Why Did My Sewing Machine Lock Up: 7 Most Common Reasons

Last Updated on 9 months by Susan Mayrich

It can be frustrating not knowing why did my sewing machine lock up. The good news is you can check these 7 reasons to avoid sewing issues.

Why did my sewing machine lock up

This article covers everything you need to know, including the instructions, solutions, and tips to tackle common sewing machine problems that cause it to lock up. You’ll also see the troubleshooting steps for the repairs to prevent jams in the future. 

And if you need another manual, here’s how do you unfreeze a sewing machine


Why Did My Sewing Machine Lock Up: Complete Troubleshooting Guide

Tension is not adjusted correctly

A potential reason why sewing machines lock up is improper tension. In particular, you should check if the machine tension is too tight. 

Improper tension can cause the thread to get stuck under the presser foot and jam the machine. To solve this problem, locate the dial or knob on the side of the machine and loosen the tension. 


Bobbin thread is tangled

Did you know that 34% of all lock-up incidents are from the bobbin thread getting tangled and bunched up? Here are the steps to solve this problem:

First, confirm if you have correctly threaded your bobbin. Then, you can just follow your machine manual on rethreading the bobbin. 


Bobbin case is not properly inserted

Besides the bobbin thread bunching up, the bobbin case not being inserted correctly can also be why your sewing machine jams. Ten percent of all lock-up incidents are from an improperly inserted bobbin case.

The instructions for properly inserting bobbin case should be in your sewing machine manual. There are some step differences between a front-loading and a top-loading sewing machine.


Thread bunching up in the shuttle race

If your sewing machine jams, check if the thread bunches up in the shuttle race. A quick solution for this problem is clean the lint, dust, and debris in the shuttle race.

But if the thread bunches up again, consider going to a technician to adjust the needle timing. They’ll use special tools to adjust the needle and shuttle hook synchronization. 


Broken or bent needle

Check all the parts of your sewing machine to determine the issue behind the lock-up. You might be overlooking some parts that need repairs or replacement. 

For example, 25% of lock-up incidents are from a bent or broken needle. And if it’s stuck on a project, read how do you fix a needle that doesn’t move.


The presser foot isn’t raised

Your sewing experience might cause you to overlook some steps when starting a project. Before doing the work, ensure you’ve set up the machine correctly and everything is in position. 

The sewing machine can jam because your presser foot is incorrectly positioned. Check this part’s place from start to end.


Sewing machine is not oiled

Another overlooked issue of sewing machine jams is when it’s not properly oiled. It’s the 8% cause of all lock-up incidents. 

You can oil your sewing machine every ten days of use. If you need more clarification, check the recommendations of the manufacturer. 


why did my sewing machine lock up

What Are The Symptoms Of A Sewing Machine Locking Up?

You’ll encounter eight problems if your sewing machine is locking up. Be on the lookout for these issues to know the possible cause of the problem. 


Needle won’t move

Your sewing machine is locking up if the needle won’t move. You can quickly solve this problem by checking if your needle is inserted correctly or you’re using the correct type for your project. 

Many potential reasons exist if the needle doesn’t suddenly budge while you’re sewing. First, it might warrant a visit to a technician so they can check the parts of your machine. 


Handwheel won’t move

A sewing machine in lock-up may experience a stuck handwheel. You can refer to your device’s manual regarding how to oil your handwheel. 

Also, check if your needle is stuck or the upper thread is not tangled. Brother also recommends cleaning your hook area, as debris can keep the handwheel from turning. 


Presser foot won’t move

Sewing machines that lock up can have their presser foot stuck. This means you can’t put a fabric underneath if you can’t raise it.

On the other hand, if the presser foot is stuck upward, you can’t sew at all. So always check if it’s in the correct position before sewing and if you use the proper presser foot type and tension for the project.


Thread keeps breaking

You can also experience thread breaking when your sewing machine jams. If this is the case, consider rethreading the machine. 

Proper machine maintenance is also crucial to keep debris and lint from collecting. And finally, remember to check your tension for the project and fabric.


Sewing machine skipping stitches

It can be frustrating to work when your sewing machine keeps skipping stitches. A common cause of this problem is the incorrect insertion of the needle.

Remember that you should also never use broken needles on sewing machines. And to remind you about the importance of maintenance, a dirty sewing machine can have problems with the mechanics, including stitches. 


Sewing machine stays at the maximum speed

Sewing machines may jam and stay at the maximum speed. If you experience this, a potential reason behind this issue is related to your unit’s motor. 

You need to bring it to a technician to solve the problem correctly. You can also check if there is something in your foot pedal, like debris, because it can make the machine sew at high speed. 


Sewing machine won’t take the fabric

A frustrating issue you might encounter if your sewing machine locks up is if it won’t take the fabric. Start with checking your user manual for the troubleshooting steps for this issue.

