. Regular maintenance will not only extend the life of your machine but also enhance its performance.

Types of fabrics that cause the jam of handwheel

There are different types of fabrics that can cause the jam of the handwheel of your sewing machine. Some of the common ones are:

Thick fabrics 

such as denim, leather, canvas, or fleece. These fabrics can be too heavy or stiff for your needle and presser foot to handle, resulting in skipped stitches, broken needles, or jammed handwheel.

Stretchy fabrics 

such as knit, jersey, or spandex. These fabrics can be too elastic for your feed dogs to pull through evenly, resulting in puckered seams, uneven stitches, or jammed handwheel.

Fuzzy fabrics

 such as flannel, velvet, or faux fur. These fabrics can shed a lot of lint and fibers that can clog up your bobbin case, needle plate, or feed dogs, resulting in tangled threads, poor tension, or jammed handwheel.

Final words

Fixing a sewing machine handwheel is not as daunting as it may seem. With a bit of patience and the right techniques, you can troubleshoot and resolve common issues, allowing you to get back to your sewing projects quickly. Remember to clean and lubricate the handwheel regularly and perform routine maintenance to keep your sewing machine in excellent working condition. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can master the art of troubleshooting and become a more confident and self-sufficient sewing enthusiast.

Remember, having a well-functioning sewing machine is essential for your creative journey, and addressing the handwheel issue promptly will ensure your sewing experience remains enjoyable and productive.

We hope this article has helped you learn how to fix sewing machine handwheel and save yourself some time and money. By following these simple steps, you can restore your sewing machine’s functionality and enjoy your sewing hobby again.

If you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends and fellow sewers. And if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you!


1. Why is the handwheel not working on my sewing machine?

The handwheel may not be working on your sewing machine due to various reasons. One common cause is the accumulation of lint, dust, or debris inside the handwheel mechanism, causing it to jam. Additionally, worn-out parts or lack of proper lubrication can also hinder the handwheel’s movement. Identifying the root cause and performing cleaning and lubrication as necessary can usually resolve this issue.

2. What is a handwheel release on a sewing machine?

A handwheel release on a sewing machine is a mechanism that disengages the handwheel from the needle movement temporarily. It is helpful when winding a bobbin or adjusting the position of the needle without turning the handwheel excessively. By activating the handwheel release, you can move the fabric freely without the needle going up and down.

3. How do you tighten a sewing machine wheel?

To tighten a sewing machine wheel, follow these steps:

  1. First, unplug your sewing machine to ensure safety.
  2. Locate the wheel on the side of the sewing machine.
  3. Using a wrench or pliers, gently tighten the wheel’s nut in a clockwise direction.
  4. Be careful not to over tighten the wheel, as it should still turn smoothly without too much resistance. e. Once tightened, plug in your sewing machine and test the wheel’s movement to ensure it functions correctly.

4. How do you fix a needle bar that does not move?

If the needle bar on your sewing machine does not move, it can be concerning. Here are some troubleshooting steps to fix the issue:

  1. Turn off your sewing machine and unplug it for safety.
  2. Remove the needle and the needle plate to access the needle bar.
  3. Check for any obstructions or tangled thread around the needle bar and remove them carefully.
  4. Verify that the needle bar is not bent or misaligned; if it is, consult a professional technician for repair.
  5. Ensure the handwheel is not in the “bobbin winding” position, as it can prevent the needle bar from moving.
  6. Check the sewing machine’s manual for any specific instructions related to the needle bar.
  7. After performing these checks, reassemble the components and test the needle bar’s movement.

If the needle bar still does not move after attempting these steps, it is best to seek assistance from a professional sewing machine technician to diagnose and fix the underlying issue properly.

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