Another thing you can try is to make sure your thread tension isn’t too tight or that you don’t have tangled threads. And, of course, always check the position of your foot pedal before starting any work.


Sewing machine motor won’t start

Locked-up machines won’t jam because they won’t start at all. But unfortunately, this can mean an issue with the motor and its parts.


what do you do when your sewing machine locks up

How To Unjam A Sewing Machine

Understanding the potential reasons behind sewing machines that jam is crucial to solving the problem. Check everything discussed, including the position and replacement of parts, oil maintenance, and if your sewing machine is dust and debris-free.

Here are some steps you can do if your sewing machine jams and you can’t remove the thread, fabric, or the thread has tangled up.

  1. Stop and turn off the sewing machine 
  2. Turn the handwheel clockwise to remove the needle from the machine 
  3. Remove the presser foot and its holder
  4. Lift the fabric up and cut the threads underneath 
  5. Remove the needle plate cover and cut the tangled threads
  6. Remove the bobbin and its case
  7. Remove the threads in the bobbin case 
  8. Clean the dust and debris in the race with a vacuum cleaner
  9. Loosen the screws on the needle plate, careful not to drop them inside the machine
  10. Lift the needle plate slightly to remove the tangled threads before removing it
  11. Take off the fabric and threads from the needle plate
  12. Remove the threads in the race and feed dogs
  13. Raise the feed dogs and reinstall the needle plate
  14. Turn the handwheel to check the movement of the feed dogs; they should not touch the edges of the needle plate 
  15. Insert the bobbin case, so its mark aligns with the one on the machine 
  16. Insert the tabs on the needle plate cover and slide it back in place 

Refer to your manufacturer manual for troubleshooting and instructions. You should also bring your device to a technician or service center as they have the tools and experience for more complicated issues.

How To Avoid Sewing Machine Lock-Ups

Avoid the stressful experience of finding solutions to unfreeze your sewing machine. Here are some tips you can do to avoid jams in the future and save on repairs: 


Clean and oil your sewing machine regularly

Maintaining and cleaning your machine properly is the easiest way to avoid lock-ups. For example, sewing machines can freeze because of dirt and debris build-up.

Make it a habit to inspect and vacuum or brush your machine. You can also use an air compressor for the crystallized debris, and don’t forget to oil your machine according to its manual.


Check the thread before starting work

The most common reason for jams is thread issues. So first, make sure you’re using the correct thread tension for your project.

You should also avoid cutting the tails too short before starting your work. Otherwise, the bobbin thread will get sucked into its case and cause the hand wheel to get stuck. 


Check the bobbin and follow your manual to load it correctly

Follow your manufacturer’s instructions for loading the machine’s bobbin. Incorrect loading can cause jams.

Additionally, never use a damaged bobbin. Your bobbin cause should also be free of any obstructions. 


Inspect the mechanisms of your machine regularly

Besides cleaning the machines and checking their parts, always inspect the mechanisms as they might be the ones causing issues and jamming. 

For example, the tensioners and pulleys might have collected lint and dirt. Some parts also need oil but consult your manual for the proper instructions. 


What To Do If My Sewing Machine Is Stuck


Try turning off your sewing machine

Try turning off your sewing machine because the motor may be overheating. This is a common problem on older sewing machines that don’t automatically turn off when they get too hot. 

Use your sewing machine after an hour and try sewing again. If the machine is still frozen, try the other solutions below. 


Rethread the sewing machine

Why did my sewing machine lock up: check your thread

The sewing machine thread is often the reason behind lock-ups. Make sure you thread your machine correctly according to your manual. 

If needed, rethread your sewing machine to be sure. You should also leave about four inches of thread tail. 


Oil your handwheel 

Older sewing machines need their gears to be oiled regularly. Check the maintenance instructions for your specific model, especially when your handwheel is stuck. 

A small drop of oil should suffice. However, some machines are self-lubricating, so always consult your manual first. 


Clean the bobbin case

If you use your sewing machine often, it’s inevitable for lint to build up in your bobbin case. When this happens, you may notice problems with the stitches on your work. 

Make sure to clean your machine frequently. A helpful rule you can remember is to clean the bobbin case every three bobbin changes.

You’re also in luck because here are sewing machine bobbin case problems and solutions, so you’re always ready if you encounter an issue. 



And that’s it! We hope you remembered what to check to know why did my sewing machine lock up. 

To recap what parts to inspect if the machine freezes: tension, dirty or incorrectly inserted bobbin, thread bunching, broken or bent needle, presser foot in the incorrect position, debris, or your sewing machine needs oiling. 

However, it’s always better not to force remove parts and instead bring your machine to the technician if these common troubleshooting tips do not work.

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